I think there is a reason post-apocalyptic and dystopian books, films and TV shows have won big over the past few years – people are sick of the world.
They are sick of politicians and the politics it comes with – the endless disappointments of broken promises, of manifestos irrelevant to a parties actions in government, of politicians ploughing on heedless of public opinion or flying the in face of available evidence. They are sick of conflict and extremism and the fearmongering propaganda of both sides, the aimless deaths over ancient divides and fundamentalist views. They are sick of feeling powerless in a hurricane of information that never rests and is ever-more-deeply rooted into their lives. Wealth inequality, the invasion of privacy, school shootings, and famine that the token positive story at the end of the news fails to mitigate – I could go on.
Post-apocalyptic fiction is big business because it is a direct escape from so much of the above. It’s a release – the world-ending cataclysm has already struck and those responsible, if there are any, are dead (global warming, anyone?). The population is decimated. People are once more entwined in small, close-knit groups and the relevance of the individual is restored. In the post-apocalyptic novel, the actions of a few are important. A person, often alone, instigates real change – not in the clickbait clicktivism, GOVERNMENT WANTS TO BAN FUN FOR CHILDREN, SIGN HERE NOW TO STOP THEM! way, but by direct action. The story wipes all established systems away and allows for a truly new beginning. Dystopian stories have a subtly different draw, but ultimately it is again the triumph of the individual over the system. Power to the powerless.
I do not think that we are built for our civilization as it stands today. We evolved living in tribal groups with strong bonds but we now live increasingly as sects in a huge mass, and our bonds to our neighbours and ‘the man in the street’ are weak. There are stark divides, firmly-entrenched suspicions (just go on the Tube), and depression is rife. A connected world only serves to highlight how alone it is possible to be: e-interaction is a poor substitute for human companionship. The dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories give us a measure of escape but ultimately will not be enough – the world we live in needs to change.
It’s quite a statement to feel that the only way to fix the world is to wipe most of it away.