I've been playing Bioshock 2. This game is giving the initial incarnation a run for its money. It's also making me sweat more than a little. There have been a couple battles where I was unsure whether or not I would succeed. But, the more I play it, the more it is driven home that a similar situation could occur in any society. Wile I was playing this, Big Guy and I were talking about the meaning of a dystopia.
A dystopia is a utopia that, for some reason, has gone horribly, tragically wrong. As Big Guy pointed out, the Empire in Star Wars is an example of this. All utopias start with the best of intentions, a desire to make the world a better place, an altruistic goal. But there is always a fly in the ointment.
I blame those things on human nature. As Hobbes said, life is nasty, brutish and short and we, as humans, make it that way. We are all flawed and those flaws will prevent us from achieving a utopic ideal. We will always screw it up. For example, a communist society where everyone helps seems a great goal. In practice, however, human greed and our desire for power will prevent us from ever achieving such lofty goals. This is where Russia failed. The only reason Cuba is anything close to successful as a communist society is due to the tyrannical dictatorship.
However, despite these flaws, we try to teach our children these ideals. "Share with each other," we say. "Take turns." Are we setting them up for failure and disappointment? I'd like to think not. By teaching our children these ideals, we are demonstrating the better, brighter side of human nature. That is our ability to cling to hope when it seems there should be none.
Will we ever achieve the ability to gain a utopia or will we forever be doomed to their corruption? I think that we have the ability to rise above our nature. If we didn't we would not have reached our current level of civilization. But I also don't believe it will happen any time soon.