EUTOPIA: A Philosopher Ponders the Good Society
Do you, dear reader, feel like you were just dropped out of the sky onto either the wrong place or the wrong planet, or the wrong time? Okay. Who here has periodic visions of some wonderful world, someplace, though it doesn't seem to be real near?
Who would like to realize big social changes?
Okay! So let us talk politics. I'm talking eutopian politics!
Life forms take on strange shapes. Imagine society as a life form. Conceptualize this: society has its own identity; society is vested in the continuation of itself. Very much like a living thing, very much like a person, society—the body politic—has a survival instinct in which it wishes to procreate, it wishes to live. Think about it. With this we are beginning to realize who "they" are! You know, "they" say this and "they" say that. It is difficult to find "them," but here they are in the zeitgeist, or the mind of our times! "They," this thing called Society, have spent years telling me, perhaps telling you, many tall tales, and lies, and one of the real insidious ones arise when the whole concept of utopia is discussed. It is very quickly put aside. Come on! It's a chimera, it's idealistic, it's pie in the sky, it's no where, therefore, illusion or even delusion. That may be why it attracts relatively few people....Just a couple of idealistic utopian dreamers here or there. Perhaps you?
When we talk about society and enculturation, we are talking about conditioning, and this is a subject, as a hypnotherapist, that I have paid a lot of attention to. In fact, one of the reasons why I became a hypnotherapist was to understand the hidden dynamics incorporated into society. Keep in mind the concept of conditioning and please reflect upon all the different things that were told to us in the past from our parents, from our teachers, from our guardians, from the newspapers, from television...we were, and are, constantly getting messages, commands, advice and hypnotic suggestions! It can be very subtle; it's definitely pervasive. For instance, here's a real interesting suggestion: let's pretend we're born and raised in the United States, and let's pretend that English is the given language...fantasize along with me right now. Let us further pretend that Christianity is the main religion here.
Now ponder this statement: we chose to speak English for the same reasons that we chose to be Christians....
Are we talking choice when English is the language of the land? Or when Christianity is the religion of the land? These are just given! Now start thinking about all the things that also are "just given!" Again, conditioning is pervasive. Remember, too, that people isolated within a mono-culture tend to judge the world—and other foreign ideas—as strange, inconsequential and perhaps inferior. The Greek word "barbarian" originally meant foreigner.
It is my belief that we are presently evolving in this New Age, in the Aquarian Age, and we are evolving towards Eutopia. Utopia is officially spelled U-T-O-P-I-A, which was coined by Thomas More in the early 16th Century. It essentially means "no place." I prefer to spell it E-U-T-O-P-I-A. EU means true, like archery when you are true on target. EU means good or well. Eugenics contains that same prefix and means good characteristics. Eudemonia means in good spirits or happy. A eulogy is a good commendation or praise. And then there is euphoria!
Eutopia, then, is a true place, an ideal place, a good and possible place.
Are these the end times, or the re-visioning, or creating Eutopia. It can be revolutionary. Conceptualize this: From such an ideal, or good, place, let us "look back" at society and redevelop or redefine it as a place to live and to grow and that is good for all. The following is a thumbnail sketch of a redefinition, which by necessity includes views on education, work, government, finances, economics, childhood education, production, health, transportation, food and social services. And in about 5000 words! A utopian task, you say!
I understand that the inventors of the Macintosh computer had a pretty good idea. They took the basic concept of wanting to have efficiency and ease and came up with the idea of "user friendly." They stated their objectives. They said this is what we want it to look like (monitor screen) and this is what we want the computer to do. It must be clear, it must be logical and straight-forward. They started with first principles. After they decided what they wanted the computer to do, they then asked how to build the machinery, the hardware, the mechanics, that would do what they wanted it to do. Simple? Ingenious? You bet. This is the horse before the cart. Evidently the other, larger, wing of computer developers started with the hardware and asked how can we get these parts and pieces to work. Was that the cart before the horse? If we go back further still, the early typewriters had simple mechanical keys that imprinted the letter onto the paper by hitting the ribbon moving over the paper. The keyboard - the one that we use every day - was altered because people were able to type too quickly for the machine! However, once technology changed, did we change the keys back to the more efficient and quicker positions? No. The keyboard became "stuck." Now we are stuck with it. What else are we stuck with?
I believe Eutopia can be built in a pragmatic way: starting from individual needs, from personal and natural desires, moving on to social needs and larger desires and building upon that. And so we start with the primary desires, the primary goals; that which we all are looking for. Have you ever heard of the pursuit of happiness? Of course you have. Let us build upon the basics of life here on this wonderful planet … that makes demands upon us to think and plan prudently and productively for the future and start with food, clothing, shelter and health. These are the basics. As the ancient Chinese sage, Mencius, warned us, "a hungry people are not expected to be moral." We're not talking bare minimum if we are aiming towards happiness!
And so, we build upon the basics. We enhance life—and living (for wo/man cannot live on bread alone!). Specifically, how about personal respect, success, peace, harmony, imagination, arts, freedom, equality, pleasure, romance and love?! We can add, furthermore, security, creativity, joy, and choice (did you know that the word heretic means "one who chooses?").
I can conservatively say that these are things that people are probably wanting in the world.
I consider myself a practical mystic, and so let me then share with you some different ideas that I hope that you can take with you, since we probably cannot adequately discuss the entire depiction of society in it's new form in such a small space. By beginning with first principles, however, one can contemplate the possibilities of the good life; one can build one's own Eutopia. Then, it is hoped that you will go out there and make those initial changes that will carry the revolution just that much farther towards its resolution! Because that's what it's about, right? Otherwise it's just talk.
It is said that "the pen is mightier than the sword." I propose now to give you some words, some statements, that are revolutionary. And yet...you have heard these things before. It is just that Society drowned out some wisdom in its [neurotic] desire to survive, not thrive. Read these words with Eutopia in mind. (By the way, I've got the germ idea of a book that I call MAPS and I spell MAPS this way...M-A-P-S. MAPS represents Maxims, Aphorisms, Philosophies, and Sayings. They are guideposts for our personal unfoldment. I wish I had some MAPS growing up.) You'll probably recognize many of these ideas.
Moderation in all things, excess in none.
This is Buddha's "middle way," and Confucius' "doctrine of the mean." Let's take food for an example. Avoid Excess! You can starve yourself on the one side (and other variations of too little), and you can bloat yourself like a glutton on the other side, which is too much. Where is the middle way, where is the ideal for you? In another example, think of the weather. To me, 72 degrees is just right; not too hot, not too cold. Moderation implies balance. Politically and socially, what does this tell us about the extremes of wealth and poverty, both of which are excesses, both of which are evils. Many ills can be found to stem from these financial extremes. These include various forces that are crippling our society, even our world. I refer to greed, selfishness, insecurity, hunger, deprivation, inequality, crime, and injustice. Other excesses? Let us not forget false pride or superiority (Excessive pride is not to be underrated. The ancient Greeks blamed such pride on many sorrows; they named it hubris.). Of course, there is something to be said for the hard lessons learned by crossing the realms of comfort, by going over the edge or going too far; many people need to find out for themselves what too far means and feels like. But that is called "learning from one's mistakes." When we look at society in a similar way we have the well-known admonition, "those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat them." Civilization has a long history with plenty of examples of extremism in its many forms. Let us, as a world, learn from the past and move on! Let us live in balance!
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
We're talking personal responsibility here. Teaching that personal responsibility is up to each and every one of us. I believe we're learning that in this new age, in this Aquarian Age. We're also talking about education, and specifically, practical education. We need to go beyond the 3 R's as an educational goal. Teaching people "to live" - more than just making a living - how to adjust, how to fit into one's niche in an enlightened society, how to creatively thrive with a sense of security.
We need to change attitudes about work, for work in our society, and probably in the western world, (which, by sheer influence, is creeping throughout the whole world) is seen as either a necessary evil or something that you will do until you get to that point where you don't have to do it any more...and if you're lucky you can win the lottery and then you don't have to work at all! This is quite probably an "aristocratic" carry over from the habits and attitudes of the wealthy upper classes (and to those who wish to aspire to that wealthy lifestyle) over the past 500 years (at least). One can detect a taint of class struggle and privilege associated with the excesses of wealth and poverty here!
The eutopian proposal: the idea that work can be a joy, work can be a source of personal satisfaction and meaningful social, cultural, and global contribution! Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, said that "science progresses funeral by funeral." A sad state of affairs that can be applied to many areas of life; the old ways must die before the new can take their place. We must teach that man to fish! I refer to an education, a wholistic education; something that recognizes the whole person, something that engages the body, mind and soul of sentient beings! I refer to an education that takes others into consideration; that, indeed, takes the whole world—and its myriad life forms, flora and fauna—into consideration. Are we really here "to subdue the earth?" No, I think not. We are here to live in cooperation and communion with physical and biological laws—which merely form the framework within which we can live harmoniously!
