Monday, April 21, 2014





In composing a post about dystopias, I did a little research and discovered a new term: cacotopia, which is a place/time that is WORSE than a dystopia.  Most of the dystopias are gray, featureless, emotionless -- the Russian stereotype of concrete apathy. Banality .  Bureaucracy.  It appears that a “cacotopia” is the breakdown of every sort of government or order plus horrific aspects that are not survivable, like genocides.  

I would coin a new variation:  a kakatopia, that is -- a society organized around money (using Freud’s idea that money = shit = kaka) -- that not only requires its citizens to be obedient and to stay in line, but requires them to stay alive by spending money.  Not just an oligarchy, which is run by people with money, but a welfare state that makes poor people pay.

Kakatopia with money

Kakatopia without money.

Every day one goes to the wicket and pays or qualifies as a pass-through justification for someone else's funding.  Whoever does not, starves.  Gets no meds.  Is excluded from housing.   A cacotopia is like the African jungles where no one, not even with modern technology, can stop a single maniac running a small army that enslaves children, amputates their limbs, forces them to violate every taboo, then discards them.  

A kakatopia is where a heroin addict who has exhausted all resources cannot pay his drug bill and is knee-capped.  It is where a middle-class entrepreneur miscalculates and goes broke, so his house is taken, his wife leaves, and his children scorn him.  He lives on the street until he dies.   

A kakatopia is where a very wealthy man thinks he is safe until his children are taken in an extortion kidnapping, he cannot get the money quickly, and the hostages are killed.  A kakatopia is where low-status women are killed and no one investigates because it’s not worth it.  A kakatopia is where soldiers are paid so little that if they aren’t killed in battle, afterwards they die of exposure on the streets.  But the top officers make enormous salaries.

A cacotopia is like Somalia, where things are so disorganized and broken that people survive through piracy.  A kakatopia has the added dimension of making people into commodities -- the return of slavery, human trafficking, not just sexual access but also work camps that are death camps (yeah, like the holocaust) and the general right to indefinitely confine, torture and kill as is convenient if it makes money.

In fact, incarceration, nursing homes, extra-governmental armies, extradition, private prisons, and hospitals are all commodified, growing, institutionalized sources of money.  Schools, even public ones and elite universities, put money ahead of learning.  Big pharm is notorious for profiteering.  Young men are encouraged to compete at sports that destroy their brains and knees for the sake of the status of the sponsoring entity, whether school or small town.  Girls are encouraged to have surgery and diet to be more attractive, to look marketable, to marry someone who makes a lot of money and to do well in their own jobs because “pretty” gets promotions.  Children who are inconvenient, unprofitable, and defiant live in sewers and abandoned structures and die young.  Families who only have 80% of the income they need to survive -- in spite of both parents (if there are two) working -- first banish the boys and then pimp out the girls, one way or another.  

The description of “dystopia” below comes from, a website for teachers.  We used to teach this stuff.
Utopia: A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.
Dystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system.
Characteristics of a Dystopian Society
Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society. 
Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted. 
A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society. 
Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance. 
Citizens have a fear of the outside world. 
Citizens live in a dehumanized state. 
The natural world is banished and distrusted. 
Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad. 
The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world. 

Types of Dystopian Controls
Most dystopian works present a world in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through one or more of the following types of controls: 
Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society through products, advertising, and/or the media. Examples include Minority Report and Running Man. 
Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent government officials. Examples in film include Brazil. 
Technological control: Society is controlled by technology—through computers, robots, and/or scientific means. Examples include The Matrix, The Terminator, and I, Robot. 
Philosophical/religious control: Society is controlled by philosophical or religious ideology often enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic government.

The Dystopian Protagonist 
Often feels trapped and is struggling to escape. 
Questions the existing social and political systems. 
Believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives. 

So the “topic” is control.  How much control is too much control?  And on whose terms towards what goal?  A Dystopia is generally defined by a society where there is too much control, a “Sim City” that has gone mad and is bringing everything to a halt with rules.

A cacotopia (compare cacophony which is disorganized noise) is the other end of the spectrum.  NO order.  

A kakatopia is only controlled by “monetary” profit with no regulation except desire to accrue money.  The “free hand” of capitalism soon creates its own order and values human life and the planet itself only according to the profit.  Maybe it’s an oligarchy.  Maybe it’s a mafia.  Soon it will be a desert in an acid sea.  We already see the beginnings.

The opposite might be an ecology that is not based on money but on the sustaining benefit for all elements.  An alternative eutopia might be based on relationship and affinity.  Some people already try it: barter, energy off-the-grid, co-operatives, living in a style of basic simplicity, small communities who support their members.  Maybe in the city -- where it might be problematic -- and maybe in a rural place -- where the problems would be of a different sort.  The biggest problem I see is how to manage the media, which irreducibly remains in the kakatopia, even the presumably “public” radio and television.  As the hippie communes soon discovered, free-loaders are also a problem since they can’t just be eliminated the way a kakatopia would, converting them to cash customers through drugs, maybe. 

So how does apocalypse fit into this?  That’s when the bills come due, the water rises and the sheep separate from the goats.  The big secret?  Apocalypse doesn’t always come.  Arks capsize.  The escape spaceship blows up.  Apocalypse is not a punishment imposed by some God, but merely the collapse from within.  No judgement is involved -- just natural law.

Fear of this will lead to a dystopia, which justifies rigid control as it tries to figure out and prevent every disaster.  Not possible.  What ends kakatopia?  Someone somewhere figures out that money is worthless.  It’s all IOU’s.  Imaginary. 

No comments: