We’re in the middle of a global health pandemic…and all I can think about are dystopias. Dystopi-whattas? Simply put, dystopias are fictitious depictions of alternate realities or societies that have gone haywire, to the likes of V for Vendetta or the infamous 1984.
I became kind of obsessed with dystopias my senior year of college, while taking a thesis class on the topic. What intrigued me the most about these distorted societies was how they became the standard reality – no matter how far-fetched or off-the-wall, it was the new way of life. Or else.
Back in 2008, a national recession emerged, leaving many like myself newly graduated and unemployed, amid the economic fallout of a squashed economy, and a society on the path to utter chaos and turmoil as a result. Now, in Corona virus 2020, it’s unmistakable – we just may be in a dystopia, with the main objective to survive and be spared from the crutches of the nasty COVID19 virus.
And that is step number one for cooking up major dystopia – relinquishing individual identity and thought to become the ”We”, a collective unit that moves, thinks, and responds correctly and in unison against ‘the enemy’ or those on the outside that don’t follow the collective “We”.
Step two: in a mere month, the indoctrination of concepts such as “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” is our new normal, all in the hopes of dodging the highly contagious disease and stopping its spread. What’s fascinating is how these concepts have spread just as fast as COVID19 itself, where 6 months ago, we didn’t have any idea what they were about.
And I get it – it’s really important to socially distance to slow the spread. I am in no way disputing this advice or trying to knock it down; I am simply marveling at how such a concept has become ingrained into our way of life, practically overnight. Much like we were conditioned to say “Please and Thank you” when interacting with others, now we are cautioned, “Make sure to socially distance when going out”.
That’s also what is most frightening – having these concepts suddenly become the ‘it’ mantras of our lives. One shift in perspective has made a whole new way of life – the perfect breeding ground, for, step 3, any dystopian nightmare to become a reality.
But it is our here and now and has become our present moment. And there is nothing we can do about it. Or perhaps there is – maybe we can reminisce on those times before (merely three months ago) when we weren’t at the mercy of masks and theories and ideas (and the lack of a functioning society) to keep us alive and safe from contagion. Maybe we can step back a little bit and remember that we weren’t always living through the tallies and numbers of those tested and those infected.
Maybe we have to take it upon ourselves to make sure to never forget where we were so that where we are – the present – won’t freeze us with fear and ultimately rob us of a future. Or else, we’ll just get sucked into the new norm for far too long, morphing into robotic carbon copies of each other, obsessively marching in unison for survival way beyond the “stay at home” order expiration date.