dystopian society literatureAn obsessive new world? I doubt it. Dystopian novels like “Mundus Alter et Idem: An Old World and A New” by Joseph Hall have been around most likely since before the 16th century. I can hardly believe that the idea of dystopia was first presented in literature through this negative critique of English society; however, it is one of the oldest documented pieces of literature to carry the theme.

Dystopian literature is not new. In recent history, we have works like George Orwell’s “1984,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series. That’s not to mention television and film dystopias like “V for Vendetta,” originally a graphic novel. The characters live difficult and challenging lives, fight for food and survival, suffer traumatic injuries and deaths of children and other loved ones. The list is endless … and we are obsessed! We cannot wait for the next movie to come out or for a new season to start again, and we are hooked!

dystopian society literatureBut why? What is it about these daunting and undesirable alternative societies that has us coming unglued with awe, just short of lust?

On more than one occasion, I have had this conversation. Several points have been brought up and questioned, and I think they are valid and worthy of conversation. Given the daily stresses that we face, it makes sense that our society feels as if we are close to an apocalyptic and dystopian scenario. The world has become scary, complicated, and confusing. We have suffered terrorist attacks and have been exposed to only a slim portion of how people in other countries are being treated and how they live. It is not hard to come to the conclusion that our great nation could one day — soon — become nothing more than a police state ruled by a fascist government.

Media has taken over important factors to be replaced by the daily happenings in Hollywood. Our children are being cooked in cars and killed in streets while playing video games because technology has become more important than hard work, family, and labor. People are being treated through scores of pharmaceuticals and turned into zombies instead of being taken out into the fresh air and taught how to think for themselves.

We are obsessed with dystopia because we need to learn how to survive in it and how to cope with it as it is what we are living. We are not being stoned to death … here. But in other countries, people are. Our starving children do not have their hands being chopped off for stealing food … here. But, in other countries they are, and we know it. We just don’t want to.

I have been reading a book called “The Heart and the Fist” about a man training to become a dystopian society literatureNavy SEAL. Before his training, he shares his experience in Cambodia and Bolivia as well as in other countries where he volunteered in refugee camps. Many of the children that lived in these camps did not have families. They were small. They were neglected and starved. They had physical impairments that would stick with them for life, however long that would be, and I realized that I didn’t want to know about these things because I don’t know how to help.

I’ll watch “Harry Potter,” sure. Give me a bow and arrow and I’ll fight tooth and nail for my life, but how can I protect and save hundreds of thousands of innocent people from genocide, war, and a corrupt government?

Maybe if we keep our heads facing the television screen it will just stop.


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