Lance Scranton: Dystopia abounds
Dystopia abounds as winter begins and students are a little more settled in for reading some difficult texts. As we slog through Orwell’s classic “1984,” it becomes apparent that, in this particular society, the only way to make it out alive is to embrace Big Brother.
Some wonder why I choose dystopian novels during the winter months, and my response is generally that students have a little more time to reflect on the social, cultural, and economic ramifications of societies that go down a really dark path.
Novels like “1984” and “Brave New World” are classic commentaries on the lengths to which governments will go in attempting to control the masses.
As thrilling as control is for some people, it generally ends poorly, because what can’t be controlled are people. People will do what they are told for a time, but after a while, the questions just become too many, and answers are demanded. Consider what is happening right now in France, as the government decides it is a palatable idea to raise gas prices to combat global climate change. The French care as much about the planet as you and I, but they still need to live and drive!
The common thread throughout most of the novels students read is humanity’s search for meaning, which translates into happiness and contentment. But what the characters lack is the ability (thoughtcrime) or desire (feelcrime) to share the things that really make people tick, or the deep questions and concerns they have about life. True joy in life comes in the midst of our ability to let people in and get past the facade of perfection.
Dystopias build their foundation on fear of any signs of weakness or vulnerability. It’s that time of year when we can learn so much from the stories that make our willingness to be vulnerable, that truly gives us the power to live a life of joy and satisfaction. Governments never provide us with these truly important aspects of life, but governments can be huge impediments. Remember, a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have!
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.