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Proposal for a Few Worlds We Wouldn't Want to Live In (and Maybe One We Would)

Terrible2s's picture


            Our lives are consumed with questions. The world is a pretty confusing place. We spend most of our time in it asking and pondering the answers to questions which may not have answers. We spent two full days in class doing nothing but asking questions. Looking back at all of the work we have done so far and all of the questions we have asked only gave me more questions and no answer. There is no right answer. And yet it seems that there are so many wrong ones. How is this possible and how can we change that? Do we want to change it?
            The main question which I asked my self and wrote countless times throughout the semester is: are we taking this too far? I have trouble understanding how we can ask so many questions and intellectualize life matters, theorizing to the point that we forget what the questions were in the first place. More questions: can we actually make any difference? Does our work matter at all? If we study so hard and let our thoughts take us so far, where does that actually bring us? I am finished with asking questions, and I am finished with thinking. I want answers.
            If we take our questions and give actual concrete manifestations of all that we theorize in class and in our lives, maybe we can get some answers. Paul Grobstein tells us that there are no “Facts,” that there is no “Truth,” and that life is all just stories that we tell from observations that we make by living each day. So then I will do just that; I will tell stories until I can figure out which ones I think are the real ones, which ones I think are the most right. Maybe there are no right answers, maybe life is just finding out which answers are wrong.
            I propose that I will make a series of stories if you will, with the possible answers we give to our larger-than-life questions. I will take some of the major topics that we have covered in class, and some topics and questions which I have come up with living my life thus far, and imagine a world, or some worlds, which take our ideas too far. I will take the themes and ideas that we have mulled over and create a handful of dystopias, applying the hypothetical to life, and making practical what we have imagined. My project will be a question-answerer. I do not know how I would like the world to function and I want to see what I can find out by pushing the limits and putting into practice things about which I have only thought and asked questions. My goal is to ultimately figure out which of these worlds work for me and which do not. I do not know what I will find and that is the point. This project will be trying to slowly answer the questions which I constantly carry with me throughout my every day life.
            Because my project is based off of questions that I have already asked and would like to take “too far” to answer, my dystopias and therefore sources/inspirations will mostly come from things that I have already experienced: books I have read, films I have seen, conversations I have had, topics I have studied. I am not completely sure how many “worlds” I plan to create, because I hope to imagine more worlds as I am creating the ones I have already decided on.
My first world will be based off of Margaret Atwood’s novel “A Handmaid’s Tale” in which we see a dystopia based off of strict gender rules and a basic lack of sexuality. I will not make my world what Atwood has already imagined in her novel, but will instead take her rules and apply them to a world that starts tomorrow. This world will be strict on gender rules and roles and will be void of sexuality. Intercourse will occur between a man and a woman and will be solely for the purpose of procreation. It will be a man’s world, and “man” and “woman” will have only one definition.
My next world will follow along the lines of questions I have asked myself about disability. As a source I will use Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Harrison Burgeron”, in which the world has been brought to a point of complete human communism. In this short story, all physical and mental abilities are leveled: each person is brought down through handicaps to the level of ability/looks of world’s least able/worst looking person. My world will take this further, bringing in not only disability, but sexuality and identity.
Another world which I plan to explore is a gender free and completely freely sexual world in which we will function much like how some of us might have imagined ourselves in the alternate universe which we created in class through the help of Kate Bornstein’s “First Gender Performance: On the Outside, Looking In.” This world will legalize prostitution, rid itself of gender barriers, and function as if we had no preconceptions of gender or sexuality. I will use the suppositions and ideas of Joan Roughgarden’s “Evolution’s Rainbow” and Peggy McIntosh’s “Interactive Phases of Curricular Re-Vision: A Feminist Perspective” and will also take many ideas in class and explore them further until I have created a boundry-less universe.
My fourth and most likely final world will hopefully be my world. The world which I will propose, will take into account what I have discovered through the other dystopic “too far” worlds which I have created. I do not know what this world will look like, nor do I know if I can even make one. If my projects works the way I intend, I will have gotten some answers, and will be able to envision a realistic life—the best possible world that I can imagine.
The make these worlds I will take a poster and have four doors which will open out. These doors will hold my worlds behind them, with imagines and words to suggest my ideas. Underneath or someone located on my board will be a description of each world, playing out all of the real-life things which must be taken into account to create a realistic dystopia. Accompanying my board will most like be a paper detailing each world more exactly, with an explanation of the benefits and drawbacks to them. Finally I will explain our current world, drawing parallels to my ideal world, and showing how we can get there.
I propose that my project will give me some answers, finally. It will hopefully stop the questions, or at least some, which occur to me ad nausea. It will allow me to step away from all of the authors and artists who given answers which have only inspired more questions in me, and make me the author, the artist, the puppet master, of a world which I so deeply crave.
Works Cited
Atwood, Margaret. A Handmaid’s Tale, Jonathan Cape, Ltd., Great Britain, UK, 1986.
McIntosh, Peggy. “Interactive Phases of Curricular Re-vision: A Feminist Perspective,”  
Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, 1983.
Roughgarden, Joan.  Evolution’s Rainbow, University of California Press, Ltd., London England, 2004.
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. “Harrison Burgeron,” 1961.


rae's picture

Different Worlds....hmm....

Your project sounds really interesting. I like how it interacts with various concepts and ideas but doesn't go the traditional 6-page-paper route.

The Kurt Vonnegut world sounds particularly interesting, in a unpleasant sort of way. I wonder, though, what the lowest "level" of sexuality and identity would be. I feel like one of the main reasons why a certain identity or sexuality seems to be less...desirable...than another is that it's treated as "other" or "bad" or "different" by the majority of people (or just the people in power). For some reason, a scene from the movie The Family Stone comes to my mind: Sarah Jessica Parker's character makes some comment about how no one hopes their child is gay. I've probably paraphrased it incorrectly, but the idea is that being gay (queer, what-have-you) in this society does present a set of obstacles that straight people don't have to face. It wasn't that being gay is inherently bad, just that being gay will probably make life at least a little harder in this homophobic/heterosexist society. Anyway, my point is that I'm not sure what the sexuality/identity would be if everyone would be forced to it--which would be the lower level? Maybe I've missed the point. 

Also, I think that an interesting counterpoint to the "gender free and completely freely sexual world" would be one that celebrated diversity of gender and sexuality. Instead of functioning "as if we had no preconceptions of gender or sexuality," the world would allow people to embrace whatever they chose. Similar, I think, but very different in terms in results--I think letting people make what they will out of gender could be more enriching that getting rid of it. Depending on your definition of gender, of course. Not that I'm saying you should add this world; it's just a thought that came to me. 

Anyway, like I said previously, this sounds really interesting. Good luck!

twig's picture

are we taking this too far?

i think this is a great idea and i wish i had thought of attacking our far out theorizing jonathan swift style. this idea of over theorizing and then taking it into whether or not anything still matters once we've dissected it so thoroughly is something that i want to explore in my final project as well. i've read that story by vonnegut and actually meant to use it in reference to our disabilities talks, but i guess it slipped my mind. its a great story though and i think it is a great example of one of our possible outcomes when we take these things too far. i can't wait to see your project, dystopias are always interesting