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Wednesday, 18 September 2019 23:02

A Dystopian Future?

Written by  Bob Serody

A Dystopian Future?

In 1516, Sir Thomas Moore coined the term, Utopia, for the title of his best-known work. It was the blueprint for an ideal society that eliminated war, crime, and poverty among its inhabitants.  Utopia was a fictional island republic that fostered peace and tranquility with the political reforms that are much needed today.

A Dystopian society is the antonym of Utopia and appears in many works generally set in the future. Some of the most famous examples are George Orwell 's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley 's Brave New World, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Each of these authors has attempted to describe actual events. 

George Orwell was describing Stalin’s reign of terror during the age of Communism. 

Aldous Huxley was describing behavioral conditioning and genetic modification aimed at establishing a class-based society that eliminates free-thinking. Although this novel was published in 1931, it could very well have described Hitler’s Germany, where propaganda was broadcast over a new device called the radio to foster hero worship of the leader as a way of conditioning the people of Germany. The Aryan race sought purification by eliminating Jews, Gypsies. and other races regarded as inferior.

Ray Bradbury was showing how a society could gain control by simply banning books. A society that doesn’t read or remember its history is much easier to control.  We recall the burning of ‘undesirable’ books throughout history. 

Issac Asimov was concerned with the technological progress of Artificial Intelligence (AI), where computers could one day surpass the human mind in making decisions concerning human fallibility, with the result that robots would some day replace their masters. He therefore inserted into every robot brain the three laws of robotics:

  • First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Margaret Atwood was showing how a patriarchal society could gain total control over women. A clique of Christian fundamentalists has overthrown the United States government and replaced it with the patriarchal Republic of Gilead. One can go back to the Old Testament and Genesis to see how men have regarded the role of women. Isn’t God a man? Today we see how religious fundamentalists attempt to control a woman’s personal choice over reproduction by opposing birth control. Alabama recently passed a law punishing doctors performing abortions with up to 99 years in jail. Many societies dictate that the woman’s role is in the home raising children and being subservient to her husband. A woman doesn’t even have the right to choose her partner in countries with arranged marriages.

Where do we stand today? Let’s examine a crucial example of a possible dystopian future with a terrible ending for the human race. Let’s use a realistic situation in discussing this possible outcome. I’m referring to the Middle East because it is the most volatile region on the planet. Many leaders wish to stifle freedom of choice for the people who wish to live an ordinary life – Israel, which presently favors expansion and control over the West Bank under Netanyahu, along with his desire to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, Turkey’s suppression of free speech and its cooperation with Russia to obtain military aid, the battle of the Saudi Arabian kingdom with American support against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, resulting in many civilian deaths and mass starvation, Iraq’s state of near anarchy, the civil war in Syria and its battle with ISIS, the theocratic rule of Iran, and its support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Then there is the threat by Iran to develop nuclear weapons if the United States doesn’t drop its sanctions against Iran.  In the foreground of this Middle Eastern morass is the battle between Shiites and Sunnis for complete religious domination in the region.

All it takes to ignite this tinderbox is a lit match. This week, the match included a number of drones launched against the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, cutting its oil production in half. Our ‘Lock and Load’ president issued a number of conflicting statements – starting with the statement that the United States had no preexisting conditions for engaging in talks with Iran. Later he denied that immediate talks were possible. Everyone was waiting to find out whether the drones were launched from Iran or if the perpetrator was Yemen. Trump issued another statement that he was waiting to hear from Saudi Arabia with regard to the source of the drones. Why didn’t he ask his own intelligence services, who most assuredly know the answer? 

How Saudi Arabia or even the United States is going to react is still in question. The Middle East has always been a hotbed, and the Doomsday Clock is only 2 minutes before midnight. The minute hand must now take into account the introduction of drones - unmanned guided missiles that can be directed from launch control platforms halfway around the world. The twenty-first century comes with advanced technology consisting of computers that control weapons with artificial intelligence. (see Isaac Asimov’s I Robot). In other words, today’s modern weapons are so sophisticated that a single misstep can cause an escalation leading to all-out nuclear war. Assuming that we avoid this dystopian future, there are always the consequences of global warming, where the increasing population of the world combined with mass starvation, more powerful storms, rising sea levels, and the extinction of a million plant and animal species could still trigger a cataclysmic ending.

We humans have the ability to control the ecological outcome of the world, including our own existence. Those who lead nations and make critical decisions should possess both the intelligence and compassion needed to prevent these dystopian futures. How do we guarantee that a democratic process will elect such a person? If Donald Trump is an example of selecting the right leader, we are already doomed. Only if we establish a process that elects the right leader can we turn away from confrontation and negotiate a lasting peace. This can be achieved through the reduction of nuclear weapons and by placing our trust in the United Nations in settling international disputes. We need to stop pursuing global dominance and reduce arms sales to other countries. Global warming can be reversed if we replace fossil fuels and fracking with green technologies and plant new forest growth. These new policies would be an important start in trying to reach Utopia.


 Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local, regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.

Last modified on Thursday, 19 September 2019 06:58
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