A contributor to the "anxiety" column in the NY Times makes a fascinating argument for why people buy into dystopic fantasies. Tim Kreider, the cartoonist and creator of "The Pain -- When Will it End?", writes:
"Natural selection has made us hypervigilant, obsessively replaying our mistakes and imagining worst-case scenarios. And the fact that we’ve eliminated almost all of the immediate threats from our environment, like leopards and Hittites, has only made us even more jittery, because we’re now constantly anticipating disasters that are never going to happen: the prowler/rapist/serial killer lurking in the closet, a pandemic of Ebola/Bird Flu/Hantavirus, the imminent fascist/socialist/zombie takeover."
The rest of the column is a medidation on the benefits of exposing yourself to physical danger to get the brain focused on something real. Good read.
IF Clark found dystopias broke into the mainstream after WWI. There was very little of it before that point, though certainly prophesies about the end of the world pre-date that by a couple thousand years. Has anyone seen arguments made along Kreider's lines elsewhere?