A seemingly ongoing debate back home in Spain is the ever-lasting discussion about Catalonia’s Independence and the Catalan language. I have always thought about what it means to be Catalan and what prejudices it seems to come with. We have our own views and the rest of Spain has their own. We are a “bother” but at the same time succeeding is never an option, after all we are the greatest source of tax money for the central government. The situation back home is obviously not a dystopian setting but there is certainly a lot of information masking and how the population of Catalonia is portrayed to the rest of Spain through the main TV channels and newspapers.
I have thought about this topic since we first started talking about propaganda and compared the situation to the different novels we have discussed. It amazes me just how many similarities the situations shared. While in the dystopian governments we have encountered along the semester focus on promoting their personal image and whatever favors their power stance, this is not only a part of the fictional world. Government image and marketing is obviously very important in nowadays political world, now so more than ever maybe, since a lot of debates and issues appear to arise every other day.
I came to believe that Catalonia’s population stand against the situation definitively reminded me about the role that the “rebels” have in the novels we have discussed. In the past decade we have got to manage a referendum and the pacific demonstrations that are held every September 11th have become famous worldwide. It is amazing the amount of people that get together to support “La Diada” that day, and fill the streets of Barcelona. Every year there is a different approach to make the biggest impact and send the most powerful message. However it always revolves around the idea “we want freedom, we want our rights, we are our own people”.
Another issue that makes me think about how propaganda and the government oppress their citizens in our dystopian novels can be compared to this situation, is how many people in Spain and a scarily substantial number of the politicians of opposing groups believe that the Catalan language should be banned. This idea is so frightening to me and it would completely shatter me and my values, since practically my whole persona revolves around my language. It would be something that certainly would be a direct attack against the freedom and culture of the people back home.
Overall, I think that this whole semester has helped me learn about dystopian literature and understand many concepts much more in depth, but what I have learned didn’t necessarily stay inside the classroom in my case. These ideas have been in my mind, especially when I thought about home and the whole situation that been unfolding these past few years. It can be scary to think our reality holds parallels with fictional dystopian plots, but in the end, we all hope for the best.
In today’s world, we take information for granted. Everything can be found at the click of a button and the all-knowing google almost never fails us. And growing up in this society, I’ve always looked at information as something good to have or something essential for my advancement through school or eventually through my professional career. However, reading through all these dystopias has given me a new perspective on information.
Information can be used as a weapon. To gain an advantage over others. However, unlike other weapons, knowledge can be disguised to look like a favor to the ignorant. The tactile handling of sensitive information – whether it is the withholding of facts, or disclosing them at the right time to the right person can all help to work the situation in your favor.
Thus, the topic of my presentation is – Information: The decider of fate in a dystopian world.
We’ll see how different dystopias use information differently to further their purposes.
One of my main arguments is that – Information can be used to manipulate. In my independent reading book – Incarceron, one of the two protagonists – Claudia is a ‘princess’ who’s about to be married off to an idiotic Earl and is not happy about it. Her father, the antagonist, is the Warden of Incarceron and has always told her half-truths. Claudia and her part of the world have been led to believe that Incarceron is a perfect world for prisoners and all those who are trapped inside, in fact, deserve to be that way. Thus none of them ever questions its legitimacy or whereabouts and all of them highly respect the Warden for keeping the ‘bad people’ in check. I also use examples from ‘Little Brother’ and ‘The 100’ to further my argument.
Some of my other arguments include how information is used to create fear, and yet how it can give hope. I explain these using examples from popular YA dystopian literature.
I look forward to presenting on Wednesday, letting you guys know more about these arguments and answering any questions that you might have for me!
It’s interesting how a lot of dystopias thrive on fear. It forms the basis of control for a lot of dystopian governments and is a great way of tying people down in mental chains.
The ruling entity uses fear as a strong tool to make sure no one dares step out of line. The two most important ones while also being highly prevalent are –
- Making an example of violators
Most dystopias have some kind of punishment for breaking rules, which is different from our modern day society in that the violators are not given anything even close to a fair trial and are punished at the discretion of the rulers. Moreover, unlike our society, these rules are in no way agreed upon as ‘good’ by the people or for the better of the society. How they might be presented depends for each dystopia but they tend to revolve around the rulers’ motives to keep the people in control. Moreover, these punishments are widely publicized, making sure to carry the clear message that opposition will not be tolerated.
