• by Jeff Shear

dystopia or Dystopia?


Dystopia or not to dystopia, and what is the difference? Dystopia with a capital D departs from reality: The Living Dead for instance. Capital D dystopia is popular stuff.

A small d dystopia is another matter.

A small d dystopia is as close as a one-way ticket to Aleppo, or war zones, or Covid-19. Capital D Dystopia requires a zombie, an alien invasion, any magical twist will do. But dystopia in the lowercase is in plain view: it's the Saudi war on Yemen; it's Syria. Dystopia with small d is full of horror and bloodshed.

Sarin gas is far more deadly than a pack of reeking zombies: give it a small d for dystopia. The small d dystopia goes to the likes of Somalia: hunger, lawlessness, violence, fear, monsters dressed as humans, all the generalized chaos that sets real life on fire.

That's the distinction between upper and lower case dystopia: credible versus incredible. One breeds fear, the other spills ink in The New York Times.

Somehow, the incredible and imagined lights up our fears more than the possible/credible. Think of it this way: Is it credible that an Ebola pandemic would rival a marching band of Zombies? The choice is easy. Zombies are creepy and chilling.

And therein lies the irony. It's not reality we fear but its simulacrum. What provokes us is our imagination, not the daily ongoing horrors brought on by politics, war, pestilence, famine, and religious violence.

But what's really terrifying out there, stays there—Aden, Mogadishu. Those other things, those things that go bump in the night, that's the door we fear to open. And it's all just childish fantasy.

We go to the movies or turn on TV to be terrified by zombies and their ilk. But real dangers we hear on the news, no worries. Can't happen. Hell on earth is somehow far less frightening than you might imagine, but what you might imagine is far more chilling, and spelled with an upper case D.


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Theme by Jeff Shear