Are we living in a dystopia?

The future is now


Dystopian: relating to a very bad or unfair society in which there is a lot of suffering, especially an imaginary society in the future

While the Cambridge Dictionary utilizes words such as “imaginary” and “future” to define a dystopian society, a dystopian world may not be as unrealistically out of reach as these words lead us to believe. In fact, the key aspects of a dystopia, such as government control, civilian suppression and environmental and technological disasters, are gradually emerging as apt descriptors of the modern age.

For instance, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451” follows a fireman whose job is to burn books. Burning books allows the government to censor all works of art and literature while simultaneously threatening the credibility of knowledge. This twisted society has propagated its citizens to believe that ignorance is the key to happiness.

According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, 2,532 instances of individual books being banned were recorded in the 2021-2022 school year. Some of these titles include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Lord of the Flies,” “The Outsiders” and ironically “Fahrenheit 451.” 

“The wave of book bans that has swept across our country in recent years is a direct attack on First Amendment rights and should alarm every American who believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of our democracy,” said Congressional Rep. Jamie Raskin.

In Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the United States government system is overthrown by a totalitarian theocracy. This new patriarchal society strategically controls and suppresses women’s reproductive rights.  

As of Friday, June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark legislation of 1973 that federally protected the right to access reproductive healthcare services like abortion in the United States. While not exactly the same, eerie similarities can be drawn between the content of the novel and the real world.

“There’s a precedent in real life for everything in the book,” said Atwood in an interview with People Magazine in 2017. “I decided not to put anything in that somebody somewhere hadn’t already done. But you write these books so they won’t come true.”

In addition to government control and censorship, the environmental destruction of the real world parallels that of many dystopian societies. For example, in Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated film WALL-E, the Earth has been abandoned by all of humanity and has transformed into a garbage-ridden wasteland. 

Many climatologists previously believed the point of no return was far enough in the future that if humanity acted now, the preservation of the world’s ecosystems and natural resources could be achieved. However, due to the rapid influx of negative human interaction with the environment, some scientists say that irreversible damage has already been done. 

According to National Geographic, “Humans impact the physical environment in many ways: overpopulation, pollution, burning fossil fuels, and deforestation. Changes like these have triggered climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water.”

While it may be slightly frightening to realize how these stories are not as fictional as we once perceived, they do act as a wake-up call for society. If civilization continues down the path it is on, we may reach a point of self-made irreversible destruction.

The sooner society comprehends that these tales of dystopia are no longer being confined to the pages of a book, but right outside their window, the better.