I find it fascinating that most dystopian novels seem to toy with this idea of control by means of manipulating or lessening the intelligence of the population. I understand it completely. In an age where people fear not knowing the truth, it would make sense that we would write things about the very world we fear to live in being a world where ignorance prevails. However, I do wonder why we spend so much energy on the fear of not knowing, when knowing too much could very well be just as terrifying? Consider this: A society without secrets. Where you knew everything about everyone on public record, and filed away in a database for anyone to inquire about it. Every lover you have ever had and the web of their relationships in connection to yours. Every time you sneezed recorded by number and date. Every meal kept track of. Your commutes in miles, location, and time spent. Every time you did anything, down to the very breaths you take accounted for. Every. Single. Thing. Kept track of.
That would seem very frighting to me. Mainly because there would be no sense of ownership. No unique qualities. Free thought would come to mean, everyone was entitled to it. All of it. No one to keep anything from anyone. Everyone would have to accept everything as truth. As correct. As right. Science, mathematics, and art would be in a shambles. Everyone was forced to share everything. No exclusivity. All including, even if it was to the harm of all. I wonder what this kind of society would have as a governing force? It would be complete anarchy. You could kill anyone, because it was right to do so in your mind. The social contract wouldn’t exists, because every man was for himself and ultimately corrupt…and ultimately right.
It’s so foreign a concept to me that I can’t even begin to think about how one could go about writing some kind of dystopia about it. I could try, but I think I would only make myself angry and for my own sanity, have to stop
I bring up these questions because I have begun reading 1984 by George Orwell recently. I have never read it before. The only other dystopian works I am familiar with are Brave New World, (and only because I was hair and makeup for a college stage production of it) and The Giver series by Lois Lowery. Both 1984 and Brave New World are novels that dwell a great deal on thoughtlessness as the means to an end of a civilization. Perhaps as writers they feared the idea of a prevailing ignorance. The difference I see though, is in Brave New World there is a removal of the concept of wrong, because the moral compass of religion and common courtesy had been replaced by a very humanist ideal. Now, 1984 seems to have a clear dictatorship in place to govern morality. People can think freely if they want to end up dead. What is more interesting to me, is the removal of emotion from The Giver, and Brave New World. To deal with tempering a society by making them wholly apathetic.
Of all these three novels, I can see the removal of emotions as a much better means of controlling a community. Make them not care, ignorant, and safe and you have created a perfect means of control. Remove things that make them feel harmed, and you have become the new savior. They will do anything and everything to keep that. Offer them painless happiness and you are a god to them.
I think we live in a Dystopian world that is a combination of all of these issues. I think we have people who know so little and are constantly a threat to being brain washed. I think there are people who know too much and are corrupt because of their powerful minds and ability to manipulate people into giving up themselves willingly. I think we have people who just don’t care, as long as they are safe and happy, which means they do nothing outside of their own selfishness….as most miserere will admit to. I think we already give up a vast amount of information. Our social networks offer us a platform to communicate our lives, even down to the meals we eat and bodily functions we have. All mundane facts about ourselves compiled and saved on servers….and for what reason? Why is it so important for that data of “useless” information to be stored? Why keep a record at all?
I think dystopian works merely emulate and exaggerate life’s flaws. They speak of problems that already exist, because someone has to keep forcing the think tank full. I think as flawed people we would become too accepting of the flaws of life, and embrace them even to the point of destruction, were it not for the exaggerations being pointed out to us in creative ways. It is undoubtably amazing how works of fiction, can teach us so much about the realities of life. How painfully obvious those seemingly glaring flaws become, but only when pointed out. We have become so desensitized by life, that we would never notice the change for the worse if we didn’t have people with opinions and strong minds.
I value my thoughts. I value my emotions. I value the criticism of my flaws. All because of dystopias.