Let us passionately embrace learning! Let us work in pleasant contentment and deep satisfaction, perhaps even in delight!
From each according to one's abilities, to each according to one's needs.
This is a socialist concept, coined in the last century by Pierre Proudhon. As we all know, economics plays a very powerful role in our society. It is important to understand what economics originally meant. We go back to the original Greek and we find oikonomous meant "household management." When you think of modern economics you are taught to think of dollars and euros, rubles and yen, you think of debts and credits. What have these got to do with household management? When you think of the house, a house, your house, the household, it refers to an inclusiveness, a family; how big is your family? Is it your blood, your clan? Is it a Greek city-state? Is it your nation? Are you a part of a global family? The implication (perhaps the fact) is that we're all in this together. And the commonwealth, the common weal (which means good—how eu!—the well being of the whole), means "that which is held in common" is a little bit closer to the idea of "true" economics than what we call economics today. When we consider the idea of management, which implies managing or making prudent and efficacious decisions, how does this compare with the many decisions which are based upon the bottom line? Businesses fail, corporations fall, and good ideas, as well as good charitable organizations fail because they don't have the economic, or financial, underpinnings; they don't have enough dollars, they don't have enough cents. There are too many decisions based upon this abstract, impersonal, inanimate thing called money, which is not connected to the efficient or practical running, the managing, of "the good house" or the commonwealth. Whether the original meaning of oikonomous is officially recognized or not, it looks like its bastard modern namesake, economics, is operative in the world. I don't have to tell you, good reader, that the institutions and vested interests which have created and maintained these distorted, modern notions of economics are not going to relinquish their hold on the reins of production and distribution quietly or easily. This is not a matter of convincing the power-brokers of an inequity and hoping for a judicious change in course. We are talking social change, a revolution. I wonder what Mr. Oppenheimer would say about it.
Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you.
Here's a quote that's very revolutionary. Nice saying. The golden rule. As a practical mystic, I believe we might have to initiate this maxim socially with "the silver rule," which was declared by Confucius in ancient China: do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto you. This means, essentially, do not harm others. The golden rule is more powerful and dynamic, however, for it encourages us to actively engage in doing good as compared with not doing harm, or evil.
This brings us, interestingly enough, to karma. Karma as the give and take in the world, the principle of cause and effect. That's what the golden rule is about. You plant the seeds, they grow; you do good, good comes back to you. You give, you receive. Feedback, karma!
- A quick note on karma found within interpersonal relationships: let's add a corollary onto that positive aphorism and know that that which you plant will come back to you...but it may not come back from the same person! Good thing to know, especially if you're in a relationship and keeping track of your "good deeds" and waiting for the pay off!
Do not under-estimate the power of the golden rule. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed the golden rule? Well, the whole thrust of this article is towards that end.
And now for something which, upon first inspection, may not be as palatable. This comes from Socrates (via Plato):
Unless philosophers are kings we will not find peace and contentment in the land, indeed, for the whole human race.
The chief reason for this maxim is to combine two things which rulers, good rulers, need to perform their critically important tasks: wisdom and power. This aphorism is something that we may be conditioned against, for this is another revolutionary idea and it is not a popular one. That is because it has been abused—and remember, abuse is an excess. Typically the first argument against this idea is that old fool's gold maxim, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Consider this: was the corrupted one corrupt to begin with? Was the person not up to the task, the responsibility, to begin with? This is dust in the eyes, as far as arguments go
Another reason why this idea is not popular is because democracy is the one which is “popular”. Democracy sounds very fair but it ends about there. It is, to the West, a sacred cow; it is politically incorrect to question the sanctity of democracy. We are programmed to think “democracy,” even though we typically get to have our say once every two or four years. Interestingly enough, from our western historical roots comes some sobering insights about this form of government. Socrates, the teacher to Plato, said that if the world were composed of gods then democracy would work. What typically occurs in a land ruled by a democratic constitution, Socrates also said, is that excessive liberty becomes the norm, which essentially means that "every man is out for himself;" this, of course, promotes unbridled license, greed and crime. From such chaos, he continued, would come a tyrant to restore order; a conservative backlash would be the result of outright democracy! Socrates could have predicted the outcome of the French Revolution: Napoleon. What is happening in present day America? or in the dominant world paradigm of democracy and the open market? The signs are obvious – quite a mess. By the way, the liberty-loving Greeks sentenced Socrates to death for voicing his beliefs.
