My "Utopia" by Julian O'Neill
Listening Psychology by Mark
Focus on Solutions by david
Eutopia by bobby g
Utopias become Distopias when... by Themnax
Very Interesting by irihasel
Review on U-Town by Ponokrates
A Review on U-Town by Aaron Agassi
How about we start with creating a Listening Psychology knowing and understanding that in a world where people really do not listen deeply to each other nothing else will work.
Mark via Intentional Communities@yahoogroups
i wonder what we must account for in human primate biological wiring that must be dealt with for us to design a system that works for all beings.
i see the problem as much in the person who bulldozes trees on the front lawn because someone wants to put in a pedestrian walk where the tree grows. when i look around the city where i live, i realize that almost all of it is planted intentionally, and that we are about the only species that uses other living things for decoration. how easily we pull up weeds, and kill snails because they are inconvenient and not addressed as living beings.
perhaps we could begin by abandoning labeling things as "good" and "bad."
david via Aftrlifestyle@yahoogroups
(...) Lately I have come to believe we have to pursue not "utopian" (no-place) vision but "eutopian" (good-place) vision. What I mean is just, pursue community where you find it, and build off that. For a very large portion of the population here in the good old USA, "departing" for a community in the usual model of saving, preparing, then moving to your community, may just not be possible. But building a community in-place, starting right in your "hood", is doable by anyone - provided that your "intent" is clear and pure (not purist, just pure). A favorite example of mine are the various communities of people who take part in the Burning Man project - communities arising from people who believe in the "eu-topian" world we find once a year in that temporary city in the desert. Many of us feel we'd like to keep that community going year-round, where we live.
But also, intentional community has a place even in the inner-est inner cities and among the poorest of the poor and all ethnic groups; it's not just a middle-class pursuit. In fact, communal use of resources may be one of the most important yet untapped survival tools remaining to the poor and lower working class in this society. One community project I'm involved in has an interest in teaching organic growing to inner city folks who need to learn these skills and the ways toward sustainable living (sustainable living means growing food, afte all!).
Looking at the suburbs, with their inherently wasteful use of resources, in fact intentional community may be one important tool to reclaim those regions as well, which are going to be sorely in need of reclaiming once the crucial limit to growth has been reached. Besides the upcoming shortage of fresh clean water, the impending petroleum/natural gas shortages will begin once the peak of global oil production has been reached in 2010 (or in 2012 as some have impishly suggested, noting the convergence in that year of a number of interesting theories and prophecies). These limits will hugely impact the suburbs, and communal resource use will become not a luxury but a necessity there too.
On burning-wheel.org/paz.htm I have posted a page for a wider vision of this seedling notion I'm proposing, which I call "the permanent autonomous zone" and is a mix of politics, ecology, shamanism and pagan spirituality, and accommodating to the impending Limits to Growth, which are already on our doorstep waiting to be dealt with. The idea is to collect writings from people (like YOU) who want to actively engage in creating eutopia from the dystopia we now inhabit. This is to be a "user's manual" if you will.
bobby g via IntentionalCommunities@yahoogroups
societies are heterogenous and diverse and for a utopia to be functional and sustainable it needs to take this into account.
one of the biggest obstacles in the past has been providing an abundance of opportunities more or less equally for both introversion and extroversion. so far we've had ideologies that strongly favor only one or the other at the expense of the opposite. The problem with that is that there are a nearly equal number of people who whould naturaly be both and forcing everyone into either mold has led to rampant mental illness in both cases.
perfection is never an endpoint in any case but a proccess of ongoing optimization and people of course need to understand that. the biggest opposition to solving problems i feel has been that nagging subconscious fear that so many seem to express that if known problems were solved there'd be no place further to go and everything would stagnate.
there is of course little real danger of that, however stagnate some societies in the past may have appeared in hindsight, yet this old shaggy dog of an argument against solving them seems to persist, promted quite likely by emotional attatchments to familiar arbitrary assumptions.
in reality of course there will eternally be space for successive improvement. solving the biggest problems makes way for approaching the next biggest and so on. i wish i knew how to demonstrate and prove this to people who seem to have it in their heads that everything would somehow stagnate if they didn't have the problems they are familiar with to complain about.
i'm not sure at what point the human species started romanticizing aggressiveness. i'm pretty sure it wasn't before the greeks, romans and etruscans. and even then it didn't come to dominate how people thought each other would most beneficialy act untill well into and beyond the Renaissance. perhaps as little as a few hundred years ago.
banes and blessings each come and go in their own ways and in their own time and this one likewise will. whether or not this happens before it consumes us is of course up to us.
