: Full definition
1 : an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.
Origin: New Latin, from dys- + -topia (as in utopia)
The dictionary defines the prefix dys with the following words: abnormal, difficult, impaired and bad.
2 : anti-utopia Merriam Webster
An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. The opposite of utopia. Oxford Dictionaries
This is a post I have been tempted to write for a while. I haven’t been able to organize my thoughts, but I’ll give it a go tonight. I have been writing a lot about transhumanism and dystopia. So much in fact that I have tried to avoid it. This is something that interests me a lot, and I tend to go on and on about the things that really fascinates me and occupies my mind. I have noticed that when I share these posts, especially on my Norwegian blog, I get mostly silence. This doesn’t seem to bother most people, and I find that disturbing in itself.
I occassionally browse the WordPress reader to see what others have written under the tag dystopia, and I find mostly book reviews. Many young people are huge fans of dystopian literature and I believe this trend has been going on for quite some time now. This is actually a rather old genre, but books like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner helped dystopia make a come back in the public’s awareness. I like reading science fiction myself, and I might add authors like Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick and H.G. Wells (although it’s not as well written as The Time Machine, I also like When The Sleeper Wakes).
Let me go back to the definition from Merriam Webster. I believe dystopia is a popular topic in books and films now because we are living it. The entertainment part deal with imaginary places, as the dictionary states it is. It’s not something that concerns us. It’s like a ride in an amusement park or a horror film. We pay someone to frighten us in our totally safe existence, but without unsettling us. The feeling of safety seems to be intact.
But that’s not the whole story, is it? I discovered that I hadn’t translated the post I had planned to link to here, but I have written other posts where I explain why I think this is relevant outside the world of fiction. I recommend Dangerous ideas.
Let me sum up some the points I’ve made in previous posts. The weather is crazy and it seems like no governemt is really interested in doing something about it. They point to the fact that there is more to gain by reducing emissions in developing countries in Africa and Asia (+ India and China). It goes without saying that if they are to pay for this alone, they’ll probably have to give up some of the growth they’re striving for, while it’ll be (oil-) business as usual for the rest of us. That doesn’t seem quite fair, especially as some of these countries produce our luxury and electronics.
I have written about the problem of fresh water and population growth, which could become our biggest challenge. Like with many other challenges we could probably find a way around it, but it’ll cost. There are people for example working on developing an affordable technology to remove the salt from sea water, but we have a history of not sharing. I assume there will still be a problem with toxins because we have really poisoned the sea. I read somewhere, for instance, that US authorities warned pregnant women against eating tuna because of the high content of mercury. We’ve had a debate in Norway as well. There are some that claim it’s not healthy to eat as much fish as the authorities claim, but of course fish is a big industry in Norway, probably 2nd after oil. I’m not sure we can trust anything the government is saying on environment.
There seems to be less stability in the world. Russia is threatening Ukraine and on the other hand no one seems to care that Ukraine is just as bad. I think they ignore this because they want to oppose Russia. Granted, Russia might be even worse, but sometimes I wonder if they are all equally bad. There have been reports accusing the Ukrainian military of using cluster bombs in populated areas.
Life may not have been good in Muslim countries before the “Arab Spring”, but is it any better now? Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya are very dangerous places to live now, and we seem to have completely forgotten the Christian minorities in these countries. They could very well disappear completely.
There are a lot of resources in Africa. I don’t think the African countries themelves are without any responsibiliy this long after their independence, but the European countries have more responsibiity than they have accepted so far. The Africans must deal with corrupt leaders and we can help them by not stealing their resources. I believe there are many big companies that extract these resources without investing much in these countries. They don’t have to do this even though corrupt politicians allow it. The same argument could be used for the rain forest in Asia and South America. So there’s a shared responsibility.
There’s a lot of surveillance and that makes many people uneasy. There’s an expression stating that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. There’s always been mistrust between Norway and our neighbour Sweden. There is a reason for that, and that was especially evident during WW2. The Swedish government helped Germany transport troops to the fighting in Norway, and Jews to the death camps. The Daily Mail wrote about a book that uncovered this.
I mentioned in the post Out of Obscurity that the Swedish neutrality may not have been very obvious from the beginning. They seemed to have wavered between supporting Hitler and supporting the allies during WW2. I refer to that post for more information. I’m thinking a little about that these days. Russia has upgraded their military, and they are violating Swedish and Norwegian air space constantly. There has even been photographic evidence showing the latest Russian plane over Norway. This is a Norwegian article, but I recommend it for the photos. I don’t know if Russia is planning something, but they seem to be very eager to provoke. There have also been allegations of Russian submarines violating the border in both Norway and Sweden. After it happened in Sweden a few months ago, the old debate about whether or not they should continue being neutral, was reopened (l question how neutral they have really been).
