"Moreover, this world is fallen, so it is by nature flawed...The utopian visions that animate real places...seek to remake humanity and society in someone’s image—and that is not the image of the Creator."
For further context, the website it's on is "The Russel Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal"; from its Wikipedia page: "The Center is known for promoting traditionalist conservatism and regularly publishing Studies in Burke and His Time and The University Bookman, the oldest conservative book review in the United States."
Not that these things invalidate it necessarily, but they're important context to place it in.
Overall I'd say the article is more an argument about semantic nuance than a grand social commentary. Probably a valid semantic critique, but nonetheless.
"Conform or be cast out." --Rush, Subdivisions, Signals, 1982
"Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences."
From the article: Next, dystopia is marked by dehumanization
How one tweet can ruin your life | Jon Ronson -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI
From the article: The abuse of technology is another characteristic of dystopia.
From the article: Next, dystopia empowers a new class of rulers and uses propaganda and state terror to maintain the power of the regime...The ultimate result of dystopia can be seen in the tragedy of an individual.
Instead of only relying on state terror, there is a new brand of current day authoritarianism which is trying to use non-state power through media, social media, and non-governmental civic groups. The new twist is to erode freedom of speech, but not have it be technically illegal, because the government isn't doing it. The new twist is to erode due process and presumption of innocence, but it's not technically illegal, because trial by public opinion and media isn't a judicial process. The new twist is to disenfranchise people, but not in person, only online and in social media, because it's not "technically illegal." However, all of the above violates various principles of individual rights in spirit. To me, they are all dishonest means of having coercive, authoritarian effects on people at large, without being "technically illegal."
People who actually believe in universal principles of human rights don't try and coerce people. People who actually believe in those principles actually try to convince people, and when they can't convince, they listen. It's authoritarians who have succumbed to groupthink who seek to use power to coerce people into acquiescence. In my life experience, it's only those who believe another group are less than human, who give up dialogue and trying to convince.
At what point do you consider the listening process sufficient for conclusions to be drawn, or any other action to be taken? If all you do is gather data and you never analyze or act upon it, what use is it?
At the point where you have sufficient evidence to charge them with "conspiracy to commit X", where X is a non-speech crime.
Prosecutors like conspiracy charges because it provides evidence of intent. Otherwise any amount of preparation for commission of a crime could be spun in court as harmless curiosity. A common example of this is where people get caught with child pronography and claim they were just trying to research the topic. I know of a person in an extremist political group who was found by police to have a pile of explosives in the garage and was able to explain it away by claiming it was for model rocketry.
The bottom line is that that some people have intentions to do harm at scale, but intentions are tricky to prove, and surveillance sufficiently good to interrupt harmful acts is expensive to deploy. That's why law enforcement uses entrapment strategies so often, although these are problematic int heir own way because they can tilt into encouraging criminal behavior rather than merely detecting it.
This is challenging because few criminals say 'I, John Doe, intend to commit [crime] at [time and place] and I'm 100% serious' in unambiguous fashion. Many obvious-seeming criminal threats are little more than nasty trolling, and although that is a crime it doesn't make it any easier to identify non-confessor criminals. On the other hand someone can legally acquire significant destructive capacity and widely broadcast opinions that correlate with but do not constitute intent, like longitudinal hostility to some individual or group, but you may not be able to formally demonstrate the existence of intent until the crime is actually committed even when there's a preponderance of evidence to suggest it ahead of time.
And yes, it does mean that you won't catch all such people, only most. It's the case of diminishing returns - you have to radically increase surveillance and police state intrusiveness to go after fewer and fewer people, while also affecting more and more people who aren't actually violent.
If you mean, when one should start worrying about one's political opponents, the answer is, and always has been - as soon as their support starts growing for any reason. In that sense, the time for anybody on the left to worry about right-wing extremist politics has been many years ago, as was the time to translate it into action (i.e. vote strategically to defeat them as the highest priority).
It was not sent, it was not finalized, it was a thought he laid down in what we can likely presume to be gmail and never hit send.
Is this just normal now?
I see this time and time again: Instead of engaging with dissenters, forums, groups of all kinds just evict people who are perfectly willing to talk. In principle, that's also acting to "simply eliminate people they find disagreeable." Often, it turns out that saying, "freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences," turns out to be a way to "find people who subscribe to eliminationist ideologies." They are not as bad, by any means. Instead of using bullets, they might use accusations and namecalling instead. In the past few years, people claiming to be on the Left have even used clubs, vandalism, and assault.
At what point do you consider the listening process sufficient for conclusions to be drawn, or any other action to be taken?
Certainly someone who reaches the level of Anders Breivik's extremism is beyond talking to. However, it's the height of arrogance and immorality to treat people who are perfectly willing to talk as if they are him. What I see so much of is the treatment of sincere questions as if they are such extremism.
If all you do is gather data and you never analyze or act upon it, what use is it?
What I see most of, is people not gathering data, not communicating, and eliminating first, asking questions never. "You are either with us, or against us." It stunk to high heaven when George W. Bush said it. It's just as coercive and authoritarian when such tactics are used by others today. (Worse, when it's used by people who are supposed to be against such things!)
