Dystopia: Re-defined

From the beginning of the semester to now, my perspective on dystopias has shifted slightly. According to Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression,” a dystopia can occur in multiple forms such as: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural domination, and violence. I completely agree with Young’s descriptions, but I feel as if Young is implying something with greater depth. My initial definition of a dystopia was “a speculated society or community where the state of being and condition of life is oppressive and frightening.” However, now, I would define a dystopia as “the state of being and condition of life where an individual feels it is oppressive and frightening.”

The difference between my two definitions is the subject. The initial definition focuses on the whole community while the latter the definition focuses solely on the individual. I have learned that dystopias and utopias are, in a way, no different from each other. When dissecting and analyzing utopias, often, we are brought to the conclusion that everyone’s ideal society is subjective. It reminds me of the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This subjectivity also corresponds to dystopias, in a sense. In the dystopian novels we have read in class, such as George Orwell’s 1984, we see that the society is being oppressed; however, the higher authority is benefitting. In this situation, “one man’s dystopia is another man’s utopia.”  A real-world example of this would be the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler was on a mission “to extend the Greater German Reich beyond the Arctic Circle and turn the Scandinavian country into a racial utopia” (https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691198217/hitlers-northern-utopia). This racial utopia for him resulted in a universal dystopia for millions.

Typically, dystopias are defined on a basis of how it affects the community and what the society dictates as morally correct or incorrect. We, rarely, define dystopias from an individual’s perspective like utopias. Dystopias and utopias will always coexist due to individual’s perspective on his or her ideal treasure (or trash).

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