Pithy title, but is a utopian society achievable? Or even desirable?
First, yes – it’s almost unavoidable.
We’re so close to it now, globally. Consider what Marshall McLuhan write in The Gutenberg Galaxy, in 1962: “What we have called ‘nations’ in recent centuries did not, and could not, precede the advent of Gutenberg technology any more than they can survive the advent of electric circuitry with its power of totally involving all people in all other people.”
McLuhan understood that we had finally become what we were at the very beginning, when those few original ones were sitting around that big bonfire/barbeque, chowing down on Brontoburgers and shootin’ the breeze: citizens of the world, World Citizens, with nothing to follow except our dreams.
Second – a resounding YES!
As long as we understand that the Utopia that were as so close to manifesting is a flawed one, since a perfect one would be inhuman and therefore not utopian.
The horrors of our Utopia will be those personal ones which have bedevilled humankind since it began, but they will be minimal in number and the frequency of their occurrences ever dwindling.
The only thing that can’t be tolerated, in what Wallace Stevens perfectly defined as an “Imperfect Paradise”, is the pecuniary-environmental-political-organized violence which is anathema to True Freedom, the freedom to be without the threat of pecuniary, etc.
Don’t mistake a fistfight for a bayonet in the back – one is a natural expression of humanity, the other a dehumanizing denial of expression.
Utopia is not the absence of conflict, but of “Control”, external control. Our flawed Paradise can only exist through self-control (just as the problem of controlling gun violence can only be solved by…? You guessed it).
Conflict is built into our psyche, and a quick study of the oral histories of ancient civilizations that never invented a written language, such as the Yokuts – who lived, where I now live, probably for 10,000 years, up into the 19th century! – reveals variants of the same tales of lust, greed, murder, rape, and jealousy that are told and retold in every oral culture around the world, yet in actuality are nearly absent from their (limited) nearly-Utopian societies.
Conflict is built into our psyches. A baby flatly refusing to eat that yechhy creamed spinach is a perfect example. True Paradise is a celebration of the self-controlled conflict, an embracing of the inherent differences within every individual. And the inherent interdependence our responsibilities as a self-governing Citizen of the World demands.
An observation of Alexis de Tocqueville that McLuhan quotes in The Gutenberg Galaxy, “Everyone shuts himself rightly up within himself and insists upon judging the world from there…”, was a description of Americans at that time – 1835 – but certainly seems even more relevant today, and not just for America. It was behaviour merely myopic then, but now it’s Old Millennial malarkey, antediluvian, chauvinistic, xenophobic and naïve. Myopic malarkey, which V. Roth’s undeniably pithy dictum, that without “conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading” kind of resonates with, because like most pithy dicta, it is superseded by reality.
The reality of today.
The reality of tomorrow is that as World Citizens living in only one country, Earth, we have eliminated “illegal immigration” (everyone’s simultaneously tourist and resident), wars between nations (there’ just one nation – Earth – remember?), borders and barriers (but for Nature’s), and environmental desecration (suicide is definitely not utopian). Now we can start eliminating those pesky cultural bugaboos that divide us up into little packets of existence according to our skin colour, gender, location, language, and affluence.
Since I’ve already quoted so much from the fiendishly brilliant Mr McLuhan, I’ll let him sum it all up: “It is Popper’s view that tribal or closed societies have a biological unity and that ‘our modern open societies function largely by way of abstract relations, such as exchange or cooperation.’ That the abstracting or opening of closed societies is the work of the phonetic alphabet, and not of any other form of writing or technology, is one theme of The Gutenberg Galaxy. On the other hand, that closed societies are the product of speech, drum, and ear technologies, brings us at the opening of the electronic age to the sealing of the entire human family into a single global tribe.”
One Word: Utopia.