“Affluence separates people. Poverty knits ‘em together.”
Ask yourself: what image comes to mind when someone uses the term “dystopian” or “totalitarian?” Do you picture a dark, gloomy, impoverished society as existed in the classic, “1984?” Do you think of men with black uniforms and guns patrolling the dark streets; ready to shoot down anyone who dares to question the authority of the government? I think most of us are programmed to see totalitarianism and low quality of material life as going hand-in-hand. However, I would propose that one could easily have a totalitarian dystopian system in which affluence actually facilitates the ruling-class’s grip on the society.
In my recently published novel, “The Destiny of Our Past” (Amazon link here: http://amzn.to/2nrU3Ng ) I present a society where affluence is indeed employed to not just control the masses, but with the goal of eventually exterminating them. Technology allows people all the vices they can imagine, religion is tightly regulated by the state (only existing for ritual) and people enjoy abundance. The catch is that all aspects of life, including reproduction, are under control of the governing elite bloodline families. Getting pregnant without being granted permission is a capital offense.
In reality only a small percentage of any people are highly motivated to take part in determining the direction of the society. Most appear to want freedom but, if given the choice would choose watching TV rather than taking any risks by standing up for their values. Maslow and his famous “hierarchy of needs” pyramid notes that while the apex of fulfillment may be transcendence or enlightenment the base is physiological needs; and most people cease to climb the hypothetical ladder past safety, belonging (social network) and esteem. Of course there would be those who would start the climb once survival needs are met; but to prevent this the elite could create or encourage distractions to make sure power stays concentrated within the government. And while most people think technology is an ally of freedom, it really isn’t. It is neutral and who controls the technology is what matters.
There is no reason to believe that a totalitarian system could not evolve in the future that controlled people’s behavior, and even thought, far more efficient than any system in the past. Look at today and how people are obsessed with sports, celebrity gossip and what is the “cool” show on TV. It is almost like the era presented in “ideocracy” where the hit show is “Ow My Balls” where a guy takes kicks to his testicles. And yes there are people who really believe “reality shows” are real. However, such entertainment, aside from making money for corporations, keeps the masses occupied.
And what of relationships? Marriage rates are lower in the USA than ever before. Marriage at least gives you someone to relate to on a permanent basis, someone to sacrifice for, and ideally someone to start a family with. However we already see many young men (more so than women) substituting pornography and/or gaming for true relationships. And soon we will have advanced virtual reality and sex robots that will most certainly have a devastating effect on family formation. Yet again, more distractions which will keep people focused on anything but what the government is doing. Maybe a future system will elevate pornography to high art status, but ban political speech; and would that many people protest?
Oh, and robotics and how they will affect the workplace…and freedom. Already we have people advancing the idea of a guaranteed income. Sounds great on the surface; robots put people out of work but we place a tax on the items created to distribute to the unemployed masses to buy the goods produced by robots and generate money to distribute back to the unemployed masses and on and on. Yet do you think people would be given enough money to buy a suburban home with five bedrooms and own two cars? I doubt it. So envision instead a typical single man, and most would be single, with a small apartment in the city who uses public transportation to get around when necessary. He comes home from a local sports event and his walls are all covered in interactive panels. His sex robot greets him wearing his favorite attire and brings him artificial coffee, and asks who won the game. He turns on a beach scene on the panels and he relaxes as his robot listens and interacts with full interest for his favorite team. Afterwards she approaches him and…well, time for intimacy. A female counterpart gets home and switches her panels to a forest scene. Suddenly someone rings her app. A droid is at her door with a box. It is from the central fertility agency. She searched online for quite some time before she found the perfect donor. The fertility agency computer system guarantees what the child will look like based on the male and her DNA. She relaxes on the couch and follows the instructions on how to go about the insemination. Afterwards she calls the two women in her polyamorous network and discusses having both over for dinner. Her wives are both three months pregnant with the same donor.
Such a system would easily maintain a harmonious, but controlled, society. Every aspect of life could be regulated, but the goal would be to give people what they want in order to be pacified. Sure there would be people who might not want to live in such a system, and they would be allowed to live outside the general society, much the same way Amish or polygamist Mormons do today. And as long as they would not threaten thy powers-that-be they could be tolerated; sort of the way the Prophet Noah is presented in my novel – he and his followers are mocked in the media, but allowed to build their boat undisturbed.