How to recognize a dystopia – Alex Gendler


Have you ever tried to picture
an ideal world? One without war, poverty, or crime? If so, you’re not alone. Plato imagined an enlightened
republic ruled by philosopher kings, many religions promise
bliss in the afterlife, and throughout history, various groups have tried to build
paradise on Earth. Thomas More’s 1516 book “Utopia”
gave this concept a name, Greek for “no place.” Though the name suggested impossibility, modern scientific and political progress raised hopes of these dreams
finally becoming reality. But time and time again,
they instead turned into nightmares of war, famine, and oppression. And as artists began to question
utopian thinking, the genre of dystopia,
the not good place, was born. One of the earliest dystopian works
is Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels.” Throughout his journey, Gulliver
encounters fictional societies, some of which at first seem impressive,
but turn out to be seriously flawed. On the flying island of Laputa, scientists and social planners
pursue extravagant and useless schemes while neglecting the practical needs
of the people below. And the Houyhnhnm who live
in perfectly logical harmony have no tolerance for the imperfections
of actual human beings. With his novel, Swift established
a blueprint for dystopia, imagining a world where certain trends
in contemporary society are taken to extremes, exposing their underlying flaws. And the next few centuries would
provide plenty of material. Industrial technology that promised
to free laborers imprisoned them in slums
and factories, instead, while tycoons grew richer than kings. By the late 1800’s, many feared
where such conditions might lead. H. G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” imagined
upper classes and workers evolving into separate species, while Jack London’s “The Iron Heel”
portrayed a tyrannical oligarchy ruling over impoverished masses. The new century brought more exciting
and terrifying changes. Medical advances made it possible
to transcend biological limits while mass media allowed instant
communication between leaders and the public. In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”,
citizens are genetically engineered and conditioned to perform
their social roles. While propaganda and drugs keep
the society happy, it’s clear some crucial
human element is lost. But the best known dystopias
were not imaginary at all. As Europe suffered unprecedented
industrial warfare, new political movements took power. Some promised to erase
all social distinctions, while others sought to unite people
around a mythical heritage. The results were real-world dystopias where life passed under the watchful eye
of the State and death came with ruthless efficiency
to any who didn’t belong. Many writers of the time didn’t
just observe these horrors, but lived through them. In his novel “We”, Soviet writer
Yevgeny Zamyatin described a future where free will and individuality
were eliminated. Banned in the U.S.S.R., the book inspired
authors like George Orwell who fought on the front lines
against both fascism and communism. While his novel “Animal Farm” directly
mocked the Soviet regime, the classic “1984” was a broader critique
of totalitarianism, media, and language. And in the U.S.A., Sinclair Lewis’s
“It Can’t Happen Here” envisioned how easily democracy
gave way to fascism. In the decades after World War II, writers wondered what new technologies like atomic energy,
artificial intelligence, and space travel meant for humanity’s future. Contrasting with popular visions
of shining progress, dystopian science fiction expanded
to films, comics, and games. Robots turned against their creators while TV screens broadcast
deadly mass entertainment. Workers toiled in space colonies
above an Earth of depleted resources and overpopulated, crime-plagued cities. Yet politics was never far away. Works like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Watchmen”
explored the real threat of nuclear war, while “V for Vendetta”
and “The Handmaid’s Tale” warned how easily our rights could
disappear in a crisis. And today’s dystopian fiction continues
to reflect modern anxieties about inequality, climate change, government power, and global epidemics. So why bother with all this pessimism? Because at their heart, dystopias
are cautionary tales, not about some particular government
or technology, but the very idea that humanity can be
molded into an ideal shape. Think back to the perfect world
you imagined. Did you also imagine what it would
take to achieve? How would you make people cooperate? And how would you make sure it lasted? Now take another look. Does that world still seem perfect?




Comments
  1. Orwell didn't fight against communists. He fought for the left-wing Republicans during the Spanish civil war. He was an avowed socialist his whole life.

