So much for individuality and progress
I kept wondering what the point of living in the Boston of 2000 even was, since everything is easy and everything is basically given to you at the cost of genuine individuality. What is there for people to live and work for outside of the common good and their own pleasure?
The question hit me the hardest during Chapter 10, when his hosts took him shopping. As Edith explains that shoppers use “these printed cards, for which the government authorities are responsible (93),” thereby rendering the clerks obsolete, it made me wonder exactly how many other jobs exist in Boston 2000 for the sake of giving people something to do. That clerk has no real reason to be there except to write slips and that’s a job that could easily be phased away from the need for human labor, just like the rest of the store. The system of government and society has been manipulated to root out any cause for unhappiness and keep the problems of the people limited to wondering what their next purchase will be. To me, however, that says that they haven’t solved the world’s problems as much as they’ve distracted everyone and maximized production while removing genuine individuality in such a subtle fashion that nobody realized it was happening. Even their purchases, no matter what the buyer’s personal taste, are all the same and come from the same warehouse. Where are the people who sell things they make with their own two hands? Goods coming from the same source only have so much variety and anyone can take anything from this small pool at any given time. It’s not exactly individuality if you have exactly the same pool of things to choose from nation-wide.
I would actually believe that the Boston of 2000 is part of a middle state between West’s world and the future described in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. It makes perfect sense to me; Wells’ future involves people who live for literally nothing but their own pleasure, work for nothing, and need nothing except safety from the industry-oriented monsters who come out at night. Where exactly is this society headed if not there?
Finally, I would also like to link this: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/fashions-of-the-future-as-imagined-in-1893/
Since I brought up fashion, I thought it would be appropriate to share one (particularly hilarious) idea from 1893 regarding how fashion from each decade for the next 100 years might look. This comes from W. Cade Gall’s Future Dictates of Fashion and was published in The Strand’s 1893 issue.
Look how terrified that guy on the end is.
Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward. Penguin Classics, 1986.
“Fashions of the Future as Imagined in 1893.” The Public Domain Review. Accessed October 18, 2014. http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/fashions-of-the-future-as-imagined-in-1893/.
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine. Penguin Classics, 2005.