How the essence of Dystopia is no longer resigned to the pages of fiction
When thinking of dystopian fiction, whose is the first name which springs to mind? George Orwell? Phillip Dick? Margaret Atwood? All of whom are clinical writers, making up a collection of some of the best minds in the literary world.
Their respected works have become canon for the critique of politics and society, showing what can happen when world powers go unopposed. The governments convince their people that they as leaders can do no wrong, and that them as followers must question nothing.
Many have leaped at the chance to draw comparisons between the world of Orwell’s ‘1984’ and that of the real world in 2020. Writing the novel in the late 1940s, Orwell was working in the fallout of the Second World War. ‘1984’ shows an omniscient governing power and their ability to keep everyone in their place with brutal treatment and tactics to grind out almost all essence of individualism. They believe no one is questioning their authority, and even those who do are eventually brought to their knees.
The aggression from the state in the USA to dampen the spirit of the Black Lives Matters protesters has led to scenes which seem extracted straight from the darkest dystopian script.
The National Guard rolling down inner city and suburban streets, people being dragged from their cars and tear gas and rubber bullets being fired upon peaceful protests all add up to a government which want to keep out any form of protest from its streets. Unlike some in the past, this protest will not go away anytime soon.
Some in western society would accept the scenes of aggression if they were happening in the middle east. They shouldn’t, but its images like that which we have seen for years. It is incomprehensible to see civilians being injured in the streets of the USA, a country which seems to become a little less ‘the land of the free’ with each passing day.
The examples of a dystopian existence in the real, recent world are plenty. The destruction of the natural world for financial gain, the corruption throughout governments across the world, the suffering of millions and millions of people as a result of disasters, both man made and natural, are all signs of a world which is far from any kind of normal, never mind a utopia.
The use of cameras and recording equipment in dystopian fiction is key. In ‘1984’ cameras are everywhere. ‘Big Brother is watching you’ is the line which Orwell has under almost every poster which protagonist Winston walks past. The posters are intended to scare people into behaving, giving them the idea that they are constantly being monitored to keep them in check.
Without cameras in 2020, the world would have seen a fraction of the racial hatred shown towards African Americans by the police. They have helped to start the process of having the police officers involved in the death of George Floyd brought to justice. This is just once example of how cameras can be used for good, but with the advancement of technology and the ability to use bugging software on phones and laptops, the possibility of a more sinister use of cameras and recording equipment is chillingly more real.
There has been a lot of criticism towards the way cameras on phones are pulled out at every moment. It surely comes down to the scenario. At a sports match or concert, having your phone out for the entire duration of the event is not necessary. When seeing injustice happening in the street, then it is morally right to take pictures and videos, to an extent.
The fact that we have the choice to take our phones out whenever we want is one which, in many situations, most of us will take for granted. Continuing to do so will reduce the chances of further social injustices going undetected. It is a privilege that so many of us have the ability to record footage and send it to almost anyone we want.
It can be said that Orwell’s world is still far more brutal, but for many people today, this perhaps isn’t the case. Dystopian fiction exists partially to act as a warning of how society can fail its people, the number of societies which has failed its people in our own world is already shocking.
Dystopian by its very definition relates to or denotes ‘an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice’. We live in a world in which the suffering and injustice is far from imagined, the horrors are not confined to the pages of fiction and they haven’t been for far too long.