While reading Gathering Blue, my attention has been drawn to the people’s acceptance of the existence of beasts. Throughout the story, Kira, the protagonist, is always mentioning how she lives in fear of them. To be fair, based on her understanding of events she should fear the beasts. Her father was killed by some, and when people are sent to the field to die they are eventually taken away by beasts as well. Kira fears Vandara because Vandara is a survivor of fight with a beast in which she only received a scar. This fact of life, that the beasts are out in the forest trying to eat you, is false. The very foundation of Kira’s persona is based on a lie, and, because of this, I have become more cynical of the things I hear on the news from the media and the government.
Recently, there have been lots of stories that have very definite stances on the global stage. America should let in refugees. Russia is not our enemy, but our friend. Britain should have stayed in the European Union. Assad is using chemical weapons in Syria. These events and opinions are released to the public and both sides of the issue treat their ideas as absolute facts. People like dismissing each other’s arguments on the sole basis of their ideology and not the argument itself. Overall this has caused me to take almost every article I come across with a grain of salt instead of treating it like it is one hundred percent factual. When the government says that sending missiles to Syria was the best choice, I’m not so quick to agree. When the media likes to repeatedly claim that Russia is trying to bring about the end of America, the argument brings me back to Gathering Blue. Maybe Russia is just a beast.
Climate change is a pressing issue of our time, if not the single most pressing one. It is easy to ignore because it is creeping up on us slowly, progressively. The primary propagators of this problem, large firms and governments, choose profits over our own well-being. The secondary issue is educating people about global warming. This is hard since society has no real way to relate to it today. This is where the media comes into play. TV shows, movies, and books give their audience a means to relate to the issues they discuss. When We Wake just does that with climate change.
The reader is plopped into a dystopian Australia, on an Earth where global warming has run rampant. Where there used to be land, there is now an ocean. The gaping hole in the ozone layer does not filter the sun’s rays, so people live underground. Meat has become a luxury good, since cattle produce harmful greenhouse gases. Coastal Sydney has been swallowed by the Pacific Ocean These are all projections for our own world. At this rate, in fifty years, this will be planet Earth.
But the climate change doesn’t just pertain to temperatures and weather patterns, but also to the political climate. A lack of regulation due to international competition has led to distrust amongst the world’s nations which means tighter border controls, and a rise in racism. Unfortunately, early traces of this can already be seen today. Flagship nations such as the USA, Russia, and China are ignoring climate regulation in fear of falling behind the others on a competitive level. Brazil and Australia are already falling behind the Paris Agreement, and President Trump is debating withdrawing the USA from the agreement altogether. It is easy to see how such “competition” could lead to the level of political pressure present in When We Wake.
While I was aware of all the issues and projections of climate change, When We Wake is the book that made it feel real. The world was immersive and believable and I believe it is an eye opener to anyone, no matter how well versed they are on the topic of global warming.
Healey, Karen. When We Wake. Auckland, N.Z., Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, 2015
I have always paid careful attention to current events. I like to know what’s happening around me, so I keep myself updated with articles from various newspapers and magazines from around the world. However, throughout the length of this course I have noticed a shift in the lens with which I read these articles. I’ve become more interested in reading news articles discussing policy; specifically, privacy and technology.
I believe that this shift is mainly due to Cory Doctrow’s novel Little Brother. While reading, I kept noticing simply how plausible of a future it seemed to be. Gait-trackers in schools, GPS trackers individual to a person, internet surveillance, wire-tapping, and so many more new (yet terrifying) technologies seem to pervade the novel. While some of these are not yet common around the states, I do worry that they may one day be considered the ‘norm.’
The other day, I was scrolling through Apple’s News feed on my phone when I came across an article detailing how the senate voted to revoke FCC privacy regulations. These rules were enacted as they “protect important personal interests—freedom from identity theft, financial loss, or other economic harms, as well as concerns that intimate, personal details could become the grist for the mills of public embarrassment or harassment or the basis for opaque, but harmful judgments, including discrimination” (Federal Communications Commission 2). Furthermore, a brief synopsis of the rules is that they are what require companies to tell you and get your approval for their privacy policies (for example, what information of yours that they may release), they require companies to protect your information and to notify you of security breaches.
