Sunday, March 28, 2010

Utopian novels are for optimists

Looking Backward, 2000-1887

So I read this classic utopian novel by Edward Bellamy because it's considered a classic and I tend to enjoy stories set in the future. Silly me for thinking this book would contain a story. Basically, Bellamy used a tiny fragment of a plot idea as an excuse to publish a treatise on how to fix the societal ills of the 19th century.

An upper class socialite of 19th century Boston falls into a hypnotic trance and sleeps for 123 years at which point a 21st century doctor discovers and revives him. Our hero is then taken on a tour and introduced to all the ways in which the future society had fixed all the problems of the past, without strife or fighting as a matter of fact.

This is where Bellamy's imagination runs rampant. Seriously? You're telling me that the owners of large corporations would voluntarily step down just because they recognized that it was for the greater good? People are naturally self-centered and as nice as his ideas sound, Bellamy does not appear to realize that the problems he was trying to fix were caused by selfishness and greed which cannot be wiped out without opposition.

And this is why I've decided not to read anymore utopian novels. I'm too much of a pessimist when it comes to human nature and thus I don't believe that all of the societal repairs found in utopian novels are realistically possible. In order to implement some of these ideas there would need to be force, and where there is force there is resistance. Then you're getting into dystopian civilizations like those of 1984 or A Brave New World, and for some reason the worlds described in those and similar stories seem much more real and much more possible to me.

1 comment:

  1. You make it difficult for me to comment on your stuff if you post it in TWO places. Sigh...