If you would fear the unreasonable who are beyond talking to, it behooves you to reach out to those perfectly willing to talk. In fact, I can confidently say that you can find plenty of common ground, if you look hard enough. In 2019, in the current climate, the easy, facile thing to do is to give into the outrage mongering, your personal information bubble, and the groupthink and othering of the other side.
What disturbs me the most, are the people who are supposed to be peace-loving giving their tacit support to such political violence and intimidation. The remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk. It's when people feel like they can't talk, that they seek more extreme means.
And my question to you is what you do about people like that.
The remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk. It's when people feel like they can't talk, that they seek more extreme means.
There are lots of extremists who have little to no difficulty in getting their opinions off their chest and who continue to maintain or escalate their extremist views. You whole theory seems to be that people just need an opportunity to vent their feels and that will cause aggressive or atrocious feelings to subside. This may work great in therapeutic contexts but I'm not willing to accept that it holds true in the world at large. Look at all the people recruited by ISIS; why didn't they just vent their feelings and then go back to their everyday lives?
No. However, not letting people speak will make it more likely that they will feel there are no other options for them. That's just common sense. If you take away an option, people feel they have one less option.
This may work great in therapeutic contexts but I'm not willing to accept that it holds true in the world at large.
You're conflating the therapeutic context with the societal context. Sure, therapy is probabilistic, with no guarantees for any given individual. Effectively, you have been straw-manning by conflating the two. In the US, we can vote. We have freedom of speech. This is a big reason why we can resolve differences and exchange power without violence. If you make people feel they only "technically" have freedom of speech, but not really, then they resort to violence. This is just history.
Your conflating the therapeutic context feeds into a narrative your'e pushing about certain people being irredeemable. Certainly, certain individuals in a therapeutic context aren't going to be easily redeemable, if at all. That doesn't mean that entire groups or swathes of the political spectrum or cohorts of political populations should be treated as irredeemable. That way lies madness. The endpoint of that is either violence or camps. However, it is convenient to do such conflating, if one wants to tar a particular subgroup for political reasons.
I don't speak up for extremists. I speak against extremists. There is a widespread manipulation across society and the media where mainstream/fairly centrist people are being tarred as extremists. This too is being prosecuted by extremists.
Good thing that I am not making such an argument then. But you have asserted that 'the remedy for violent extremist tendencies is to let people talk,' and I would like evidence for that claim, which I don't think is unreasonable.
Sure, therapy is probabilistic, with no guarantees for any given individual. Effectively, you have been straw-manning by conflating the two.
You're attributing an awful lot of statements to me that I haven't made. How can I be conflating therapeutic and societal contexts when I distinguished between them in the first place, and agreed that your approach might function well in the therapeutic context?
Your conflating the therapeutic context feeds into a narrative your'e pushing about certain people being irredeemable.
I don't have opinions about redemption, I observe that some people express violent animus against others within an ideological framework and then go on and commit violence much as they said they wanted to do. That this happens is an empirical fact, and you don't seem to have any strategy for dealing with it. Earlier on in your post, you said:
In the US, we can vote. We have freedom of speech. This is a big reason why we can resolve differences and exchange power without violence.
But there is already a lot of political violence in the US and it includes a lot of murders. Many of the people committing said murders had a presence on social media where there stated approval of political violence were variously tolerated, shared, or encouraged, even if they were unpopular with the public at large. Do you have any strategy for dealing with this beyond listening to people talk?
In that case, I expressed myself incorrectly. There is no guaranteed remedy for such people in a therapeutic sense. From a political sense, we know that societies where people can express themselves have an outlet. It's more correct to say that free speech is a preventative factor, while suppressing free speech is an aggravating one. Homicidal lone crazies will always latch onto political issues. They seem to latch onto the political issues which are surrounded by outrage. Squashing free speech exacerbates this.
But there is already a lot of political violence in the US and it includes a lot of murders.
1) Eliminate other forms of political intimidation and violence. These are aggravating factors to political murder.
2) Encourage Free Speech and prohibit de-platforming.
3) Encourage objective journalism
4) Find out the other reasons why the segments of the population that feel disenfranchised feel that way
Many of the people committing said murders had a presence on social media where there stated approval of political violence were variously tolerated, shared, or encouraged
Like the doxxing and harassment encouraged by prominent celebrities and journalists on Twitter? The fact that there's no consequences for them from Twitter is encouraging extremism in two different ways.
Do you have any strategy for dealing with this beyond listening to people talk?
Letting people express themselves is vital to a free society which can regulate power without violence. Letting people talk has to be a part of any strategy. There will always be lone crazies. I'm a lot more concerned about large numbers of crazies suppressing speech, taking over campuses, taking over downtown Portland, and wearing masks while committing crimes meant to cause political intimidation by the hundreds of incidents.
If their disagreement comes in the form of de-platforming, evidence-free defamatory tarring, and violence, then yes, I would say they're in this "crazy" category. This certainly fits
all concerns about murders are folded into 'there will always be lone crazies' as if their motives were inscrutable
Do ideologies cause crazies, or do crazies latch onto ideologies? If it's the former, then we should be more concerned about the Far Left variant! (See below)
You sure have an odd set of priorities.
