“Dystopia is only an illusion of an extreme reality that I see on TV and in books”- society 2k17
Traditionally, dystopias are almost always set in the future. Life is presented as a perpetual war, with an omnipresent government surveillance and added public manipulation. There is, however, a timeless cosmological truth that lie beneath the pragmatic realities of everyday life. These truths are not customarily part of our existential or conscious awareness: we must seek it.
My objective is to inform you that dystopias are not always set safely in the future, romanticised by Hollywood films as we collectively refuse to accept the rapid progress and existence of this manufactured reality. If we dare look underneath the surface, we may discover that we are slowly soaking into a virtually inescapable dystopia.
Dystopian fiction intentionally includes elements of contemporary society in order to generate nightmare-like qualities observed by their audience. They often serve to function as radical political commentary, however are only never really analysed further than their romantic value or the success of the hero/heroine narrative. Today, Hollywood has an inherent obsession with watering down dystopia, in turn illegitimating the inevitable future of dystopia- the Hunger Games is an example of this devolution of significantly dominant yet misconstrued political and societal struggles.
I am going to discuss and analyse four different texts that were produced between the years of 1949-2000. These texts, consisting of three films and two novels will each present wildly differing contexts and themes within their narratives, but with enough in depth analysis and a little bit of imagination and ingenuity will seek to take you on a short but edifying journey- from here to dystopia.
Edit: the in-depth analysis will take place in the next blog. For now- enjoy the trailers and the one novel summary (but really, who hasn’t read 1984).
FILM: Battle Royale
FILM: The Handmaid’s Tale (there is also a critically acclaimed novel (much better if you can get your hands on it) by Margaret Atwood- but this trailer semi-adequatly sums up the premise of the book in a few minutes).
10 years from now, we will ask ourselves “when did the world take this fatal detour?”
The truth is, there was not a single bullet, and there was not a single gun. It was the accumulation of many different factors that enabled our sense of agency, our livelihoods and our faith in human rights to disintegrate.
A few scholarly resources
Potter, G 2012, ‘Imaginaries and Realities, Utopia and Dystopia’, Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research’, vol. 23, viewed 15 March 2017, http://www.alternateroutes.ca/index.php/ar/article/viewFile/15869/15771
Potter argues that dystopia is grounded in the present day. He states the dystopian thesis buried in logical and empirical content, which emphasises the near certain hopelessness with respect to avoiding a future of unimaginable horror and suffering- and there is nothing in our power to prevent it. He discusses how dystopia is essentially a Marxist phenomenon. An example he gives is in regards to poverty, unemployment and inequality- and describes these issues as features of our global political economy, that are not contingent rather they are fundamental to the system. These issues are being aggravated and amplified each and every day, which is why dystopian theory rejects reformism of any kind as a potential solution in avoiding dystopia. In order to revolutionise in the first place, the first world needs a revolution. However, the political consciousness embedded for need for a political overhaul is just not here. The majority of affluent middle classes, in the US and Canada for example, cannot begin to comprehend what is happening to millions of peasants and workers around the world. Potter ponders- is it their affluence that blinds them? He contends that development and underdeveloped have evolved together, which only reinforces the fact that an insurgency is only wishful thinking.
Slaughter, R 2004, Futures beyond Dystopia: Creating Social Foresight, Routledge Falmer, New York.
Slaughter takes the stance that the affluent world we live in was founded on illusions. He believes that we are entranced by wealth, successes and an even more compelling technological prowess. He states that the most likely of futures before us are irredeemably dystopian in nature, and sets out a list of propositions about aspects of our current society that worry him (although the book is slightly outdated, the themes outlined in the following list is still largely relevant).
- A Western worldview that in certain respects supports a “short-term, thin, instrumental view of the world.
- Dominant economic and political agendas that serve to produce a consumer society and perpetuate destructive and unsustainable views, practices, and systems everywhere.
- Little attention to conscious participation in wider social and natural entities, awareness, and spirituality.
- The over glamorisation of technology and its potentials in detriment to our humanity.
- Often-false solutions to the perennial problems of human existence – meaning, purpose, soulful work, rites of passage, and death.
- Powerful forces aligned in favour of material growth and against ‘enoughness’ and ‘voluntary simplicity.’
- “Overall, it may be possible to redesign some of the ‘ways of knowing’ that are contained within the Western worldview by retiring defective components and replacing them with consciously chosen equivalents. The tools for engaging in this work are widely available, but the places where they can be learned and practiced are not very common.” (p. 8)
Slaughter’s aim in his writings aims to establish a sustainable and desirable future by using the rich store of intellectual and practical knowledge that has been gained over half a century of futures studies. “Essentially the task is about letting go of industrial models, values, priorities and structures across the board and opening to the processes of transformation available through the perennial wisdom of humankind” (p. 255).
Slaughter hoped that his book would provide the motivation to change the ways that we operate day-to-day. Fast-forwarding to 13 years down the track, have we even slightly achieved that? It seems that the aspects of society he was originally worried about have, in most cases, only worsened in nature. The good news is, is that this project will present all the information necessary to allow you, a human being in this ungodly world, to make up your own mind about your impending doom, I mean future…
Buckle up and lets enjoy the ride