Monday, August 31, 2009

Totalitarianism, Anarchy, and Utopia: The Goldilocks Syndrome

I am by no means a scholar, so anyone expecting a deep philisophical discussion on the political climate of today's world can just skip to the next person's blog. No, this is merely an attempt to straighten out the thoughts in my head, which at this moment involve the means to a Utopian Society, and why humanity's abusive nature will never allow one. But first a prologue to that idea.

I am a big believer in the 'universal balance', the idea that light cannot exist without dark, good without bad, the duality of the cosmos, karma, etc. It is the fundamental Yin-Yang theory, and one of the reasons for getting one tattooed on my leg; the other was to symbolize my personality in general. That's not to say I have a split personality; it's more about the duplicity in my beliefs, the ongoing series of arguements between the devil and angel on my shoulders, with rarely a clear winner. I tend to see both sides of a story as having legitimately good and bad points, with different shades of gray, and have a hard time deciding which side I'm on. In trying to resolve conflicts, both internally as well as externally, rarely do I find one side unequivically right and one side inarguably wrong; to me life has always been a wide spectrum of grays, the trick is to determine which side has the lesser amount of it. Unfortunately human beings are probably the single biggest gray area in the cosmos, which makes them the hardest to figure out and predict. Here's why: the more complex you make a mechanism, the more chances there are for things to go horribly wrong. You see it in cars, you see it in computers, and you see it in living things. A grasshopper is not as likely to maul you unprovoked as a dog would; likewise, a dog is not as likely to imprison members of your family in a power struggle to gain control over the household as, say, some humans might do to a country. The human brain is the single most complex mechanism known to exist, and thus the most unpredictable. Yes there are 'good' people and 'bad' people, (and let's not forget these very concepts are based on perspective) but very few of us are totally 100% saintly (yin) or completely 100% evil (yang). We all have that little spot of contrast within that adds a gray tinge to the mix. It makes for an extremely diverse world.

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog? Well, I often find myself looking around the world and saying to myself, "Well, this sucks". Mostly it's while reading the news. And being me, I frequently try to think of solutions to the various problems I see, if only in hypothetical terms. I ask myself, "What would need to change in order to obtain the level of peace and harmony so often seen in science fiction's version of the future? What do we need more/less of in order to create a Utopian society? What exactly IS the definition of a 'Utopian' society?" Well, a generally accepted perception of the perfect society seems to be one with no crime, no poverty, no disease, no hate, no corruption; where everyone lives harmoniously and no one is left wanting. Where the need for material gain is replaced by the need to improve the society as a whole. And that, I'm sorry to say, will never happen. It's not being pessimistic, it's not being fatalistic; it's being a realist; unfortunately being realistic oftentimes tilts towards the pessimistic side. It will never happen primarily due to the reasons above; There are too many people, with too many different beliefs, that are too set in their own ways. I'll break it down: In order to have a purely Utopian society, you'd have to convince everyone on Earth to:

Have the same ideals, ethics and values;

Have the same beliefs and belief system or at the very least TRULY and TOTALLY believe in religious tolerance.

Have the same perception of justice, and agree on a system of law and a method of enforcing it;

Have the utmost respect for and faith in their fellow man.

Agree on the eventual goal and purpose of humankind.


Living in America, the perverbial melting pot that it is, I see cultural, religious and societal differences every day of my life. As much goodness and kindness as I witness, I've seen an equal amount (if not a significantly higher amount) of people taking advantage of the system, acting as if they are more important than their fellow man, showing no respect to others, having no tolerance for others beliefs, and generally living as though the rules don't apply to them. and that's just in ONE country. So how do we get people to change, to all think the same way? The bigger question is...


First things first.

The 'how' has been a question of the ages. Well if we were starting from scratch, you might say 'religion'. Sure, give everyone a set of standards, a way of thinking, a moral guideline. In theory, a sound idea. In practice.... well, we've all seen how well THAT worked out. Religious differences account for more deaths in human history than probably every disease combined. So what next? Ah, maybe Government. Have a ruling governing body dictate one way to live, what morals to have, the one way to think. I'm sure I don't have to point out how horribly bad THAT idea was, specifically when the Germans had it.

The fact of the matter is, had we as a species evolved together, in one unified society, and developed a moral and ethical way of life together, we may have had a fighting chance to create and maintain a civilization where we all thought and felt the same and had a common goal for our world. Not likely, but possible. Now, however, with our gaping cultural differences, there's no way we as a people can overcome the huge diversity of our species without someone taking charge and forcing it upon us. Which leads to the second question: Should we even try?

Probably not. As was mentioned, forcing a way of life, even a Utopian way of life, on people is still trying to remove their individuality. People would resist, and the only way to ensure the masses act according to utopian doctrine is to have complete control over what they can and can't do, which ultimately defeats the purpose of a utopian society; laws would be so micromanaged as to allow very little personal freedoms.

Conversely, if we remove government involvement completely, we'd have total pandimonium. Everybody doing whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want, wouldn't last a week. Even assumedly rational people who more or less think and behave the same way would eventually come at odds with each other over how to handle the tiniest situation. You simply cannot have any group of people live together without some sort of governing body, someone who decides what is right and wrong for the group.

Thus we come across the Goldilocks Syndrome: Too hot, too lumpy, Too much governing.... Too cold, too soft, too little governing. And 'just right'? Well, that's the big question, isn't it? And the answer is very simple, if disheartening. The answer is: There is no answer. Because everyone has a different opinion on where that sweet spot is, we may never see world peace in the near, or even not-so-near, future. The simple fact that we are such complex organisms gives us the gift of being uniquely different from each other, yet at the same time curses us to see different paths to Utopia, if they care to see it at all.


Debee said...

This conjures up the image of a wheel. For lack of a better term, let us call it the wheel of life.

The outer rim is the road we all travel. Sometimes we're raised with one set of beliefs and don't bother to explore any other. Sometimes, we're so full of questions that we can't help but want to learn more.

We see the black, white and gray in all things. We see the good and bad in many belief systems. We see this Yin/Yang in all of life whether it is clear and present or not.

Eventually, we tip the scale of balance and lean more toward one belief system than another, or we ultimately form our own with the good we find in many systems. We begin to travel along one of the paths, the spokes, headed towards the center.

Everyone is heading towards the same center, albeit perhaps by a different path. Maybe the focus should not be so much on the path by which they travel, but on their individual journey? After all, we are only responsible for our own journey.

While we may be able to influence the journey of another, they too are ultimately responsible for their journey for every decision brings with it a consequence. The Yin/Yang affect if you will.

Many people will come and go throughout our journey and we’ll experience the Yin/Yang to many varying degrees. Some will remain a constant and others will drift away. Regardless, there will be a level of learning, sharing, and growth. Whether positive or negative, known or unknown, it will remain.

One life touches another, and that life touches more. The ripple affect, or pay it forward perhaps. Maybe this is the ultimate sweet spot, a pot of gold.

Steven said...

Well said paul I like your way of thinking. I heard something similiar in Mass yesterday during the priests serman.