at any rate, a world who's cultures had in common the universal boycotting of aggressiveness and encouraging of everyone to permit themselves to enjoy the exercise of whatever creative and or intellectual capacity they might happen to have would indeed be more sustainable and sustainably desirable then any our own earth has as yet seen.
such a world would not be waisting resources on mega projects that serve only to gratify some politicly collective ego but invest them wisely in fulfilling and enhancing all life. such an environment would be far richer and more inspiring then the dull tedium of pavement, tickey tacky and strip malls we have become all too depressingly familiar with. instead i see little people sized trains haulling pallet baskets of acorns to water driven mills from which acorn flour is sent to bakeries and homes to be baked into flat bread and ...
of course the problem with the details that well up in my mind is to avoid imposing them where they would be unwelcome ...
one need only suggest the most modest to be drowned out in a sea of objections ...
it does get back to people needing to understand how the collective consequences of their individual priorities actually work and create the kind of socipoliticaleconomic environment that surrounds them ...
i don't have a magic wand to do this but i do know that story telling plays a major roll in collective perceptions so it seems that would be an excellent place to start shared beliefs and perceptions seem to grow out of the familiar gestalt of mythologies as well so there is hope in 'dreamshaping' ...
it just needs to be approached from a massive diversity of angles and directions in order to have something to inspire everybody ...
Themnax via Hipforums
this is the perfect time to think about Utopia, because it is not enough to merely want things different. it is ill-advised to perpetuate the philosophy that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds i.e. that there isn't any better way of living than how we already are. So it is up to us to decide how we might live better, and have real plans that can be implemented. i thought the essay was a good overview of possibilities.
the human nature issue is a challenge for me as well. i cannot believe that humans are by nature evil, brutish and aggressive - this mistrust of others arose from the doctrine of Original Sin, which i hardly buy into. almost without fail, people who behave in horrid ways are under extreme pressure from imposed ideologies, physiological or psychological malfunctions, oppression and/or fear. at the root, Western consciousness is completely isolated from Nature, supposing a superiority innate in the human mind. certainly the mind is an interesting phenomenon, but it is no way separate from the rest of reality. This illusion has lead to pretty much every mistake we've made in the past 3000 years.
for anyone who pulls the "who's gonna be a garbage man voluntarily" argument - if we weren't producing so much plastic garbage, there would be no trash to take out; all the refuse would be food, which would be composted or fed to the chickens. besides which no one in a utopia would have to remain in a job for his or her entire working life. besides, most of the jobs held in society are 100% bullshit. i dare anyone to argue with that. hunter-gatherer societies have ludicrous amounts of spare time; Kalahari bushmen work an average of 3 days a week, basically strolling around the neighbourhood. who can say that a systems analyst, working 60 hours a week, commuting another 10 hours a week (for no pay), with a peptic ulcer, a second mortgage and a fat, sullen teenage son is living to his full potential as a human being?
irihasel via Deoxy
first i dont beliee in a utopia. its all too complex for that. we need diversity, but ENCOURAGEMENT to ground this diversity in world-affirinmingness, not world-denyingness!!
so how do we educate world affirmedness........first there is the new cutting edge science --which includes quantum physics, biology etc...which is showing the wisdom of living sustainable--understanding Nature's ways, and the interrelated web of life
but togther with these learnings we need to experiment with hallucinogens....this means DIRECT experience of Nature, not just theories and words and math.....
now, there is ignorance, fear, and ridicule, and mmisunderstanding regarding the whole subject of hallucinogens, so that means we must also become educated in mythology. NOT the mythology that's been interpreted for us by the dominating world-negative interpretors, but mythology which is LIFE affirming and respects psychdelics as THe Key which will open up Nature's mysteriess, and give the Fruits of Direct Experience, and integration into a deeper understanding and joy of living and dying and living and dying and so on...in a wonderful, awe-full dance ~~~~~
Julian O'Neill, via mail
First of all, before getting into the story, I think it is necessary to consider, what Utopias are about.
There are loads of
possibilities for the content or focus of a utopian story.
Sir Thomas More's "Utopia" (the name-giving story for this kind of fiction) discusses a possibility of a state and criticizing the situation in England (and most of Europe) at his time by means of a "traveling, finding and exploring a remote (unknown/isolated) island"-story.
In the following ages, there were numerous other kinds of utopian works, including the aforementioned "island"-scenarios (other examples include Rabelais' "Gargantua et Pantagruel", Campanella's "La Città del Sole", Bacon's "Nova Atlantis", Swift's "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World"), "time travel"-stories (e.g. Mercier's "L'An deux mille quatre cent quarante", Bellamy's "Looking backward: 2000-1887", Wells' "Time Machine") or the various negative utopias ("dystopias") of the 20th century (like Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four").
