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The Fear of Totalitarianism in Science Fiction

Hand in hand with personal freedom comes another of Science Fiction's great concerns: the emergence of totalitarian states. Once more this is a western fear, or more exactly, a fear of democratic regimes; the greater the freedom of the society from which the author is writing, the greater the repression of the totalitarian regime created is.

This takes us to a new question, mainly what exactly is a totalitarian regime (and is it really so bad?). First off it involves an absolute control from the state on everything, and I mean everything, including most of the times the way the people living under said regimes think. Probably the best known totalitarian regime is that of George Orwell's 1984, at least it's the one most easily identifiable as totalitarian, but there are many others, and not all so easy to spot, like for example the "democratic" government found in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

This is one interesting issue, where a supposedly free regime, like Democracy, is revealed to be in truth totalitarian, and this can be seen in many instances. What are the elements of the Fahrenheit society that make it totalitarian? for starters the ban on reading: in order to prevent social unrest and upheaval from disgruntled minorities offended by something someone else wrote, the state decides to ban writing and therefore reading, intruding directly on what people think, and restricting their personal freedom.

On the other hand it is clear that capitalism is still the dominant economic system, but that does not prevent totalitarianism; after all the government regulation of business can be taken so far as to be effectively all controlling. Think also about the differences between Mildred and Guy Montag, she is the conforming citizen, who does what society (and therefore the state), expects of her, while Guy is a rebel at heart, working for one of the law enforcement agencies, but unable to conform to what is expected of him, and that is what leads him to have a dysfunctional relationship with his wife.

In the end the totalitarian nature of the state can be seen in the cinematic, live broadcast, of the chase after the dangerous fugitive, like you could probably find in a Soviet pogrom, dogs included and all.

What do you think of the possibility of a democratic regime becoming totalitarian while maintaining universal suffrage? do you know any other stories in which an apparently free regime is in truth a totalitarian one? or repressive?


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