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I was musing on different styles of dystopias in fiction, and then in the real world, too. I came up with the following handy-dandy graphic:


It seems to me that in some stories, pretty much everyone is oppressed and miserable. There may be a superthin sliver of society that's privileged, but mainly everyone is miserable. Like in 1984 . . . which I haven't read in ages, so maybe there was a larger-than-superthin sliver that was living it up, but my impression was that it was pretty miserable. Wartime societies, or societies that operate with a permanent wartime mentality, are like this--we're all sacrificing and giving up our freedoms For the Cause. I imagine North Korea is like this. (I could be wrong though. Biased reporting/news sources and all that.) That's one end of the spectrum.

At the other end, you've got LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" and Dostoevsky's tortured child in Chapter 4 of The Brothers Karamazov. Everybody is happy/saved . . . at the expense of one sufferer.

In between, you can move the slider up and down. Minorities oppressing majorities is the pattern in, for example, The Hunger Games. Or New World slave societies. ... Or the whole world, in fact, at present, if you want to be polemical and political about it (which Vigilante Espresso does. This entry is brought to you by Vigilante Espresso.)

But you also get majorities oppressing minorities. That, I'd say, is the pattern in the Harry Potter books, where the lives of the wizards and witches are made more comfortable by house-elf slaves. This is also the pattern of persecuted minorities in the real world. (So, on the one hand, I just said the real world, at large, fits the pattern of a minority population persecuting a majority, but if you go smaller scale, and look at individual nations or cultures, you get lots of cases where the overall comparatively well-off society benefits from the exploitation of a minority--lots and lots of examples of that to choose from.)

I have to go pick up some things for supper, [Brrr, no; it's too cold--I'll make supper from what's on hand] but yeah. That's my thought for the day.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2015 01:01 am (UTC)
In 1984, the proles didn't have it too bad. Stemming from the firm Western belief, after the show trials, that the Communists in the Soviet Union suffered particularly. Nonsense, of course, but they didn't notice the other atrocities half so much.
Jan. 8th, 2015 01:11 am (UTC)
Which gets me thinking about how much suffering you need to qualify as a dystopic society. Is mere lack of freedom enough to qualify a society as dystopic, if your material needs are taken care of? We sort of automatically say yes, but I wonder how many people would actually feel that way if their choice was between comfort but putting up with restrictions and having fewer restrictions but much more discomfort. Which pill are you going to choose if Morpheus gives you the choice, in The Matrix. Et cetera. And then again, even in the freest of societies, there are restrictions. Damn rules! Preventing me from murdering and mayheming!
(no subject) - marycatelli - Jan. 8th, 2015 01:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jan. 8th, 2015 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - genarti - Jan. 8th, 2015 04:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - genarti - Jan. 8th, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2015 01:33 am (UTC)
Most forms of oppression have happened in real life, and those that haven't, well, they haven't found the means to enforce it yet.

A few small-scale minority-oppressing-majority societies are Apartheid South Africa and Syria.

Edited at 2015-01-08 01:33 am (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2015 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh, all of them have. People might argue about examples, but everyone can find some.
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jan. 8th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jan. 8th, 2015 01:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:41 am (UTC)
"lots and lots of examples of that to choose from."
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah :(
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
For a second I thought the title said "opossum." That would have been a very different post. ;)
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:43 pm (UTC)
Is your dystopia opossum friendly? IS IT??
Jan. 8th, 2015 06:07 am (UTC)
Very creative thinking.
Also, your diagram is great.
You should write a column with a new diagram daily or weekly.
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh I couldn't--I have thoughts like this once in a blue moon, alas. I'm in awe of people like Randall Munroe (of XKCD) who can do it week after week. But thank you!
Jan. 8th, 2015 07:52 am (UTC)
That's a really interesting graphic - and way of comparing dystopias. The graphic wonk in me is impelled to point out though that it's the Y axis that should be labelled "Number oppressed": what you have here is essentially a bar chart. It would be interesting to see that quality plotted against another - for example, level of technology - to see whether there's a correlation.
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC)
You're right! That should have been on the Y axis. D'oh!

And yeah, there are all sorts of factors that are interesting to consider. The one that popped into my head, that I mentioned up above, was societies at war. We put up with way more straitened circumstances when the situation is dire.
(no subject) - muuranker - Jan. 9th, 2015 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 10th, 2015 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2015 08:16 am (UTC)
Evgeny Zamyatin's 'We'.
Jan. 8th, 2015 02:53 pm (UTC)
I read that, but long, long ago, and all I remember now is that when they escaped the dystopia, they were in a place where the people were multicolored? (And furry?) Consequently, I can't remember where on the dystopia slider that society would fall.
(no subject) - cmcmck - Jan. 8th, 2015 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC)
This entry is brought to you by Vigilante Espresso.

I saw the icon and thought: Vigilante Espresso!

Jan. 8th, 2015 09:50 pm (UTC)
Vigilante Espresso will never die!
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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