I recently saw “Hunger Games,” and I liked it. The only thing (and it is minor) is that, to me, the future dystopia setting strains credulity. I love a good future dystopia, but as I watched I just couldn’t buy in to human society ever shaping itself in that way. (Still, a great story and a great movie.)
Imagine, instead, a future where an elite group of about 150 multinational corporations controls about 40% of the wealth and resources of the world. In this future, an additional 550 of these mega-corps control another 40% of the world’s wealth and resources. Together, these 700 mega-corps, all of whom have interlocking stakes with one another, control 4/5 of the world’s wealth.
In this future, these richest of corporations have maneuvered their agents into positions where they can influence legislation and public policy in the world’s richest countries. They’ve also maneuvered their agents into the major political parties. They work to see people elected, laws written, and policies enacted that are favorable to the mega-corps. They are not universally successful, but they are successful to a larger degree than most people realize.
This future world has 7 billion people in it; hunger and poverty are pervasive. Half of this world’s population lives in cities or suburbs; everywhere in the world, people struggle to form meaningful, nurturing social connections, but it’s worse in the cities. Worldwide, only 1 person in 700 is classified as super-rich — what we would call a “millionaire” in today’s dollars. Worldwide, there is an elite group of only 1200 billionaires.
Half of this future world’s wealth is in the world’s richest country, where only a little less than 5% of the world’s population live. Hunger and poverty are less of a problem there, but four out of five people in that country live in cities or suburbs, where the struggle to form meaningful, nurturing social connections is particularly intense. 30% of this world’s millionaires are in that country, making up a little less than 1% of its population; 1/3 of this world’s 1200 billionaires are in that country. Together, the top 1% richest people make 1/4 of the income in that country, and control 40% the wealth.
In this future, the rich pay for what they need and everyone else is, for the most part, left to fend for themselves. Also, in this future, the world is dangerously closer to worldwide ecological breakdown than most people realize. Paradoxically, the rich complain that it is everyone else’s laziness, and not their own greed, that is to blame for the world’s problems. Counter-intuitively, about half of the world’s population seems to believe them.
And the thing that makes this future dystopia last for a long time is that none of it is really a secret. There’s no grand conspiracy; it’s all just “good business.” While the mega-corps certainly don’t advertise their nefarious activities, most of them are a matter of public record. In this future world, a small percentage of people are outraged; many more are dissatisfied, but they are either complacent, or they blame their dissatisfaction on other things, or they are too poor, hungry, or disaffected to do anything about it.
THAT’s a believable future dystopia! Set a story in THAT world. How does the brave heroine or hero survive to end the dystopian society and create a more fair and peaceful world for everyone? I’d love to read that story. I really want to know how it goes.