Briefly on Utopia – or the 90% and the Tithe, Part Two

The perfect society and the perfectly adjusted individual may seem two different utopian views. If we say perfectly adjusted citizen, then we are thinking of the perfect society. If we think of the perfect human being, then we may be thinking of many things – of super-men, saints, leaders, acquiescent followers… – Richard Dawkins’s rather debased Darwinism.
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However, Utopia is a place (Nowhere backwards, or Erehwon), and so the perfect human being must be a fitting citizen of the community which creates it. E O Wilson’s eosocial evolution depicts some social groups – not leaders and followers, evolving to fit their landscapes as those landscapes also evolve.
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But wait, you say, how can we have evolution within a stable Utopia? We can, because Utopia is Nowhere – it will never exist. Cultures and their understanding of themselves and their environment will evolve as generations pass beneath the surety of common ideals. Those ideals may be fragments (some devised, others inherited) of Utopia.
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Thinking of the tithe and the 90%, a community aiming to shed that self-destructive, fossil-fuelled 90% of consumption, does so in transition. A Utopian community exists within the remaining tithe, where ordinary, fallible people also strive to exist. The people are Somewhere, while Utopia is Nowhere. Nowhere and Somewhere coexist but never meet, just as a real city and its dreaming spires coexist, but never meet. I think the two may be essential to each other – unsullied, Utopian ideas become comic when superimposed on pragmatic truths. Pragmatic truths become tragic, when superimposed on unsullied Utopian ideas. The tempering is valuable.
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Comedy and tragedy – the one of the mind, the other of the heart – keep the hubris of success in its place. They socialise Superman back to her human capability. That is the virtue of Utopia. It cuts us down to human size. It also gives meaning and also beauty to attempts that fail.
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It is no coincidence, that Utopian visions emerge most often beneath gathering, or gathered clouds – of invasion, oppression, drought, flood – beneath the tyrannies of both people and weather. Utopia may prove spiritually useful in enduring the gathering dark of the current powers and of climate change. What is hope? – the opposite of despair? Yes. Hope is those falling fragments of Utopia that endure – love, justice, belonging… They are immutable in flood, storm and passing tyrannies. Despair acknowledges overwhelming physical truth and sits with her head in her hands. Hope says, I remain; my family remains; love is simply what it is, in spite of all evidence. You see, as I say, Utopia and Somewhere never meet – never in the battlefield – never on that beautiful shore.
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Our trashed Earth of cascading species loss and a crazily disbalanced atmosphere is a truth too hard to bear. It is plain that emissions targets of nation states such as the UK and the US, are fictions and that climate change is already accelerating beyond human recall. It is also plain that, here in the UK, the powerful are incompetent, self-serving fools, who yet hold nearly overwhelming tools of wealth appropriation, violence and misinformation. It is plain that it is the same globally – it is globalisation. Yet look – above those dreaming cities, scales of justice rebalance every wrong in cities of the clouds…
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Nearly every essay of mine leads back to the truth that governments can only act on species loss, cascading ecologies, dying agricultural soils and climate change by abandoning democracy and adopting autocracy. They must be on a “war footing” against pillage. Current democracies act more like the consumer choices of utterly amoral, consumer right. The powers provide the services and pocket the bulk of money-flow. And so, I’m lead to the thought that every economy is but a collection of households demanding services. In turn, and because I cannot but like democracy and dislike despotism, I’m lead home through my own garden gate, to the thought that only my own household has the answer – and all the households like it. A collection of households demanding services could become the same collection deciding to live within its ecological means – leaving the powers to wilt and Earth to regenerate. Those households will step out with just a tenth (tithe) of their old effects, draining the current powers of the bulk of their wealth. My reader will know how casino collapse will shatter real infrastructures and employment. It will bring human tragedy. We’ll leave that to lie quietly, only to point out that the climate change, to which the casino is heading, will be far more catastrophic – with more of human tragedy, than any casino collapse.
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Many of the most potent economic connections within and between households are not measured when most people think of economies. They don’t appear in GDP or in clever economic forecasts. Yet these things are the vital organs of all economies – bed time stories, knowledge, handshakes, gossip, sympathy, empathy, shared pleasures – raised glasses, a pub chorus, birdsong, a walk to the hilltop, a stroll on the shingle, good cooking, gardening… I think it probable that as GDP (spending) shrinks to the tithe, so such things will expand and as they do, so happiness can expand, contrary to the dark of times. Meanwhile the effects of climate change will close in and must be faced. We cannot undo what is done. We can only communally agree not do it again. Those unmeasured connections will remain, if we are able to live them, beneath the collapse of currencies and infrastructures and may bind communities in the face of climate change.
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The good life lived among good lives creates Utopia. It shimmers into being like a Summer mirage and disappears to reappear as falling petals of justice and other fragments, like half-caught, then forgotten memories – those hedgerow scents that recall something we did once, somewhere we’ve mis-placed or forgotten – only that it was good.
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