Clyde had the lot of us wondering about dystopia on the SEP. Rightly so. Before we can get to the point where we define dystopia, we have to set some standards. Applying the standards is the easy part. We all know how easy judgments can be. Or are they?
Our go-to for a definition of bad gives us over a dozen choices for what the word means. Most all of them are variations on the theme unsatisfactory, substandard, invalid and poor.
Bearing in mind utopia and dystopia are both theoretical places for the moment, we have to sit in judgment of the reality in which we exist, both individually and as a society. In order to determine what would constitute a dystopia, we need to examine what is bad. Let’s create a dystopia from the ground up.
Since longevity is something we all seek, even without a utopian environment, health would seem to be a universal good. Some of the items on the bad list which spring to mind are the things we are actively attempting to cure.
- neurological diseases
- immune and endocrine disorders
- heart disease
The body is not all which needs to be addressed. Equally on the bad list in terms of health are the mental disorders which rob us of life enjoyment, love and interactive relationships. Some mental disorders create dystopian worlds for their sufferers.
What about the things which straddle the two? You can think of five right off the top of your head.
- eating disorders
- substance abuse
In a dystopia, these would all run unchecked.
Strictly speaking of the things we need for survival, we need edible substances and clean water, shelter from the elements and clothing where our climates demand it.
Everything would be unsatisfactory. A dystopian world would offer no viable foodstuffs, polluted and stagnant water. The only offer of housing would be natural to the landscape. Lightweight clothing materials would not be available, as the plant life would be compromised by the lack of water. Fur would be available providing you could find (unlikely), kill and skin animals and tan the hide.
As we form societies, we pool resources and knowledge to meet the needs of the members. Consider single survival: literally, fending for yourself. This means turning out of children, walking away from sick or wounded people and eliminating those who posed a threat to your own survival.
Communication would not be an issue. You would not seek the assistance of another, as it would not be on offer. If you need assistance, you are in direct competition from the person best suited to give such assistance. You would be a target for elimination.
Consider this when attempting to find a mate.
All of our current societal bonds would be broken: No teamwork, group efforts, partnerships. All of our systems would be invalid.
By design, dystopia is not survivable. Not only on the terms we currently negotiate our world, but it is not survivable on a base level as a mammal. Most of us cannot posit a scenario which would produce such a world, which is why dystopia is only a theoretical place. We truly would like to believe we innately carry the character to overcome egocentric survival to function as social animals.
Flip the coin over.
What are the necessities for creating the opposite of a dystopia, in fact a utopia? No, the answer is not The opposite of what you described. In order to create a societal system which transcends these unsatisfactory conditions, we must establish what the good truly is.
If the above described dystopia is bad, what constitutes good? Only on the basis of health, necessities and humanity, let’s build a utopia.
In your world, what good is required to cover health, necessities and humanity? Do not consider the impediments in today’s society when building your world. Anything is possible. The Earth is literally a blank slate.
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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