I often think of dystopias. Who can avoid it these days. Recently I decided if I were to ever write a dystopia, it would have a lot of waiting. Meaningless, senseless, endless waiting.
You would have to wait, nearly every day, for an uncertain number of hours in a grey non-descript room. There would be nary a painting to brighten up the walls nor a wallpaper whose patterns you could mindlessly trace. Instead everywhere you looked, a blank greyness would stare back at you. You would see other people there; their shoulders bent, eyes vacant. You would wonder if they felt the same frustration that was slowly unfurling inside you, but you wouldn’t dare ask. Occasionally the silence would be cut by a throat-clearing, or even a cough, but no matter how much you hoped, the sounds would never turn into words. You often saw people who entered after you, leave before. But there would be no one present to help, no one willing to explain the mysterious rules governing your waiting. I’m not sure what exactly you would be waiting for, but it would be something crucial to your survival. Maybe there would be some posters, with phrases like, “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait” or “Waiting Will Set You Free” even though you knew, not everyone had to wait. Worst of all, no matter how angry you were or how close to upturning a table and screaming revolution, you were also grateful. Because you knew what happened to those who weren’t even given the chance to wait.
This is certainly not a new concept. Waiting has always been a subtle means to subjugate. A sign of powerlessness. The most enduring criticism of the Soviet Union has been that you had to wait for bread. Everywhere, the powerless wait. They wait for the small things—the bus, ration, water, electricity, and they wait for the big stuff— wages, justice, dignity. Maybe that’s why the rich have such an inherent distaste for it. That’s why they pay more, drop names, fake documents, just so they can coolly saunter off to the front of the line, while the masses do the waiting. For a while, the pandemic made us all powerless and so we all waited. But soon the rich began to pay more for hospital beds, for oxygen cylinders, for vaccinations. And the poor are still waiting. Like Mary Gordon wrote, “waiting is the great vocation of the dispossessed.”
So yes, there shall be waiting in my dystopia. It makes sense doesn’t it, for what is utopia if not abundance for all, all the time.