In the same book, The Republic, Socrates said that we, as concerned citizens, would have to go out into the country, out to the populace, in order to find these philosopher-kings and, furthermore, we would have to recruit them because anyone who is that clever and sane is not going to get involved with politics! They would have to be convinced, Socrates said, to take on that role, that responsibility. Such a person would probably combine intellect, spirituality, executive ability and a sincere desire to help others—not only to help others in the world, other human beings, but other beings on this planet, which is a relatively rare person (today). If there were, however, more positive conditioning, a responsive—and responsible—media, and a good, well-founded education, we, as a society, could generate many an able leader.
Look at the way things are today. Look at organizations, look at groups, look at committees, look at schools, look at your family dynamics and then consider this: the temperament of who is in charge is going to color the whole organization from the top on down. You can have a great, productive, thriving group of people with a high morale or a paranoid, unhappy and dysfunctional group (substitute family, business, government, nation etc.) hugely dependent upon the person—or committee—in charge. From this obvious observation, one can easily reason why the persons in charge should combine wisdom and power!
There have been too many leaders, be they in commerce, politics, or gangs, who have attained and maintained their positions due to their insecurities, greed, avarice, ego aggrandizement, aggressiveness, willfulness, ignorance, and bully-boy tactics. We can look at the world now or peruse history, the world is full of such dysfunctional beings. The pragmatic and progressive view is to get those wounded people away from privileged and powerful positions and channel them into activities that will not harm others. They need care, compassion, education and therapy – not power. The spiritual view is to recognize them as young souls still learning the multiple lessons of life and love and it is the duty of the old souls, as responsible parents, to not let these “children” harm others! This is not a put-down or condescension, but merely a clear observation. Remember Jesus on the cross when he said, "forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!"
One extra idea concerning managers and the pyramid effect they have: I've been interested for a long time in the study of political philosophy and comparative political systems. After years of analysis and contemplation of the various systems—republican democracy, fabian socialism, outright socialism, communism, capitalism, and all the other "isms," it came to me that any of these systems would work! Any system would work, even a dictatorship, if you have the right person in charge!
Such a philosopher king will recognize why we as humans are here on the earth in the first place, which is a very important primary principle to start off with before one starts legislating the rules and regulations of how to manage or organize that just society. Why are we here, you night ask. Look to the roots and ideals found in spiritual traditions, not political institutions, for answers to that! (Oh No! Are we introducing the Church back into the State? No, that baby was thrown out with the bath-water! Let us put spirit back in the system. I refer to first principles, to spirituality. *) We are here to know ourselves, to accept ourselves, to improve ourselves, and to help others to evolve. We are also evolving towards God, whatever you conceive IT to be. My personal perspective on God is that we are talking about spirit with a big S! Life, Love and Wisdom, to make an immense subject simple!
The philosopher-kings and queens spiritually know why we are here; they are the old souls, the community parents, the wise elders (no matter their chronological age!). They are typically quieter and more circumspect than many. They may not be showy. They don't feel like they have to perform. The Bible refers to unostentatious, unpretentious, and calmer individuals as meek (or was it a poor translation? Was it the humble, kind, compassionate?). The meek shall inherit the earth.
So how do we consciously get there? How to get the conscious ball rolling, as it were?
Think globally, act locally.
This maxim is now seen as a bumper sticker. Sometimes, when phrases such as this become a cliché, people minimize it, forgetting how powerful and wise it is. This is similar to how utopia has been dismissed prematurely. Start where you are needs to go with this one. Start right here, right now, where you are. This is a group endeavor. It's not going to happen by a talk, even if it is well attended. It's going to be an effort by individuals. Participation! Which is, interesting enough, one of the things democracy espouses, participatory democracy. Everybody has a vote, everybody has a say (they say). But until you get your MAPS out, you may not know exactly where to go. If the group in that participatory order doesn't have MAPS, things can get divisive and lost. Anybody who has been involved in a committee knows that it a slow moving process at best. So I would urge you to move in your own individual way to act locally towards that goal of Eutopia. Incite some friends, incite thought and action towards that aim, that ideal.
Get involved in your local communities, because we're talking about community here! Practice this one: act as if Eutopia were here! Act as if you were already members in this world citizen, progressive society; act as if Eutopia was just a matter of course! Kind of revolutionary, huh? Act as if we were moving swiftly towards Eutopia, towards that good direction, towards someplace better. Act locally!
Perhaps you could start with a small reading list; which would be useful, maybe as a basis for a personal discussion group. I've quoted several times from Plato's Republic, a fascinating classic with ideas that are 2500 years old (will we ever learn?)! M. Scott Peck's The Different Drum, is a good book on community. Aldous Huxley's Island is a description of a Eutopia (but corrupt society gets its way in the end). There are many good books. This is a start.
I would like to note that many people have been actively involved in helping us all to get closer to that special place, whether they have been conscious of the end result or not. I feel that things are improving in the world. I'm pretty optimistic about what is going on in many areas and the improvements made in many other areas. Things are improving, believe it or not. Our civilizations are evolving; you can see that in many different ways. Let's talk improvements. How about computers? If knowledge is freedom and power, look out! The Information Highway is the great equalizer. More people now have access to more information, more options, more possibilities, than at any other time in history. Even if we hang on to the archaic concept of democracy, people could realize huge movements and concerns, initiate referendums and quickly gather support, and vote on specific initiatives more often via the Internet, and our modern telecommunication access. This will mean, of course, less power and control by our elected officials (and the unelected lobbyists), but it would be closer to real popular agendas. How about special meetings and gatherings of like-minded, positive people? Here and there we have a gathering of open, progressive, and conscious people; there are all kinds of really interesting individuals with special gifts and talents, healing abilities, insights, and environmentally, life-enhancing products and services. Now look at civil rights. We know, in this country, 50 years ago there were separate toilet facilities for blacks, excuse me, Negroes, and there were some places where they absolutely could not go. Have things improved? Affirmative action, educational and professional opportunities point towards that. Well, now that we have Barock Obama as president, we are talking a new century!
Compare things with the past. How about the horrendous World Wars? Or all of the other wars in history. Sad. Count your blessings. We have good social welfare and educational programs, we have public radio, public television, we have good books and programs. There are many good things going on, just look around you. Medicine has improved; alternative methods are now recognized as major interests. Picture this: A typical guy, enjoying a warm, cozy evening protected from a snow storm outside by a good heater, lights, electricity. The TV is on and an orchestra is performing on his favorite station. This guy is more comfortable, healthier, and content than a king was 300 years ago. Technology is freeing us.
...Having said all that, we have a long ways to go towards this eutopian ideal! No, no big congratulations are in order yet. I merely wish to point out that we are evolving. I think if we could put these principles I've discussed, these MAPS, into action, we could be evolving a lot faster towards a possible future, a Eutopia. A EU-topia that implies, of course, taking that good track, that true aim. There's the EU word again, true aim towards where are we going in the evolutionary schemes of things.
"Following the Vision"
I have glimpsed periodically, in my inner visions, what that Eutopia is like. I've received bits and pieces of a great world, a wonderful world, a possible Eutopia. Are we ready to go? Personally, I believe that we are evolving or growing towards what I feel is a Eutopian form of government that might look something like enlightened anarchy. I believe we, as a people, probably need to go through a period of time in which the Philosopher-King/Queen can guide us benevolently towards this goal. Enlightened Anarchy? Let us look at this. Archy means rule. Anarchy means either no rule or no ruler; focusing upon the latter, imagine nobody needing to tell you what to do as a responsible citizen, no one to remind you to behave, as if you were an infant, nobody to tell you or me when to be courteous or not to others (we are assuming that the MAPS will be in place and utilized!). Therefore, enlightened anarchy means all of us taking personal responsibility for US, individually, as an entire group, and for Gaia, the Mother Earth, and her many life forms. And yes, this is indeed idealistic. We are not yet ready, as societies, to step into this advanced form of co-existence with our fellow beings. Education is the cornerstone of the change. We may not get to the promised land, but our children might - if we instill the ideals. As a hypnotherapist with the knowing that mass hypnosis/ cultural conditioning is occuring anyway, we might as well instill the highest ideals. May we awaken to the possibilities.
I wish you happy journeys to Eutopia.
We've got to get ourselves back to the Garden...