Only if you weight things by mainstream media coverage and history going back 3 decades. However, if you look at what's actually happening in the past few years, there were twice as many killings by Far Left extremists as Far Right extremists in the US, along with several hundreds of incidents of Far Left political violence. Of course, I'm much more concerned about the extremism which is more frequently violent which is somehow getting a free pass with the US media. Should I be more concerned about a lone crazy who was caught and who everyone already knows to be bad, or more concerned about legions of violent crazies (many of whom march openly with semi-auto rifles) who seem to be getting a free pass and propaganda work done on their behalf?
That is not true, or anything close to true. I cannot imagine why you would say make such abundantly false claims, and I challenge you to identify any of these 'far left extremists' or their victims. I also reject your dismissal of all who commit such extreme violence as 'crazies' which suggests they are not in the full possession of their mental faculties and is often referred to as a 'no true scotsman' fallacy.
I can easily point out specific right wing examples of extreme violence, most notably the guy shot shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people just a couple of months ago.
> That is not true, or anything close to true.
"Left Wing terrorists killed only 23 people in terrorist attacks during this time, about 0.7% of the total number of murders, but 13 since the beginning of 2016. Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists have only killed five since then, including Charlottesville."
So if you go back historically, across many decades, Right Wing terrorists have killed vastly more people. However in just the past few years, Left Wing terrorists have been outpacing Right Wing terrorists in domestic US killings by 2 to 1.
Er...I was asking what you do about people who are willing or even enthusiastic about killing others, and I think this is qualitatively different from exclusionary behavior. 'Eliminationist' may not be the most semantically optimal term but it's the prevailing one to describe ideologies that accommodate or promote things like mass murder or genocide.
But lots of people with eliminationist ideologies are perfectly willing to talk, because they wish to recruit and promote their ideological viewpoint. Perhaps you could furnish examples of what sort of sincere questions you see 'being treated as if they are such extremism'.
What I see most of, is people not gathering data, not communicating, and eliminating first, asking questions never.
It's also possible that this is a function of your perspective and you're simply not looking in the right places. I can't help feeling that you're avoiding answering the question by simply restating your opinion over and over - 'outrage mongering' 'information buble' 'groupthink' etc.
I get that you think this is a big problem, but while you acknowledge the existence of extremists who put their ideology into violent action, it sounds like you just don't know what to do about those people so you just omit them from your model of productive discourse and are then surprised when people critique your model.
In our distant past, exclusion from the group may well have meant death. This is why our emotions are tuned as they are. We feel exclusion harshly. Conversely, when we exclude, we are acting from quite a harsh place. It's not as far from violence and killing as we'd like to think.
But lots of people with eliminationist ideologies are perfectly willing to talk, because they wish to recruit and promote their ideological viewpoint.
I'm a bit more concerned about people with eliminationist ideologies who pretend their ideologies aren't eliminationist. Yet they support mobs who would threaten and beat up "wrongthinkers" who come into their neighborhood. Especially if they're supposed to be about equality and peace and love. The historical record isn't very kind to people who espouse peace, love, solidarity, then turn out to just want to kick out and eliminate those they find disagreeable. (And I'm talking about Berkeley, FFS!)
Perhaps you could furnish examples of what sort of sincere questions you see 'being treated as if they are such extremism'.
Questions about the wisdom of "listen and believe" have been treated as "hate speech" instead of as a question relevant to due process and the presumption of innocence it actually is. Questions about the a failure to use non-traditional non-binary pronouns should be treated have in turn been been treated as "hate speech" instead of as a question relevant to how appellations work on campus and in society at large.
Well, for one thing, outrage mongering needs to be called out. Also, the narrative being artificially propped up by the legacy media is really quite out of touch and needs to be challenged. There is a large fraction of people in legacy media who actively distort the truth and push narratives, while willfully burying certain facts that don't fit their narrative.
I get that you think this is a big problem, but while you acknowledge the existence of extremists who put their ideology into violent action, it sounds like you just don't know what to do about those people
I know what should be done with those people. They should be prosecuted, where there is evidence. Also, the press should be calling out their violence and authoritarian tactics. The latter isn't happening nearly as much as it should. There's a large number of incidences of quite serious violence, which is quite apparently engineered for the purposes of political pressure and silencing. Yet nearly none of the incidences from the Far Left are widely reported on, which means that most of the incidences overall are basically buried or minimized. Something is quite out of whack about that.
It's easier for many to be concerned about a radiation leakage in a dramatic incident like Fukushima than about the cumulative radiation released in coal plants, even though the total effect of the latter is orders of magnitude greater. There are well over 600 incidents of violence committed by the Far Left just in the past few years. The widespread phenomenon of tenured college professors being afraid to speak their mind is a part of the same environmental phenomenon. It's not just "anarchists running around Berkeley and giving centrists a hard time in social spaces." The phenomenon is much more widespread and insidious than that.
It's true that historically in the past 30 years or so, the Far Right extremists have the higher death toll. As noted in a Forbes article, violent Far Right extremists have killed far more people than violent Far Left extremists since 1992, the trend has dramatically reversed: "Left Wing terrorists killed only 23 people in terrorist attacks during this time, about 0.7% of the total number of murders, but 13 since the beginning of 2016. Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists have only killed five since then, including Charlottesville."
Imagine what it would be like, if you spoke out against Antifa violence, then got a non-sequitur accusation of racism. Later, you get another such tarring accusation in response to a wedding invite. Later, you talk about this, and a musician you know comes up with the logical gem: Well, you got accused, you must be one! Then he starts in repeating the accusation -- specifically in the context of your wedding. This is the sort of immoral and downright sadistic tactic people like that employ. I know this firsthand.
