Past Dystopian Becoming Present Reality

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Photo by Chris Drumm

Kallie Brown, A&E Editor

Dystopian novels written over 60 years ago are continuing to reveal aspects of our society today. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was published in 1953, and 1984 by George Orwell in 1949, yet both books uncannily describe features of our political and social situations.

In Fahrenheit 451, books are banned because people have become too sensitive to conflicting ideas, and the society decided that they would rather go without knowledge and opinions than risk offending someone. One way that this has started to manifest in our world today is the prevalence of “political correctness”. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines political correctness as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities … should be eliminated”.

Instances of this would be universities, such as George Washington University, forcing student associations which were based on religion to take “training courses” on how to alter their material and beliefs to fit those of other communities such as LGBTQ+ and atheists. The president of one such Christian Club tried to explain that it was an organization meant to promote the religion within the youth and that their beliefs were not in unison with those the University was trying to push. They were then called a “hate group” by GWU’s Allied with Pride association, as their practices (of religion) were non-inclusive. The call was to take away all funding from the religious association, all because the youths were practicing their right to free religion and not altering their core values to fit those of others.

This was one of the reasons that the Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 began burning books, the Bible included. Religion had become too controversial, so it was eliminated.

As far as 1984 goes, the “Big Brother” cameras and feelings of being watched can be found today. Did you know that, if you don’t change your settings on the iPhone, Siri can listen in to what you’re talking about (without signaling to you that she is) and only pipes up when you say “Hey Siri”?  Apple developers assure that Siri only activates when you say those words, but your words must be monitored first in order to pick up when you say “Hey Siri”. In 1984, the main character Wilson is only released back to society once his spirit is broken, and he has been forced to accept the Party which he rebelled against the entire book long. This can be seen in the GWU example as well—the religious group was tormented until they either agreed to change the fundamentals of their religion to fit the “norm” of politics or were eradicated completely.

As a society, we haven’t yet reached the point of these stories’ corruption, but there are aspects that we are certainly gravitating towards. Bradbury and Orwell have already warned us; we are falling into societal traps that their books showed cannot be escaped. It must be stopped before we become Wilsons and Guy Montags.