"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." - Yogi Berra
The dystopian/negative-utopian novel has seen a lot of popularity recently- due to the awesomeness of The Hunger Games. However, those themes have been popular, particularly among teenagers, for a lot longer than that (see the Rush album 2112, which my dad loved when he was my age, for example).
In Matched, by Ally Condie-- which isn't necessarily the most original or mind-bending book-- the government monitors the behavior of its citizens closely, and chooses the optimal spouse for everyone (their Match). And for the purposes of this post, they really truly are the best possible people for each other.
Which poses the question: If the "super controlling government" honestly is resulting in truly happier citizens (not people who merely think they're happy, as in Fahrenheit 451), is that control still wrong? Obviously it's impossible to actually Match everyone up perfectly, so it's not an issue that needs to have a resolution, but what if we could?
It's an interesting debate, and one I'd gladly have elsewhere arguing either side. However, the point of this post is not whether or not a pervasive government is desirable if it effectively ensures maximum happiness, but why specifically teenagers find such questions so fascinating.
Teenagers are people who have started paying attention to the world at large fairly recently, compared to everyone else. Kids will hear about world events, and they'll care about them, but at the end of the day, life consists of their life. "Politics are boring," they'll say. "Who cares about the economy?" But we've gotten to the point where we are interested in such things, and so we think about the world globally rather than in the microcosm of our place within it.
Yet we're still living in that small place. We have parents and siblings and learning and friends. We're in the process of becoming "adults." We're trying to grow up, regardless of whatever's happening around us.
We like dystopian/negative-utopian stories because they mirror the questions we're asking ourselves in our immediate lives, but in the context of the greater world that we find more interesting/important.
The question changes from "Should the government be allowed to control our lives to a far greater extent than they are now if they really are making us happier in the process?" to "My parents really do want the best for me. Should I go along with what they think because they're older and (hopefully) wiser and love me, or should I assert my independence simply on principle?"
The answer, of course, is never yes or no. In fact, I don't know if there is an answer. It's a question we continually ask ourselves, and we continually have to rethink our response.
That, I think, is what's so appealing about dystopian/negative-utopian fiction, and why I keep reading the novels even though they're all virtually the same in many ways. I still don't know the answer, so I'm willing to reread the question within the context of a book again and again-- different words and different worlds each time, but the same dilemma.