  2. Hello. The world around me is dark and gray, there is no free will and everyone lives under one dictator and giant government. Free will and individuality are gone and taken from us. But I stick out. I stand up against this oppressive regime. But the state silenced me and took away my free will. Then they killed me.

  3. We are all living in a dystopia world just now , dystopia is a reality in so many societies and cultures 🍎

  4. My definition of dystopia seemed kind ok. Would where most people are partial farmers. Free and are not dependent on others. Free even if it kills them. Free to forgo montanes stability and not wait for a pay check from your owner. Give me Liberty or give me death.

  5. We simply cannot become what we are supposed to be without embracing and studying psychedelics.
    They keep men sane.

  6. The age-old political philosophy question of, "How should we live?"
    Where is that optimal place where the needle of a dial stops between two extremes:
    1) Anarchy/chaos – Full individual freedom (for those strong enough to dominate others).
    2) Totalitarian compliance – Minimal individual freedom (overseen by those strong enough to dominate others).

    Apparently, pick your poison.

  7. Every book (and movie) mentioned in the video:

    Books
    1. Plato's Republic
    2. Utopia by Thomas Moore
    3. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
    4. The Time Machine by HG Wells
    5. The Iron Heel by Jack London
    6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    7. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
    8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
    9. It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
    (10. The Handmaid's Tale is mentioned as a movie, but was originally a book by Margaret Atwood)

    (Suggestions)
    – Anthem by Ayn Rand is similar to We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
    – Night by Elie Wesel is an award-winning reflection on WWII
    – 1984 by George Orwell was implied and is amazing

    Movies
    1. Dr. Strangelove
    2. Watchmen
    3. V for Vendetta
    4. The Handmaid's Tale

  8. I here'd your truth these High class people are treating us like Zoo Animals living in a dystopia is scary.

  9. That's why you have to change how society Works as a structure, introduce new and bizarre economic ideas, enforce laws that seem weird but serves the purpose to maintain utopia. rethink our structure as if we're new to the world. Ideas like Communism is the first step but certainly not something to pursue, look at it as an example, and you must test it before you implement it or it'll cause a dystopia.

  10. When will these Americans learn Stalin doesn't equal Communism
    He was dictator who hijacked the Communist system for power over others

  11. Synonyms of "utopia" are "fantasy", "illusion", "myth", "dream".
    We shall never reach an actual Utopia for two main reasons:
    First, two people won't ever agree in all the same topics of what society needs to have/be in order to work perfectly (political system; social equality; what is considered "art"; what should humanity focus to solve, secrets of the past, problems of today or mysteries of the future; etc).
    Second, many scholars point out how the human being is a chaotic creature with a desire for destruction and rebellion deep within our unconscious, so even if we built a society in which the scholars, entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians and workers are see and interact with each other with equality and respect, without one seen themselves as "superior" to others, there will still be those who wish to break this relationship just because, and if we try to segregate these individuals who do not bring anything good to society, we will be repeating the segregation we do today, thinking out how to identify these "chaotic beings" and associating things like tastes, habits, ethnic origins and the like to find them, and creating a bias of other people with similar things.

  12. They forgot to mention about how what someone likes, doesn’t work for everyone. So a perfect utopia would have to separate people in different interests… dystopia-coff

  13. If utopian a perfect place didnt exist, then does god actually exist too ? and so does the heaven, where people suffer no pain, hungry ??

  14. Nah, I just see people that only want is serenity are foolish and ignorants to what are happening in the society. 🙃

  15. Long story short: There won’t and never will be a perfect world, because there can’t be one.

    Just like there can’t and never will be perfect humans.

    Because the world is shaped by humanity, and humanity is shaped by the same world they live in.

  16. The only acheivable utopia is if people only have the same ideologies and live in a world where they get what they want. Lets say a person has everything he wants, its a utopia for him but maybe not others. If he kills off people with different ideology, it is a utopia.

