Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Utopian Fantasies

Utopian fantasies have been a book genre for thousands of years.  They are a reliable source of entertainment.  First, they entertain when contemporaries read them as serious missives.  Later, they provide entertainment of the chuckle-snort-and spit variety.  Unfortunately, every generation succumbs to the temptation to bend utopian fantasies into a blueprint for political and economic decisions.

Voltaire splendidly satirized this in his book Candide.  (Spoiler:  The cure is to first tend one's own garden."

A few reads of the chuckle-snort variety include Walden Two where a character points to the (fictitious) children and trumpets them as proof of the method.  Another book that is so painfully earnest that it is funny is Ecotopia.

Much less funny is the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.  Here are a few illustrations.

Frequent contributor Doug offered the following commentary from Mark R. Levin's book, Ameritopia, the Unmaking of America.

Utopianism is irrational in theory and practice, because it ignores or attempts to control the planned and unplanned complexity of the individual, his nature, and mankind generally.

Utopianism substitutes glorious predictions and unachievable promises for knowledge, science, and reason, while laying claim to them all. Yet there is nothing new in deception disguised as hope and nothing original in abstraction framed as progress. A heavenly society is said to be within reach if only the individual surrenders more of his liberty and being for the general good, meaning the good as prescribed by the state. If he refuses, he will be tormented and ultimately coerced into compliance, because conformity is essential. The individual must abandon his own ambitions for the ambitions of the state. He must become reliant on and fearful of the state. His first duty must be to the state -- not family, community, and faith, all of which challenge the authority of the state. Once dispirited, the individual can be molded by the state with endless social experiments and lifestyle calibrations.

Especially threatening, therefore, are the industrious, independent, and successful, because they demonstrate what is actually possible under current social conditions -- achievement, happiness, and fulfillment -- thereby contradicting and endangering the utopian campaign against what was or is. Indeed, the individual's contribution to society must be downplayed, dismissed, or denounced, unless the contribution is directed by the state and involves self-sacrifice for the utopian cause.
This "threatening" class looks much like Charles Hugh Smith's "Ninth Class."

This class is self-employed, free-lance, entrepreneural, sole proprietors with adaptive skills.
(They are) the "wild card" class that falls outside all conventional class/income hierarchies. It includes those seeking outlier wealth and those who have chosen voluntary poverty.

Though this class wields little conventional financial or political power, it has a potentially large leadership role in social and technical innovations. This is the 4% Pareto Distribution that can exert outsized influence on the 64%.

The other eight classes are hidebound by conventions, neofeudal and neocolonial arrangements and a variety of false choices and illusions of choice, including democracy itself.

Utopianism gains momentum because it promises that mediocrity is plenty darned good enough for first place in every contest.  It is a sop to the short-sighted, the undisciplined, the selfish and the lazy.  (Note, we are all born with those attributes but Western culture informs us that progress requires that we push away from the comfort of our "natural" state.  Some listen to our cultural information better than others.

Those who promote Utopianism make me think of a certain person in my household who thinks that cleaning the lint trap on the drier is a needless, anal ritual.  He then finds himself expending psychic energy defending the position that he likes wearing damp clothing to school on cool mornings.

Idiotic?  You bet it is.  But he is an 8th grader.  He will probably grow out of it.  What excuses do people with advanced degrees from "top-tier" Universities to rationalize the elimination  of "needless rituals".

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