Mandan News

The dystopia we live in

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For some odd reason, I Googled the word ‘dystopia’ and felt the urge to share some of stuff I borrowed off Wikipedia.

Dystopias are the opposite of utopias. “Dystopias are often filled with pessimistic views of the ruling class or government that is brutal or uncaring ruling with an ‘iron hand’ or ‘iron fist.'” These dystopian government establishments often have protagonists or groups that lead a resistance to enact change within their government or overlords.

Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’ is a dystopia in which the centrally controlled economic system has indeed made material abundance plentiful, but deprived the mass of humanity of meaningful labor. Virtually all work is menial and unsatisfying, and only a small number of the small group that achieves education, is admitted to the elite and its work.

In the novel ‘Brave New World’, written in 1931 by Adlous Huxley, a class system is prenatally designated (in test tubes) in terms of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, with the lower classes having reduced brain-function and special conditioning to make them satisfied with their position in life.

Some dystopian works, like Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ emphasize the pressure to conform to ruthlessly egalitarian social norms that discourage or suppress accomplishment, or even competence as forms of inequality. Religious groups play the role of the oppressed as well as oppressors in most of these novels. Finally, the stories are left unresolved even if the hero manages to escape or destroy the “dystopia.”

So given that introduction, I’m left to wonder if we aren’t living in a dystopia. So far, most of us have been able to get along around here, but when what’s going on in the world is literally at our fingertips, one has to conclude that the world seems more dystopiated than utopiated.

It is interesting to note that in many of the novels, business becomes the government … and sometimes religion becomes big business, while the rest of us become faceless nameless pawns. I’ve always thought that Orwell’s ‘1984’ was dated wrong, but look around you. Do you really have privacy, or is “Big Brother” out there recording your life? Most of us think, “Well I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I worry about being watched?” As I recall, the Jews took the same approach to the holocaust.

To me, it’s a question of who gets to decide what’s wrong. For instance, most folks will agree that murder, stealing, rape, injuring others and such are wrong and can’t be tolerated in any social order. However who gets to decide which religion is the wrong one? Who gets to decide what sexual orientations are tolerable? Who gets to decide how wrongs get righted? Who gets to decide who gets to live in your neighborhood? Who gets to decide that your thoughts/opinions/activities are acceptable? You should get the drift by now …

Given these questions; we Americans, in order to form a more perfect union, have decided to be the deciders and live by what the majority of us decide. However we also decided that the process of forming a more perfect union requires that the minority amongst us should have the same individual rights as the majority. In essence, our society is based on our individual rights coupled with the lofty goal of allowing each of us to realize our own destiny. So “we the people” need to fully appreciate that it’s the opposing winds that make the kite fly high.

So it seems to me, that “we the people” need to learn a bit more about tolerance, in particular how to tolerate tolerance. My heart aches when I watch the righteous onward Christian Soldiers proudly making life intolerable for others with their judgments. Or when I see mean spirited folks screaming their stance at their opposition and thinking pummeling their opinion into others should be considered civil discourse. Maybe I went to the wrong church and such, but as I understood the book, pummeling others with our pride wasn’t something we were all to strive for.

Rather we were instructed to humbly serve God by serving others without expectation of earthly reward … and it seems to me that tolerance is a centerpiece of that instruction.

The dystopian authors understood that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and their novels left us with the frightening results of insidiously losing our tolerance for individuality … so my advice is to be vigilant about being yourself, and allow others to do the same … and if you make any money with this advice. I’ll expect my usual 10% … peace.