- Manipulation of and monopoly over information
This is a sly method for the proliferation of fear but way more effective as it is indirect. Keeping information from people, or giving them false information or making it difficult for them to procure it by banning communication, all work towards the goal of spreading ignorance. When the people making the rules are the only ones providing information, they can manipulate it to always show themselves in favorable light. This also increases the people’s dependence on them and as a result, a general fear is born out of the dread of not getting information in case the rulers are opposed or revolted against.
However, fear has its pitfalls. ‘When fear ceases to scare you, it cannot stay. When a certain line is crossed, especially in YA dystopias, to the point where the protagonist has lost so much that nothing scares them anymore, they become fearless and go all out against the people who have done this to them. Thus, fear is a weapon to be exercised with caution and control. Too much of it can tip the bowl the other way!
A prominent theme I have found interesting in the dystopian societies that we have discussed is how the people in control have a tight grip over the flow of information. Most, if not all, of Gathering Blue was focused on the information that Kira became privy to during her time in the Edifice. One of the cornerstones of her identity was that her father had been killed by beasts, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. Besides being dishonest about how her father was attacked, the Council tied the attack into a lie that everyone in the village accepts: the existence of the beasts. As Kira begins to find out that she is being lied to about all these things, she lets slip to one of the Council members that her mentor, Annabella, had been telling her the truth. Then, as expected in a dystopian society, Annabella “coincidentally” ends up being taken to the Field of the Living because she had passed away. The Council did not want Kira to learn too much, because it could cause their society to unravel.
Overall, I’m curious about examining the flow of information in today’s society. Is our society as transparent as we would like? I want to explore the obvious examples like how open the government is to the public, but I also want to look at less prominent organizations as well. Lack of transparency has been a huge issue in this election cycle, and it was a large factor in the crash of the housing bubble around 2008. How accurately does our government portray events? How accurately does the media portray events? Who is in control of all these things and who benefits from them one way or the other? With some people claiming that this election is the end of society as we know it, how far are we really from our society being considered a dystopian?
Propaganda is commonly thought of as information used by governments to convince people to follow a certain cause such as the World Wars, the Vietnam War, government policies, or political agendas. Propaganda plays a key role in dystopian literature, books that revolve around this one fixated society where the rules are unbending and social expectations.
In the book Matched, the Society has constructed a perfect system to guarantee a long, satisfying life, provided you follow the rules. Cassia, the protagonist, has grown up with the same information, that the Society has replaced a failing and miserable way of life. Routines ensure maximum efficiency, Matches are made for ideal life partners, secure jobs provide comfort. in other words, there is order and peace. While at the recreational center, she and her friends watch a video of the history of Society and how it came to being. The video emphasized the horrors that the Society eliminated and how everything would collapse if the Society failed. Cassia described the video as “overdone” and “ludicrous”; the scenes are overdramatic with actors exaggerating death scenes. Her and her friends do not take the showing seriously; they know how fake it is, but they continue watching it since it is one of the few films available to them.
The Society may have removed diseases and hardships but also anything of the past. Only a hundred poems, a hundred songs, and a hundred painting were kept; it was reasoned that an excess of information causes chaos, thus all that was deemed unworthy was destroyed. Censorship is another form of propaganda, by limiting the public’s access to information sets up a biased atmosphere. The people have no choice but to trust what the Society tells them for they have no other resources. The Society has even deprived them of writing; everything is technology, ports, tablets, screens, and computers, devices easily monitored by the Officials. Writing is a form of communication, but it poses a threat as it is much more difficult to regulate. The secret poem Cassia’s given is easily disposed of, reducing the words to “ash and nothing.”
Controlling the means of communication and all history records allows for complete power over people; their citizens will believe any of the propaganda the Society feeds them, since all other sources of intelligence are nonexistent.
- Casey, Ralph D. “The Story of Propaganda”. American Historical Association. www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/gi-roundtable-series/pamphlets/what-is-propaganda/the-story-of-propaganda. Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.
- Condie, Ally. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010, New York.
- Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”Literature and Society: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Pamela J. Annas and Robert C. Rosen. 4th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006.