Can you imagine your personal information being distributed without your knowledge? I’m sure the citizens in Little Brother couldn’t either; that’s why they were so surprised about being stopped by police when the rebellion mixed up all the data. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer my information to be protected. Yes, the smackdown still has to be approved by the House and the President, but it’s a slippery slope. If our government begins to believe that it is ok to distribute and collect information about our personal lives without reasonable cause, then where’s the end?
Link to the FCC’s broadband privacy framework: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-148A1.pdf
One article that could contribute greatly to many presentations is “America the Dystopia?” by Jean Card. Card presents the idea that our world is getting closer and closer to one of the many dystopian societies that fiction writers depict today. She describes historical, political, and cultural changes that are gaining momentum, but that will affect our world in a negative manner. She proceeds to detail the government found in many dystopian societies: a large government led by a charismatic leader who relies on martial order and control of natural resources. Continuing on through the article, she breaks down many individual characteristics of dystopias, and indirectly connects them to our own world.
The first idea Card gives the reader is, “Big government and big media are dominating American society and suffocating free speech. Who will rise up?”. If the presenter is of the opinion that America could possibly move toward a dystopian-like existence, then this article examines many of the aspects that support that claim. Card breaks down the way the government and media have taken steps to inhibit truly free speech. She defines the term “political correctness” and talks of how many American citizens feel “muzzled” by the negative reception speaking freely brings. This, she states, is due to the way the centralized media has been grooming the culture. She speaks of every kind of diversity being so embraced that it almost feels enforced. She goes on to give a breakdown of how she believes our government has devolved from the shining ideal our forefathers created it to be.
Technology is another aspect that Card analyzes in our society and then compares to technological usage in fictional dystopias. Technology, she says, in dystopias has made almost magical advancements, and, yet, if we look at the technology we have in our world today, we can see just as “magical” of advancements. The information that can be accessed with our technology typically comes from a centralized source. One of the examples Card gives is as follows, “Facebook has the centralized, massive, unprecedented power to influence the information we consume, almost blithely, on a daily basis,”. The technology and information available to us has become both a blessing and a curse. In all, the article is good food for the thought if nothing else, however, if your own opinion is mirrored in the article, it can be quite a valuable resource.
I will be presenting my research for the conference presentation on Friday, titled “Corporations, the Media, and Propaganda: A Modern Day Dystopia?” I will be discussing the influence and power of corporations, the media, and propaganda in today’s world and how they reflect a modern day dystopia. I will use my independent reading novel Champion by Marie Lu (as well as the other books in her series) and The Hunger Games to provide examples and support to my claims.
This presentation is one that you won’t want to miss, because I will be discussing real problems that are going on in our world. These are the sorts of problems that you read about in dystopias, but that most people do not realize are actually happening in real life! For example, did you know that in the past, big fossil fuel companies paid the US Chamber of Commerce to block energy reforms?! Big corporations and the government have become so heavily intertwined that we often don’t realize it!
In my presentation, I will continue to discuss how big corporations have gained so much power in our world, and how they control many aspects of our society. These points will be exemplified by the fictional corporations in Champion and The Hunger Games and how they had a lot of power. I will show the reflection of power in the real world by presenting what I have found about big corporations today.
For my other point I will be discussing the media and propaganda, how they go hand-in-hand, and how they hold great influence over our society as well. Once again this will be exemplified by the media and propaganda in Champion and The Hunger Games. Then I will discuss how the media has taken over our own lives with propaganda that we don’t always recognize.
We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our world, and how we have tip-toed into becoming a dystopia. My presentation touches on this issue, and therefore it is one you will not want to miss!
