Dystopian fictions such as The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood and 1984 by George Orwell paint a bleak near future where the rules of society have become distorted and the lives of regular citizens get enslaved in the system.
But looking around the world today, it’s clear that since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, the rules of society have changed. We all need to be mindful of how we live our lives so that we can minimize the risk of the infection spreading.
But are the rules we’re living by now dystopic? Are we. in fact, living in a modern dystopia?
In this article, we’ll answer the question ‘what is a dystopia?’ and we’ll also explore any evidence to suggest that we’re living in Orwellian times.
What Is a Dystopia?
Several key elements make up a dystopia. Firstly, any sharing of information and the ability to form limiting independent thought. Listen to the 1984 audiobook and you’ll find that the Thought Police are in place to prevent people from having thoughts against the state.
Propaganda is heavily used so that any citizens can be controlled. This is typified by political sloganeering and simple repeated messages designed to alter the thoughts and actions of the citizens.
There is the perception that everyone is always watched. From that, if anyone steps out of line, they’ll be punished. In The Handmaid’s Tale, The Eyes watch over the citizens of Gilead and make public arrests.
There is often a figurehead or an idea that is worshipped by all of the citizens. For 1984 it is Big Brother, in The Handmaids Tale, it is the belief that Gilead has the power to increase conception rates.
Often, the dystopian world is a utopic illusion. This is true of Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, where the state is seen as benevolent.
Another element of a dystopian society is the readiness to use crisis as an opportunity to impose new draconian laws.
Could 1984 Become a Reality?
We’re already living in a world where many of the instruments of dystopia are present. Surveillance cameras have long been the norm, while political sloganeering to influence the minds of others is fairly commonplace.
But are we living in a dystopia? Are the rules that have been suddenly imposed on us in the wake of COVID dystopic? The answer is probably not.
Western governments may occasionally act against the best interests of their citizens, but are they malevolent or just misguided? Most western democracies fight to overturn humanitarian injustice.
Fact or Fiction?
So, what is a dystopia? Is it something that lives in fiction, or could it become a reality?
As for the possibility that the state-imposed regulations surrounding COVID are dystopian, these temporary rules have saved lives.
Sure, there have been dystopian states in the past. Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Franco’s Spain are all examples of places where the state has controlled the masses. But the notion that the west is subtly becoming