Are you familiar with what the Antifa goons who attacked the innocent marines who were going to a dance were saying? They were talking like they were stereotypical sadistic KKK bigots as they were beating those men down. Really vile racist stuff. And that's just one incident. That sort of thuggish behavior and language is all over the record of recent history. Let me reiterate, the Far Left side has well over 600 documented incidents to their score, 13 or which were fatal. It's no better if you start talking to them online about their ideology. Really, the best many of them can do is literally, the other side is worse, so we can do nearly equally bad things as them. Start looking deeply into what those "anarchists running around Berkeley giving centrists a hard time" are really like, and what they're really up to.
All toxic extremists are toxic, obviously. Only one side is getting a free pass from the press at this time, however.
People marching and carrying BLM banners have been caught on video chanting about killing the police.
All you have to do is judge people on their actions, and let them say (but not act on) whatever they want.
So as long as someone is merely saying words on the internet, or whatever, then that's fine. And if instead, this person is stockpiling illegal weapons, well that's what the police are for.
All things serve the beam, for all things are Elohim.
You are talking about people being shunned and gossiped about like it is on par with being kidnapped by armed government agents and confined in a cell. Like going to jail or being killed and getting cancelled on twitter are close enough to the same thing that the same philosophical framework applies.
I'd suggest you back up and re-evaluate how you got here.
So one is bad stuff on the level of violent terrorists and intelligence agencies, and another is bad stuff on the level of mean girls in high school? No disagreement there. Both of those stink. Then, there's bad on the level of groups of people going around in masks, using anonymity to get away with beating people up (1), committing vandalism, and terrorism on a level where universities have to hire $600,000 in security. That's also happening. (Shouldn't this be the sad, tragic legacy of the past?)
Namecalling, exclusion, silencing -- none of these is intellectually worthy. None of these gets us closer to the truth. All they do is fuel and add legitimacy to the unreasonable extremists and prevent the reasonable discussions from being had.
Like going to jail or being killed and getting cancelled on twitter are close enough to the same thing that the same philosophical framework applies.
The common mechanism is the coercion in contrast to convincing. The key concept is that authoritarianism.
I'm not backing up. It's high time that lots of people stopped backing up and started calling out all the authoritarianism which is supposedly happening in the name of human freedom. It's coercion going against human freedom. If you are really on the side of justice, then when given the opportunity to hear people out and talk, you hear people out and talk. The side of justice, in the end, finally convinces through appeal to universal principle, not through force alone. In the long arc of history, it's clear who uses force alone. (Even in WWII, the victory of military arms would have meant just another war, if it weren't for the demonstration of principles and generosity by the US as victors. The subsequent cold war was won by the truth of our having a better system, not authoritarianism.)
(1 -- Even beating innocent people up, because they are too taken by anger to tell the difference.)
A lot of people are scared or confused by the fact that the internet and globalization has fractured the mainstream media narrative into multiple narratives and exposed the underlying politics (not "politics" as in "the discourse", I mean "politics" as in "the application of power to allocate resources"). But not much has changed materially, you are just exposed to more personal conversations in public spaces than we used to be. It is weird.
What you are actually seeing happen: politically engaged people are ignoring you or just brushing you aside or even telling you to shut or get lost because you don't matter to them politically. This might be an adjustment for you but no one has to answer your questions or convince you to accept the new consensus. If you mattered to them they would, but you got left behind because you don't.
It is less public conversation, and more "shut up and submit!"
What you are actually seeing happen: politically engaged people are ignoring you or just brushing you aside or even telling you to shut or get lost because you don't matter to them politically.
This is the authoritarian telling the supposed "inferiors" to submit.
This might be an adjustment for you but no one has to answer your questions or convince you to accept the new consensus. If you mattered to them they would, but you got left behind because you don't.
Spoken like any oppressor would have put it. "Just submit and accept. You don't matter, and there's nothing you can do about it." No answering questions on matters of principle. No curiosity about the other side. Just lay back and take it. It's exactly the behavior of the people who are on the "power" side of "speaking truth to power." The long arc of history bends towards justice. In the end, principles will win out over the temporary contextual power of "social consensus." It's what got us here to the most free and prosperous multicultural civilization in all of history in the first place.
It is happening, it is just happening among people with a different worldview, using different language than you prefer.
Sounds like you are trying to disenfranchise, or declare people disenfranchised. Sounds like you're just wishing entire swathes of the mainstream/center to disappear, or keep quiet and put up.
This is one of the dishonest absolute tropes which need to be squashed, because it obscures the truth. It's an obfuscation that's as good as a lie. (1) Here's the universal, timeless truth: All power is temporary and contextual. All of history teaches us this. A masked mob dominating the street for a couple of hours clearly has contextual power. The mob that took over Evergreen State College and made the president ask to go to the bathroom had temporary, contextual power.
Authoritarianism just requires power, and all power is temporary and contextual. Silencing speakers just requires this temporary, contextual power. Ruining a life just requires temporary, contextual power. Instilling fear so that people remain silent just requires temporary, contextual power. All of that is authoritarianism. All of that is coercion instead of convincing, and none of that requires the power of a government.
