English 355: Final Paper
Dystopia: Targeted in Underdeveloped Countries
Although the concept of Utopia is only talked about in terms of the future, people are blinded by the fact that a form of utopia, called governmental dystopia is gradually forming in underdeveloped countries such as El Salvador. Governmental Dystopia is when the state controls all economic and political matters, beliefs and attitudes. This means that a state governs the economy, politics (if there are any) and religious beliefs. This is a clear example of the life people were and still are forced to live in Central America. The revolt of 1932 was the starting point of the tension between the government and its citizens and continued until the civil war. The country was ruled by 65 of the wealthiest families in Central America and it was up to them how they distributed economic wealth and who they gave power to. This country is an oligarchy and because of it a middle- class did not exist, which gives the higher- class the opportunity to control the country. Throughout this paper, I will discuss the civil war in El Salvador by applying the concept of dystopia, war is peace and ignorance is strength as well as the movie “Clockwork Orange”.
In the book “1984” written by George Orwell the common theme that links the situation in the book to the real world is the danger of totalitarianism. Orwell portrays a state in which government monitors and controls every aspect of human life to the extent that even having a disloyal thought is against the law. As the novel progresses, the timidly rebellious Winston Smith sets out to challenge the limits of the Party’s power, only to discover that its ability to control and enslave its subjects dwarfs even his most paranoid conceptions of its reach. As the reader comes to understand through Winston’s eyes, The Party uses a number of techniques to control its citizens, each of which is an important theme of its own in the novel. These include: physical control, control of information and history.
The Party physically controls the subjects in the novel by watching out for any sign of disloyalty. Disobedience is only considered so if one acts in a rebellious manner, therefore, this is the reason why the Party had such a strong hold physically and mentally on people. The Party also controls every source of information, managing and rewriting the content of all newspapers and histories for its own ends. The Party does not allow individuals to keep records of their past, such as photographs or documents. As a result, memories become fuzzy and unreliable, and citizens become perfectly willing to believe whatever the Party tells them. By controlling the present, the Party is able to manipulate the past. And in controlling the past, the Party can justify all of its actions in the present. The society described in Orwell’s “1984” sheds light on all the genocides that have taken place throughout the world, but have gone by never being written in history books as an event that has been known to have taken place. The concept of ignorance is strength is clearly evident in Salvador because it’s not that the authority cannot understand it, it’s that they don’t want to understand it; because they know that being susceptible to understanding will gradually diminish their power/authority.
Orwell describes how children would look forward to attending the events where executions would take place. This shows how the innocence of children, which is so innate, is diminished by this system called “Big Brother. Society has corrupted the people to a point where they even have their preferences as to how an execution takes place. This is revealed when Syme says, “it spoils it when they tie their feet together. I like to see them kicking…tongue sticking out- and blue” (Orwell 49-50). The inhumanity of people is emphasized by the amusement they receive from the site of others getting executed. This indicates how society has completely taken charge of their emotions and thoughts and replaced it with illiterate logic. “Big Brother” seemed like a very powerful figure which time and time again reminds me of the SOA military in El Salvador. Written facts of the civil war indicate that these violent military men received the same amusement when raping the women they came across. In groups they would stand and decide what they wanted to do with the young woman and amused themselves by making others people’s lives a living hell.
Another utopian novel that sheds light on issues in Central America is “Fahrenheit 451” written by Ray Bradbury. In this novel the society is punished and considered to have committed a felony if an individual possesses a book. Firemen in this society put houses and even people on fire (those who own books) as opposed to putting fires out. The goal of this society parallel to “1984” is to make everyone equal. This means to diminish language which leads to eliminating the individuality that allows us to be different which then leads to the lack of a self identity. It is through language that we are able to self identify and realize what we are dissatisfied and satisfied within the society we live in. As long as we have language and are able to use it in any way we wish to, we may come close to reaching a utopian society but will never achieve it. People who are dissatisfied will never allow for the authority to take complete power. People will fight back by using the power of language and in regards to Salvador, the FMLN military group serves as the perfect example. The FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) is since 1992 a Socialist political party in El Salvador and formerly a coalition of five revolutionary guerrilla organizations. The FMLN formed as a way to rebel against the U.S and the government of El Salvador (wealthy families) that oppressed them with such horrific force.
