The Humanist Cafe
Wednesday, June 21, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies St., James Bay
Topic: Dystopian Societies From Fiction To Reality
Presenter: Michael Rae
Moderator: John Pope
You have all probably heard of Thomas Moore’s novel Utopia. Dystopia is the opposite, or not a Utopia, and sometimes such works are referred to as Apocalyptic.
Dystopian books and movies have been around for a long time, some of the most notable ones were in the early 1900’s, i.e. Metropolis by German film director Fritz Lang and British writers H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley. These could all be considered science fiction but Orson Welles scared many Americans into believing that Martians had invaded Earth by broadcasting a reality type version of Welles ‘War of the Worlds’. Two of the more recent Dystopian works, “Blade Runner and The Hunger Games, seem closer to reality than to SF and contain many of the same settings, i.e. totalitarian states run by an ultra rich 1% elite with the rest of the population virtually enslaved.
Now Dystopian works are flourishing propelled by climate change , refugees, populism and the rise of proto-fascist regimes.
Hanna Arendt in her tomb on Totalitarianism makes one think of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany and what Naomi Klein refers to as “Shock Doctrine”. This also mirrors in many ways what is happening in the US as Trump disrupts all political discourse with a constant Twitter feed of distracting comments that allow his smarter cabinet members to put in place policies that further their capitalist aims at the expense of the rest of the population.
As Arendt explains, this creates a mass following of people who want to believe what they hear because they have given up hope of any alternative and have lost faith in the cant of established politicians. We see the effects of this in France, the UK and many other European countries. There is hope in Macron‘s victory in France and the surge of Corbyn in the UK, but right wing successes in Europe move it closer to authoritarian regimes and the danger displayed in many dystopian works.
Questions for discussion:
Who has seen these movies or read the books they are based on?
What other dystopian works have had a big impression on you?
Do you think we are living in a dystopian world or just about to?
If we do not pay attention to the artists who foresee the consequences of our actions who do we turn to?
Can scientists warn us as powerfully as art?
See you there! Bring a friend or two.