That said, there is plenty of centralized power now being used by corporations and by colluding groups spanning multiple powerful corporations. There is plenty of the corporate power of the purse acting to actively silence people operating in 2019 and recent years.
Whatever you're talking about isn't authoritarianism
Merely wielding power to make people do what you want is authoritarianism. That is what comes of pseudo-activism that never gets beyond grievance and outrage. That is what comes of pseudo-activism that stays in that potentially toxic zone and never gets to the level of universal and unifying principles. That's the dishonest ideology of people who want to wield power to coerce others, yet deny it at the same time. It's based on the obvious lie of static, timeless power, easily refuted by history.
(1 - "Power + Prejudice" being used to justify the distortion of a racial arrow onto what should be universal justice that applies to all human beings -- is part of the lie. We've seen ideologies that assign different justice to different races, creeds, orientations. They all claim to be part of a movement of justice, and in the end, they all turn out to be evil. If power is temporary and contextual, there can be no idiosyncratic directional vectors to justice, especially none related to melanin.)
Personally, I think what you see in the world around you is a reaction by people who realized that they don't have power by money (and thus hardly any power by speech) and don't have power by demoray in a broken system stacked against them, and have resorted to whatever other forms of power are possible. And yet still the positions they fight for are ignored because the way they petition for them isn't the right way, ie, they way in which they can be disenfranchised and ignored.
That would sound much more convincing if it wasn’t for the fact that most media and academia is dominated by the Left (which is far more authoritative these days).
In the cases cited, a group is over reacting to signals interpreted as historical oppression. It's awful when it happens and unfortunately it always will. Emotions at injustice are going to break windows (and worse) without thinking and sometimes at the wrong target.
Of course the issues are real and need to be discussed and criticized. But fortunately stories like Evergreen State College are rare, certainly not anywhere near the level of 1960s university sit-ins and even those were certainly not a national catastrophe of censorship. And Twitter storms are not oppression, they are just people being wrong on the internet. They are the inevitable result of ridiculously bad platform design.
So while events like Evergreen certainly need to be criticized, the more serious threat is that this is being systematically used by cynical parties in a dangerous way to portray a nation plagued by oppressive mobs who need to be put in line. Excuses that will spread to harsh treatment of protesters and a pattern that has occurred many times in the past.
One also sees people jumping up with a banner in the front of the mob. Lenin and Kim-il Sung, for example.
Of course the issues are real and need to be discussed and criticized. But fortunately stories like Evergreen State College are rare
But the incidences of tenured professors who are no longer free to say what they actually think anymore are legion.
And Twitter storms are not oppression, they are just people being wrong on the internet.
Tell that to people whose lives have been ruined. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI
So while events like Evergreen certainly need to be criticized, the more serious threat is that this is being systematically used by cynical parties in a dangerous way to portray a nation plagued by oppressive mobs who need to be put in line.
Downtown Portland was tied up by such mobs as well. There have been hundreds of incidences of violence (a number closer to 1000 than zero) including assaults with serious injury. Why did tens of thousands of people surround a bunch of mostly normal, ordinary people, including a number of brown people, claiming they were "white supremacists" in Boston?
The Left in general is plagued by the zeitgeist of an authoritarian, angry mob, and wordplay/splitting hairs about what exactly should be classified as "authoritarian" is simply silly when you've been actually mobbed. Thugs going about intimidating and committing acts of violence for political purposes is authoritarianism. The wordplay is just one side wanting to act like thugs, trying to pretend it's something else.
But the leader of the most powerful nation on earth just declared a national emergency for no reason. The same guy calls the press "the enemy of the people". Are we really supposed to believe that a handful of university disruptions and twitter storms and against his supporters are the real threats to freedom?
Boy, I can't imagine why people are just ignoring you and insulting you instead of engaging with your obviously bad faith prompts to discuss Nazi rights. Bit insulting to the intelligence of HN in general to think this reddit-level BS would fly isn't it?
Typical projection. I'm anti-violence, and to the extent people in those groups committed violence, they should be prosecuted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6RDQ02AzLw
Boy, I can't imagine why people are just ignoring you and insulting you
Apparently, a lot of people like what I write here.
instead of engaging with your obviously bad faith prompts to discuss Nazi rights.
Hmm, I think you're the one laying cards on the table this moment. I've had my cards on the table the whole time. Pray tell, what Nazi rights have I been advocating for? Can you provide quotes?
Bit insulting to the intelligence of HN in general to think this reddit-level BS would fly isn't it?
Thanks for showing your true colors and resorting to name calling. I guess I touched a nerve. Thanks as well for letting your authoritarianism leak out. It seems like you can't help it, and it helps my case perhaps more than anything I can write.
Then convince the offenders. Preaching to those who are already outraged or the uninvolved just fans their emotions too and moves further and further away from reasoned discourse.
>because trial by public opinion and media isn't a judicial process
This has indeed been a problem in the US for decades where anyone accused of any crime has their face plastered on the evening news for ratings. Never is there a retraction when released or upon acquittal. Not that it would do any good as the damage is irreparable.
Now that it's starting to happen to powerful people, the issue is finally being raised. I'm going to guess the eventual resolution will be some lawsuit system that makes publishing accusations of the powerful financially impossible while keeping open season on ordinary people.
While I agree with the rest, this is just naive. You cant convince those who are don't debate in good faith. You can defeat them or you can convince third parties, but trying to convince these is lost cause.
