Sunday, January 12, 2014

Random Thoughts: Your Utopia is not my Utopia.

Utopia scares the daylights out of me.

  There was a time when I wished I could live in a Utopia. When I was young, I thought that world was filled with stupid people. So many people seemed to be totally clueless. I dreamed of a world filed with smart people that thought like I did. It took me a while, but I finally grew up. I then noticed that all of the Utopias I saw where more or less terrible places to live, at least for me. Do not get me wrong, I do not think of the future as a terrible place. I am optimistic about the future and I will point out some futures that I would not mind living in. Here are some of Utopias that I think were meant to be hopeful but terrify me. 

H. G. Wells The Shape of Things to Come.

Let's face it, the fashions of H.G. Wells' Utopia are enough to give anyone nightmares. I for one do not want to wear a skirt, sandals, cape, and shoulder pads. The story is quite prophetic in many ways. He more or less predicts WWII, but we did not destroy civilization and thankfully we did not use biological weapons on a large scale. The cautionary tale part of the story is great. It all goes wrong for me when it all goes right for H.G. Wells. Once the Dictatorship of the Air stop the wars, they can put things right and make the perfect world. So what do they do?
  1. The suppression of all religions. Christianity, Islam,  Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
  2. People live underground with lovely artificial light, processed air, and everything nice and clean with out nasty weather or plants. 
I found his Utopia a cold, heartless place that looked like it came right out of Stalin's USSR.  I would not mind living in a space station but I would still want green plants, sunlight and a few windows. The idea of world with one culture and all differences stomped out is just not a world I want to live in. 

To Boldly Go. 

I grew up loving Star Trek but the universe of Star Trek had a dark, oppressive side. This episode called the Dagger of the Mind is a great example.

Federation reeducation camps.

In the Dagger of the Mind a mentally ill criminal uses tools that are meant to help people to torture people. So what is so scary. In the Star Trek universe we find that "criminals" have all been cured by drugs and other treatments. Just what crimes will get you treated? Doesn't is seem just a little too much like the reeducation camps so popular with totalitarian dictatorships. I am not sure that the idea that criminals need treatment is something I am comfortable with. Who decides what is a crime?

The Federation was full of Communists.

Yes they claim to have no money, no want, and everyone has everything they need. This got toned down in the later shows because even in fiction it just didn't work. In the Next Generation they had gambling. and of course money to gamble with. Deep Space 9 had Quark and Quark loved his money.

The Prime Directive or the White Spaceman's Burden.

The Prime Directive is a terrible idea. It treats thinking beings as if they are animals. It is cloaked with respect but it is just an abdication of responsibility. Think about it. You come across a planet, say at our level of development. and can offer them cheap clean power, cures for diseases, and the information that there are other worlds full of people. The reason is because the Federation decided that if you did not have warp drive you where not mature enough. In one of the episodes of Star Trek Enterprise the crew decides to let a species die of a plague. The reason is that they think it will allow a different species to evolve.  The idea is that the Federation does not want to "play God". This is just wrong to me. Isn't the act of deciding who is mature enough to help playing God? It also smacks of arrogance and predestination.

The Prime Directive was the ultimate in the haves and have nots. If you are a member of the Federation you had everything you wanted. The best healthcare, the best food, housing, and education. If you were not, well the Federation does not want to interfere with your cultures development. Your planet is poor and polluted? Well yes we have cheap fusion reactors but that might change how your culture develops. You have a plague killing millions? Well we do not want to interfere. Good grief!

Why there is no Utopia.
When an author writes about Utopia he creates his perfect world. The problem is that not everyone will fit in that perfect world. I do not care if it is Star Trek, Brave New World, The Shape of Things to Come, or Author C Clarke's 3021, all "perfect worlds" will not have room for imperfect people. Let's face it. We are all in some way imperfect and it is very likely Utopia will not have room for us.

So where do we go from here?
I think I will take a good imperfect world over anybody else's perfect world.

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