What is it, that attracts us to perfection? Why do we ponder infinite solutions to our societal plight? Most importantly, why do we try to predict our future? One such method we use to guess at the next generation is through complex theorems , Nostradamus-esque prophecies or just the, all-too-common, dream. But, simply put, these methods are guesses at a future we cannot possibly know. As such, the concepts of ‘Utopia‘ and ‘Dystopia‘ have fascinated us for millennia innumerable.We, have wondered and our wonders have been inscribed into history through our literature, religion, art and music. Great masterpieces have sprung up left, right and centre each portraying an ideal society in which we all live in untainted harmony or the opposite; a forsaken hell-hole where all man’s desires are curtailed and happiness poisoned.
Our search for the future has brought forth mind-shattering novels like ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley, ‘1984‘ and ‘Animal Farm‘ by George Orwell, ”The Time Machine’ by H.G Wells, ‘Looking Backward‘ by Edward Bellamy, and ‘Lord of the flies’ by William Golding. It seems to me, that the intrinsic aspect of life encapsulated within these novels is our innate yearning for control, yearning for comprehension and yearning for understanding. This ‘yearning’ endemic to humanity, shaped these books into the masterpieces they are.
One, in particular, gave a grim foresight of the world to come. Brave New World was written in 1931 (the title stemming from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’), foretelling of a consumerist, hedonistic, docile society oppressed by the great weights of propriety and conformity. His gloomy prediction was garnered, partly for his own amusement as a parody of the all-too-common socialist fantasy, but more as a perception of the aftermath of World War 1, the Russian ‘October Revolution’ and within sight of American Superpower-dom. Now…How accurate was it? I’d say the world of Brave New World has come and gone already in this 21st century. Our love of shopping, thought only of the short-term environmental effects and unwillingness to take action where our police or governments commit crimes. The only thing wrong, I would say, is the ‘Soma’; we don’t need aphrodisiac drugs to forget our woes, we use Angry Birds, The X factor, Instagram and McDonald’s. Our intoxication is more subtle.
A peculiar trend I have noticed, regards the cornucopia of dystopian fiction, rather than utopian. Why is it, that the pessimistic world-view dominates? Why do we look ahead and see only darkness, misery and gloom? The dreariness of our future, according to these novelists, is due to the frightful propensity of man for violence. Historically, we have been implacably cruel, need I mention the ‘Brazen Bull’? Horrors upon horrors have taken place at the hands of men upon the earth, its creatures and even other men.
Thomas Robert Malthus adhered to similar pessimistic view of the future. Why? Malthus believed that we are doomed by our population growth. Our inability of individuals to recognise the impact that we have as a rapidly growing, collective entity, has disastrous effects on our already constrained planet. The Malthusian catastrophe is a state where our population levels are so great that we can no longer be supported by our food production. Here’s an excerpt
‘The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.’
If you didn’t read that, basically we’re doomed if our population overwhelms our agricultural production. With even Frank Fenner, the man who declared the extinction of smallpox in 1980, stating that “Mitigation would slow things down a bit, but there are too many people here already,” and “Homo Sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years, A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late..” Is there any hope at all for our future, on a biological basis? When looking forward…should we grimace?
I feel that modern society is a decent indicator of our future. And modern society doesn’t look too good. The vast majority of the Earth’s population is content and even indifferent, to the simultaneous subjugation and exploitation by callous corporations and gargantuan oppressive regimes. Contrary to popular belief, the west is NOT the free world, in fact, in some manners our freedom is restricted. Clandestinely. The recent Edward Snowden case really showed our true colours as a species; that this intense, all pervasive spying was allowed to go on by our governments(trusted democratic governments nonetheless) displays an uncaring, amoral abuse of trust. If we cannot trust our governments, the people ‘we’, put in power, who can we possibly turn to in the face of injustice. The thing I am more upset by, is that, although, initially, there was much public indignation. The elephant in the room has actually been forgotten, or merely accepted as a thing governments do. ‘ Or what about the still-continuing arms trade, and the blood-merchants that still exist. Or, should, I mention the nascent apathy of the coalition government towards the disabled, immigrants and the poverty-stricken. With the cries of baying politicians for the dismemberment of our food-banks, what mercy can we expect? But what is the underlying cause in these matters? I think it’s our timidity. We are no better than our dictators, for our docility means that change is impossible. It is this same acquired helplessness that means we do not fight Gazprom, the evil corporation that wishes to sully the Arctic for the sake of greed. Is there no safe haven from human vice? The pristine fields of snow,ravaged by gallons of black, filthy oil; is that what we want? Our ignorance is just as bad as complicity in this grievous sin. So with this negative trend, in mind, what reason do we possibly have to believe that this pattern of malevolence will ever be ended?
Or should we smile? Why, you may ask, disillusioned and upset? Because of human ingenuity. We, humans, may be terrible creatures but there is hope for our bleak future. Hope, embodied in the next generation. In the youth! With the formation and perseverance of organisations like Amnesty International. A diligent organisation exposing injustice wherever it peeks its head. Amnesty International is notable, in my opinion, for its address of the attacks of western states upon democracies. Its harsh rebuke of the Ukrainian governments strikes me as foreshadowing a brighter future. In which, the idealized western capitalist states are not exempt from constructive criticism! Another commendable organisation is Greenpeace; the valiant activists who have taken it upon themselves to defend the globe against corporate incursions into the natural world. Their courageous actions against a mighty force of capitalism, must be commended for its audacity. With a future filled with activism and individuals willing to fight the powers that be, for the sake of humanity; surely glory is assured for our collective future.
A book which foretold a future of happiness and joy is ‘Looking Backward’ by Edward Bellamy. This is a book which theorised the emergence of grand socialism, a state of happiness and innovation beyond all that which has ever stood before it. The book tells of a man who (I won’t go into details) basically falls asleep for 200 years and emerges into a world far different from the hedonistic capitalism of the Victorian era. The new world has universal healthcare and education, homes for all and employment for all, a system of wages allocated to those most useful to society, jobs chosen and of equal difficulty and an ambiance of hope and idealism. Bellamy, who (if you haven’t guessed) was an avowed socialist visionary who lived in a world of decadent capitalism. Though his beautiful vision was never brought to light, a storm of socialism did spiral through the 20th century. Repressive, oppressive and hypocritical; the Stalinist regimes beheld a dark age of humanity.
The world is scary, menacing and often unscrupulous but even the darkest coal becomes a diamond, with the correct conditions. The world will change and rules shall be broken. Vive La Revolucion.
Tito Mogaji-Williams. Post No.1