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Perhaps we need to look at naive Utopianism again.

February 21, 2010

Perhaps we need to look at naive Utopianism again.

Sir Thomas Moore wrote Utopia around 500 years ago as vehicle to show how humanity could live as opposed to how it did live. The book has perhaps been the influence for half the science fiction stories ever written. The concept is not hard to understand. It is the creation of a perfect world of comfort and extended leisure on Earth. The irony is that the author was stripped of all the rich comforts he enjoyed when he chose to disagree with the King. He could have signed a paper to support the King at any point and with it his comforts would have been restored. Yet he chose what he saw as an important principle and as a result he was beheaded. For Thomas Moore there were some principles more important than comfort and leisure.

The utopian dream is based upon one of two preconditions in the nature of humanity. One is the principle of ‘conditioning’ and the other is the principle of ‘leadership’. The principle of conditioning (also known as education) must assume that humanity is basically ‘Good’ and only requires correct education to make it perfect. The individual can be conditioned to serve the needs of the many. The principle of ‘leadership’ relies on the presumption that humanity is basically ‘Amoral’ and requires special superior people to lead it. The furthest extent of one is Marxism and furthest extent of the other is Fascism. Conformity to the masses verses the superman or master race. Collectivism verses Individualism. Environmentalists verses Geneticists. Nurture verses Nature. One scorns the individual the other scorns the masses.

 

The history of Utopianism from both versions is not pretty. Millions have been executed in the last century in the hope that a paradise on Earth can be constructed. Millions executed to support ideologies that saw themselves as the only true hope for humanity. They were secular in nature and focused upon the better world that would come after the purges. Humanity was going to be cleaned and made perfect so that it could accept this Brave New World of eternal peace and happiness.

 

Where did it all go wrong? For a starter they were ideologies based upon absolutes. Either humanity was naturally evil in need of strong leadership or naturally good in need of good education and a perfect environment. They claimed that they were the logical and rational choice because their logic justified it. Argue with any ideologue and you will be arguing with their logic regardless of how twisted it may be. The premise that they based their ideology upon is the key and unless they are willing to give up that premise they won’t change.

 

Utopian Ideologues need to point to rival ideologies and enemies as a point of difference. Some see their rivals as a problem and others see them as something that they should cynically infiltrate and pervert to their own cause. Marxism is a particular type of ideology that is materialist. In other words it claims that all human needs are material. Karl Marx insisted that religions needed to be repressed after the revolution because they offered the dangerous notion of non-material needs to the masses. Enemy number one for Karl Marx was religion.

 

There is another Utopian Ideology that is also antireligious in nature and that is Nietzscheism. It is often described as a philosophy or an anti-philosophy, its starts with not just rejecting God but killing him. Strength and ruthlessness are praised by Nietzsche where as mercy and compassion are scorned as weakening humanity. Nietzsche was scornful of Christianity because of its advocacy of compassion for the weak. People try to make excuses for Nietzsche and claim that he was only trying to offer the concept of self actualization; however he must have been an idiot to presume that his most vitriolic statements would not be taken literally. eg: ‘No act of violence, rape, exploitation, destruction, is intrinsically “unjust,” since life itself is violent, rapacious, exploitative, and destructive and cannot be conceived otherwise.‘ And to be more specific we have this : ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the gospel of love made flesh, the “redeemer,” who brought blessing and victory to the poor, the sick, the sinner — what was he but temptation in its most sinister and irresistible form…’ I could continue to quote him but they all point in the same direct. This is a boot on the face ideology that has been given an academic white wash in recent years.

Mussolini was so taken by Nietzsche that he presented his entire works to Hitler. The scorning of weakness and elevation of ruthless power is something that Fascism and Nazism shared.

 

Hitler kept models of grand structures that he would build after he had cleansed the world. He was going to build grand cities that would rival anything previously built. Yet he did adopt neo paganism and Rune idolatry as its image.

 

People who promise paradise on Earth should be treated with a degree of suspicion. Those that offer a new peaceful ideology should be questioned. Those that scorn others and attack them personally are hardly a good advertisement for the Brave New World that they would have us all believe in. We have been down this path before and no doubt some people will foolishly follow it again. Often it is obvious that when someone comes up with a new plan to save the world they are only trying to disguise their own desire to rule it.

 

Unfortunately the reality of life has been that people eat dirt and move mountains. Somewhere in that struggle they may even show that they can be human and alive. Utopia may be a wonderful dream but far too often the quest for that dream has ended up as a nightmare. Thomas Moore understood that dilemma so well when he made his choice between comfort and principle. He chose principle. Sometimes there are more important things that frolicking in the Utopian Garden of Eden.

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