To some extent, utopia is based on the ideology of creating an ideal and progressive society in which citizens live together and simultaneously strive towards perfection and happiness. Yet whilst they are working, united in their vision to reach perfection and happiness they are denying themselves the natural urge, which they possess to think for themselves. The means by which the creators strive to achieve this utopic ideal of happiness are in fact in their own sense dystopic. By that we mean that in the midst of reaching this utopian ideal the creators fail to acknowledge the relevance of individuality for a society to maintain happiness. The fact is that a society is made up of many individuals and in order for these individuals to unite as a society and progress as one they must consider what is best for every citizen in that society.
The creators seek to achieve this consistency in their societies and they are so enthralled and enraptured in keeping this state of stability. It is this consistency, which can only be achieved through the elimination of free thought and the destruction of individuality and beauty of the individual’s unique ability to be unlike anyone else and to bring their own talents forward.
” The world is put back by the death of every one who has to sacrifice the development of his or her peculiar gifts to conventionality.”
At the core of this utopian ideal is the constant search for perfection in our society. Yet perfection for the individual and thus a society is the freedom of choice to decide, that which is perfection for each individual. Perfection in modern society would be encompassing the basic civil liberties needed to attain comfort and freedom whilst living harmoniously in a world where treatment of individuals is just.
In all Utopian and Dystopian texts the Society is maintained in equilibrium through the denial of individuality. The pervading sentiment of this world focuses on the importance of a community as a whole and the insignificance of the individual. The awareness that these citizens have lost their personal freedom through the means of a rigid classed system, regulated by the state seems to be non-existent.
One of the most frightening aspects of Catch-22 is that all the men in Yossarians’s squadron are governed not by their own decisions concerning dangerous risks but by the decisions of a fearsome impersonal bureaucracy. The men must risk their lives even though they know that their missions are useless, as when they are forced to keep flying combat missions even though they know that essentially their allies have won the war.
The bureaucrats are absolutely deaf to any attempts that the men make to reason with them logically. For example, Major Major will see people in his office only when he is not there and Doc Daneeka refuses to ground Yossarian for insanity because Yossarian’s desire to be grounded reveals that he must be sane.
“Good intention will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters”.
In Utopia, More compels the reader to believe that More is concerned with the equality of material worth and comfort and the essentials of survival such as food, shelter and clothing. He creates a practical structure, which provides food for all its citizens and ensures that everyone is fitted with clothing and is entitled to shelter. We believe that he is noble and honorable in this sense for he wants to ensure that Utopians will not be subjugated because of lack of synthetic tenure. Conversely, he does not realize or inform us the readers of the ever-plaguing thought which is what is more precious to the human fortitude, if it is indeed consistency and basic synthetic comfort that is more superior to the fundamental human desire for freedom of choice and the right to self determination. Thus, consistency is valued above all else, including progress.
Even though More creates a rigid and conventional structure to maintain a ‘happy’ society we lack the point of view of a citizen of Utopia. In book 2 More rejects many of the Utopian ideals “Though in other respects he (Raphael) is a man of the most undoubted learning as well as of the greatest knowledge of human affairs I cannot agree with all that he has said”. It is More’s lack of assurance and the lack of his own personal opinion and ideas in Book 2 that leave the reader torn between conflicting theories.
The first being that our own desire for a perfect or ‘happy’ society be fulfilled. That we the reader can believe that such a society can exist yet at the same time More, as the creator of the Utopian republic, discourages this desire by not allowing the reader an insight into his own bearing on the integrity of his republic and thus permits the reader to believe that he sees flaws in his ‘perfect world’.
The Truman show presents us with a character — Truman — who is caught inside a controlled environment that conceals its true nature. But, here, there is an interesting twist unbeknownst to him; he is living inside a 24 hour-a-day comedy-melodrama in which he is the star.
The idyllic island town where he grew up and lives is an immersive stage set enclosed in a giant dome with a ceiling that creates the illusion of a sky. Wind, rain, night, the moon, the stars, even the sun is a high-tech special effect masquerading as the outside world.
With some 5000 cameras placed around the city, Truman’s life is followed 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a nonstop telethon of reality programming for a public hungry for passion and vivid emotion. All of humanity watches as he goes through the stages of life and finds himself in realistic situations that are actually scripted and improvised, to give the show some of the dramatic density that separates entertainment from mundane life. Truman is kept from wandering beyond the island-town he calls home by a clever bit of psychological brainwashing. As a child, he lost what he believed was his father, in a storm, on a boating trip near the island. In reality, of course, the storm was generated by technology and the “father” was an actor pretending to die because he had been written out of the script. But the incident implanted in Truman a fear of going on or over the water, which is the way he is kept from leaving the island by boat or bridge, and discovering that beyond the water are the walls of the dome that encloses his world.
This is also evident in More’s Utopia. The citizens are conditioned to believe that they are working for the good of the community and made to believe that anything they do for themselves is selfish. It is this fear of letting the community down that
It is this fear that is installed in the citizens that allows the creator of the world to control them and prevent them from breaking away from the ignorance that has enveloped their lives and in doing so restricting their freedom of choice. It is a similar fear that controls Offred and Yossarian in both a Handmaid’s tale and Catch 22. In a Handmaid’s tale the women are oppressed and live in a constant fear of those that are in control of them, that is the governors of Gilead.
They are shown the consequences that they will have to endure if they rebel and they are conditioned to accept obscene violation, to feel public humiliation and to turn on one another when commanded to do so. In Catch 22 Yossarian lives in constant fear of dying and lives in a constant paranoia that everyone is out to get him however, he is to afraid to oppose the beaurocracy due to the fact that he does not know what is waiting for him outside the world in which he lives.
The Truman Show is a re-creation of myths, depicting a man imprisoned in the nest of a fake paradise or heaven by a manipulative god. At the end, after Truman comes up against the enclosing wall and finds the door to the outside, the producer speaks to him in a voice from above and tries to instill fear in him, to keep him under control. This tool of power over people is used frequently by the ever-existing bureaucracies and hierarchies that exist within utopian texts.
This poses the question about the roles of government and governors or masters, should the will of the people be left up to them and should they do the thinking for them? This question is frequently asked in all utopian texts. Should the government and military bureaucracies decide for the men in the army like yossarian, Should the government of Gilead decide for the women such as Offred and should the government decide what montag’s society can read or not read? Or should the will of the individual override them all?
Truman decides that he will take the power out of the hands of his controllers and instead take control of his own life and choices we see this in the last scene. It is an ironic touch that as Truman goes up the steps to reach the door, just before the producer speaks to him; he is in a heaven-like setting. As noted, he rejects this false paradise and chooses to exile himself into the mundane world that is his natural home. He travels from fake — fantastic and fabulous — nature to true nature. This is true also in the debate about utopia’s is it better to be comfortable in a fake world of synthetic comfort or a world that allows freedom and truth? Truman discovers that it is better to live life on his own terms as hard a struggle it may be then to live life comfortably on another persons terms.
In every example of Utopian and Dystopian text the creators generate structures and systems to keep their worlds operating and to control a society by looking at its faults and not its successes. To create an ideal society they must first accept what is out of their control that is the human complexities of individuals and thus a society. In conclusion we do agree that choosing to create a Utopian/Dystopian world in a text means a didactic work that has a rigid and conventional structure that comments only on society, not the individual. In texts this can be achieved but taken out of context into reality these structures would crumble and could not be the basis of societies for a society to progress the individual must progress and we know now that this is not possible because consistency overrules progress in texts and in reality it is the opposite.
We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems, for conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”