An American guy started chatting with us today at the gym, partly about the sad state of things in the world, and after a few minutes I had a bit of an epiphany: one distinctive trait of the dystopia we live in is that everyone lives their own personal version of the dystopia. One person’s insurrection is another person’s deep state coup d’etat. One person’s push for gender equality is another person’s disavowal of gender fluidity. One person’s fight against Ukrainian Nazism is another person’s fight against Russian aggression. One person’s admiration for decentralization of currency is another person’s dystopian funding of terrorism and whatever the “dark web” is. And so on.
On a positive note, it seems most people can agree we’re living through some sort of dystopia (I suppose “the COVID years” — another multi-faceted dystopian reality — seem to have made that much clearer for most of us). On a negative note, different versions of the dystopia seem to make mortal enemies of the subjects of other versions of the dystopia; as if dystopianism was a zero-sum game. We seem to be too eager to deal with our reality as if it were a soccer game. Maybe there are no good guys. Maybe there are many good guys. Maybe things are not binary. Maybe my dystopia and your dystopia can coexist.
The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop with a friend when an older Canadian gentleman started chatting with me, uninvited. He kept going and going, mostly voicing his displeasure at his version of the dystopia. I didn’t say much and just listened, wondering if I could go back to the conversation with my friend.
At some point, he decided to praise his country (which he’d been vociferously bashing throughout the conversation), in regards to its treatment of the poor. I pointed out that his country was part of an empire, and the empire extracted resources from poorer countries, and using those extracted resources was capable of providing some necessities, such as free medical care, to its own citizens. He suddenly became deranged and started shouting and pointing his finger at me in a menacing way. I thought he might get up from his chair and try to start a fist fight. He then paid the bill while he continued shouting and making a scene, stood up, and walked away indignantly. As he was walking away I was able to mutter: “It was you who started the conversation with me, friend.”
Strange, strange world we’re living in.