Utopian Idealism: A Figment of Imagination
Essay by Jaclyn Barrows
When a person thinks of a utopian world, one without griefs and troubles, and one where things make seemingly perfect sense and work out to a positive end (for the aforementioned dreamer), it is easy to see why such thoughts would be highly attractive. For some, their ideal utopian world is ultimately fair for all, and when you dig deeper in conversation with them, you find out quickly that not only do they want equal opportunity for everyone (for why should even one person go without when so many have perceivably more than their fair share?) but equal results as well. Others dream of a world where they themselves get what it is they want or feel they have earned in life; this could be a regained relationship with a lost significant other (or better yet never having lost them in the first place), or they might finally get that great job they had been striving for so long. Still, others view a utopian world (and in this case, perhaps a utopian universe) as one without the existential problems of death, illness, and fear of the unknown.
However, in order to best understand the very concept of Utopia, one must look at the root of the issue—that root being our world, our universe, and our very reality in which we all must live…is indeed imperfect to the core. More than that, it is incredibly unfair and chaotic, at times with only glimmers of peace shining through.
Because this is the way our world and reality operate and have operated likely since the beginning of time (or at least since mankind came to power on this earth), this often leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment with this world. After all, why can it not be a fair world? Why is it that we all inevitably have to face things that cause us grief and pain, especially when it is undue?
Allow us to begin with why we are given trials and tribulations in the first place, and why such challenges are there—which is often to help us grow individually and collectively. Along with that, allow us to explore why our world works in this manner, rather than one that we view as “perfect” or “utopian”. Finally, allow us to see why the concept of a utopian world or society is more of a figment of the human imagination than some of us care to admit.
The fact of the matter is trials, tribulations, and challenges are a staple of this world and universe. Ours is a reality of cause and effect in an almost infinite loop of one continually influencing the other. It is the reason we get up in the morning, for we as living things always need something to fight against. There comes a point, however, when we all get tired. This is a tiredness of the mind and spirit, mind you, rather than merely physical tiredness. We don’t feel like fighting for resources every day of our lives, and we aren’t interested in brief breaks from larger troubles that cause us a lot more grief than our typical day-to-day challenges (because eventually, we have to come back to them in some form). Sometimes, we get so tired, that in the name of greater efficiency in our lives, we will completely cut off certain issues or people or whatever is plaguing us at the time so that we feel there is perhaps greater room for good instead of bad.
This tiredness of the fight has prompted many throughout the course of history, famous and infamous alike, to develop in their own minds and on paper their own seemingly fool-proof ideas of a utopian society. If such a one has enough and influence, that political leader may rise to the top and attempt to implement their ideas of a sort of utopia, only to have it quickly become dystopian through major character flaws such as greed and lust for greater power.
Finally, this tiredness, or state of mental and spiritual exhaustion, rather, comes from a place of wanting to solve problems, but to have them solved on a permanent level. We don’t want to deal with the same trials, challenges, and issues over and over again. When it comes to areas of politics, for example, we don’t want the same type of person in the office that we’ve had before, especially when they were not a proven success in leading the people, or have brought on more problems instead of solutions. This is especially true when those problems were brought on intentionally due to greed or lust for power. The main point, here, is we as an intellectual species are always endeavoring to not commit the sin of insanity, which most define by repeating the same actions over and over again in an effort to achieve a different result. If we feel at all like we are doing this, then we grow weary all the easier.
While the fact remains that we all grow weary of our lives and the world from time to time, and long for lasting solutions to both ordinary and extraordinary problems, a utopian paradise isn’t the best solution. This reality of ours will find ways to thwart even the most perfect ideas only because our reality relies so heavily upon keeping us all on our toes and challenging us to fight for everything we want and need. Some days will be easier than others, and other days more difficult than expected. As stated before, this is what gets us up in the morning, after all.
II. The Universal Law of Entropy and Other Reasons Why
Scientists would later refer to how our universe operates as the Law of Entropy, an intrinsic part of Chaos Theory that allows the chaotic state of our universe to create random little pockets of order, sometimes even producing life. This is the very antithesis of utopia as a concept, and yet it is also not. The concept of utopia relies on creating a sense of perfect order out of the chaos in our lives, after all. From there, we can all live happily ever after. Or so we like to think, that is.
However, the reason why the law of entropy is also the antithesis of utopia is that for a utopian world to work, every creature involved has to be perfectly onboard, each one with the same idea and willingness to work toward that ideal future the supposed leader would want. Everyone would have to somehow want the same thing for themselves and each other and be willing to do whatever it took to make such a world exist. As we all should know, humanity alone doesn’t operate this way. With over 7 billion people on the planet and counting, and each one having their own concept of what their personal ideal world would look like, it is virtually impossible to create a one-size-fits-all perfect society.
First, the idea itself would have to be utter perfection. No one’s ideas or views of what perfection and utopia are can be left out. We all know what could and would likely happen if it were not; some of those among us would end up resentful at the thought their own ideas for perfection and utopian society were not used, for such people often view their own ideals as being exactly what the world needs. Or, if the overall idea of a utopian society were not inclusive of everyone’s thoughts, then it would need to be in perfect agreement with everyone involved. In other words, the utopian ideal would have to be workable and carry enough of what everyone wants for everyone to have some sort of investment in the idea.
