To Be, or Not to Be a Dystopia

Previously, I had defined a dystopian as “a society where intrinsic human rights and freedoms are violated for the preservation of particular social order”. With this I explicitly reference aspects of human individuality such as our thoughts, actions and choices. I would like to alter my definition of a dystopia. While I do feel as though it encompasses several different forms of a dystopia, such as the classic 1984 or a ‘utopia’ like The Giver. I feel as though this definition is way too broad. Many governments impinge on our thoughts, actions, or choices; however, it is the degree of these violations which matter. My definition does not address this. 

I would like to alter the new definition of a dystopia being “a society where intrinsic human rights are violated for the preservation of a tyrannical government or an oppressive social order”. While this change may seem miniscule, it does address the problem of degree.   For example, every government uses propaganda to influence the attitudes of their citizens. During World War II, Nazi Germany and the United States used propaganda to influence the public. The degree to which they used propaganda is comparable (both had campaigns against one another, both glorified nationalism, and both dehumanized people). The difference; however, is that much of the Nazi’s campaign also called for terror against specific people groups (ie. Jewish people, Romanian people, etc.). Their propaganda allowed them to maintain an oppressive social order where these ethnic groups were systematically killed. According to the New York Times, Hitler viewed Jewish people as “as an objective problem, a disease” and not “as fellow people”. He made Jewish people and other minorities an enemy of the state. The US propaganda leaned heavily on the American people “cutt[ing] down on ‘careless talk’” and “depict[ing the enemy as racist”, according to TIME. The US propaganda made it a point to villainize the Nazis rather than the German people as a whole. 

Another example can be seen in a comparison with censorship in the United States versus North Korea. In the United States, most speech is protected under the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution. In the interest of national security; however, the government will impinge on this freedom (such as in the case of Edward Snowden where he leaked classified NSA documents). He was charged with treason as a result. North Korea has much stricter censorship. Most TV stations are government operated and all radios must be inspected and registered with the North Korean police, according to the BBC. While both instances impinge on an individual’s actions (the ability to speak freely) and thought (only allowing the public to intake certain information). 

It is safe to make the assumption that dictatorships can be classified as a dystopia because of the negative connotations behind a dictatorship. Comparing these known dictatorships to the US illustrates that both nations utilize similar practices; however, the degree to which they use them determines whether the nation is truly a dystopia. 

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