5 Facts That Prove We Are Living in a Dystopian Society

By Bob Freville

As fans of the dark and depraved, we’ve all devoured dystopian novels and movies with the same gusto that a coprophile affords 2 Girls, 1 Cup. But like the fated Neo of The Matrix, it’s time we drop the proverbial red pill and take the blinders off.

We are living in a dystopia.

As if the wild popularity of Logan Paul, Apple watches and Fortnite wasn’t evidence enough, a deep dive into our cultural mud puddle reveals all too many clues that the planet Earth is irreparably fucked.

In the age of government-sanctioned white nationalism, the “vaping” craze and the very acceptable practice of plugging into VR units, there’s no point in carrying on about this at length. The bad guys have already won and we are subjugated.

With that in mind, here is a succinct list of the hard proof of our societal putrefaction. Read it and weep, plebes!


1. The One Percent

If you’re a hardcore horror fan, you’ve probably seen or heard of Brian Yuzna’s Society. Arriving in 1992, this cult body horror flick may be laughably dated in terms of the fashion, hair styles and poor acting of its main cast, but the seemingly ancillary characters, namely the wealthy parents, are a perfect reflection of the so-called upper crust that dominates our world.

The protagonist’s “butthead” father is the archetypal filthy rich villain and the family’s elite circle of friends are representative of the ultra-exclusive club of greedy, murderous monsters that pull the strings behind the scenes. If ever you doubted that the powers that be do NOT have your best interests in mind, pop this one in your ole-fangled VCR and give it a spin.


Tell me you can’t picture a remake in which Mitt Romney and Donald Trump “shunt” each other.

2. Big Brother is Watching You…and You’re Watching It


While Yuzna’s Society is among the best dystopian movies, Orwell’s classic novel 1984 is, perhaps, the best example of the dystopian novel. What is truly perturbing about it is just how accurately Eric Blair nee George Orwell predicted our current state of affairs.

Written in 1949, this landmark story focuses on a future world in which the working class are kept under constant surveillance by a totalitarian police state.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does! There are approximately 30 million surveillance cameras currently deployed in the United States alone. They’re watching you when you’re at ATM machines, in line at convenience stores, waiting for public transit or just minding your own business on a park bench.


They’re watching you!

But you don’t care because you’re too busy watching someone else. For the last 20 years, Americans have been tuning in to the appropriately-titled Big Brother on CBS. This highly-rated reality show serves as a cruel sociological study that almost rivals the Stanford Prison Experiment in terms of sheer brutality.

Big Brother centers around the constant surveillance of “willing participants” who agree to be locked in a house together and perpetually monitored as they slowly unravel like so many onions.

Viewers delight in watching these people fall apart in their confined space which is free of any external stimuli save for the rare appearance of a talking robot who makes fun of their most embarrassing idiosyncrasies.

And while you are watching them, the Fourteen Eyes are watching you. Smile for the cameras.


3. We’re a bunch of morons

Most of us labor under the delusion that we’re pretty smart, but the facts are not in our favor. If you’ve ever watched Mike Judge’s painfully hilarious Idiocracy, in which a cryogenically frozen military man wakes up in a distant future where everyone is illiterate and savage, you probably thought, “That could never happen.”

You were half right; it couldn’t happen because it already has. In the flick, the idiots of the world lounge around watching inventive shows like Ow, my Balls when they’re not eating at Buttfuckers (a play on Fudruckers) or poisoning their crops by watering them with a Gatorade-style energy drink.

Tell me that’s far off from the current climate where a sawed-off B-list comedian hosts an obstacle course designed to pummel the shit out of desperate contestants, the president talks about grabbing a lady’s pubis and middle schoolers pound Monster cans while zipping around on combustible hoverboards.


If that doesn’t illustrate our idiocy enough, consider this: The intelligence quotient is plummeting and I bet you didn’t even know that’s what IQ stood for, did ya, you stupid shit! Fresh science has proven that our reliance on technology, our lackluster school system and our shit diets have turned us into what Hunter S. Thompson used to call the “New Dumb.”

