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Walking down the destroyed wreck that used to be Van Ness Street in San Francisco, I look for people alive in rubble that fell from the buildings when they collapsed. The last time something like this happened to the city was in 1906 with the big quake. This time though was different. Very different.
This time, there was no quake.
Instead, it was missiles.
That’s right, the military bombed us. No, not North Korea’s warheads. It was our own. It’s the start of the Second American Civil War. You see, two years ago in 2018, the CNP (California National Party) won the gubernatorial election and many local elections as well as a majority of of California’s House and Senate seats up on Capitol Hill. They ran on a platform of secession from the United States of America. And you know, who could blame them? California was made a sanctuary state which was kind of like a giant middle finger to the Trump administration. For every dollar we gave to the federal government for taxes, we only ever saw seventy-eight cents of it in federal funding, and even that measly amount kept going down before we were cut off completely. So we stopped paying taxes. They didn’t like that very much. So they flooded the streets with ICE agents and mercenaries who raided, searched out, and deported every illegal immigrant, and sometimes even the legal ones. Families were separated, everyone was held in overcrowded, miserable, makeshift detention centers. The ACLU had a field day with that. They started restricting our economies, the travel of everyday Californians, and our access to national services. The partisanship in Washington was so intense that the government couldn’t function, and the legislature was shut down because the upstanding, moral elected officials couldn’t stop themselves from hurling obscenities, threats, and sometimes even fists at each other. So the CNP called for secession.
It seemed crazy at first. California seceding from the Union. But then others joined. First, it was those closest: Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. Then Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii and Illinois. We got ten more from the Northeast. Seventeen states in total. Not so crazy anymore.
But thing was, we thought they’d keep it civil. Fighting, pain, and death to soldiers and combatants only. They did that at least until this morning. Then the missiles came down. New York City. Los Angeles. The Big Island in Hawaii. Seattle. Boston. Denver. San Francisco. They weren’t targeting armies. They were targeting us, normal civilians. I was on my way home from school with my friend Misha. She is, no was 16. Now, I search the rubble for her body in the ruins of the BART station she disappeared into moments before the missiles hit.
The labeled us enemies. We could have had cooperation on Capitol Hill. Immigration reform that kept our country and economy safe without creating terror in the streets. We could have had a government that listened to and worked with us instead of one who decided to oppress and punish us instead.
Look what it has gotten us.
A bloody civil war. They’ve hurt us but not our missiles. Next, we will fire back. Perhaps we will win, or maybe they will. But none will get away without feeling the pain of this war.


Although this story may be fake, it is based off the current partisanship, a recent bill to make California a sanctuary states, and the immigration debate. It’s brutality is based off of brutality seen in past and current ongoing civil wars around the globe. The numbers cited about how much California pays and receives in terms of federal taxes and funding is accurate according to a study from 2007 by the Tax Foundation. Below you will find the CNP’s platform (I do not endorse or support them).
California National Party
California’s federal tax and funding study

One of the sources I used for my paper was the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Harari writes in an easy to read style that portrays complex ideas in way that anyone can understand, and bolsters them with fun anecdotes and examples. This book is about how human society has developed since the beginning of the Cognitive Revolution and is extremely well researched.

Chapters 9 and 11 deal with the development of human societies, and Harari shows that throughout history there is an overall trend toward unity. However this unity comes at a cost. Often, it is achieved through imperialism, and the way a singular culture is developed within an empire is by eradicating or absorbing elements of it to fit the empire’s needs. This can be seen with Roman empire. They borrowed cultural elements, such as the gods from the Greeks, and eradicated many others, such as languages or other religions. Chapter 8 shows how imagined orders, more commonly known as social constructs, create divides in society that are often unfair. Some of these constructs include racism, sexism, and classism.

The way in which the trend toward cultural unity has been created throughout history can lend us some insight into how dystopias are formed from other societies. Coupled with Harari’s imagined orders from Chapter 8 it is easy to see how empires and societies can fall into a dystopia. It also begs the question, are we living in a dystopian country? Or a dystopian world? Is it only a dystopia for certain groups? How do we classify our society?

These are very complicated questions with very complicated answers. Based on what we know about the duality of dystopian literature, the idea of utopia versus dystopia, it is impossible that there will be a consensus on the answer to these questions, and highly unlikely that there will ever be a relatively agreed upon answer. Sapiens, though it cannot answer these questions, lends us insight into why things are the way they are in the world and how they came to be whether we like the way they are or not.

Below is the author himself, Yuval Noah Harari, giving a brief summary of a few key points Sapiens.

Works Cited

Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens. HarperCollins, 2015.

Incarceron, written by Catherine Fisher, is a YA dystopia about a world divided into two worlds. One is during the Era. The Era is basically similar to living during the 18th century. There is a hierarchy consisting of monarch, elites, and commoners. Technology, such as cell phones, computers, and even modern medicine, is banned because it is non-Era (meaning it came before the switch to the “ideal” society). The Era is set above ground in the natural world.

