The Shift from Utopia to Dystopia, and the Need for Hope

I became jaded about America’s political process when I was nineteen. I remember having a conversation with my dad about it, and how I felt I really didn’t have a choice in the upcoming 2008 election because all the candidates seemed the same to me.  He looked at me and, with a little chuckle, said, “You aren’t supposed to be this jaded yet.”

I can’t say my outlook has improved much, nor could I speak the same to my generation.  I’m reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood right now, which is set in the not-too-distant dystopian future.  I was telling my wife about it last night, talking about how the author is painting a not-so-cheery picture of humanity’s future, and how that’s kind of the going trend for science fiction these days (and has been for awhile, really). During this conversation, I was reminded of someone (probably some talking head) talking about how we used to dream of utopia, that everything in the future was going to be really awesome. I even have a hoodie that plays on this idea…

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What happened?  That’s been my question for awhile, but I’m pretty sure there’s an obvious answer: we realized that we have royally screwed up with a lot of things, like caring for the Earth, for animals, our fellow humans, and our natural resources.  We’re kind of realizing how screwed we are if we don’t do something, but even though we’ve known this for awhile now, it doesn’t seem to be turning the tide.  There’s good and bad things that happen every single day; that can’t be denied, but what I think we need is the hope that another world is still possible.  Another world where people aren’t exploited,where we can conserve our resources and/or turn to new ones to meet our needs (if you can call some of them that), where we actually work TOGETHER to make it.  I’m not asking for utopia; I’m calling for a turning of the tide.  Let the voices of dystopia writers not be pessimistic, but prophetic, in order that we make change BEFORE these things happen.  We’re slowly waking up, I think, but much more needs to happen before we can begin to shed our pessimism and truly have hope in a new world.

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