From Here to Dystopia: Part 2

So, it has been about one month since my first blog post was published. The central idea and themes have not really changed at all- but my perceptions have along with my faith in humanity. In the first phases of my research when I was first figuring out my plan of attack, I thought that watching the films I listed in my dystopian fiction and going on to dissect them was going to be the easiest part of this assignment. I was very wrong. In my presentation, I used two examples of dystopian fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale and Battle Royale) and after watching them both several times each then going on to analyse and critique them and then try and equate them with modern day society was an arduous task! This is my dissection of both films so far in comparison with our society today:

Battle Royale

  1. Younger generations targeted

Younger generations are targeted because in Japan at the time, the economy was crashing and there were high rates of unemployment. Students were consistently rebelling and boycotting their classes, which is why the government approved the Battle Royale legislation. Although different people have different perspectives and opinions, there is certainly discussion that is occurring today that diminishes younger people as rude, lacking in respect, impatient, lazy etc.

  1. Students set up to fail also represents worldwide failure

In the film, the students are given a bag with supplies including a weapon, food, water, a map and a compass. Each student has a different weapon. The two main characters have a pair of binoculars and a saucepan lid as weapons, while others have shotguns, automatic rifles and sharp knives. This represents that some individuals are unfairly given better opportunities regardless of value while others are essentially set up for failure. By doing this the film suggests that we are already set up for global failure. For example, we have a semi-fraudulent banking system as people are given loans of money that doesn’t actually exist only to have to work even harder to pay these non-existent loans back with actual cash.

  1. We are meant to be protected by the state- but the state sometimes only protects itself (selfish government)

There’s no doubt that most laws are put in place for our benefit. They help in making us feel safe in our day-to-day lives. However there have been relatively recent cases of governments creating laws for their own benefits. In Australia, the Border Force Protection Act was signed in 2015 that states it is illegal for detention centre workers to report child abuse, rape and human rights violations. In 2014, the state of Idaho in the US states it is illegal to film and report animal abuse on farms, establishing severe criminal sanctions for those that report the abuse- as opposed to those who caused it in the first place. This use of “law-making” which protects corporations in charge represents the “forbidden zones” in the film which are set up to give the game its three day time limit. The viewers are able to sit comfortably in their homes while the students have to fight for their lives whilst also worrying about where they are and at what times.

The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Lack of body autonomy

In the film, women’s lives are only contingent on whether or not they are able to produce children. It is a group of white, religious rich males who decide on the fate of female bodies. Earlier in the year Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order surrounded by 6 rich white males.

  1. Victim blaming

There is a scene in the film where a young handmaid is “slut-shamed” by other women when she bravely states she is a victim of rape and the rape resulted in an aborted pregnancy. The other handmaid’s say that it was her fault for what happened, that God was punishing her and that she is a whore. This scene really resonates with today’s rape culture, as we are currently living in a society where a US college student was convicted of sexual assault and only served just three months of a jail sentence (Brock Turner). We are a society that holds female victims accountable for male crimes. We say well she shouldn’t have worn that short skirt, she shouldn’t have flirted, she shouldn’t have been walking alone at night and we justify this vile behaviour by saying “boys will be boys”.

  1. Travel ban

Diverting from gender issues, I did make a comparison between women being forced to work to death in the colonies if they were unable to give birth to Trump’s travel ban. The Handmaid’s were told that with the role they were playing in society, it was the safest and most pleasant life available to them- and that they should be happy about that. If not, they always had the choice to go to these colonies, which were represented in the film as eerily similar to Nazi death camps. Trump’s travel ban is in itself, a manifestation of Islamophobia and fear-mongering. His party seem to believe that a healthy America is only comprised of white Christians, and that immigrants, whatever nationality they may be play only an insignificant role in the “greatness” of his country. So the Christian Fundamentalist leaders in the Handmaid’s Tale suspended the US constitution under the pretext of restoring order and Trumps travel ban violates constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection of the laws. Although the travel ban has now been frozen, the act of it in the first place crossed several lines.

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In my first blog post I outlined two scholarly resources that I believed aligned well with the message I am trying to convey in my digital artefact. Soon after, I came across a paper written by a young woman from the US that analysed the themes of dystopian fiction as part of her master’s degree. She researched novels from 2001-2010. Most of her paper is purely themes that she found to be repetitive within each novel, so what I was most interested in most was part of her conclusion/findings. Toward the end of her paper, the author discussed five lessons that could be learnt from reading dystopian novels. These lessons were: that it is okay to have individuality and be unique, that it’s important to keep hope, that technology has gone too far and something needs to be done, we must protect our environment and lastly that it is important have the quality of altruism. My first two academic sources were very pessimistic and dark in nature, more so Potter’s work, so I think it is important to include something that doesn’t necessarily focus on our physical state in the event of a dystopian age, rather our temperaments and qualities and how we should deal with a dystopia in the best way that we can.

Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard discusses the structure and the legitimacy of the government. In a typically dystopian land, it is the government that is the oppressor and the controller of every single event and person in its state, which is why exposing the true immoral nature of the government is so central in discussing dystopian themes and general existence of it. The short book contains several chapters all contributing powerfully to the author’s overall thesis, however I would like to focus on one particular chapter: How the State Transcends its Limits. This chapter begins with discussion of the transformation from monarchical society to the concept of a parliamentary democracy in the United States of America. This evidently resulted in the parliament being the main act of the state and therefore every act completely sovereign. Drawing upon my own political philosophy knowledge- I think it’s interesting to contemplate the state of nature and two philosophers’ views on this phenomenon. In short, John Locke argued that in the state of nature, every man would be equal to one another, and that because we are God’s property we would not harm each other whilst Thomas Hobbes argues that in the state of nature, life would be short, nasty and brutish and essentially states that mankind is too selfish in what they desire to be fair and equal. Returning back to Rothbard, he uses the example of the Bill of Rights and Restrictive parts of the American Constitution to demonstrate an attempt to impose limits of the power of the government. The judicial sector of the US federal government are supposed to interpret laws in alignment with the principles of the constitution, however has only too become an instrument for implementing ideological legitimacies to the actions of the government.

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The main change I have made from my first post is that I will only focus on dystopian films, and I will include Brazil in my final piece. I was planning on more, but I believe if I analyse only a few really well, it will make more of an impact than analysing 10 only briefly. I have also made the decision to include an Instagram feed in my blog which will feature a page run by an authoritarian government in a dystopian era which will include propaganda used to coerce and control its citizens. I will ensure to post the link on Twitter when it is up and running.

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References

Newgard, L, University of Northern Iowa UNI Scholar Works, Life of Chaos, Life of Hope: Dystopian Literature for Young Adults, Graduate Research Papers, viewed 20 April 2017, <http://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=grp&gt;

Rothbard, M 2009, Anatomy of the State, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Alabama

From Here to Dystopia

“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: Brazil

NOVEL: 1984

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).

Dystopian Realities

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…

“The future has already arrived- it’s just not widely distributed yet”. 

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Buckle up and lets enjoy the ride