  17. Hmm because of this, maybe I aim to study politics and its roots or history but I don't know where to start ahaha

  18. I usually imagine humans never existed though
    Pretty sure if there's no humanity at all then there'll be no poverty, no wars etc.

  19. Thought I was high cuz I heard: Play-doh instead of: Plato had to rewind and put on captions to realize I heard Play-doh when it wasn't Play-doh

  20. There was this great dystopian book I read. I can’t remember the name. Basically, medicine was so unaffordable that average people were dying from totally treatable diseases. A puppet ruler was installed to power with the aid of an enemy country. And corporations pretended to care about people. Does anyone know the name of the book?

  21. Think of a world that every time you take something,someone takes some of it. That is the basic definition of tax system. Think that you choose a representetive to govern the place you live, but her or she is controlled by the people which controls the money. And that people make themselves even richer by increasing their profit. They dont even directly work. They gain money by giving people jobs, getting them to produce and sell the products. If it makes sense to you, contiune to sleep. I can guarantee you that if there are alternative universes, they consider the world we live is a dystopia. Maybe we cant make our world a utopia, but we can make it better. We just have to try it first.

  22. A utopia is where life is fair on everyone, like the poor get treat as well as the rich, where is 3rd world countries get a change with building an economy, corruption in companies fade away
    Not where everyone is overly happy, no crime, everyone is rich, everything is exactly the same, that would be hellish to live with

  23. When did Orwell fight communism in the front line? Sorry guys, fascism is a logical consequence of capitalism.

  24. Dystopias don’t emerge from utopias, they emerge from conformity, from not rocking the boat, from letting things continue the way they are.

  25. An utopian society is a world where everyone says the same words, thinks the same ideas, wants the same things, has the same opinions and hears the same informations as everyone.

  26. Well poverty is the necessity for luxury.
    No poverty, no luxury.
    Moreover, poverty cannot disappear. Cause slums build the cities which we live in today, otherwise who'll do the labour (minimum wage jobs with high potential risk to death)

  27. Things mentioned in the video that you may want to refer to after the video to expand your knowledge-
    ¬Utopia
    ¬Gulliver's Travels
    ¬The Time Machine
    ¬The Iron Heel
    ¬Brave New World
    ¬Animal Farm
    ¬1984
    ¬We
    ¬Handmaid's Tale
    ¬It Can't Happen Here
    ¬V for Vendetta

  28. Ahhh that’s so scary! So basically it’s all of our conflicts and anger and fights which is saving us and protecting us. Trying to be united causes tyrannical leaders being formed.

  29. Simply legalize weed tax the people who are the 1% irs mor active in the field of the rich hiding their money, give teachers higher pay, global health care because $100 for an iv that cost less than $2 to make is bs getting people who don't have violent crimes out of prison to strengthen the work force with less taxes to components who employ the principles, fixing all thoes dam potholes we use prisoners to set up fences how hard is it for them to fill a hole, and some reform to help people move from Apartments to houses and homeless people into those apartments

  30. Honestly, the human mind is so plastic (litterally moldable), that we could probably make lots of societies that can work like utopias without those flaws, and that's important, because this is the real steuggle. We shouldn't protect what we have at the cost of progress due to fear, we should accept that human nature isn't fixed, and that we will change as we allways have. Thw cautionary tale of dystopias is better at describing how the obsessipn over some value, and it's vertue will lead to totaliterianism. If equality is overdone you may forget individuality, but if you overdo individuality we becomw isolated, and I can invision a society where all blame is put on the individual, letting systems get evermore exploitative and oppressive. I don't think it's wrong to acknowlege that humans can change, or that societies can improve. We should adapt society to the needs and wishes of people, and the material conditions, allowing adaptability and progress, without fixating on optimisation, or conservation. Utilise new discoveries, allow your mind to be changed, and let progress adapt to our needs, instead of being forced towards a narrow idea of good, or being keot from taking place. That's how I see it anyways.

  31. I think we should just stick every human into those matrix virtual reality tubes and have the artificial intelligence robots handle everything else in the real world such as our maintenance

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