Social classes and visions of the future
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Dreaming or imagining the future is not so strange a hobby to have. After all, it was precisely this type of thinking that began the Italian futurism movement of the early 20th century. However, even as the artists and social reformists of the 1920s envisioned a time of speed and mechanization, they were aware enough of social structure to question what this future may cost them.
There is a lesson to be learned here. As we dream of an idyllic future filled with peace and prosperity, we must also question what might the cost of this Utopia be?
Utopia, as defined by my good friend Merriam-Webster, is “…a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social condition.” In essence, it is paradise. However, the nature of this so-called “perfection” is a subject of much debate. How are we to define something as “perfect,” as by its very nature, perfection is unobtainable on a mass scale. How we see perfection is very linear and individual—so creating a futuristic society that works in complete unison with no social contention is an impossibility. This fact has lead many literary critics to draw a crude parallel between the rise of a Utopia, and the equal rise of the Dystopia.
For those of you unfamiliar, a Dystopia is an “anti-utopia” (also as defined by Merriam-Webster). It is basically a place where people are not given autonomy, and they are powerless. For many critics, they see the deciding factor between what makes a society a Utopia or a Dystopia, as being simply a matter of perspective—i.e., what social class you are a part of. Much like now, we refer to the life of those that are rich as having the “good life,” while the working class is often made to experience the entirety of society’s downfalls (unaffordable housing markets, debt, hard-to-navigate social-aid programs, etc.). So therefore critics believe that, if left unchecked, the world will only become more idyllic for those already in power, while those that are not will fall further to the wayside, or worse, become far more oppressed.
It is precisely for this reason that Utopia/Dystopia narratives are so popular when writing cautionary tales, or satires of current sociopolitical movements and events; and why these types of narratives seems to resonate more with the general population. They foster awareness for social issues that have yet to erupt into full-blown delinquency.