You cant change them, you can only change environment so that they cant cause much harm.
Yes you can do more. Speak the truth. Pick your battles wisely, but be forthright and speak up!
Makes the entire article essentially meaningless. How can I trust somebody with such a bizarre and unconnected worldview?
Where a crystal may have ‘defects’ that’s meaningless for a pile of sand. Further, defects can be more useful than a perfect crystalline structure.
So, to say perfection is unobtainable requires a strict definition of perfection and absolute proof it’s impossible. Both, are very high hurdles.
The fact that, flawed as we might seem, we are living in a reality that may not be possible to be more perfect.
The substantive value of the idea that humans are imperfect or “fallen” is to caution against these kinds of expectations in the first place.
And there are real examples of this. It is humanly impossible—not necessarily mathematically or logically impossible, but humanly impossible—to achieve 100% success at any metric in the long run. I can’t design a 100% available distributed system at meaningful scale. An airline can’t have 100% of their planes arrive on time. A basketball player can’t make 100% of his free throws over a meaningful career. People miss, people fall short, people make mistakes, and it doesn’t require religion or Utopianism to imagine even attainable improvements.
So my problem with doing away with the notion of perfection at all is that it goes too far. Will there ever be a world where no part of AWS ever has an outage? Probably not. When the next AWS outage happens, will we be able to imagine, in great detail, a world where that particular outage wouldn’t have happened? That’s the job. And so rather than resigning ourselves to the notion that perfection is meaningless, let’s instead accept that perfection is an unattainable goal. That way we can dismiss the fanatics who demand actually attaining perfection while still admitting to the possibility of improvement.
"A Utopia (/juːˈtoʊpiə/ yoo-TOH-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia
Suggesting all metrics must be at 100% is thus clearly a straw man. The end to starvation is very much a realistic and Utopian goal out of reach for our ancestors.
That is also an "arbitrary metric": you've set the rate of "people not starving" to 100%. That's what it means when you say "the end of starvation", rather than "reducing starvation" or "minimizing starvation". If you want to end starvation, that means 0 starvation and 100% non-starvation. Not a single person anywhere on earth is starving.
Let's think realistically about what this means. You can probably get a few nines pretty easily, but to get all the way to 100%, you also have to make sure nobody is willing or able to go on a hunger strike, or suffering from anorexia, or in need of a competent caregiver (in cases of severe disability). You have to make sure that there isn't a parent anywhere on earth who neglects their child to the point of starvation. You have to make sure that someone is checking in on every elderly shut-in in the world, in case they've fallen and broken their leg and can't reach the kitchen. Sometimes people starve to death when they're lost at sea or in the wilderness, so now you have to achieve 100% success at search and rescue across the entire world.
And this is exactly my point. I'm sure you didn't mean all of these implications by "the end of starvation". I'm sure you meant something more realistic and attainable. But that's not really what anybody means by utopia, because by that standard, much of the world is arguably already living in it compared to the ancients. But that's not because anyone had an a priori utopian vision that they put into practice; it was through a process of gradual and incremental change that will continue as long as humanity exists. And part of that process is that there will always be perceptible imperfections.
PS: Bringing up straw man arguments is not part of meaningful dialogue.
And once you’ve done that—would you agree that, by the “reasonable” standard that you are touting, that most developed countries including the United States are “utopian” in the sense of solving the problem of hunger? If not, why?
I'm sure you meant something more realistic and attainable. But that's not really what anybody means by utopia, because by that standard, much of the world is arguably already living in it compared to the ancients.
We don’t have a vast surplus of food by accident. A vast number of people devoted their lives to improving the global food supply. You can read many peoples accounts of trying to build a better world and pretend they where not aiming for utopia, but only if you also ignore what people mean by the term.
Clearly, we think of utopia as more than just sufficient food, the rule of law etc etc, but just because you are used to a better world does not mean those people achieved nothing.
PS: Consider what the world would be if everyone in history said utopia is unobtainable, so let’s burn the world.
Historically they have been. At least they're not up to our own standards.
We can kill, lie, cheat, brutalize, exploit, each other, and we do so daily in the billions.
We might not be total bastards, but we're no perfectly fine people either.
All of those can be very useful traits. Evolution, promotes using miliple strategies.
Now, you can talk about spherical humans in a vacuum, but reality is more complex than that.
Though, that gets into some very odd arguments. History would be rather boring in a static or cycling universe.
Logically you can argue either way. Logically one can say the universe doesn't give a fuck, so can't be flawed any more than a rock is.
Humans however both crave unity and love and compassion and so on (and know those things for good), and also do the cheating, lying, killing, bullying, racism, and so on. So, one can justifyably call them broken.
Heck, tons of our books, movies, and songs call us just that.
Path finding algorithms optimize for the least cost path. That does not mean such a path is good, nor a zero weight path from start to finish is perfection.
In that context just because humans seek something does not inherently make it good. Religions for example often prohibit some gratifying behavior.
Is an eternal state of pure bliss perfection, or little more than a drugged out meaningless existence? Individuals may prefer one state to another, but it's not clear that the state of maximized preference is thus perfection.
Perhaps we can always improve and be better then we were. Which is a bit more of an optimistic statement.
Into any system of sufficient complexity, a little suckage must come!
