Dec 9, 2008

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed

I've been reading but not writing. Blame the roast turkey. Blame my girlfriend being in town. Blame me being a lazy bastard. Or we could just blame Them. You know who They are. They want to keep me from telling you what I've found out. Yeah. Them.

I've decided I'm a LeGuin fan. (I know, I hear you, "Bout time. Welcome to the crowd.") That's one of the best things about this Dystopian kick for me - I'm picking up on a lot of authors that I'd meant to read for a long time but never did.

Okay, The Dispossessed. I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about and discussing anarchy and how it would ever work out in practical terms. LeGuin manages to overcome a few of the major hurdles by (a)stocking the original society with those who choose to be part of it, thereby taking out the problem of those forced into anarchy with no willingness to try the experiment and (b) settling her radicals on a planet in which willing participation in communal labor and society is pretty much the only thing keeping all their heads above water. (An odd cliche to use for a mostly desert planet, I'll admit, but you get me.)

Of course, after a couple generations of willing equality, I, too, would expect something like a socially enforced pressure to not rise above your mates to develop. A damning of the ego. A suggestion that genius or outsider thought may be dangerously divisive. The only thing that can prevent anarchy from becoming chaos is empathy, and when Shevek flies higher and higher toward the sun, those upon whom his shadows falls may feel a sort of chill. Is that acceptable? Is it justified? is it Shevek's problem, or should those people take it upon themselves to step back into the sunlight if it bothers them?

final thought: Which would you choose, Anarres or Urras?

1 comment:

Karlo said...

Without batting an eye, I'd choose Anarres. That the Anarresti Utopian potential was not loss in spite of the planet's bleakness and the creeping bureaucratic thermidor is amazing. Ultimately, Urras is too much like Earth.