Dystopias are interesting because so much of their characteristics are left up to interpretation by writers and readers. They are similar to The Constitution in that there are groups of people who strictly interpret its roots and those who stretch them to fit into other categories. That is why dystopian fiction has bled over borders into the realms of science-fiction, romance, and apocalyptic ideas. These variations in theme, setting, and plot have caused different interpretations of what is considered a “perfect” utopian society, and alternatively its anti-perfect, dystopian counterpart. For my research project, I am hoping to research how each society’s idea of “perfect” differs, and how these ideas shape its culture.
In the dystopia The Hunger Games, the Capitol maintains control of the twelve districts by forcing them to participate in the games. By portraying this to be a dystopia, one can infer that the author’s idea of a utopia would be a society where people are free to do as they please without a ruling autonomous government. Alternatively, in the book Shatter Me, Juliette lives with a touch that is fatal. The society is made up of rampant disease, food shortage, and dreary conditions. The government uses Juliette’s supposed flaw to for their own betterment. She is ultimately left with the choice of either giving into the government’s orders or fighting for what she believes in. Overall, this society seems to be flawed in the way it emphasizes the government’s manipulation of weakness for its own strength. One can infer from this that the author’s idea of a perfect society may be one where people are applauded for their differences and accepted for their disabilities.
I think that discovering how authors’ different ideas of “perfect” influence the way that they shape their dystopias will be interesting. However, I know that basing their ideas of “perfect” solely on the opposite of their dystopian novels is not an effective form of research. Dystopias come out of present day society, so finding out more about how this relates to a perfect society would be interesting. I hope to research more in detail about the history that brought about dystopias as seemingly anti-perfect societies. Moving forward, a question that I hope to answer about Shatter Me is how a certain period of time may or may not have influenced the author to write the book, seeing as it focuses on such an imperfect society.
Why are dystopias so attractive in the world of literature today? I can’t speak for the millions around the world who read them, but for myself, dystopias have drawn me in with their projected futures based on the mirroring of certain aspects of our own world’s brokenness, along with the character development a dystopia requires of its protagonist(s). There are many more reasons than the two above, however, given the subjectiveness of each answer, I will be giving my personal reasonings.
The majority of dystopian societies have strong ties to certain, similar aspects of our own westernized part of the world. Take the 1984 for example, the government is monitoring every citizen and the news broadcasts very biased, or even untrue, information. Sound familiar? The Hunger Games depicts a future that could very easily become our own should similar events take place. Our generation has become desensitized to the kind of violence and lack of morality that would leave past generations aghast, which would make the transition from our current society into a similar dystopian one easier than we might think.
It is said that hard times bring out one’s true nature. This is evident in many of today’s dystopian novels. The protagonist experiences deep, personal challenges and is forced to really discover who they are. The character development in the dystopian genre is one of my favorite’s because of how intense a process it typically is. Take the Divergent series for example – Tris Prior evolves from a reserved, slightly timid 16-year old into a strong young woman who knows what it means to sacrifice for others and have others sacrifice for you. Watching a character shift into someone with more depth, who has experienced hard times and yet still carries on, this is one of the most intriguing aspects of the dystopian genre.
In dystopias, many authors use propaganda in their societies to show how the citizens can be controlled. Propaganda plays a central role in keeping the ruling government or leader in power. It provides them with a way to keep the citizens in order and providing them with only the necessary information.
Suzanne Collins uses quite a lot of propaganda in the novel, The Hunger Games. One of the first occurrences is the short film shown at the beginning of the reaping. It is a speech by President Snow to remind the districts of the terrible war and the uprising, which then led to a new era which included peace. To protect the districts and to remind them that freedom has a cost, the Hunger Games are held annually. They glorify sending tributes to their deaths by stating that they are fighting for “honor, courage, and sacrifice.” The capitol also mentions that the single victor is promised riches which “serves as a reminder of our [the capitol’s] generosity and our forgiveness.”
