Where have all the utopian visions gone?
In the golden age of science fiction, utopias that promised flying cars and push button convenience, 3 day work weeks and robotic servants, and perfect health and equality for all were prevalent. The utopias were sometimes the backdrop that humankind reached out to the vastness of interstellar space from.
Socialism and communism as political theories and models for society to be formed from promised that everyone would be taken care of, there would be no poverty, and there would be a kinder, gentler, more egalitarian age. While socialism and communism in pure form could not produce the results promised, many people benefited from having such socialist notions as schools paid for by tax payer dollars, a standing military funded by tax payer dollars, public services like fire and police funded by tax payer dollars, a pension for elderly people paid for by tax payer dollars, and national health care systems that took the burden off private industry and helped economies flourish (oh and also made sure the citizens in those countries had health care). Because of the labor unions, better working conditions, better pay, and a standard work week came about.
The modern age was supposed to be one of continuous progress and increasing abundance. Communism and the socialist states that were part of the great experiment that came out of Marxist philosophies may not have succeeded and may have created problems, but the industrialized nations are much better off than they were 150 years ago. The standard of living for most people has greatly improved. Overall a kinder and gentler age has come about in many ways.
Where have all the utopian visions gone? Can we count Milton Friedman’s faith in the free markets to cure all of societies ills? Can we count on the Right Wing Conservative Christian vision to bring about a high level of morality that will restore a golden age harkening back to some distorted remembrance of when the US was mighty? If we guard our borders with enough paranoia can we maintain paradise?
Utopia was an imaginary island envisioned by Thomas Moore in 1516 in the book of that name. A utopia is defined as an imaginary place considered to be perfect or ideal. Utopias are not real. However, in envisioning a utopia a proposed plan to solve the problems of an age can be put forth.
Humanity is currently faced with some huge problems. Are we tackling these problems? Even considering them? Are we creating a possible set of solutions that tries to offer a better future? This is the essence of a utopian vision. Ideas proceed reality. From our utopian ideas what a society values can be revealed. The ideals behind socialism were that everyone should be considered equal and everyone should be provided for. Marx wrote, “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.” The socialist vision was a humanitarian one despite the current propaganda that would like to make socialism a dirty word. If we consider the utopian vision put forth by those who want no social services or want the free markets to run without any restriction, what values are revealed? If we consider a utopian vision of prescribed morality, who gets to say that one group’s definition of morality has more authority than another? And how is this morality to be used to dictate and achieve the societal vision? If we lock ourselves away and live in fear, is this paradise?
I would rather have a utopian vision that offers hope for all of humankind–not just the rich or the Christians or those who can prove that they are natural born citizens or those only in the industrialized modern nations. I would like an idealistic vision where all of the people of the earth have their basic needs met, no one lives in fear or is exploited, and there is the realistic possibility of a good quality of life for everyone. A vision where the earth is no longer facing an environmental crisis and where the human population is stable and can be maintained by the habitat.
I haven’t given up because possibly if we can create such a utopian vision we may not achieve entirely what is imagined but we may end up much better off.