George Orwell wrote about them. Ayn Rand wrote about them. So did Ray Bradbury. And Suzanne Collins. Likewise Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Even George Lucas, Walter Murch, and Ben Bova. And even one of my favorite bands, Muse, sings about them. That’s right. I’m talking about those dystopian futures we all fear coming to pass. Books like 1984, Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, Hunger Games, V for Vendetta, and THX 1138. One thing all these writings have in common is that they were also made into movies. We hate what the world has become in these books and films, but we love the heroic characters that attempt to break free from that world. Now we have a new author, Veronica Roth, bringing us the riveting book Divergent. It too has become a popular film. I just saw this movie and found it to be both compelling and very well made.
Divergent and the other books mentioned present to us bizarre futures where the powers that be attempt to suppress the people for the supposed good of mankind. Typically there are one or more characters that understand the cruelty of what is happening while most other people simply believe the conditions they are living under are somehow normal. The insightful ones then find themselves having to fight the system to break free of the iron grip holding them.
In Divergent, we see a future 100 years after a great war. The people who gain power after this war decide that society needs to be divided up by five predominant personality traits. They are: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Upon testing, the great majority of people fall heavily into one of these categories. But occasionally a Divergent comes along. That is a person who exhibits multiple traits. The story focuses on one such person, Beatrice (Tris). She finds herself being a target of the powers that be because it is feared that such people could disrupt the supposed peace that exists by keeping the five factions separated.
Interestingly, I never hear anyone who has seen a movie like Divergent or the other ones mentioned above say, “Wow, I sure would like to live in a society like that one.” We all recognize that a power structure that attempts to suppress the most talented among us is simply wrong. We Americans know that freedom is essential for letting each individual’s light shine during the short years we have here on Planet Earth. Allowing those lights to shine benefits us all. Yet, in reality, we move ever closer to those dystopian societies we so despise. All across this great land, governments at all levels are conspiring to suppress those that have something to offer their fellow citizens. This is done to bolster the egos of our leaders, to help their connected friends, or to simply protect cronies from competition. And the government blatantly justifies its actions with phony excuses like, “We’re doing it to protect the public.”
If you don’t believe what I am saying, then look at some of the stories at the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute Web sites. Warning: they’ll make you mad. Yet they are stories we all need to be aware of.
Also, go see the movie Divergent. But don’t just come away saying, “I sure am glad I don’t live in a society like that one.” Rather, take action by supporting those organizations that are fighting to prevent those societies from becoming reality. The future you save could very well be your own.