4. We’ll put anything in our mouths


The 1979 thriller Soylent Green presented a harrowing portrait of a future wherein the congested and starving underclass are forced to eat an opaque meal substitute called Soylent Green. The citizens of New York mindlessly gobble it up without a thought until Charleton Heston of all people discovers the truth and screams, “Soylent Green is people! It’s PEOPLE!!!”

If you’re thinking that this is the stuff of silly science fiction, I urge you to visit your local 7-Eleven and take a look at their coolers. There you will likely find bottles labeled Soylent; it’s a meal replacement that has been widely embraced by health-conscious individuals who drink the chalky muck to watch their weight and ensure that they get enough protein.


The (blood) simple fact that someone would eat or drink a product bearing the Soylent name proves that we are unequivocally and without redemption a species of thoughtless, mouth-breathing bipeds.

Even more appallingly, Soylent was introduced after the company behind it successfully raised $1.5 million via crowdfunding. That means you actually paid for this to be possible, you prat!


5. A Nation of Junkies

Aldous Huxley’s seminal work of speculative fiction, the ironically-titled Brave New World, foresaw a day and age in which people would be bred to live a perpetually anesthetized life as vain, drug-dependent sex slaves with a dearth of human emotion.

Think of the face-lifts of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, then take a look at the world of modern cosmetic surgery. Is there a difference?

Vanity aside, there is no denying the statistics of drug addiction and prostitution in the U.S. We are a nation of pain patch sucking, dope shooting, pill popping, beer swilling, hamburger gobbling mutants who would rather develop scales and enable our bodies to eat themselves than pass up that next high.


The world of sex trafficking is one that’s very much fueled by our national drug abuse epidemic. Opioids have long been a primary form of “bait” for the human trafficker and more teens are swallowed up by the rapacious maw of these synthetic drugs every year.

When someone tells you that slavery ended in the 1800s, look them dead in the eye, whip out some krokodil and give them a hot shot, Jack. How else are you gonna make a dope woke? Good luck, my friends. We’re all gonna need it.

Like and share this post or we’ll steal your drugs.

Reading in the Age of Trump: the Danger of Low-Hanging Fruit

Reading in the Age of Trump

The first time the Trump presidency seemed serious to me was when Slavoj Zizek half-heartedly endorsed Trump for the 2016 election. Zizek’s reasons for supporting such an outrageous candidate were, in a truly Zizekian fashion, complicated. His stance was similar to David Lynch’s: that Trump, while a problem himself, could disrupt US political norms just enough to leave the door open for real change in the future. Zizek’s “endorsement” was enough to make me realize that Americans don’t have to support Trump to vote Trump; Trump, for some, could be a symbol of renewal, despite the man’s obvious incompetence, while Hillary resembled too closely the quintessential politician.

Zizek’s endorsement must’ve bothered me, because I quit working on the novel I had been writing to scribble a few speculative vignettes about a world after Trump. The most substantial piece involved the end of American democracy in favor of a dynastic era based on the Trump family. It was tentatively titled “The Drumpf Dynasty” and featured things like internment camps, mass burials in public parks, the utter erasure of intellectualism, and a protagonist victimized by an inverted process of evolution worthy of Mike Judge’s movie Idiocracy. Apparently, I was fully convinced that the cultural nightmare liberals worried about had the potential to turn real.

Or, perhaps, I was just doing what I always do when faced with unsettling circumstances. Perhaps I was simply exorcising my concerns by pushing them to logical extremes in writing. You certainly don’t have to believe the situations you create in fiction. Often, depicting private and social concerns in gross caricature is strangely therapeutic to both readers and writers. In fact, around the time of Zizek’s statement, I happened to be finishing one of the most extreme American caricatures ever printed: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

As someone who remains socially isolated due to anxiety, the opening scene of Infinite Jest, during which Hal Incandenza faces a group of university administrators while attempting to hide his own utter inability to communicate, struck an all-too-familiar key with me. For readers unfamiliar with Wallace’s masterpiece, the passage is impossible to summarize, as great passages always are. Although it won’t suffice, let’s just say that when Hal is finally driven to speak, he erupts into a series of wild movements and inhuman sounds, despite the fact that he thinks he is communicating “normally.” The university directors are horrified. Only this vastly exaggerated portrayal of isolation, this caricature of real anxiety, could accurately capture the living experience of anxiety in fiction.

