Defining Dystopia

The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines the term dystopia as “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic”. I define dystopia as a society consumed by perils, conformity, and freedom infringement, while civilians are simultaneously plagued by immense fear and distrust. Contrary to Oxford’s definition, I do not believe that a dystopia is inherently “imagined” or “post-apocalyptic” by definition. These terms discredit the reality of dystopias, erroneously suggesting that they are states completely independent of our current society. It is also important to understand that dystopias are complex and multifaceted, maintaining various forms and perceptions. 

Dystopian societies typically experience intense perilous distress (emotional, physical and/or financial) concealed by heavy federal censorship to depict stable control. Our fictional books and films about dystopias will imply that these societies are figments of our imaginations, however they are actually fundamental parts of our history. Consider the Holocaust, World War II, or the Rubber Terror of Congo. These events all entailed intense levels of distress, accompanied by an excess of fear and lack of autonomy amongst civilians. Those residing in the areas where these events took place definitely experienced a constant state of unrest and were censored by a governmental fallacy of some form. Because these events do not occur directly in our own intrasociety (the United States), we fail to comprehend their severity and dystopian attributes. However, the United States is experiencing a form of a dystopian society itself.

Perils, conformity and freedom infringement are key components of a dystopia. Within the United States, the overturning of Roe v. Wade jeopardizes the liberties of women, the institution system racism jeopardizes the liberties of black and brown people, and the unsolved economic and environmental crises jeopardize the liberties of all people. These active jeopardizes have, and continue to, evoke immense fear from those affected. Social media and the hourly demands of capitalism, both controlled by the government and highest class, pressure us to conform to uniform lives coated in the illusion of choice. Furthermore, fires on oceans, abnormal temperatures, and increasing extinction rates are also dystopian irregularities prevalent in the United States. Because these jeopardies and irregularities are not as explicit as described in books/films, we tend to overlook the severity of our own suffering. Nonetheless, within these same books/films, it is common for those who are unaware of the extent of their situations to suffer the most.

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