Next, there would have to be no sinful nature in any human being to disrupt such perfection, should the idea itself be perfect. By this, I mean that there wouldn’t have to be a shred of greed, lust, desire for power over others, avarice, covetousness, nothing of the sort. Even the smallest amount of evil would instantly destroy a utopian ideal. It has done so before on the world’s scale, with Communism, Socialism, Nazism, Nationalism, Capitalism, as well as kingdoms, empires, democracies, anarchies, and theocracies of every sort. Each leader of said “ism” or government has tried to create their own personal utopia and market it to those below him or her. Each leader or governmental body has failed several ways in creating their utopias due to their own evils within.
Finally, there is the issue of the maintenance of said utopian ideal. This one is especially tricky, for utopian ideals, in general, are often high maintenance. Perfection, in general, requires constant watchful efforts on our part; this universe and reality we live in is one that descends into chaos, rather than ascends into order. Thus, everyone involved in the creation of the proposed utopian ideal (as well as those lucky enough to live under it) would be explicitly required to maintain said ideal and would have to do so by first keeping careful watch of themselves and those around them. Yet there would have to still be a balance when it comes to keeping that careful watch; many previous societies and governing bodies in our world history have failed at one point or another due to what we now term as Big Brother or Big Government encroaching upon human freedoms and rights.
Our universe and our subsequent reality are, as stated previously, one that requires a continual state of active maintenance that would quickly become too much to manage should a perfect idea of a utopian society exist and be implemented.
III. A Figment of Our Collective Imaginations
With all of this being said, it is an understatement that the concept of a utopian world, especially on planet earth where imperfect people with sinful natures live and breathe, is a dream world. A figment of one’s imagination at best.
There are over 7.5 billion people on this planet, with each individual person having their own ideas in regards to what a perfect world would look like to them, given their backgrounds, ethnicities, races, gender, viewpoints, core beliefs, core motives (both pure and impure) and otherwise. One would be hard-pressed to come up with a solid plan that everyone involved would be able to stick with, and not somehow be corrupted through human selfishness or lust for power.
However, the fact remains that with all the input to consider from everyone around us all over the globe, there is no true way to meet everyone’s goals and desires for a perfect utopian world here on Earth. The best we can do for each other is to pool our efforts at creating an incrementally better world on an individual and collective basis and to recognize that we need to set some ground rules for basic fairness amongst ourselves. Otherwise, the goal of creating a better world will not be met.
In other words, we must have realistic expectations for what can be accomplished. It cannot be all pie-in-the-sky dreams and mentalities.
This is something even the Greek thinkers of the old knew back in their time. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as well as all the contemporaries of their age pondered and debated this often, and resulted in great works of thought still studied to this day. The principles they had come up with for the essentials of fairness in this world are looked at as valuable cornerstones of Western thought. One would suppose it helped them to have also lived in a vibrant world full of cultures intermixing and mingling with one another, which likely helped them to see how impossible a utopian world would be to even have as a goal. Perfection of one’s self alone is an arduous journey. To demand a utopia is to demand this perfection out of everyone despite how people feel about it and their likelihood of working towards it. On our own, we as a society are simply not able to do it—it’s too much of a demand, and it’s one that we individually have to agree to on our own just to work toward it in our own selves.
Now, of course, there have been attempts at earthly utopias in the form of governments that, in order to sell their ideas to the public, made it seem as though it didn’t demand too much out of their constituents, but instead made their lives easier. Such attempts are being made to this day. But all one has to do is look back at history to see how such ideas ended up—and it’s usually bloodshed caused by human greed, selfishness, and lust for power. This is because the root cause is never addressed but avoided, and in the end, causes the failure.
While it is understandable why people so often dream of a utopian world that solves all their external woes, the fact will always remain that here on earth, with its population of imperfect and selfish humans, utopia will only exist in dreams. History has shown the whole world how not to achieve it, and reality shows us it cannot be truly achieved on our own accord and in our own efforts, despite how hard some of us may work for it. True utopia cannot be achieved on our own accord, so instead, we must start with ourselves and our own behaviors as individuals. We must make incremental changes in ourselves towards that which is good, and away from that which is bad. It should be dually noted that these types of changes within ourselves must also be tied to the Author of all that is good, for those who understand my meaning, as it is only when tied to said Author and Finisher do we actually have any success in our efforts.
To conclude, it is better to start off the journey towards a better world with realistic expectations of ourselves and others in mind, knowing that the most perfect utopia cannot exist in this world under our current circumstances. So rather than focusing on how to make the best earthly utopia available, let’s instead consider how we can make changes large and small towards a better world in general. Again, this starts on an individual basis when we ourselves choose to change, and hopefully, this decision will grow into a collective one as well. We may just find greater success doing things this way than to exhaust ourselves attempting to reach an impossible goal in this life.