The U.S as proved to be many times, finds war to be the answer to all their solutions. The U.S, just like Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984 finds that War is peace because war is a way to control a group of people, especially when the people being controlled are from the lower- class and live in underdeveloped countries. The fact that not many people know that the U.S is involved with the destruction that El Salvador has been through reflects the media that we have. I will discuss in more detail about how exactly the media works later throughout my paper. The School of Assassins/The School of the Americas has been the military in Salvador that is controlled and financed by the U.S government. Their ultimate goal is to kill anyone who is thought to be a part of the FMLN (a group of people who were affected by the SOA and who have founded FMLN as a way to fight back against the government).
A political cause was the tradition of dictatorship and bad government which made it difficult for the people of Salvador to conduct a normal political life. What is the meaning of “a normal political life”? These words simply imply first and foremost, that they wanted to live like normal people. Normal people are treated decently and are respected. Normal political life means being able to vote, being able to have some kind of input in the way you live and in the way one wants to live. It means not having the fear of being threatened or killed by the elite if you choose to speak up to what you believe is just or decide to listen to liberation music that gives you hope about the future. The military was given the permission to kill anyone who was thought to be Communists. They killed men who were 12 years and older. Between 1931 and 1960, Salvadorian guards combined repression and reward to convince the public, nationally and internationally, that they were the best to rule the small nation. Shortly after taking power, in 1932 the military repressed a peasant rebellion; they killed 10,000 people and tried to blame it on the Liberal policies implemented political and economic reforms that, to some, promised democracy and independent political precipitation. As they attempted to modernize the state and nation, Liberals built alliances with popular groups, such as peasant organizations and urban labor unions. Fearing the power of these organizations, they intended to control these organizations, and limit their independence.
Poverty among the citizens of El Salvador was a very common situation because the elites took away the lands that bought peasants wealth through the monoculture of coffee. Coffee was and still is a very important agricultural crop that brings in 95% of the country’s income. However, the growing of coffee does not benefit everyone, only those who are in power. Coffee became the axis sound which the contemporary class structure evolved, giving meaning to the fledging nation states. The existing class structure that they have now is because of what a major productive role coffee has played in Salvador’s economic history. Knowing that people cannot survive without their lands, elites took peasants out of their lands so that they can take over the profit and the land.
The U.S has intervened, for the most part, when it came to El Salvador’s military and training. In 1969 El Salvador engaged in a war with Honduras. This war was called the Soccer War, it lasted 4 days and was not about soccer but more about economics and politics. The war was used for an escape from what was really going on in El Salvador. The war overshadowed the brutal truth and reality of the Salvadorian experience. During this war, some Salvadorians moved to Honduras, but the Honduras sent those people back, which was the reason why El Salvador started attacking Honduras. Hearing the word attack makes me think of the military (SOA), which then makes me think of the U.S. It is said that during this war, “the army began demanding a larger budget and new equipment and began receiving counterinsurgency training that had been offered by the U.S in the mid 1960’s” (Montgomery61). The army of El Salvador turned to the U.S for any help and support they may need. This shows us once again that the intervention of the U.S in El Salvador is constant and negative because thousands of women, children and men died off. From this war, several thousand were left dead and at least 100,000 Salvadorians were left homeless. The overall cost of the war was 2 million dollars, which evidently the U.S provided willingly. This event that took place has a political affect on El Salvador because the war took place partly for people’s attention to be on the war instead of the Genocide that was taking place within El Salvador. Another reason why it’s political is because this war has an aftermath and the aftermath is surrounded by the civilians of El Salvador. They had no homes, no food, and no water. The simplest of things were not available and the most contradicting aspect of it is that they were forced to live by these circumstances. These are all political games that the government plays until modern day, especially known to be done by the U.S.
