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. So many thoughts crowd my head after your wonderful post. Bad vs Good is like saying black is the opposite of white.
    They are utterly different and not antithetical.
    I can no more consider the validity of a utopia as I can a dystopia. The latter can be seen on the evening news.

    Utopia? You are asking for something to which I cannot believe. Human nature and biological imperative breed contempt, jealousy and fear. With the TM I would be euthanized or left on an iceburg. With no Scotch.

    The disease which is slowly killing me has no cure or reason for existing. How can a dream of health necessities be pondered when disease, accidents and idiots who do not believe in vaccinations are a part of human life.
    Ah Red, hate to be a debbie-downer after all of your hopeful words and the uplifting comments.
    Guess it was a bad day to give up meth.
    Truly enjoyed your piece and the significant point of showing many sides of a coin.
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    • You are no such thing, my darling. You bring to fore the reason why both states are merely theoretical. For the same reason no leadership remains in power, utopia is merely the fabric of dreams. For all of our imagination and flashes of brilliance, we (society) persecute all but the vast mediocre majority. The amount of imagination required to foresee a society without the innate foibles of the human condition (which is another theory to which I do not subscribe) is one hampered by higher intellect, which in turn is able to see the foibles for what they are.

      Your analogy of black and white is yet another apt comparison of concepts broken in to chewed-up spoonfuls to those without the time or inclination to understand the components for comparison. It reminds me of the millions of people who proclaim the sky blue.

      I would join you on the iceberg, but we would have to compromise and drink tequila. I love you, chica. <3

  2. Wow. Talk about waking my mind up this morning. I seem to be living in that between world. I like to have my peace and my aloneness, but also crave some time with the human species. But I have learned that in order to save my sanity I have to leave certain people behind.

    My opinion is that we could never exist in a dystopian world. As you stated in Necessities there would be a lack of plant life which is needed to produce air which is necessary for mammals to exist.

    There can also never be a utopia because life is made up of many differences. Some of us choose peace, while others choose war. In a utopian world I fear we would lose our very soul.

    I choose to live in the in between. I have my human diseases. I enjoy the little thinks in life. I choose who gets to enter my space. Most of all, I get to meet Man Cub and other very special children with special attributes. In a utopian world I fear they would not exist.

    • It is true. In a utopian society, no special needs children would exist, as such diseases would be gone.

      By design, dystopia and utopia are both completely theoretical, which is why this exercise is so difficult for many to fathom. Still, it is interesting to see the things we would leave far from our perfect worlds.

  3. maliha

     /  November 26, 2015

    now a days humanity is just a social work which people do for just seeking attention other than there is no trust no humanity in people hearts .you do good but it doesnot come back to you as good its always opposite i love your post thanks for sharing

    • Trust is something our society has had a hard time holding dear. It makes the difference between doing for ourselves, even in a totally self-serving manner, and doing for the pro bono publico. Glad you stopped by.

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