The dystopian genre has always been a popular concept reproduced throughout different eras within media and literature. The envisioning of a depraved totalitarian environment that is under the guise of a “perfect” society piques everybody’s imagination. After continually reading or watching novels or movies and acclimating to
the dystopian genre, the formula for creating dystopian works becomes clear – demolish government and let humanity scramble for power. Such methods are generally achieved through global-scaled catalysts, such as wars, epidemics, invasion by alien beings, and (my personal favorite) technology acquiring sentience and revolting against humanity. However, even after regurgitating the same formula over and over, why hasn’t the dystopian genre “died out”? Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s novel, Utopia, is created by the same formula seen in other works, however, it contains a major aspect that sets Utopia apart from others – it is CLOSELY related to reality.
Utopia is set in the year 2023 in a US-marine protected colony in Egypt. The colony houses and protects wealthy and affluent individuals, or Utopians, against the impoverished populace called “Others.” The catalyst for the dystopian future is contributed to the United States producing a new super-fuel that stumps the Middle East’s petroleum reserves. After having their sole trade of income become worthless, the Middle East’s middle class disintegrates and results in the economy’s downfall. This setting is not far from the truth. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the unemployment rate in Egypt was increased from around 9% to 12% in 2011. CAPMAS reported that the economy’s negative impact is contributed to the 2011 uprising “that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak drove tourists and foreign investors away, drying up foreign reserves.” The employment drop coincides with the economy plunge in Utopia and could even be seen as a prediction made by Towfik himself considering he first published Utopia (in Arabic) in 2009.
Another ‘coincidence’ is made in recent news by NY Times. NY Times reports “The International Monetary Fund approved a $12 billion loan for Egypt on Friday .” The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an International organization located in Washington, D.C. with the goal of supporting countries in economic need. The symbolization of the US Marines protecting the wealthy in Utopia shows similarity with the I.M.F.’s loan to Egypt in reality.
“It’s a positive trend that unemployment is going down, especially because most of the unemployed are youth, and this means that we’re not too far from reaching a single-digit rate.” – Reham ElDesoki, an economist at Arqaam Capital
Utopia isn’t the only work that reflects reality considering there are various novels that share the same similarities. But I believe Utopia’s plot resembles the economic state within Egypt to a more immediate degree in light of Towfik predicting the event long before 2009. If we take a step back and glance at the genre as a whole, we can reflect the fascination towards dilapidating cities, depraved human nature, and totalitarian system evokes a certain inherent fear we share towards our future.