Utopías y distopías / editorial / Noviembre de 2018

Guadalupe Nettel

Traducción de: Alejandra Mena


Although the term utopia first appeared in the homonymous work by Tomás Moro, the origin of this concept would be impossible to date with any precision. The need to imagine an ideal, a more just, more harmonious, and more peaceful society is far too ancient. According to the accounts of Dio Chrysostom, Herodotus, and Pliny the Elder, history is full of attempts by men and women to plan societies in which human beings would be able to reach a state of greater happiness. The word dystopia, on the other hand, is more modern. The first documented use of this term is in a statement made by John Stuart Mill in 1868. However, it was not until the 20th century that it began to proliferate in literature, film, and graphic novels. Utopias and dystopias alike are inspired by and criticize reality. In this sense they function as points of reference: targets that political reforms should aim for, or on the contrary, avoid at all costs. They often reflect a society’s desires and concerns. They are works of fiction, but they are inevitably critical of well-known sociopolitical systems; and therefore endowed with a power of subversion. Margaret Atwood speaks of this in an autobiographical text which we have published here, where she describes the process of writing the acclaimed feminist novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the social repercussions that it had around the world. In this issue we wanted to present both utopias and dystopias through essayistic and creative texts as a way of invoking our society’s phantoms, desires, and obsessions. What are the utopias and dystopias of this era like? The texts in our dossier confirm a suspicion that has been hanging in the air: we live in disheartening times in which happy worlds lack credibility. We have lost the ability to imagine any future at all—let alone a better one—beyond a few more generations, so afraid and convinced we have become that the end of humanity is nigh. Michael Chabon, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, addresses this topic in his text “The Future Will Have to Wait.” Adrián Curiel, to whom this issue owes many recommendations and much advice, takes us through the most accurate literary dystopias of the 20th Century: those in which Orwell, Huxley, Dick, and Ballard foresaw the societies we live in today with uncanny precision. Hernán Lara Zavala, Bernardo Esquinca, and BEF do this in their own styles as well. In her “Snapshots of Religious Utopias,” Elvira Liceaga enumerates a series of communities that repudiated society in order to build an alternative in their small—and not so small—settlements: from the Essenes to Rajneeshpuram, the city created by Osho in Oregon. This text clearly demonstrates how utopias often end up becoming dystopias. That was the eventual destiny of fascism on the one hand, and socialist states on the other, which at their birth were envisioned as just and egalitarian projects, but turned into hyper vigilant societies much like ours. How can we continue to believe in the possibility of utopia after such failures? Michael Shermer discusses it in his text “A utopia is a dangerous place,” in which he puts forward the neologism protopia to refer to a gradual process that aims for improvements rather than perfection. So, more than global change, what we need are micro-revolutions. That is why we have included “Old Antonio Dreams,” written by Subcomandante Galeano (formerly Marcos), in which he contemplates dreaming as a seed for utopia in its revolutionary dimension. Unoccupied reader, may you catch a glimpse of the past or the future in these pages (a 17th Century peninsula or a small town in the Andes) that might help you imagine other possible ways of living, for better or for worse. As Alfonso Reyes said, utopias—and if I may add, dystopias—are relevant for “an entire orb of human societies.”

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