Real Utopias

Two Tahitian Women, by Paul Gauguin. 1899

What if we could organize society around the needs of everyone, instead of the desires of the few? What if we actually organized society around real lives, the kind most of us live, instead of the impossible dreams of the rich?

Most people do not want to start or own or run businesses. They have a different walk of life in mind. They move to a different drum beat and that takes them somewhere else. They hear a different kind of music in the wind. They choose not to hear another, even though the air seems saturated with discord these days. To them, to most of us, business is not the ultimate goal of life. It is, in a sense, a necessary evil, something that is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. To them, to most of us, business is not what we live for. But our society is organized as if it is, as if nothing is more important, as if a majority of people live for commercial battles, for profit-making wars, for that endless chase after that pot o gold. As if when we work for someone, we really all participate in the same chance for that gold.

What if we developed society around the truth, instead of long-standing propaganda?

I have a few ideas along those lines. Actually, more than a few, as I often think about the complete disconnect between life, real life, and the individual pursuit of wealth which often stands in ugly opposition to that life . . .

There are, of course, many obstacles in the way of reforming and ending this disconnect. First off, I have little faith in revolutions begun by intellectuals and dreamers. We tend not to have the ruthlessness, the unalloyed aggression, the supreme indifference required to hold onto the tiger’s tail, and we lose control of the revolution to others who do have those “qualities.” We believe in ideas, ideals, paintings of Arcadia, thoughts of Atlantis, the sounds of some distant harmony only we can hear. And while we sit around the revolutionary fire talking about all of that, warlords are busy thinking of ways to hijack the tiger, and they generally succeed.

That said, I don’t think any of that is enough to give up. For several reasons. Rather than look at the pursuit of real utopias as an all or nothing thing, I think the way there is key. We need to prepare for the journey, start the long march, and set out for that distant, perhaps impossible goal. Strive for it, shoot for it, do what we can in the here and now to get as close to that impossible dream as we can, knowing we may never, ever get there. But getting closer is worth the time, because our present place along the continuum of overall cruelty to overall generosity is too far from the latter.

Of course, we’re all going to have different conceptions of what that goal should be, and where it should happen. My thought as of late has drawn me to the idea of starting from scratch somewhere, preferably an island. Create a new society on that island, make it work, make it a model for the world, and hope it spreads like wildfire.

I’ll get into the details in the next few days . . .


Real Utopias
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