If caricature is one of the functions of fiction, what happens to fiction when living caricatures invade our public sphere?

My second strong whiff of Trump came with the first presidential debate. The event was streamed on Facebook live, and I was required to watch it and take notes, since treating it to a discourse analysis was a requirement of a graduate class I was taking at the time (I probably wouldn’t have watched it otherwise). During the live stream, I paid more attention to the outbursts of obscenities and the surreal blend of angry-faced and “heart” emoticons parading across the screen. The debate, I realized, was a fully interactive public event, at least in the context of social media. What I watched was an unruly crowd worthy of the stereotypical public executions of the medieval and Renaissance periods. Vegetables filled the air, carried by outrageous curses or countered by unfettered outpourings of love. Strange, I thought, how little the human heart has changed.

The debate itself was, as I discovered later, unassailable proof of Trump’s infallibility in the eyes of the public. He bungled through Lester Holt’s questions with inconsistent and largely improvised responses that any other candidate would’ve been embarrassed to offer. Clinton, while employing a rhetoric of evasion common to high-profile politicians, was definitely better prepared. Although I left the debate bewildered that so much time could set aside for two adults to say absolutely nothing to the world, it was clear that Hillary had won.

Except, as we all know, she hadn’t. On election day, I followed the results well into the night. As the terminus drew near and Trump held the lead, I posted my bemused realization that “this guy’s actually going to win,” on Facebook.

What seemed like Trump’s weak qualities during the first presidential debate (I watched half of the second and opted out of the rest) turned out to be his strengths. Trump’s “shoot from the hips” attitude, his lack of an identifiable ideological essence, and his blatant preference to speak in strictly financial terms on issues traditionally deemed ethical, were endearing elements in the eyes of his supporters. Above all, Trump had proven the liberal caricature of conservatives inaccurate: if they were just a bunch of dumb bigots, why did they now represent the free world?

I didn’t cry, tie myself to the University flag pole, or contemplate suicide as the media gleefully reported liberals doing in the wake of the election. Instead I shrugged, resumed work on my novel, and consoled myself with the assurance that the system of checks and balances was still securely in place. In short, I pretended that nothing had happened.

But the TV and the Internet loudly insisted that something had happened, something big, dangerous, and potentially inimical to a peaceful coexistence with our domestic and foreign neighbors. My virtual community of authors proclaimed this with a vigor matching that of many major televised media outlets. The more outspoken writers urged their colleagues to rally around the word. “Writing has always proliferated in times of political oppression,” their line of reasoning roughly went, “and now is the time to fight the good fight.” I swelled with a sense of purpose, and even went so far as to include a Trumpish POTUS in my novel. I scoffed at Trump’s paranoia of the Deep State, went into rages against his racist characterizations of minorities, and even embarked on lively debates with my largely conservative family. In short, I became a good liberal.

But something felt wrong. Something still feels wrong. All the while I had continued reading. The popular cry for “literature as resistance” lost its flavor quickly; I thought of the novels of explicit “political resistance” I had read. 1984, Brave New World, and Petals of Blood came immediately to mind. While these are decent novels and worth the read, I simply couldn’t convince myself that they stand next to works like Don Quixote, In Search of Lost Time, and Infinite Jest. I concede that reading literature resists something, but to tie the novel explicitly to politics seemed to undermine the whole artistic enterprise. Even if we attempt to say that reading resists the general culture of anti-intellectualism rather than a specific political agenda, the sense of being short-changed doesn’t vanish: So reading makes us what, intellectuals? Is that the reason we read? Even the most incautious defense of reading would shy from such brashly elitist posturing.

