Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dystopia and the Structure of Society

Reading Yevgeny Zamyatin's novel We sparks some interesting ideas on the nature of consciousness in its relation to rule, leadership, and the structure of society. There is some cognitive dissonance surrounding the main character's glowing description of what he clearly believes to be an utopian society, but which the reader, on the other hand, clearly perceives to be dystopian. A sense of concern arises as we consider the parallels of such a realistic dystopian society with an idealistic utopian one. In an utopian society, beneficial acts are performed through an act of free will on the part of the individual, with a clear understanding of how individual acts affect the whole. In a dystopia, these "beneficial" acts are forced upon the masses, are void of consideration and free will, and thereby lose their transformative value. The individual is no longer required to understand why, or why not, but instead submits themselves blindly to a "beneficial" rule, thereby halting their evolution towards consciousness.

While the intentions of the One State may be benevolent, it is misguided due to the lack of understanding of the nature of mind, and its progressions from less to more enlightened states. It seems very reasonable to speculate that this evolution must occur in stages, a mirror of natural processes. But what the One State has accomplished is forced all its members into an undistinguished congealed mass with catastrophic consequences. The state has usurped and supplanted the idea of Universal Mind—perfection, with One State—pseudo-perfection, or rather, false perfection, a tawdry mimic of the True and Real. Even if the One State is correct in its vision of an advanced society and its requisites, forcing individuals to conform creates dystopia. In other words, the ends do not justify the means: the "how" is inextricably linked with the end result.

How can we reconcile this view with the equally valid view of providing some order and structure to society in order to prevent injustice, and general chaos? It seems the only solution, from the perspective of government, is a minimum of intervention—just enough to prevent less evolved individuals or groups from harming or exploiting one another. A kind of surrender to the natural snail-paced evolution of man. Does this mean that those in positions of power who also possess an abnormally clear inner vision should refrain from acting? Certainly not. But the key is in non-forcing, and a certain non-attachment to ones goals and ideals. Then everything becomes possible.

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