death by paper cut











{May 25, 2010}   Dystopian Literature

I’ve recently completed reading Brave New World. It is dystopian literature that depicts what becomes of a society that prizes progress and efficiency above all else. Nothing has sentimental value, private aspirations are not permitted and people are harvested and genetically modified at the Social Predestination Room to fulfill their cog-in-the-wheel destiny.

Why bother to hope if you can control the outcome by means of passing everything and everyone through an assembly line production and more essentially, when you can determine the maximum potential for each individual and make that known from the beginning?

I’ve read three dystopian literature this year: The Giver, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World.

One common thread between all the depicted societies in that literature and history are banned or not made available. The novels then show how people are conditioned to be ignorantly happy and contented with life as it is now as the be all and end all.

More tellingly, the people depicted are all drugged to varying extents. In The Giver, people take “the pill” everyday to suppress urges of any kind. In Brave New World, people take “Soma” to feel high all the time. In Fahrenheit 451, the drugged induced are further made drowsy with mind-numbing white noise of media. In all cases, the awareness of sadness and dissatisfaction are banished.

You are living a lie, but if you don’t know that its a fraud, what wrong with being blissfully happy albeit very shallow.

Interestingly, The Giver and Brave New World deal with sexual desires in diametrically opposite ways. While the people in The Giver have sexual urges suppressed, people in Brave New World learn to have sex from the time they are toddlers having “erotic play.” In both scenarios, sex or the lack of has no sentimental value and do not result in procreation.

The idea is that without emotional attachment, there is also no maudlinness or tearful departures upon death which also comes at an appointed time according to schedule.

Books like Brave New World discuss the values of organised society. What do we prize more? Individual ambition, romance, art and compassion, at the risk of failure, dissatisfaction, uncertainty, and possibly (oh-god-forbid) inefficiency?

In all these books, I catch more than a glimpse of where Singapore as a Nation is now. We have become so fearful of failure and vulnerability that we pour ourselves into work and more work to increase productivity because it has become imbued in us that if we work hard enough, sacrifice enough, be efficient enough, buffer ourselves with reserves and resources, the greater good will benefit and in a way so will we.

With this rhetoric, the “Can-Do-Spirit” will prevail and will overcome all adversity.

Trust us, we know best, you can’t do without us.

Censorship is necessary because the masses are immature and may be misguided into even doubting the powers that be for a moment. Literature and Theatre are scrutinised and promptly curtailed if they are found to run contrary to mainstream societal values and are critical of the Government.

Beneath the shiny surface, the cracks are emerging and one day, the machine will stop.

I think we need to stop weighing sterile order vs romanticised upheaval as mutually exclusive. Singapore has done well, by the sweat of our brow we have overcome certain uncertainty – no doubt about that. However, I think its time to meet half-way and as anxious parents, let go a little more of this nanny state and see where she takes us. Ultimately, that is the real test of good parenting – trusting that you’ve equipped the young one with all the goodness, wisdom and prudence you can give and set her off to make something of herself.

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