I’m feeling inspired of late to ponder our humble humanity. I think it’s fair to say I’m a little addicted to the latest TV series instalment called ‘The 100’ (we’re up to season 3 people, there’s still time to catch up). It’s based on the novels by Kass Morgan and it takes another punt at showcasing humanities errors and delivers us with a planet and people that are struggling to regenerate, post nuclear fallout.
While the acting isn’t Emmy nomination worthy, I love it for the way the characters are faced with a multitude of moral dilemmas, in trying to make a life for themselves. Each episode inevitably prompts an intense discussion between my husband and I, about which course of action we would have taken.
I’ve also been reading an awful lot of teen dystopic fiction lately. You know, the kind about dark, disturbing futuristic worlds, brooding characters who face no end of moral dilemmas and a plot that inevitably throws up more twists than a British TV murder mystery.
Yes, it’s a growing market as I’m sure you’re aware. The recent spate of films spawned from the novels (Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner series etc.) will have persuaded even the most reluctant reader, to become interested in the genre. And not just in this teen-age bracket.
I’ve always been drawn to this genre when I think about it (should I be worried?) starting right back in my final year of High school. Our unconventionally cool English teacher introduced us to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and I was disgusted at the bleak world of ‘Oceania’ and its main character Winston, yet fascinated at the concept of a society which was built on fear, control via Big Brother. It seemed unbelievable, but no so unbelievable given our past or indeed our present.
In my first year at university ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ was prescribed reading for one of my courses. It shook me up big time; converted me to atheism and reverted me to feminism. But seriously, it opened my eyes to the concept of a world so different from our own, yet possible, if we fail to learn from our mistakes. The author Margret Attwood herself stated while writing the book “I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist” (The Guardian, 2012).
Sure they’re all works of fiction, one writer’s imagination at play, but the moral messages regarding human nature are very real and confronting. They pose more questions than answers, but then I guess that’s the point. They force us, in a cringe worthy way, to look at who we are as individuals and as a collective (damn those clever authors!).
Maybe it’s because I am a female that I feel the need to explore these issues of what makes us human? Would these novels be so bleak if it weren’t for the male run societies? It’s interesting to note by-the-way that a lot of these dystopic novels feature strong female leads, who kick ass and stick it to the authority……. just saying. So where am I going with all this?
It’s just got me wondering a lot lately, why are we so fixated with a future that is bleak? Is it simply because ‘sensationalism sells’, rather like the way negative stories fill our news headlines? Or is it something deeper, like an understanding that we as humans have already committed too many crimes against nature and one another, to backup now?
I recycle, make sure I’m an educated voter (well most of the time), ride a bike to school, I teach angst- ridden teenagers, try to even buy organic when I can afford it, but somehow I’m pretty sure this isn’t enough to avoid a nuclear fallout or a totalitarian government forcing their way into power. What’s a humble human to do, to ensure that a world like this remains in the pages of a fiction novel?
The answer my friends is ……. well I don’t really think I have THE answer. I think what I do have though is what all good dystopic novels end with ….hope (a bit cheesy I know). I reckon we humans have the potential to do really ‘good’ things as individuals and as a collective, we just need to learn from our crappy mistakes! Each of these works of fiction make that point glaringly obvious. Learn from the past, make better choices now and hope like hell that if the world does fall apart, we can get our shit together. I think there’s something in that.
Now, I’m off to indulge in some scintillating romance fiction (I hear it’s good) and then I’m going to read up on the candidates in our upcoming local elections. Ahhh, I feel hopeful already.