“Heaven: the Coney Island of the Christian imagination.” Elbert Hubbard.
EDIT: To be clear, I also know plenty of Christians who do not try and impose their values on society.
> I also know plenty of Christians who do not try and impose their values on society.
Yeah, like the article for example, which raises the question why all this is floating at the top.
In fact, for most of history, and with very great many minds throughout history agreeing to that, it would be your objection that would be considered bizarre.
You don't have to believe in a specific creator or any specific religious mythology to agree with such a statement as "this world is fallen". Even as atheist like e.g. Emil Cioran could agree with such a statement. But even if someone actually believes e.g. in the Christian god, it's almost irrelevant as to the validity of their belief that "this world is fallen".
It's just a way of seeing the world -- as permanently imperfect and with fatal flaws in its construction. In fact most of our history and even personal lives agrees with this observation as well: we are ignorant of most things, we age, we get ill, we suffer, we kill each other, we are petty, and so on. And in the end, we just die, along with everybody we knew and loved. All that in an indifferent universe, that could e.g. wipe thousands of us out tomorrow with an earthquake, a tsunami, and so on. Or something of our own making, like a nuclear war.
These things can be summed up in "this world is fallen", and there's nothing bizarre or unconnected about it.
One might disagree and see progress etc, and even be optimistic that everything will prevail, or even see no issue with death and illness and the ills of old age, and so on. But in the main there's nothing much bizarre in saying that "this world is fallen" -- e.g. that things are incomplete, broken, and more often than not disappointing.
If you mean "The world sucks" then say that instead of saying "the world is fallen". Fallen has a very specific meaning, and using it as a poetic slush word is enough to make me not take the OP seriously.
Welcome to the magic world of metaphors and symbolism...
If you mean that you don't like the author's choice of words, then that that instead of saying "the entire article [is] essentially meaningless".
> Fallen has a very specific meaning
Which of the four definitions in WordNet, or dozens of other possible dictionary meanings, is that very specific meaning?
> and using it as a poetic slush word is enough to make me not take the OP seriously.
"Slush" has a very specific meaning, involving partially frozen materials. I feel that your use of it here has rendered your entire comment essentially meaningless.
It's the religious implication in the article that invalidates it. Christian belief is that humanity's fall from grace can only be redeemed through the intercession of christ, and the author links the impossibility of any utopian state with that fall from grace, so obviously the only way to resolve it is theological.
The author's implied statement that any attempt to create a utopia must either come from god, or be religious in nature, is the problem. If, like me, you don't believe in god, and believe organised religions are inherently bad, then at that point the author's credibility is destroyed and the article is just another religious rant.
I’d like to know what secular state of grace supposedly existed that we fell from?
Now, imagine you haven't read the article, somebody comments, "This guy said the earth is flat!" and you ctrl+f into the article and they did, in fact, write that. Should you be encouraged to read the article? They have some secular studies and ideas.
"That person freaked out just because someone said the Earth is flat, so that their brain completely glazed over and they couldn't understand or care about anything else they said", why is that not a thing, too?
To me this kind of discussion is not intellectually honest, it's not an earnest attempt -- there's plenty brilliant people of faith so I see no reason to dismiss anything out of hand like that. Don't judge a book by its cover, yet this discussion about the cover is the one that the most energy is spent on.
More pointedly - we are all in the same position as the flat-earther you posit. None of us have 100% accurate knowledge - meaning some percentage of what we believe is either false or one day will be proven false. We all have blind spots. Flat earthers have a particularly egregious blind spot. So we can be skeptical of other claims they make. But we should still engage with the stuff that makes sense and coheres. The answer to bad science is more science; the answer to bad speech is more speech.
Or for a slightly different approach, GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/130/pg130.html, even if you disagree with his arguments, I suspect if you give a read you'll enjoy his delightful prose.
> But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things. An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old. It is the custom in passing romance and journalism to talk of men suffering under old tyrannies. But, as a fact, men have almost always suffered under new tyrannies; under tyrannies that had been public liberties hardly twenty years before. [...]
> This startling swiftness with which popular systems turn oppressive is the third fact for which we shall ask our perfect theory of progress to allow. It must always be on the look out for every privilege being abused, for every working right becoming a wrong. In this matter I am entirely on the side of the revolutionists. They are really right to be always suspecting human institutions; they are right not to put their trust in princes nor in any child of man. The chieftain chosen to be the friend of the people becomes the enemy of the people; the newspaper started to tell the truth now exists to prevent the truth being told. Here, I say, I felt that I was really at last on the side of the revolutionary. And then I caught my breath again: for I remembered that I was once again on the side of the orthodox.
> Christianity spoke again and said: "I have always maintained that men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended of its own nature to rust or to rot; I have always said that human beings as such go wrong, especially happy human beings, especially proud and prosperous human beings. This eternal revolution, this suspicion sustained through centuries, you (being a vague modern) call the doctrine of progress. If you were a philosopher you would call it, as I do, the doctrine of original sin. You may call it the cosmic advance as much as you like; I call it what it is—the Fall."
* Life is not perfect as long as there's death.
* Humans cannot live in perfect harmony with one another because of our pesky evil streak.
* Man-made laws cannot eliminate human evil.
When philosophising at such depths, it's instinctive to get religious. It's also a handy abstraction.
Also, transcending reality through worship helps with the inevitable depression that goes along with deep thoughts about this broken existence.
