Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Post-Modern dystopian books are not that far from reality

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There are several book series set in future America that are extremely popular among youth and adults alike. These post-modern stories include The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, and the Selection, among others. Some readers who are avid fans of one claim the others are mere mimics. The novels each have their own plot lines and deviations, but I would beg to argue that none of them are truly unique. They're all the same story -- they're our story.

We are living out these novels. No, maybe not the killing each other parts or the swinging through the city on a zip line scenes. But the social and economic parts... they aren't too far from reality.

Each series has a society where the people are split into groups (districts, factions, etc.). Rarely do these groups interact or members of each one cross over into another. In one of these series, the females may marry up or down in society but cannot skip classes. In another, you have one chance your whole life to change groups and if it doesn't work out, you become an outcast. In still another, there is almost no chance of reaching a richer status in life unless you are not only chosen to compete in a ridiculous competition but you also outlive the other 23 players. In any of these book series, the chances of a real social or economic change for the characters are rare and there are major risks involved when attempting to make a change.

The result is a society split up into groups with hard lines. There is no mingling, no changing, and no hope for a better life.

This limited economic and social mobility is a reality in America today -- no need to wait for the future. In America, you are free to change classes, if you're taking a step down. The American Dream is a sweet notion, but we overestimate the effectiveness of this "work hard to get ahead" mentality. Researchers have found that like many of the fictional characters in these book series, the real people in America have few chances of changing their path and those opportunities are risky and can fail.

As I become more aware of money as well as explore other areas of my city and country, I realize how rich my family is considered. I thought we had a fine but modest home and life. And compared to some of our wealthier friends and family, our home and life is modest. But when I compare our home and life to some of the one bedroom apartments on the other side of town I visited a few weeks ago, we might as well be millionaires.

When I was growing up, all of my parent's friends had similar jobs, similar educational experiences, made similar amounts of money, lived in similar sized homes, and held similar beliefs. There was little diversity in our circle of friends. This is to be expected. The people who live in poverty rarely interact with those who do not look, act, and live the way they do. The people who are in the top 1% of money earners also tend to associate with other top earners. It does not take a study to confirm this belief -- just consider your own circle of friends. Unless a person is seeking out people of other circles and blending in with them, there is little chance of just happening into one of these other circles. And because you become what you grow up around and you only grow up around people similar to yourself, is it any wonder that most Americans tend to stay in their circle?

These fictional stories I mentioned earlier have another common theme: big government. In these fictional stories, the government controls the big details and many of the small details as well. The authors of these books make it obvious that the government is being controlling, but what about in America?

It makes you look like a monster if you oppose laws that are put in place with the mission of helping people in lower classes. What many people do not realize though is that these laws can actually keep the poor and young down and dependent. By restricting their opportunities, rewarding non-participation, and convincing them that they are the problem, people continue to stay in their social class or even move down a level.

"Work hard, move ahead" is the mantra of Americans. Unfortunately, the government's way of helping is actually hurting. Realizing this is not an excuse to sit back and accept your social status, but it can allow you to make different and hopefully wiser choices. Instead of believing in the government's assistance, we can work around the barriers that these policies put in place.

In the novels, it's always the protagonist who tears down the government's harsh laws and brings about change. How can we do the same? First of all, we can't wait for the government to bring anyone out of poverty or break down the hard lines that keep people in their class. Secondly, we must fight for a free market and strong property rights which will work faster and better than any government programs at making real economic change in our society. Get the government out of the way, and the people will work to make their world a utopia.

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