In the film, Snow appeals to all the districts, even though they are all very different from each other. There are the poor districts such as District 12, who will relate to the beginning of the film when war and hardships are mentioned and that the Capitol provides food to the districts and without them, the poor would be even poorer. The districts where the Careers come from, will relate more to the second half of the film, when Snow mentions the fight for glory, and honor. They prepare for the games and even have volunteers to be tributes in the games.
Even though the history of Panem is described in the propaganda video, the Capitol makes sure not to provide the districts with too much information. A war is mentioned, however, the cause of the rebellion is not revealed. The Capitol picks and chooses what information to reveal to its citizens and also requires everyone to watch these broadcasted films, to ensure that everyone receives the information that they want the citizens to know and to remind them that they are in control and that the districts need the Capitol for protection and survival.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.
When it comes to dystopias, there is always a group of people who are being controlled. This may be to prevent a rebellion or to hide information, but it can be assumed that part of the population has strict rules to keep them from falling out of line.
Strict rules and the presence of enforcement usually aren’t enough to convince a population of their inferiority because it entices anger and unites them. In most dystopias, there needs to be the presence of fear of an outside force that keeps the population in line and propaganda is a reliable way to entice that fear.
In my independent reading book, Legend by Marie Lu, propaganda plays a large role in convincing the population to be scared. Throughout the story, there are giant billboards that release information about threats. There is the threat of the enemy Colonies on the beloved Republic, the threat of the Patriot rebels who slow down the war effort, and the threat of criminals who defy the Republic’s rules and regulations. All of these threats are then exaggerated and displayed in public locations to justify the rules and police enforcement that are present.
In Legend, the notorious criminal Day’s wanted poster is displayed frequently around the Republic. This propaganda is significant because it instills fear into the citizens of a person they don’t even know. The government even has no idea what Day looks like so they use a different photograph each time. In the visual above, it is clear how the words used to describe Day are accusatory without actual specifics on what he’s done. The term “hindering the war effort” is very vague and alludes to an unnecessary violence when in reality all of his actions were for survival.
This poster is an important example of propaganda in Legend because it shows how much the government depends on the citizens. They ultimately wanted Day to be caught, but realized they weren’t capable of capturing him without the help of the citizens, using money to entice them. This represents the need for the controlling force to appear “protecting” to the citizens in order to keep their trust and to accomplish tasks they can’t do without them.
Before I explain what a dystopia is I must first explain what a utopia is because dystopia emerges from utopia. Utopia comes from the two Greek words “uo” and “topos” together meaning not place, talking about not the place that we are in now on earth, but instead an imaginary other (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utopia). Utopia is an imaginary place where all is right. There is no crime or suffering, and it is kind of like heaven on earth or the Garden of Eden. Being that utopia is almost impossible and the only way to even have a utopia is to have complete control over civilians and to install fear into them that is where utopia turns into a dystopia. Dystopia is “an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly” (http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/dystopia). Unlike utopia where people govern themselves, dystopia is a place where there is a demanding government who is usually totalitarian.
If we added another genre to a dystopian world, like apocalypse which refers to ending times, the definition would change. Instead of a government suppressing people or group of classified people a single person would have full command of the world and have legions to call on. For example, the movie the book of Eli which was a movie was about the future thirty years after a war turned the world into a wasteland, a lone warrior named Eli, marches across the ruined landscape, carrying hope for humanity’s redemption. Only one other man understands the power of what Eli carries, and he is determined to take it for himself. Though Eli prefers peace, he will risk death to protect his precious cargo, for he must fulfill his destiny to help restore mankind. In the movie the other guy was the ruler over the land calling on his army of thugs to get the book Eli was carrying.
Combining a dystopia book with a Young Adult literature will change the genre because young adult are in a different stage in there live then a grown adult. A young adult will probably not have finish the book if it was talking about something grown adult have to worry about. For example look at the hunger games children were selected in the reaping through the ages of 12-18 year old. This book would have directly affect us if the situation was happening today, so the book will be more interesting.