The powerful governmental authority that has resulted from the eagerness of reaching a utopia is apparent in the film A Clockwork Orange directed by Stanley Kubrick. The film in many ways highlights the capability that men have to lie, rob (the elderly), rape woman and treat the people around them very poorly by becoming the cause of severe abuse (mental, physical and emotional abuse). At the same time, the film reveals the authority of government and how they treat people as experiments as opposed to humans. Alex, the fifteen year old protagonist in the film, lives life by causing hurt unto others and by being the risk taker. Ironically, this risk that many times has a positive connotation to it does not in the film, which is the reason why Alex is told that he should be “cured”. The message being conveyed is that once the government sees that someone is constraining from the rules of a utopian system, they will “cure” them by taking away all of their free will. As a whole, the movie emphasized the inviolability of free will, the inherent evil of government, the necessity of commitment in life, good versus evil, commitment versus neutrality, man versus machine, man versus government, youth versus maturity, and intellect versus intuition, to name some of the most prominent ones. Through these themes, Kubrick showcases how a person can only be perfect if they agree to be an experiment for the government. This film sheds light on the various ways of bondage the civilians of Salvador had to face, specifically the deprivation of having a say in their own country.
The FMLN insurgency originated in the 1960s, when reformers challenged the alliance of the right-wing military and the landed oligarchy. Because of the fraudulent presidential elections in 1972 and 1977, leftist political groups organized huge demonstrations demanding fair elections and improved social conditions. The government fought back violently to maintain power. Most Salvadorans were peasants living at subsistence level without running water or electricity, while a tiny privileged minority lived in wealth and opulence. In 1976, the régime's token land reform did little to alleviate the economic inequity. The government replied to the consequent political unrest with state-of-siege declarations, the suspension of constitutional rights, and paramilitary death squads. These actions further alienated the population and prompted many in the Catholic Church to denounce the government violence.
All this makes me wonder, where was the media during all of the violence and horrendous killings in El Salvador? Considering the fact that the U.S financially supported the SOA indicates that the media was only covering not even half of what was really going on. Many times, the media picks and chooses what they will cover based on what they think the public would be more interested in. The story of El Salvador is about the minority which many times is not what reaches news stations. The media that we have known for years has its focus/target on celebrities and trends because they know what sells. This is not to say that the media does not cover world news, but realistically speaking conglomerates in this industry are out to get money. Money and greed are the reasons why we don’t hear real news until we do the research on our own. When it comes to celebrities, movies, fashion, etc, the “the industry robs the individual of his function. Its prime service to the customer is to do his schemasting for him” (Adorno and Horkheimer 4). On the contrary, this was not the case with the Salvadorian civil war because it would include ruining the prestigious reputation of the U.S.
In conclusion, the works of Orwell, Bradbury and films by Kubrick all shed light on the important issues in Central America. Considering the fact that the events in Salvador were remembered through writings indicates that books and historical records are what allow us to remember our past and person we are within. Since we can’t rely on the media to give us the truth, books are a great way to prevent a society from turning dystopian. Although sustaining a utopian society is every rulers dream, as long as we have the language to speak and write the truth, the idea of a utopia will only remain an unreached dream. One thing that needs to be remembered is that there are more people being oppressed than there are oppressors, therefore, we the people will never let that happen.
Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass
Deception. 1944. Source: https://webteach.csun.edu:31987/SCRIPT/ENGL312_13669- Wexler- Fa09/scripts/serve_home, pg 4. Print.
Bradbury, Ray. “Fahrenheit 451.” Ed. Del Ray. New York. 1978. Print.
Dunkerley, James. “The Salvadorian Experience; The Long War, Dictatorship and
Revolution in El Salvador”. p. 7-8. Print.
Montgomery, Tommie Sue. “Challenges to Power: Revolution in El Salvador; from Civil Strife to
civil peace”, pg 61. Print.
Orwell, Bradbury. “1984.” New York, New York, USA. 1950. Print.