From Brave New World to The Hunger Games, dystopian literature is supposed to provide an entertaining escape from the real world. A warning, perhaps, but also a light reminder that things could always be worse. After today, and many of the unbelievable events of the past year or so, however, dystopian literature is no longer something I turn to for escapism. Where once it provided grounds for an interesting discussion about philosophy and ideology and to contemplate the potential havoc human beings could wreak in some far-off future, now I turn to dystopian literature as a kind of blurry road map for navigating my immediate socio-political climate. It’s an abstract map, sure. Sometimes the names of the roads are different, the scenery a little less exciting, the dead-ends a little more frequent. These road maps don’t tell me what kind of traffic I will encounter on the roads, or forewarn me of rainstorms. But nevertheless, they offer me a version of my reality which helps me to see the world a little clearer.
These novels represent the world as though through a fun-house mirror. On one side, the fictional narratives stand erect and clear. On our side, the so-called real world, stands the distorted reflection. For in these fictional worlds, in which the face of Big Brother looms down upon the soma-taking, hunger games-watching, book-burning proles, the dystopias are simple. Evil forces are easily identifiable, stemming from a single, blackened root of rotten ideology. In real life, the face of Big Brother is scattered and fragmented on the faces of the people who lurk behind the worlds most prominent leaders. Our soma is not a pill we actively swallow, but the daily drip-drip-drip of click bait articles, reality tv, and the unshakable belief that every sad purchase will bring us one step closer to happiness. And our hunger games is not an enemy offered to us on a plate in the form of the abhorrent exploitation of children and expenditure of human life, but the more insidious performance of politics and celebrity, grotesquely overlapping in front of us on the world stage as we sit back apathetically, barely paying attention as they shape and break our lives.
Dystopian novels do not scare me when the antagonists bark their calls to obedience and flaunt their omnipotence. In literature, evil wears a Halloween costume. Sporting metaphorical fangs and capes and clamouring for blood, the evil entity has no qualms about making itself known. It is our distorted, fun-house mirror-world, however, that scares me. Our enemy has no face. The enemy hides behind, and feeds off, the fantasy that we, the masses, have power. We are being told that we have the vote, that there is democracy, that democracy is freedom and freedom is power. There is nothing to fear, nothing to fight against.
What is more dangerous than believing that there is no escape from that boot stamping down on a human face, forever? To believe that there is no boot at all.
It is to my own generation that I direct this message. We are inheriting a world we don’t want, yet instead of standing up and fighting (or even voting, in the case of the vast majority of young people) for our futures, we are turning our faces away from our televisions scenes in disgust and refusing to participate in the theatrics. Silent protest has its place, but the time has come for action. We can’t let the fear-mongering bigots of the world continue to map out our future.
There will be no revolution until we accept that there is an evil to revolt against. Until those of us who insisted that Trump could never really become president and that Brexit would never really happen, start to take the threats seriously. Laughing in the faces of the Farages of the world is not putting out their fire. Our faith in our fellow human, our conviction that common sense will prevail, is akin to apathy. We take it for granted that history is a linear progression of ever increasing liberties and progressivism. It isn’t. This election has proved that for every long-overdue Obama, there is a Trump-shaped wrecking ball waiting in the wings. Democracy and freedom are not unwavering pillars of truth that will continue to stand while our fires rage at their feet. They must be protected, fought for. We need to recognise that there are people determined to fast track humanity to Idiocracy and that, while we sit back and wait for our liberal chess pieces to fall back into place, rolling our eyes at the news, these are the people fighting for what they believe in. As backwards, as sexist, as racist, and as ridiculous as these ideas might appear to us, they are to be taken seriously. The citizens of the western world seem to be competing in a game of who can fuck themselves up the most this year. But we need to recognise that for every Brexit, for every Trump, for every Marine Le Pen, there are very serious real world implications that extend well beyond our own shores.
And if the world around you is too garishly distorted like a reflection in a funhouse mirror for you to fully appreciate the world you have woken up in today; just picture the highly polished, thousand-dollar shoes of Mr Trump stamping down upon the face of mankind, forever, cheered on by a mass of overwhelmingly white faces clad head to toe in Make America Great Again merchandise.