George Orwell’s 1984 was such a success that it has been branded as a classic. The intriguing plot and the nerve chilling setup is what makes the novel so appealing. Every time Big Brother is talked of, a chill runs through our spines and our hearts stop beating for a micro second. The interesting part is that as the novel comes to an end, the dystopian society starts looking real. We start relating the characters to people we meet in our day to day lives and what seemed like impossibility in the beginning now seems like the only reality that would exist in the future.
The case is same for other dystopian novels, movies and television shows. The Handmaid’s Tale is another glaring example of an extremely distorted societal structure which does not seem so unreal by the time one comes to the end of it. The important question is why we end up feeling like this alternative form of living is not too far away, that this can be our reality?
It is often said fiction and reality go hand in hand. Sometimes the line separating the two is so thin that fiction becomes indistinguishable from reality. Reality, in itself keeps changing from place to place and from time to time. It is an ever changing concept. For example, what may be fiction for most parts of the world we live in, is the reality of many citizens of North Korea. Most of us take our freedoms for granted because we have never had to live without them. Our freedom of speech, expression, movement from one place to another; to choose our religion and criticize our leaders are all taken for granted. But the same cannot be said for many people living in different parts of the globe. However, this ambiguity in the definition of the two terms cannot be the only reason for the aforementioned phenomenon. The human brain is a complex structure. Every decision we take has numerous reasons behind them and some reasons play a bigger role than the others based on the situation of the event. Sometimes, the political and social environment of countries is so volatile that no outcome seems impossible. We fear the worst and when writers bring life to these fears, we know we’re not the only ones fearing this outcome.
The acceptance of the worst outcome is much similar to the game speculators play when a country’s foreign exchange reserves are low but not very low. The fear of a bank run generates a bank run and by now people know that if they expect a phenomenon to take place, they are actually propelling it and making the transition take place faster. Moreover, it is true that when an idea is repeatedly being fed to an individual, the person begins to believe in it. The simplest example is the job of crony journalists. They align themselves to a certain political ideology or a political party and keep writing articles suited to their needs. The readers are left with a biased opinion of the issue and start criticizing another party or ideology without having adequate knowledge. The case is similar here. The idea of the movement of the world towards the age where everything is controlled and no rights exist, where every movement of an individual is tracked, where there is no space for emotions, there exists no love, where children are taken away to be trained to follow a particular line of thought and where free thinking is discouraged through every mean available, has been oft repeated.
It is a world which everyone fears. Religious and political extremism, among other things add to these fears because the last time someone actively started discriminating between races, the world witnessed the genocide of innocent minorities. Everywhere in the world, this attitude of intolerance is rampant and all societies are looking inwards. Extreme acts of terrorism imbibe fear into the hearts of the victim populations and they start directing that fear towards all people belonging to the religious community of the terrorists. It is a chain effect which leads to all sorts of phobias and turns the society inwards.
Whether these dystopian structures are awaiting us in the near future or not is a matter of conjecture but till they do become a reality, we must not expect them. The expectation of any phenomenon leads to the phenomenon itself and unless we want our fears to come true, as people, we must start understanding how our own minds and hearts function.
Picture Credits: TheMidReel