On Utopian Thinking

Speculative fiction of the futuristic variety goes in more or less two general directions. The future is either Utopian or Dystopian. Things either go right and all is well, or they go wrong and nothing is as it should be.

I speak generally of course. Utopias are all too frequently faulty and Dystopias often have seas of hope and redemption hidden under the surface. But I want to write a bit on the thinking that exists behind such ideals. And yes, they are ideals. Utopias are happy with the way things are going and Dystopians are basically warnings. They both pass judgement on society as it exists in the present.

Utopias and Dystopias both base themselves on the premise that the world can change. This, I think is a mental trap. Not because I am opposed to fiction that follows such thinking — I don’t — but because such fiction can leave us with misleading ideas about the way the world works.

Often, what we mean by “the way the world works” is simply “how other people behave”. This leads to a person putting himself on a pedestal and claiming that there is something inherently virtuous about the way he or she behaves. As opposed to other people, who are misguided, delusional, or just plain evil. Such thinking also leads to ideas like “the promised land” or golden futures that lie on the other side of “judgement day”. More than change, Utopianism is based on arrogance.

Is speculation regarding the future arrogant then? Let me not answer that. Let me just propose that for an artist to imagine what tomorrow will be like, is standard practice. But for him to place it in the realm of objective reality (willingly or otherwise) is pushing the limits a little.

But then again, where is it written that being arrogant is wrong?

#change, #human-behaviour, #utopia