Tag Archives: dystopia now

It’s too early for it to not be dystopian

I was born in the back end of paradise at the foot of a wall. Now I’m old enough and ugly enough to fend for myself. But I don’t. This morning I’m attending a conference on survival. Not survival in the wild, but survival in the arts. It’s much the same. It’s the end of the world as we know it right in this moment here and also the one you’re in now. So in the post-apocalyptic landscape, all forms of survivalism are valid. Dystopia is handed to you in the pages of the morning Metro as you hurry for your first coffee of the day. A man in a woolly hat stands still amid the human traffic of morning commuters. He studies the ground in a hazed oblivion searching for stray cigarette butts. He looks pleased and surprised when he spots one. As though just realising the answer to a puzzle. Automated voices announce train times and reality fades to a veil of early morning hysteria. Crisp packets rustle and work acquaintances make polite conversation. Struggling with weak smiles that seem heavy and irrelevant given the state of things. We have become like coral or a yeast. A living thing en masse teeming with anxiety unable to separate our consciousness from one another. The survivalists try to predict which apocalyptic scenario will get us first. Stocking their bunkers with tinned food but also learning to hunt and forage. But the apocalypse is here. It is this slow death. A slow death of knowing that it is all so subtly wrong but being powerless to change a thing. In the distance, a boat with a broken sail floats idly on flood lake in the midst of chaos. The scene fades out.

The Garden of Data Bugs

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The afternoon heat was dry and gentle, whispers of clouds slipping across the blue sky. The mugginess of the previous week had cleared, the thicker clouds lifting their watery weight from our sweaty backs. A bird moved from one high bush to another with a brief whistle of air through its feathers. The garden buzzed distantly with insects: some good, some bad, some annoying. A series of ornate vines curated the space around us, above the foliage, its fingers snaked skyward like organic antennae. Further back from where we sat, a series of shrubs were strategically planted, timed so that something was in flower all year round in the garden. The smell of greenery was mesmerising. It smelt of gentle life, of free air, of lazy afternoons spent dozing in the shade. I craved lazy afternoons. Away from the screens which watched over my every waking moment. Organising me. Picturing me. Disturbing me. The mechanic hum of a computer no matter it’s size, even the tiny ones, even this one – thinking for me, plotting for me. Sending unknown data to some far off mothership that sought to ‘know me’. Not as a complex human but as a collection of lifestyle choices. A consumer of words, pictures, music, clothes, holidays. We are a spied upon people, not because they seek to control our every move. They don’t have to. Our consuming nature does that for them. We will brainwash ourselves with the pursuit of new gadgets, apps and better life experiences. With the echo chamber of social media that affirms our fears, hopes, opinions while gathering data on what ideas and objects can be sold to us. We will destroy our own will power with alcohol and drugs and caffeine and chocolate. We are all unique beings but inside all of us, buried deeper in some than others, there is a self-destruct button just waiting to be pressed. We find false hope in turning the clock back, going back to nature and eating raw food. The system is ready for this. It responds by selling us health and food fads, by selling us wild adventures that are nonetheless protected by Gortex and insect repellant. When every patch of land is owned by someone, nature can be sold to us in whatever form we crave it. Gardens like the one we sit in can be constructed, beautiful plants purchased, the soil stripped of wildflowers and will power. Weeds and slugs will be banished they are not part of the plan. And with them the creatures that rely on them to be. The birds. The bees. And us. Press the red button to self-destruct.

© Kirsty Fox 2016