 

 

 

Opposite the Era, there is Incarceron, a giant living prison. When the kings created the Era, they took half of the population, for example the undesirables, the criminals, and the ill, and locked them in Incarceron. To the people in the Era, the prison is supposedly a paradise, and according to the elites it is. In reality though, it is a nightmarish landscape. Since the only contact between Incareron and the people in the Era is through the Warden, no one is aware of this.

 

 

 

One of my favorite things about dystopian literature is its criticism of a social ideal. One of the ideals being criticized in this book is “the good ol’ days,” and how even though things may have seemed perfect in the past, they are not actually perfect. Trying to recreate them, as one can see in Incarceron, creates more problems than benefits.

 

This criticism of social, cultural, and political ideas is present in every dystopia. Through them we can form an opinion of a piece of one’s own society or society as a whole. Sometimes this spurs within each individual a spark and one thinks “Wow, I never even thought about that before”. Or maybe the reader has thought about the criticisms but is now able to see it from a new perspective. The point is, readers are able to draw parallels between the traits of the fictional world in the dystopia and use them to critique their own society.
So how has dystopia literature influenced the views of readers? How will the criticisms of these book, particularly those brought up in YA dystopia, affect the future political and social climate?

Sources:

Fisher, Catherine. Incarceron. Penguin Group, 2007.

The movie posters and trailer for Pixar’s WALL-E feature a cute rusty little robot whose curiosity and personality are evident in his large binocular-like eyes. However, while the market

ing presents the movie as humorous and light-hearted, it masks the darker message and social commentary that makes the movie an environmental dystopia.

In all the posters it is evident that Planet Earth, set 700 years in the future, is uninhabitable due to the amount of garbage and waste covering every inch of it. WALL-E’s job, along with other robots, is to get rid of enough of it to make Earth habitable again. As more and more evidence comes out about how waste created by humans is destroying habitats and helping to increase the number of species on the endangered and extinct lists, this movie is reflecting a possible nightmarish future for Planet Earth.

The trailer and poster mainly feature EVE and WALL-E and their love story. This causes the audience to initially view it more as a typical love story in an animated kid’s movie. However the attempts to stop WALL-E from being with EVE and his development of a personality being called a glitch subtly present a more adult viewer with the classic characteristics of a dystopia trying to suppress individualism, in this case the individuality of the robots.

What if WALL-E been marketed specifically toward adults instead of Pixar’s traditional “fun for the whole family” marketing strategy?

Well, the posters would probably have been darker and more nightmarish. The love story between EVE AND WALL-E would most likely have been less prominent and the social criticisms would have emphasized as opposed to subtly placed here and there. The spaceship holding the remaining humans would offer an even more morbid vision than the already pretty negative view of the self-centered and sedentary life led on that ship.

Since the movie is geared towards children and families, not only adults, the audience walks into the theater expecting a laugh and not a life lesson and a warning for society about the dangers facing our environment and even our bodies if humans as a whole continue down the path of not caring for Planet Earth and consumer materialism. And though the former may be what a small child gets out of it, WALL-E gives adolescents and adults the latter though it has roped them into seeing the movie with the promise of the former.

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No matter who you are, everyone longs for a better society, and a better life. This is why people push their children harder than they themselves were pushed. This is why schools push students harder, and why the bar to get into college is constantly rising. This is why people protest, and scream, and write about policies and programs that they feel threaten their chance at a better world. Out of this desire to make a better life comes the hope and longing that gave birth to the idea of a utopia.

 

Utopia means “not place” according to its etymological roots. Eutopia means “good place.” So, how do two words that sound the same yet have totally different meanings overlap and interconnect? When Thomas More came up with the word Utopia, a name for a society he had written about in his book Utopia , he made sure it meant the ‘not place.’ But through the use of the word eutopia, a permanent tension has been  created over the meaning of utopia. So, is a utopia a perfect, good, praiseworthy place society should attempt to mirror? Or is it an imaginary goal that can never be achieved?

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When combined with science-fiction, utopian literature often focuses on the ease of life created by technological advances. However, some argue that since life is so easy, there would be no room for further technological development. A great example of this is the spaceship featured in the movie WALL-E, where humans don’t have to lift a finger for anything.

If you were to combine a utopian work with the romance drama, you might get a utopia that focuses on how everyone is matched with the perfect partner and has virtually no issues in their love life. In a post-apocalyptic utopian literary work, the utopia presented might be the only truly safe place, so its citizens would be praising the security of the state they live in. When a utopian theme is mixed with fantasy, it often features humans and fantastical beasts, things that might otherwise make appearances in our worst nightmares, living harmoniously side-by-side.

The collection of all of these different dreams and hopes, along with the fact that people are willing to imagine new lands and new worlds, is what has brought the utopian genre into being. Since they are imaginary, therefore only real in their literary works, they are all a “not place.” However, since the utopia projects hopes, dreams, and goals, it is also a eutopia, the “good place.”

 

References

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge companion to utopian literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.