I originally considered the time-tested dystopia of accurately describing the world as it exists today. Hey, let’s say that it’s 1956. I explain to you what the world of 2016 looks like.
Then you start a list and make sure that you include high notes that we, in 2016, are all proud of but we know would make no sense to someone in 1956 and then conclude with something big. Toxoplasmosis numbers or something. “We all walk around with supercomputers in our back pocket that we break when we sit on them because we are overweight to a degree that the world has never before seen.”
That’s a recipe for an argument over whether it’s fair to consider our country a dystopia because we know that those who were chronologically challenged living back in 1956 would not have appreciated that we don’t live in a dystopia. You know what? They lived in a dystopia. They didn’t have computers in their back pockets.
We live in the culmination of progress.
So then I’m stuck thinking about how the future will look and the most obvious thing is that the people there will look back at us today and shake their heads sadly and think that they don’t live in a dystopia, we do. And here we are judging them when we’re blind to how chronologically challenged we are:
“Didn’t they see how they were doing (that list of things)?”
“Oh, yeah. They bragged about it.”
“And didn’t they see how that would lead, inevitably, to us?”
And then, depending on your dystopia, you write a punchline.
The problem with most dystopias is that they have to live up to the great dystopias in fiction but all of those dystopias tend to be sustainable dystopias. On the one extreme, you’ve got 1984 that has a dystopia that can more than withstand Winston Smith’s insubordination and, on the other extreme, you’ve got The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner or Divergent or, well, there’s all kinds, really, where the people are living in a 1984-ish dystopia but, this time, Winston Smith beats O’Brien.
But every single “We’re not living in a dystopia, They were living in a dystopia!” morphs into another one, and then another one after that, and then so on and so on forever.
Which brings me to what dystopias I see evolving.
My interpretation of the Republican/Democrat feud, and its attendant Conservative/Liberal feud, and their attendant Reactionary/Progressive feud, and the ancillary Elitist/Populist feud feeding all of the above is that it will lead to a divorce. McMegan’s recent post pointed out that “[u]nfortunately, there is no divorce court for nations, and our last trial separation ended in the deaths of about 2 percent of the population.”
That said, I look at the distribution of guns, of military folks, of police, and of other people willing to engage in violence on behalf of keeping the union intact and I’m seeing precious little energy for keeping the union together. There isn’t really a moral abomination anywhere near as obvious an abomination as chattel slavery, the overwhelming majority of people aren’t inclined to pick up a gun and invade somewhere else and that’s pretty much what is needed to start a civil war.
So, in the absence of a moral abomination driving the dynamic, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” actually works. Kind of.
We’ll split off into about five separate countries but, much like with the EU, keep a common currency and allow something close to free trade and something close to open inter-US immigration. What will change is how each of the five countries will then be free to evolve into new and improved dystopias that are all distinct from each other, and it will create a strange symbiosis among the five countries. Young people will move to either The West Coast or The East Coast to educate themselves and then get jobs, in their forties when they stop being willing to learn new programming languages, they’ll move back to their original countries to settle down and raise a family that will then do similar. The Mountain West will be a bit of a laissez faire libertarian zone, the South will be nicknamed something like “Jesusland” by the other four countries and they’ll provide the best college football and most of the military for the five countries, and the Rust Belt will be the somewhat rejuvenated manufacturing base for those most inclined to work factory jobs. The cultural centers will be the West Coast for movies and internet, the East Coast will be the center for publishing and television programming.
Each corner of the country will resent and hate the people from the other countries, but, hey, their money spends just as well as anybody’s and new and improved stereotypes will arise.
“I’m thinking about hiring this guy to do some shingling for me.”
“Where’s he from?”
“Don’t let him in the house, but if he’s doing roofing, he’ll be perfect.”
And the maintenance of these little cloisters will be, for a while, sustainable. Perhaps even pleasant. They will look back at the old 50-state Union and say,
“Gosh, why did they *EVER* think that that would result in anything but what it led to? Didn’t they realize that they were living in a dystopia?”
“Only toward the end. Pass the soylent, would you? I’ve got a breakfast meeting with the Morlocks tomorrow and they said that it’s going to be a long day so I should have a big supper.”
Image by marchatot