In Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, what you choose to believe, what you choose to accept, and what you choose to question is going to unequivocally dictate how you think of life. For Standish Treadwell, being illiterate and mutated, life’s hard for him and what he may become is constrained by his status. Instead of accepting such circumstances, he chooses to defy them.
We live for around 27,300 days, but yet we know so much more than that. From what your friend told you, from watching YouTube and so forth. We know things that we haven’t experienced ourselves. Were gullible in believing the plethora of truth and lies, but what makes something true that you haven’t experienced? It’s a matter of choice. Especially, in Standish Treadwell’s society, under the regime of the “Motherland”, the government has a strong cult of personality and a massive propaganda machine. Most people believe in them, some believe there are wrong’s but choose to believe in them due to societal pressure and the consequences of going against them. Others, like Standish, not only ignore the words of the government but uses such totalitarianism to form his questions and to point out the “hoax”.
The plot commences with Standish recalling a few previous keystones of his life. His best friend was gone, he was genetically mutated with different eyes, lost both of his parents, and is in the “lower end of the society” being placed in one of the worse districts. Unlike many dystopian novels, the “Utopia” in Maggot Moon called the Motherland doesn’t brand itself as a “perfect society”. Similar to that of the Soviet Union, it uses means of flexing its national power in the sciences and focusing propaganda on degrading other nations. Furthermore, the biggest “hoax” as Standish calls it, in the book, was the faked moon landings of the Motherland. More ironically, the Soviet Union’s great pride was sending a man into space. Evidentially, “Every single school was issued a working television (that was black and white) to watch the moon landings (97)”. Unlike the other pupils who proceeded to watch, Standish questioned the irony of the fact that his country has the technology to launch rockets but can’t get coloured television distributed to the general public. With a grain of salt, this correlation was also present in our society; we got nuclear weapons before we got computers or coloured television or plastic.
As the plot goes on, the irony and the utter lack of a moral compass becomes more prevalent. Standish managed to ‘bust in’ to the filming studio of the moon landings. “Bursting in I saw the director (269)”, in other words, the moon landings were a film. The depravity of the society was further established by other examples. On a micro scale, Standish’s teacher beat a kid to death for doing nothing. Beatings are quite common for everybody. However, in such societies people accept such things as norms – they don’t think much of it. However, Hector (one of Standish’s friends) never got beat because he was smart. Because he knew what was going on and the lack of morality and how bleak the society was. This made him immune from many types of punishment because the collapse of these societies happens on a micro level with such intellects telling others of their viewpoints. The Soviet Union went from the 2nd strongest country to utter collapse because of inner revolutions, because of the fact that people realised there’s a brighter world out there.
Beyond the logical fallacy and the irony in the moon landings, beyond the fact that a teacher won’t beat Hector because small voices cause systematic collapse in totalitarianism. Totalitarianism fundamentally fails on the premise of human values. We had nuclear weapons before computers because we have big ego’s and the Homo-Sapiens is an greedy creature. Teacher’s beat students because they need to hold onto their power using force because authoritarianism, unlike democracy, fails to legitimise and provide a trusted and reliable systematic approach as we see in parliament. The premise is that authoritarianism fails because of humanity because some people like questions because, in Totalitarianism, the development society means nothing more than National Power which is elitist to a group of oligarchs. Everything goes. There is no system or consequence (i.e. impeachment) nor legislation or procedure to stop a man’s ego and his authority in authoritarian regimes. In the end, living in an authoritarian government is what this book conveys. Thinking that a revolution will occur is logical, but thinking you can be the hero is an unlikely situation. Thus, you’re on your feet like Standish, no parents to go to, nobody to trust. Hence, it’s a matter of what you believe is right or wrong and the distinction of propaganda from what is the truth. Lies are lies, truths are truths because we believe in them. Whatever we indulge ourselves in is a matter of questioner or follower: defy your world. Lies are told to keep the truth. The truth and the path towards liberty and betterment is a radical one. But there’s a brighter world out there.