Has Dystopian Literature Prepared You For This?

Has Dystopian Literature Prepared You For This? January 27, 2017

A friend shared this image on Facebook:

National Parks Services

It seems to me that in quite a bit of fiction, dystopian and of other kinds, it is the people that you least expect who rise to the occasion, while those you might expect to be well poised to resist equivocate.

It is interesting to note that 1984 has become a bestseller again. I will be teaching it this semester, and I’m persuaded that it isn’t a description of the reality we inhabit now – although the Trump presidency could certainly turn out to be a prequel to it. But at present, we have something far more disturbing: information is not controlled by an authoritarian source, it flows freely and attempts of governments to block access to the internet have in general not been successful. Yet instead, people are willingly situating themselves inside echo chambers into which they choose not to invite other perspectives that would challenge the misinformation that they are hearing.

Yet on another level, it is a lot like 1984. Because one thing that we should all know about the world is that tyrants and dictators can only remain in power for as long as the majority of people either prefer the security and stability offered to the alternative of unsettling freedom and diversity; or the majority of people allow themselves to be cowed into fear and so submit.

At this juncture, it is the former that seems to be at the root of the problem, rather than the latter.

What do you think? Has dystopian fiction prepared you for what is going on at present? If so, which fiction, and in what ways?



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  • Chris Crawford

    From Clinton’s crime bill, to Bush’s establishment of Homeland Security, to Obama’s increasing of NSA powers, we’ve been moving toward a 1984-ish society for a long time now. Trump represents the ultimate reason we should’ve fought the last three Presidents tooth and nail on their moves toward authoritarianism; someone who threatens to use them for nefarious purposes.

  • bobyount

    Orwell and 1984 are a given for so many obvious reasons. However, Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here” might have been the scripted playbook for the recent campaign and election – many similarities.

  • jh

    The Book of Revelations? Sure it’s got fantastical elements but we’ve got the beast, we’ve got the wicked in power, we’ve got the victims, we’ve got world domination by the evil powerful group…

  • The only of these I’ve read are “Brave New World” and the “Hunger Games” books. I’ve been meaning to read “1984” forever and never got around to it. (Penny pinching right now, so I can’t go on a Kindle-hunt for the moment unless it’s public domain).

    I don’t think we’re like “Brave New World” because, as I remember it, the people in subjugation were too happy. They had their caste-system and had never known anything beyond it, save for the “savage” and only a few people weren’t going along with the program. Our present society seems to be too aware of the crazy that is going on and is angry and resistant. This, in my opinion, makes us more like “The Hunger Games.” – That was a universe where the leaders had their lies to the people about war and authority and where “reality tv” was a central influence. At the same time, there were DEEP economic class-divides and everyone who wasn’t a Capitolite was pretty pissed off (and some of them, too). As I recall the books, there was some implication that some of the Districts had never really stopped rebelling after the war was lost, they just kind of had a subversive, grumbling populace that learned out how to code things by singing to the mockingjays, poaching game and figuring out the bad looping on official Capitol videos… and that’s not even the secret District 13, which had an outright “the resistance never ended” mentality and were just biding their time.

    I read an article on Cracked.com once about how The Hunger Games reflects scary things in present society – and it was posted before the election, let alone the result.

  • Gary

    I am providing this, simply for the purpose of discussion. I don’t necessarily advocate a position either one way or the other. But I seem to see only one side presented in the media. Trump as being either dumb, bad, or evil. I am kind of tired of it, since I think there are two sides to the story.

    “the majority of people either prefer the security and stability offered to the alternative of unsettling freedom and diversity”…

    “Has dystopian fiction prepared you for what is going on at present?”…

    What fiction. It is a reality!

    Build a wall for security, to keep illegal immigrants out (but also keeping potential terrorists out).

    No admission for Syrian refugees, and limiting the flow of other refugees into the country by instituting what has been called “extreme vetting” (actually no admission).

    Positioning federal troops (with automatic weapons) in civilian locations, to prevent crime and potential terrorists. Civilians claim their rights are violated.

    Establishing closer ties with both Putin and Russia, while the opposition almost cries treason! Russia actually elected Trump!?!

    It seems that this is the status quo in Israel. Not the U.S.. Yet.

    So, the real question, is it security and stability, or freedom and diversity? Is Israel any better or worse than the U.S.? When you condemn Trump, do you condemn Israel? For the same actions? Is the only difference between Israel and the U.S., that we are not currently surrounded by as much of a threat?

  • Pseudonym

    One common thing that all that dystopian literature had in common was that the dystopian regime was competent. I think it’s fair to say that nothing prepared me for this.

    (Oh, on the topic of Nineteen Eighty-Four… RIP John Hurt.)

  • Brandon Roberts

    i’m concerned about republicans and trumps blase attitude towards the enviorment too……..they seem to fail to understand why it’s important and you can’t breathe or drink an economy. 1984 was more of a communistic dystopia though where people had all their freedom taken and the goverment was basically a corrupt unquestionable god.

  • I think we’ve been in 1984 mode since at least 9/11, where the government purposely created external enemies in order to make the majority give up freedom for security. That makes me a conspiracy theorist. Thank God for Orwell. He’s my tether to sanity.