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Utopia, Dystopia, Messtopia – An Essay

Cynthia Ozick  is an American writer who has written poems, novels and essays. She was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for her novel Heir to the Glimmering World (aka: The Bear Boy). Reviews for her work can be found on this site.

Recently I discovered a short essay authored by her for Zoetrope All-Story in which she writes (with a great deal of humor) about the concept of Utopia. Ozick has us consider the idea that Utopia is really about less about inspiration and more about tyranny: ‘A utopian society, even when it pledges the abolition of tyranny, is tyranny’s dollhouse.‘ She points out that the twentieth century has experienced failed utopia in the guise of Hitler and Stalin.

Instead of striving for a utopian society, where a universal view is promoted, Ozick offers another choice – that of Messtopia.

It is characterized by a thousand asymmetries, a thousand dissonances. No arms lift in unison; there is every variety of dress and face.

She envisions a society where citizens are not required to behave alike or think alike; where the idea of a carefree childhood still exists. She challenges utopian thinkers to give up their views of perfection and instead embrace the messy freedom of Messtopia.

Orzick’s essay is brilliantly constructed to challenge our current wave of thinking – our view that to be united we must all be the same. She uses humor effectively to show the folly of utopian thinking.

Readers wishing to read the essay in its entirety, may find it on line here.

3 Comments

  1. March 31, 2008    

    I like this Messtopia idea!

  2. March 31, 2008    

    Messtopia — isn’t that the internet?

  3. April 1, 2008    

    Chris: I do too 🙂

    Julie: LOL – you might be right!

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