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?

Merriam Webster LogoOur 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.

  • cancer
  • neurological diseases
  • diabetes
  • 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
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • suicide

In a dystopia, these would all run unchecked.


They may not make it.

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.

Just Theory

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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  1. Very thought provoking, Red. I have not ever heard of utopia. And yes, flipside I WOULD have thought it would be all the opposite of what you explained.

    I really enjoyed this one 🙂
    Noeleen recently posted..A Postcard from the Runaway TrainMy Profile

  2. Wow. Your brain works in mysterious ways….or….maybe it just works better than most of ours.
    A world without greedy, self-centered, narcissists in control of what happens to all.
    No hatred, contempt, jealousy………
    There is one day a year where it gets to be all about me. Just kidding. That would make me want to punch someone. And…in my world, there is no violence.
    Lorre recently posted..Stop, Drop and RollMy Profile

  3. I must be in an unlit place today, but it seems to me, human nature keeps repeating itself.

    Good health and basic necessities of life eventually lead to fighting to be topdog, to want a bigger share.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan: CornerMy Profile

    • That is why this exercise had to have us imagine life as we have never experienced it…and as it cannot be with human frailty. I would certainly like to have even a close 16th place with some of the great attributes here. xxx

  4. It probably would be too simplistic to some but I do believe a starting point (the foundation to creating a Utopia) would be start on the following premise…
    That we seriously think about how we positively liked to be treated and treat others in the exact same way. 🙂
    Phil Gayle_For Singles and Couples recently posted..Single and SecureMy Profile

    • I believe it is a functionality of the utopian society. The basis of equal tolerance breeds the reciprocal behavior. It goes a long way to derailing unacceptable behavior. Definitely, it is a great building block for utopia.

  5. And so, I so agree with Gail T. I think you have touched on a sublime and necessary part of any utopian society. Where our social selves are totally in touch with our spiritual selves, such that beauty can be appreciated just for its beauty. A serenade, or a poem of truth, the taste of nectar, and the pleasures of the flesh.
    One other “must” is that each and every heart feels the compulsion to serve as much as to be served. We have so much to share with each other, that celebrates the individual, yet fulfills the whole.
    I wonder at attempts to define utopia in terms of what we will not have, what we have now and will not have in utopia. Granted, there is a balance of negative and positive, yet to focus on the positive will give it a strength that could even turn the negative into joyfulness as well.
    My hardest aspect of envisioning utopia is just that – there is good, but not without bad. There is right, but not without wrong.
    So, it seems, it comes down to our words, our definitions of yin and yang. The male and female, the ebb and the flow, that transition of seasons… these are all natural balances of nature and that, in the end, is what humans must choose to take to heart and live by/within. We can enjoy the light and the dark – the opposites do not need to be bad or evil or wrong. Instead, they can be the vacuum into which the air and light and love will flow move, to create, and recreate balance.
    just sayin’…

    love and hugs –

    PS: and I believe it can come to pass, that humans can finally accept their role and partake actively of the rhythms of nature, with joy.

    BuddhaKat recently posted..Will the Real Guy Please Stand Up?My Profile

    • First, I love the hope in what you have said. I agree, the utopian feel is not a myth. Those who are the most balanced feel it because they do not assign negativity to the opposites. Were it not for dark, we would never know the light. Each has inherently good qualities which are necessary.

      The nature of being subservient is so mal-conceived we even assign its word as one of degradation. Service to others is an uplifting, fulfilling experience. I would like for us to explore both the attitude of gratitude and the embodiment of service. Both bring us an understanding which we can get no other way. <3

  6. maybe i should feel utopia then the feelings of mistrust will melt away red xjen
    jennygoth recently posted..Freshly Pressed: Friday FavesMy Profile

    • One of the things I have discovered is feeling utopian at heart does banish the feelings of mistrust. It opens a clairvoyance which is otherwise not afforded as we are busy looking beneath the stones for the pitfalls. xxx

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