Let’s briefly consider Dante’s Inferno, a masterpiece every bit as political as it is artistically sublime. In nearly every edition of the Inferno published within the last half-century, from Everyman’s Mandlebaum translation to Anthony Esolen’s Modern Library Classics edition, English readers are treated to roughly the same format: the translated text accompanied by copious notes detailing the political and historical context of Dante’s more obscure references. The casual reader can appreciate Dante for the sheer brilliance of his vision, his fearless choice of subject matter, and his agonized rendering of the human capacity to suffer, but if the reader wishes to delve into Dante’s politics, a second Virgil is required. In short, as every Dante scholar knows, the Inferno is a classic despite its political dimension. The humane consolations of reading the Inferno have long outlasted its political counterparts. The Inferno’s footnotes mark, like gravestones, the passage of a dimension of knowledge into the dust of professional scholarship. The Inferno of resistance is dead; the Inferno of literature lives on.

The Danger of Low-Hanging Fruit

There’s an undeniable element of similarity between hard drugs and YouTube. During the early Trump years, I exhumed a passion for rap music that had been buried after exhausting Jurassic 5’s album Quality Control in 2002. I would look up Sway in the Morning “freestyles” by rappers I admired, then proceed with cocaine urgency to associated links of YouTube “reaction” videos. One reaction to Chris Webby’s 2018 Sway “freestyle” (it was clearly a “written,” like most are, although advertised as a “freestyle”) unexpectedly made me stop and think.

Chris Webby had made fun of “mumble rap” through the course of his performance, criticizing artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Pump for their unintelligible lyrics. The YouTube reviewer paused the video in disgust at the first mention of “mumble rap.” He said something like “y’all know I don’t condone picking on the mumble rappers. Y’all know they can’t defend themselves. It takes no talent to call these people out.” This was a surprising departure from the usual vitriol of traditional hip-hop fans against the newer generations of rap, and frankly, it seemed a bit unfair to me. “If they’re going to call themselves ‘rappers,’” I might have replied, “then they should be prepared to defend their claim.”

In a sense, however, the reviewer was right. It is easy to grab the low-hanging fruit. Extreme cases of absurdity are simple to identify; they stick to our memories and lend themselves to ready representation. Low-hanging fruit is the stuff of the viral phenomenon; it spreads like a flame set to a dry field of grass, since, like fire, it’s bright, beautiful, and exciting. Like most exciting things, however, it’s mixed with an element of danger.

The success of Trump is due in no small part to his showmanship. It is no wonder that Trump, presenting himself willingly as low-hanging fruit, possesses all the tenacity of a viral YouTube video. Trump is the ultimate meme, a living caricature, an appeal to the instinctive thrills of unthinking paranoia similar to Alex Jones. No wonder he is a perfect subject for fiction; he arrives with his own parody half-written.

It is all too easy, however, to attribute Trump’s qualities to his supporters. What reading does in the age of Trump is the same thing reading has always done: it facilitates the crossing of interpersonal boundaries. David Foster Wallace parodies social anxiety in Infinite Jest so that readers may experience, as close to first hand as possible, the terrors of communication. Caricature, in the case of Infinite Jest, nuances the relationship between reader and character rather than simplifying it. In a political context, caricature does the opposite; it solidifies misunderstanding and encourages discriminatory practices on both sides of the divide. In times when television and our leaders alike concern themselves primarily with the essentially fictional construct of “image,” we must work diligently to distinguish fiction from reality. Ironically, fiction helps us do exactly this.

The danger of low-hanging fruit is exactly the danger facing the Whiskey Priest in another book I read early in the Age of Trump: Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory. The repression of the Catholic clergy in the Mexican Cristero War was the result of caricature, as are all instances of repression and human injustice on a massive scale. In The Power and the Glory, the fictional Lieutenant’s vehemence against religion is called into question by the presence of the rounded character of the Christ-like priest. The Whiskey Priest’s “realities,” his flesh-and-blood weaknesses, regrets, and loves, puncture the Lieutenant’s caricature of the clergy, leaving his rancor to whither to regret by the novel’s end.

If my purpose here seems simple and obvious, that’s because it is. But media culture, with its unyielding insistence on sensationalism, would gladly have us forget our empathy in favor of outraged responses which tend to inspire shares, views, and “likes,” and we can no longer doubt the powerful sway of ubiquitous media. The age of Trump is rapidly becoming yet another age of thoughtless caricaturization, and we need fiction now more than ever, not for its potential as a political soapbox, but for the same reason that literature has remained important throughout history: its unwavering insistence on our shared humanity.

-Justin A. Burnett