What they have in common is their focus on different societies as those which the author experiences. And the fact that all the these societies are imagined, and thus: constructed societies.
Let's keep this in mind while we're reviewing Lemhoefer's "U-Town".
Lemhoefer situates her imagined society on some sort of island or continent, some time in the future, after a not nearly specified catastrophe has happened. She lets her young protagonist (well, if we can actually call someone who's re-telling a story which she's read a "protagonist"...) explain the focus of the story: "What is more important than how U-Town became U-Town is, I think, why U-Town is as it is.", and also refers to the referred Book "The End of Before and Everything After" as containing a "myth".
If we respect this, we should be able to see that the following story cannot be strictly positivistic and empirical - and let's be honest: would we want to read a "story" that just reports pure, cold, boring "facts"?
But let's move on.
Lemhoefer mentions a museum which displays elements and concepts from the time "Before". I think it's not the worst idea to use this element in the story in order to show which concepts don't exist any more, to contrast them with the concepts which have become the foundation and everyday's concepts in U-Town. Though it may not be necessary to do it this way and might not be 100% logical - yet, it answers some questions on the author's focus (once more) it's NOT historical, scientifical, empirical accuracy and conceptual strictness, but the explaining of concepts of thoughts and reflections on society. (As I've emphasized before, we're reading an utopian story, so this shouldn't be too surprising...)
What strikes me the most about this museum-element are the negative connotations the protagonist has with the "alarm clock" - but that may be due to my own negative relation to alarm clocks, timetables and other elements of the time pressure we all experience so very often in our contemporary real society...
Lemhoefer then decides to change the perspective from the girl reading a story to the story of the foundation of U-Town itself - yet, the frame "the girl reading a book" still turns up once in a while.
Well. The Catastrophe has happened, yet, there are survivors. Some of them have been carrying things with them - for example the mentioned metaphorical alarm clock. And, Heaven knows why, cigarettes.
(off topic: Lemhoefer uses the term cigarettes very often in her story - which makes me wonder how many tobacco plants had to give their lives for this story...)
Followers of a so called "realistic" school of thoughts, based on the idea that human beings only want to achieve power and MORE power (especially: power over other human beings...), be these followers Machiavellian, Nietzschean or whatever, will be criticizing that, as there is no Leviathan present to control the individuals and - if necessary - smash all wrongdoers, that there are no fights among the populace, no murder, but actually spontaneous solidarity among all the people. At least, these fights are not mentioned.
SO WHAT? It's a MYTH. (And for a myth, "Anything goes!" [Paul K. Feyerabend] is even more necessary to remember than for "purely scientific" reports...)
After all: the probability of the possibility that human beings might be able to figure out that they have only survived just because they were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time and that there are only very few people around who were as lucky and might provide help to them in case oft troubles, dangers etc. and thus it is simply necessary to cooperate as much as possible is not *too* low to consider this as a possibility indeed.
Furthermore: if they would *not* cooperate - who could tell their story?
Well, no fights for the title of the "socially most *un*-fittest", then. Too bad. Yet, Lemhoefer mentions that her survivors do not think of each other as best friends. This could be a nice point to start off heated - pluralistic - discussions
And indeed the people start to discuss how their society should be built.
The Book's protagonist introduces the thought of a world where everyone should be happy - after a statement of the former cigarette smoker who obviously now suffers from a bad mood because of his nicotine deprivation, speaking out for separation.
I like this "world where everyone should be happy"-thought as well I like the one about a world without time pressure. And if we have a look on the tradition of the utopias before, it is quite common amongst utopias. And not just amongst utopias, but in most philosophical concepts striving for an ultimate end, e.g. (my current personal favorite) the utilitarian concept.
Neoliberal, some libertarian or individualistic concepts or to be brief: egoistic concepts will of course deny that this may be possible at all.
But discussing possibilities is what utopias are about!!!
[Ahem. Sorry. Got carried away.]
Anyway, the going-to-be U-Towners discuss and discuss in groups. (by the way: nice idea to have 20 groups label "A" to "T", so the following letter "U" as in "U-Town" or in "Utopia" will be the synthetical result...)
They discuss very much in detail (well, they ARE human...), thus the girl protagonist from the framing story faces a lot of "blabla" and decides to skip it to get to the point.
Once again, our very dear friends from both the "realistic" and "empirical" school amongst the readers will criticize the move - and once again I think they miss the point, as we're reading a story and not a parliamentary discussion protocol... May those who enjoy boredom feel free to switch to other reading...
