Ruminations

Write about a dystopia or something close
Sunday, April 29th, 2012

I waited for inspiration to strike before I start to write this piece, I waited and I waited and...I waited. While waiting, I skimmed the Wikipedia entry on Thomas More, Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay (and appreciated the marginalization of teenage angst and romance in it). I drank a caramel frappe that left an icky aftertaste. And then I found myself giving this column a title that is much like a prompt, because I needed a boost...a trigger. You can be the judge of whether the prompt actually serves its purpose.

Dystopia...let us Google that. Something about George Orwell, fiction and American Presidential Candidate, Rick Santorum attacking Obama (again). But basically the definition of a dystopia boils down to a "futuristic, imagined" society where living conditions are deplorable. It is an "illusion of a perfect utopian world", a fantasy derailed, a fantasy that essentially impales on itself.

At some point in the history of human civilization, impromptu think tanks started to erupt all over the world. Although they spoke and dressed differently from one another, and despite the differences in their ideals, their mission statement was essentially the same: we aim to tell people how to live their lives. In popular lexicon, those think tanks are referred to as "they" , hence the robotic "that is what THEY say".

The self-appointed experts on how to be, started to (very subtly) make decisions for us and we willingly complied. They decided that books should be convoluted, pretentious and inapprehensible in order to constitute "literature". Of course, the more ancient and obscure a book is, the better. They devised cannons and categories that instead of being used as flexible frames of reference are being touted by some as the only legitimate ways to read a book. They eliminated the simplest word for a narrative from their extensive list of vocabulary, i.e. story.

Others concerned themselves with turning humans into aesthetics on legs. They advocated for a seasons-based approach to fashion that went beyond the density of fabric. Instead, they manipulated the rules of how the fabric should look like, the manner in which it should be wrapped around a body and when to slap it the much dreaded "passé" label. They equated beauty with self-worth, and got girls as young as four years prancing around in tutus and opulent leotards, flashing dazzled audiences fake, bleached smiles.

And then there were those who thought that life is best lived like the second-rates featured regularly in tabloid spreads; loud, vulgar, immemorial. They spoon-fed us the supposed glories of overexposure. They said it was good, and they featured regular folks on television, scripted their every move and called it "reality". The blunders of those recognizable enough to be called stars were succeeded by strings of interviews, magazine covers and now almost always a book deal. Henceforth, the line between acclaim and reluctant acknowledgment has been blurred.

Maybe we should stop referring to dystopias as futuristic and imaginary. I mean seriously, take a look around you. The world has taken a wrong turn.