Posts Tagged ‘future’

As much fortitude as it takes to ride into the thick of war to defend one’s cause/nation, it takes as much courage to live through the daily details of one’s life under inhumane conditions. I can only imagine what kind of mettle is required to stand up and fight for what a person believes in, in these situations where hope for the future seems dead.

You may have heard about the 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai and her fight against Taliban’s ban on education for girls in the Swat Valley. On October 9th of this year, Malala was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman attempting to silence her voice forever. She has made a miraculous recovery over the last few weeks, and her father assures the world that she can’t wait to get out of the hospital and resume her activism for women’s education.

I came upon another article recently about three teenage girls in Afghanistan who made a short documentary called Kabul Cards about their everyday lives in the country’s war-torn capital city. Their goal was to show to the word that there’s much more to Afghanistan than constant bombings, warring factions and unsafe living conditions.

When asked why they don’t emigrate to a foreign country where they could aspire for safer lives, 16-year-old Sahar, the youngest of the three girls, had answered without hesitation, “We want to see a changed Kabul. If the youth flees the nation, who is going to bring about that change? We are going to live in a safe Kabul, one that has been transformed by people like us.”

The words and actions of these young girls brought to my mind one word about the future: Hope.

I’ll leave you all with a poem titled “Where the Mind is Without Fear” by famed poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free 
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls 
Where words come out from the depth of truth 
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way 
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit 
Where the mind is led forward by thee 
Into ever-widening thought and action 
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

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Merriam Webster dictionary defines Dystopia as:

  • An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
  • Anti-Utopia

Dystopia derives from the combination of the two Greek words dys (meaning bad/hard) and topia (meaning place/landscape). Dystopia is also sometimes referred to as Cacotopia.

Humans have always been fascinated with imagining what future — near or far — has in store for them. Weaving dystopian stories is a natural progression of this attraction. So, dystopian fantasy (stories set in a less than optimal world) has been around, I’m sure, since man could exchange ideas with fellow humans using words. Dystopian novels have been published for more than a century now.

Dystopian fantasy is a popular sub-genre of science fiction or, more broadly, speculative fiction.

The young adult market is teeming with dystopian fantasies (Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, to name a few), although many dystopian adult novels (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Children of Men by P.D. James among others) have been popular over the years, too.

With the recent release of the movie The Hunger Games (based on a YA book of the same name), this genre is probably more popular now than ever.

These novels depict either an individual fighting against oppression or a group of people coping collectively as a society with the dehumanized conditions.

Some of these stories are set in non-specified (in terms of time and geography) worlds, though generally speaking they are set in a future that is dark, dismal and oppressive. The reasons why society, in each of these books, has slid into this state is one of many:

  • The rise to power of one political or religious group of people who then begin a systematic oppression of the society.
  • An apocalyptic disaster, natural or otherwise, resulting in pockets of survivors.
  • An unnatural/mysterious fear or disgust of the world outside. This usually is the consequence of a disaster in the distant past, the details of which none of the living members of the society remembers.
  • Advancement of technology at a more rapid rate than humans could handle. So man has shunned technology and gone back to the dark ages.
  •  Technology has taken over humans, making puppets of them.

 When I first began to read dystopian fantasies I refused to take them seriously, because they seemed overly fantastical and set so far in the future.

And then I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. This story takes place in the United States where a theocratic regime has made the lives of women sub-human.

The ultimate shock for me? The story unfolds (in an eerily unemotional first person narrative) the truth of how the society has hurtled towards this state within the life span of a modern American woman. This novel forced me to look at the disturbing possibility that something like this could happen to any country, any time.

Despite that realization, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction. Why? Because, the eternal optimist in me shrivels up at all the gloom and doom in these stories. Who is to say what the future holds for us humans? Why look at it only through a pessimistic lens and expect the worst?

And the mom in me balks at the supposition that we may be leaving our future generations to such a miserable future.

Even if you haven’t had a chance to read a book set in dystopia, you may have encountered it in movies such as: The Matrix, Minority Report, Total Recall and Avatar.

So, do you like dystopian fantasies? Why or why not?

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