There are many conspiracy theories around, which shows how worried people are. I haven’t written much about conspiracies connected to the UN, the Vatican, GMO, a one world government, Islam, planet x, the fact that it has never been more dangerous to be poor etc. There is a lot of fear and not enough done to make us feel reassured. This is in many ways a good time to grow up in, but at the same time all the technology around us may very well be the end of us. There are in fact some people that talk about our future, and not only in science fiction anymore, as being posthuman.
A lot of what I’ve written about in my posts on dystopia and transhumanism deal with international politics. In this summary I also want to add some criticism of my own government. I have written extensively about the Norwegian Child Welfare Service (CWS). Unlike many who protest the abuse the CWS are guilty of, I do think we need this service. It would be naive to assume that abuse and neglect never happens. The CWS is, however, in dire need of major reforms, something I addressed in a post where I labelled the present regime “statesponsored child trafficking.” I have documented that poverty is used as an argument for taking the children, and then the foster parents and private institutions are given very generous benefits. To put it short, children have become an industry. I see this as a part of a dystopic development.
Norway has taken part in bombing Arab countries to smitherens. They are a very loyal ally and member of NATO, but sometimes it doesn’t make much sense. One of the problems, as I see it, is that NATO doesn’t understand Arab countries. Most of the conflicts in the Muslim world has to do with political power.
The conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims started in 632, when the Prophet Mohammed died. Between 10 and 20 % of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, are Shia Muslims. They are in most countries minorities in a Sunni country, except in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and Azerbaijan, where they are the majority.
This conflict is also an important part of the problem in Syria. This country has a Shiite minority which rules over a Sunni majority. The president comes from the Alawites sect. There is a similar situation in Iraq, but opposite. Saddam Hussein and the Sunni elite ruled over the Shiite majority. After the elections the Shiites naturally took over. The conflict arose after the Prophet Muhammad died. Those who wanted the Prophet’s closest associates to take over his position became Sunni Muslims. Those who wanted Muhammad’s descendants to inherit the power became Shia Muslims. This is how Islam split into two main branches. This has as much to do with power as with religion. This would explain why religion doesn’t appear to matter to these governments. One of the reasons it is so difficult to make peace in this region is that it is easy to arouse the old enmity between the two groups and to disrupt the fragile peace, which has maintained a certain balance. The fact that Saddam Hussein was overthrown has, for example, started sectarian violence and killings against Sunni Muslims across the Middle East.
We see the same in Syria. The uprising may have started as a real political rebellion, but it is now a sectarian struggle between the poor Sunnis (many of whom are Al Qaeda supporters) and the Shiite elite. Terrorist groups exploit this division which is obviously devastating for peaceful Muslims, and for the rest of us whom they see as the infidels. The Norwegian government is totally spineless when it allows NATO to bully us into supporting someone else’s agenda.
I have also written about the economy. There’s been a lot of speculation about what state it is in. Some commentators think the danger of a gobal recession is high this or next year, and some even talk about a life after the collapse of the US dollar. The news before Christmas sounded very dramatic, and I got the impression that the stability in Russia was threteaned. That was the one thing that made President Putin strong. He gave his country a financial stability they hadn’t had before, and that’s why the Russians supported him. Suddenly that story disappeared from the news.
There’s also been a few people speculating about how strong China is financially.
About the same time as the terrorist attack against the French xenophobic magazine Charlie Hebdo, a much worse tragedy took place in Nigeria. Hundreds of people, possibly as many as 2000, were killed. This was one of several stories that vanished from the news because the world was too concerned about defending its freedom to spread hatred, but after some criticism it resurfaced later.
One wonders if we are all too apathetic or indifferent to care. There’s always been a branch of science fiction that has warned against the machines. I read recently that scientists are working on planting false memories in mice. That clearly has some benefits, but as previously mentioned there is that thing with past behaviour. People are unhappy, treated unfairly, democracy is fading all over the world, we produce more and more food and medicine but don’t share it, we spend more money on weapons, we make terrorists and dictators our allies. This isn’t an imaginary place. This is planet earth in 2015. I have a talent for apathy and I have my own struggles that takes a lot of energy, but perhaps I should feel something? I mean, it should bother all of us that women and children are being slaughtered in Nigeria, the same is possibly happening in Ukraine, that more freedom is taken from us, and that the solidarity in our own societies seem to diminish, .
The world is changing rapidly, and I can’t help but wonder what it’s going to look like when my 9 year old daughter is going to leave the nest. I hope it’ll be a world it is possible to prepare her for. I can’t end with this depressing thought. I’m going to end with a quote and Douglas Adams will do the trick. I think he’s on to something:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy