Throughout the semester this course has deeply explored and introduced to me the essence of what makes something a dystopia. If I had to reiterate what I’ve learned briefly, I would say that a dystopia is a society that is corrupted by ignorance at its core. One instrumental source that I’ve constantly referenced throughout the semester is Young’s writing on the faces of oppression. Not only did it identify the possible types of oppression, it taught me that oppression is a fundamental aspect of dystopias. As for how this relates to my previous claim, I believe that the source of oppression is ignorance.
The ignorance I am indicating is not merely the lack of intellectual knowledge, but rather the gaps in the entire breadth of human thought and emotion. Those that lack empathy and understanding of the perspectives of both the society and all of the individuals that make that society are the ones that lead society to a dystopia. Take The Handmaid’s Tale in the society of Gilead for example. Due to a population experiencing a declining birthrate, the role of women in Gilead was heavily marginalized. However, this occurred due to the influence of the religious group that took power in a period of political weakness. Admittedly, the stability of the society was assured due to them, however as a consequence, women (the individuals of that society) were neglected and bombarded with oppression. In this society, ignorance is everywhere. On a basal level, knowledge of the world from religious texts to simple news. However, the main sin of this dystopia is being unable to acknowledge the wrong done to its individuals.
Another source I found impactful was Hobbes’ discussion on man’s state of nature and the purpose of society to control this supposed instinct. I found that dystopias tend to heavily gravitate to either side of the spectrum, from a complete lack of moderation to an iron grip of surveillance and paranoia. I feel that dystopias either fail or refuse to remember their original purpose as a society, which is to overall better the lives of all individuals in that society. The few that use positions of power to change society to benefit themselves or a select few do not take into consideration the circumstances of all in society. Hence, the main issue that defines a dystopia is a deliberate decision to chose ignorance.