5 signs you are living in a dystopia

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

It’s getting harder and harder to separate fact from fiction these days. Is art imitating life or vice versa? To help you make sense of all this craziness, here are five signs that might tip you off to the fact you are living in a dystopian novel…

5. Ideas are illegal

In functional societies, only actions are judged on their legality. It all goes back to Common Law – illegality was just another way of saying “you messed up and, because of that, someone is now worse off”. But, as law has evolved, people have realised that it is a very useful tool for controlling large populations. Now, anything can be illegal. Including ideas.

Where you’ve read this:

In 1984, George Orwell painted a pretty bleak picture of a Government that controlled everything, including ideas. Thought police monitored the population of Oceania, looking for (and swiftly dealing with) any hint of Thoughtcrime, those unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose the ruling party.

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury gives us Guy Montag – the story’s conflicted protagonist whose job it is to burn outlawed books.

BOOK 1 6x9In my book, Resistance (Divided Elements #1), the utopian conditions of debauchery, security and stability are provided by Otpor’s Orthodoxy, and the ultimate crime of Heterodoxy is the simple act of holding and perpetuating an ideology at odds with the status quo.

How you’ve lived this:

Book bans – did you know that Huxley’s Brave New World was Banned in Ireland and Australia in the 1930s and Orwell’s Animal Farm is still banned in North Korea and censored in Vietnam? Even Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham has been banned (China, 1965)! The burkini ban in France. Calls for the banning of Halal certification in Australia.

4. Protests are not tolerated

In functional societies, citizens are able to express both their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the ruling class and other institutions (corporations, international bodies, universities, etc). Protests are a way for the masses to mobilise support and show their strength (and dissatisfaction) in numbers. But, people in power don’t like protests – it’s not a good look and it’s definitely not the kind of attention they want. So, they find new ways of shutting them down.

Where you’ve read this:

In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins shows what a violent response to a peaceful protest can look like. The simple act of a three fingered salute can result in extra-judicial executions and mass violence on the spot.

make-roomIn Make Room! Make Room!, Harry Harrison gives readers a terrifying glimpse of an extreme reaction to a peaceful protest by ‘eldsters’, involving some memory-core barbed wire dropped from helicopters and lashing out like frenzied cobras (my analogy, not his).

How you’ve lived this:

Tiananmen Square. IMF protests. Arab Spring violence. Police in riot gear with water hoses, batons, capsicum spray and guns. Governments passing anti-protesting legislation – like what’s occurring in Australia, where states are considering and passing legislation to make environmental protests illegal. And in BREAKING NEWS, apparently there is a bill being considered in Indiana that would give police the power to shut down protests ‘by any means necessary’.

3. The Government is keeping tabs on everything you do, say, purchase, send, sell…

In functional societies, there is a healthy distance (and respect for that distance) between the private and public lives of citizens. What you do in your own time in your own home with your own resources (insofar as it is not breaking the law) should be your own business. Except that knowledge is power. And governments like power. And what better way to get (and maintain) power, than knowing everything about everyone.

Where you’ve read this:

1984In 1984, Orwell introduces us to the concept of Big Brother, the seemingly omniscient, omnipresent and somewhat enigmatic figurehead who is always ‘watching you’.

In Resistance (Divided Elements #1), the Otpor Cooperative keeps extensive logs of personal information and compliance history on citizen wristplates, which can be accessed and updated by Fire and Water officials.

How you’ve lived this:

Metadata legislation. The Australia Card. NSA Surveillance. Government access to social media.

2. Corporations are the new leaders

In functional societies, governments intervene to correct for market failures – flaws in the financial system that, left unchecked, generate undesirable outcomes and inefficiencies. But, big business doesn’t like being regulated and they typically have the money to entice governments to stay at arm’s length. That’s a lot of power and leverage for a small minority of people who are not beholden to democratic processes and who are motivated by personal wealth and not the greater good.

Where you’ve read this:

In Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, readers are introduced to Innovative Online Industries, the global communications and technology corporation that dominates the internet service industry through its administration of virtual world OASIS and the lucrative market of goods and services within it.

company-townIn Madeline Ashby’s Company Town, the story plays out against the backdrop of a city-sized oil rig called New Arcadia, located off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes and owned by one very wealthy and powerful family – Lynch Ltd.

How you’ve lived this:

Today, the world’s richest 8 individuals hold as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

1. It’s all about building walls

In functional societies, diversity is embraced and celebrated. People are excited and inspired by difference, not afraid and sceptical. And yet, humans have always been fearful of the unknown and have sought comfort in keeping close what is familiar and distant what is not – in building metaphorical walls in which to bound their ‘comfort zone’. This regressive human habit finds its most powerful manifestation in the building of literal walls. Building walls is also a very effective ploy of governments who seek to divide and conquer.

Where you’ve read this:

divided-kingdomIn Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom, a dystopian UK has been divided into four sectors to house segments of the population delineated by personality type. The divisions are reinforced and made largely impenetrable by concrete walls, armed guards and rolls of razor wire.

In Suzanne Collins’ TheHunger Games, the Capitol prevents its citizens from banding together and collectively agitating for change by separating them into highly-specialised Districts.

How you’ve lived this:

The Berlin Wall. The proposed US-Mexico Wall. The wall of ocean separating Australia from its detention camps on Nauru.


Liked this? Want more?

Discover the Divided Elements series now with award-winning Resistance (Divided Elements #1) (free for a limited time!) and just-released Rebellion (Divided Elements #2). Available as paperback or ebook on your favourite device. Just click to start reading!

Divided Elements - Award-winning speculative fiction (1)




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