Lemhoefer now displays the final debate on "split worlds" vs. "one world" and has it decided by the fact that people indeed DO depend on each other *a lot* if mankind is reduced to 382 people... I think this point actually is convincing enough - although the reactionary, sorry, realistic, sorry, "R-Group"'s giving in is slightly too optimistic; indeed the thought rises up, what the smoker and his followers might come up with some time later to build up differences and have it their disharmonic way - even if mankind would be completely killed off by this...
Lemhoefer now puts up a summary of constituitive values and, uhm, basic rules for the imagined society - which actually could be worth a large scale discussion, but that would outscale this already far too long review. Furthermore, these concepts should rather be politically discussed, not judged if they are "logical", but if they are "as they should be".
To be brief: her concept is a mixture of a lot of 60s/70s "flower-poweresque" ecotopian ideas, combined with Marx's workers' paradise and some non-dogmatic anarchism. She discusses this from the perspective of the "girl reading a book" framing story, which gives her the possibility to discuss something like a timeline of further development, too.
She ends the story with the idyllic perspective of the girl in the tree-house, watching the sky and thinking, that certainly it could be worse.
To summarize: I think Lemhoefer managed to create a sound environment for her concept of an ideal world, which can indeed stand up to criticism. One might be of a different opinion on how the ideal world should be like, of course.
But that's a different discussion...
And even for that discussion, Lemhoefer's concept is worth a dream or two about.
Ponokrates, by mail
'U-Town', from an engaging start, rapidly disintegrates and disappoints by the time the cat is out of the bag and the reader is oriented within the fictional world.
The distinction between true Science Fiction and utter Fantasy is generally thought to lie in causal plausibility. 'U-Town' turns out to fit the latter, and might actually be improved by the inclusion of Elves and Pixies for the appropriate tone. Indeed, any sort of guiding Wise Beings and Providers for the transcendence of all human nature and practicality!
The story prose starts well enough to at all keep the reader hooked, which is crucial. And thus far the youthful author has done well to make best use of her own juvenile voice, rather than to leave it incongruous or struggle against it. Never the less, plainly she is very soon in over her head!
The story even from the beginning, is fairly standard. It only draws any freshness from the naivete of it's voice. The one thing that actually ought to be surprising, however, is the notion of how the populace responds to the crisis. Battered ragged starving people, after all, tend to have other more immediate concerns and seldom actually reach any sort of Utopian consensus! Or else, if survival is easy and there are no pressing concerns, then there will be little need or motivation.
And so, if the protagonist, in her researches, might come to notice such incongruity (despite having nothing to compare it with) and then somehow investigate in order to account for this, then the story might find it's twist and it's climax.
Alas, instead, and with no trace of irony, the most blithe and blatant propagandistic presumption rears it's ugly head midway through the tale:
"We believe that common sense is the most important pre-condition of being able to govern, and we are so optimistic to believe that in our society people grow up to acquire it very soon. We don´t believe that there are people who are more apt to this task than others due to their intelligence or rhetoric skills."
Bullshit! Indeed, as I recall, Moammar Qaddafi tried something like that in Libya, with interesting results. Indeed, the Libyans are to be commended for making as good a go of anything so impractical and oppressive as they are! Indeed, far better results than those of the notorious Spanish Anarchists...
Truth to tell, committee politics as described in 'U-Town' is not well known for the attainment of perfection! Even given the best ideals.
By contrast, for example, in another mass amnesia epic, the popular Anime "The Big 'O'", evidentially much of their world was very much still standing, but most crucially they simply needed to relearn how to operate the technology in order to subsist and survive. And, far from anything so unlikely or impractical as the abolition of commerce, the corporate governance that arises thereby is neither Utopian nor, for that matter, pervasively Totalitarian either. And the mysterious dim phobic past remains very much a looming threat through out...
But back to 'U-Town':
Yet more convenient anomaly, a convenient vacation from crime, under conditions wherein looting and gang war might well have been far more probable! "So far there have been no crimes happening here, but we all think it is an illusion to assume that it is going to stay like that in the future." Frankly, 'The Lord of the Flies' seems by far the more believable a scenario. Alas.
At the very least, likewise, in 'U-Town' perhaps some ideal climate of providently great natural abundance could be specifically premised as the setting, maybe even vaguely Polynesian. Not that this helps much in 'The Lord of the Flies'! Indeed, would hypothetical mass amnesia have changed much?
Disappointingly, 'U-Town', which starts out fairly fresh, quickly stales, as engaging and readable narrative rapidly fades into vague, optimistic, ponderous, presumptuous and callow and question-begging frankly ignorant polemic.
Clearly, the little girl protagonist should have skipped far more pages in her turgid library book and spared us all!
The failure is not that the protagonist never confronts that which is contrived, but that the author, likewise.
Aaron Agassi via Utopiapa @ yahoogroups