Ever since I learned that those funny squiggles above cartoon characters were words, I have been an avid reader. I loved to get my squat and grubby child fingers on anything that had pages, whether it was a comic book, a magazine with pictures, or my sister’s textbooks.
I read much less as I grew older, not from a waning desire or love to read, but from a waning of age appropriate books that were desirable or lovable. This was my early teenage years. I had passed from a magical world of clever books of fairy tales, simple adventures, and affectionate characters to a land of a single genre: the dreaded Dystopian Fantasy.
Admittedly, because of my revulsion from this single genre, I have not read any of these young adult novels, and I am not the most educated critic. I couldn’t bear to lower myself to a land of predictable pathos. If I had been able to tell the covers from one Dystopian franchise from the other, I might have had doubts, or changed my mind, but to this day I can’t tell the grim and grimy teenage heroine of one book from another.
As I have grown older still, I can read safely again. Fiction for adults has a branching quality, not unlike children’s literature. I don’t need to be afraid of finding the same predictable storyline repeated ad nauseum.
Still, the movement of Dystopian Fantasies of my teenage years has driven in me the repulsion at a horrible world. It is recurring motif of writing. But if I have learned one thing as I’ve grown older, it is that there is only one place more horrible than a world where everything is going wrong, and that’s a world where everything is going right.
Only a Utopia can be more frightening than a Dystopia.
For a Utopia to exist, it relies upon all its citizens to have identical values. This requires a cult mentality or an overseeing body, such as a government.
Secondly, what’s to be done if there are dissenters, people who don’t agree with the cult mentality? Since a Utopia’s end goal is a perfect world, and these dissenters stand in the way, what is to be done? What will we do to something that stands in the way of our perfect life? Usually some sort of secret police.
History sometimes forgets that Nazism and Communism were attempts to create a perfect world. Soviet Gulags and the Gestapo are the results of this effort to sweep dissenting thought under the rug.
Thirdly, the Death Knell.
Suppose for an extended instant that everything for once goes right. Everyone is of the same mind and no one disagrees with the cult mentality.
If perfection is reached, then there is no need for personal expression or growth. When living has been made at it best, the reason to live has been lost.
Stagnation sets in, and things go downhill from there.
Have you ever heard of the expression “Behavioral Sink”?
It was coined by the scientist John B. Calhoun after his infamous Universe 25 experiment in 1968. Calhoun built a habitat that supplied the every need of a population of mice. Unlimited supplies of food, water, and clean bedding were given to the mice every day. Things went fine until day 315. For the next year, the society of mice turned on each other, refused to mate, and ate each other alive.
Thank Heaven that Thomas More, who originally created the term Utopia, defined it correctly.
Utopia is Greek for “No Place”.
Thanks for reading this new installment of “I’m Talking Above My Intelligence Level Again”. Come back next week to see me talk myself into a hole again! -BW