While watching an action movie a couple of days back, a thought ran through my mind like a jolt. What I realised was that we all have been watching these action films, without realising the appealing factor behind the movies. An action movie is a direct representation of a dystopia. Let’s take the example of the Avengers series: it’s all based upon the annihilation of the universe. That’s a very basic form of a dystopia. A dystopia is a state of chaos. Now, it is usually referred to as the rise of tyranny in political philosophy but the term’s usage is not that limited. Utopia is the term that gave birth to dystopia, its antithesis. The word ‘utopia’ was coined by Sir Thomas More to describe a perfect geographical location and that is essentially what the term means: a perfect place/setting of the surrounding world.

But, the perfect place for someone might not be a perfect place for another. Sometimes, someone’s Utopia is another’s Dystopia. An easy example would be that of a dictatorship. In a dictatorship, the dictator, supporters of his regime, and his subordinates enjoy their utopia but the people of the city/state/area/country feel as if a dystopia has been instated. This shows that the frame of reference is very important in terms of understanding Utopia and Dystopia. Also, there is no such thing as an absolute utopia or an absolute dystopia. The matter of Utopia/Dystopia is a very subjective debate and is multi-layered.

If you look at Plato’s utopia, which he talks about in The Republic, it is one where philosophers are rulers. If you look at such a political setting from the contemporary point of view, Plato’s utopia sounds like an aristocracy. Plato’s dystopia, however, is tyranny. Even though it would be rather incorrect to assign examples to utopia/dystopia considering their subjective nature, I would dare to do so. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that Plato’s dystopia is the majority’s dystopia as well. Aristocracy may not be the modern majority’s utopia but if you sink deep into political philosophy, you would realise that it is the reality. The politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, etc. do possess privileges. Some have been brought around by the virtue of their occupation while the other have been brought about by their family background. Privileges brought by occupation are also not a positive impact on the society.

Why is it that the politician is capable of butchering the case against him in court or why is it that the businessman, the celebrity, is equipped with enough willpower to take lives? There is a certain hierarchy prevalent in the society to which disregard cannot be offered. It is a well-established fact that a majority of people are preaching for democracy. Then, why exactly are we settling for pseudo-democratic governments that are a facade to actually instate aristocracy?

This brings me back to the inception of the whole controversy: is someone’s utopia another’s dystopia? Well, yes. The political utopia right now, for the majority, is pure democracy; a democracy that acts as a device of equality, freedom and righteousness. It is what we envision that matters because the reality or even the apparent achievement of your utopian state will always be a degradation from what you had initially imagined. As one makes progress towards one’s perfect place, one starts degrading one’s initial image of the end result in order to achieve one’s goal sooner than predicted.

Envision your utopia and never let its image degrade. (Keep watching action movies too!!!)


-Tanishq Khurana, DPS RK Puram, New Delhi

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