All that said, it's no surprise to me that such irrational thinking bugs a lot of people. I'm only mildly bugged by it anymore since I found Jesus.
I actually think there's a lot of value to be found in religion; the problem comes when it gets infused with a political or national identity and becomes a rallying call instead of a subject of contemplation. The red flags I saw in the article were 1) the hosting organization has a political agenda, and 2) it felt like the author tried to hide the roots of his ideas. It's possible he was just trying to avoid being judged based on his faith, which, yeah. But I've also seen people with an agenda try to propagate their religious or political ideas in a spoonful-of-sugar fashion; obscuring them within content that doesn't advertise itself as such, in hopes that it travels further. I've developed a heightened sense for that sort of thing over the years.
Your spoonful of sugar observation is just human nature; people love to spout memes like they're so clever. :)
Where we might disagree though is that I believe society, laws, and justice need to be predicated on moral codes. And so it follows that we all need to be able to speak the same moral language fluently.
We should be informed by relevant moral teachings in the bible, primarily, and then great philosophers and legal scholars secondarily. What's "relevant" needs to be hashed out through extended civil discourse; it can't be imposed and have any hope for acceptance.
I mentioned the bible specifically because it is a high quality doc and liberates the reader rather than shackles with its moral codes and message, which to me makes it unique and worthwhile.
> "Es ist unmöglich, dass ein Mensch ohne Religion seines Lebens froh werde."
> "It‘s impossible for a human to enjoy his life without religion."
With the broken clock, you can't ever trust it.
That is, using labels that previously widely used defined patterns resulting in real human-killing -- to, instead, describe a pattern that a person finds unfitting to his/her policy views.
In other words, misplaced naming calling, in a way, stealing the valor
from the real victims of the true dystopian past events.
It is important to keep dystopia in its place, and in perspective.
There are and have been real dystopias in the world, and imaginary ones help illustrate how utopian visions can endanger decent regimes and communities.
Not every call for a border wall or “Medicare for all” is dystopian; one (or the other) may be a stupid idea, but it is not summoning 1984.
As for the distinction itself, I was prompted to look it up on Merriam-Webster:
dys· to· pia | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə \
Definition of dystopia
1 : an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives
2 : ANTI-UTOPIA sense 2
So... the primary definition actually undercuts his thesis, while the second definition lines up. I mean it's an interesting subject of contemplation - dystopia's relationship with utopia - but he took an argumentative approach rather than a contemplative one, which I think squandered the topic a little.
There is no way to optimize everything simultaneously because many things are fundamentally inversely correlated with each other (e.g. security vs freedom). So you either have a state that is relatively balanced (everything is mediocre), or a state with more spread (some aspects are really good and some are really bad).
Take a... Syria during civil war society and compare it to... Norwegian society.
I'd argue Norway has vastly more security and freedom. Increasing one didn't increase the other. And both metrics are pretty close to maximum.
Using your example of security vs freedom, yes there are measures you can take to increase security at the cost of freedom.
But there's also many measures you can take which do not compromise freedom. As a very basic example, having laws against murder. These laws (I can't imagine) effect "freedom" in any meaningful way, so I can't agree that they're fundamentally opposed in some kind of inherent way.
What we call security and freedom (and utopian for that matter) are just words, definable in any number of subjective ways.
But a theoretical Utopia is something theoretically perfect, which while technically possible, we probably agree is not practical.
I suppose my point is that subjective, indefinable properties like "infinite security" and "infinite freedom" are not fundamental, literal forces that increase when the other decreases and vice versa.
They're just words, and anything is possible, including a society where everyone enjoys maximum freedom and maximum security (by some definition)
Simply having a few determined goals means the design necessarily have to be biased against the unmentioned goals. And those might be important for the general state, but it can be a hidden preference.
There's no reason why all goals could be covered, in some not to hard to imagine system (perhaps a post-secondary society simply allows anyone with a grievance to get in touch with whoever can fix it, if it should be fixed,as opposed to having a bunch of top down goals)
Also, I don't see why being optimum in one goal, let's say transparency, wouldn't help many other goals, like freedom and security.
I just don't think these concepts are as simple as levers, and I think anything is possible.
That said, humans are far from perfect, so their societies are difficult to perfect.
But with enough education, knowledge, and a sprinkle of genetic engineering, maybe?
For example, tax report transparency is bad if you have inequality and also lack an efficient anti-hate-crime enforcement system, because then people will lynch/rob rich folks.
So even just getting closer to the optimum takes time and a lot of resources.
> I just don't think these concepts are as simple as levers, and I think anything is possible.
Exactly. It's a complex dynamic system with path dependence. Trajectory is everything.
> But with enough education, knowledge, and a sprinkle of genetic engineering, maybe?
Maybe :) Though the problem is that without a great society powerful tools will be used to entrench the interests of those that lead the existing not-so-great society.
And it's very hard to align the interests of the leaders with the commoners.
I'd argue that social democracy seems to be doing pretty well at distributing income and wealth and power. It's a shame "social" is a dirty word in the states.
If the EU can develop successfully over the next few decades into something superpower-like, maybe the benefits of such a system will become attractive to other powers and the ideas will spread.
Or maybe the China system of repression and threatening the neighbourhood will turn out to be more competitive globally and we'll see more of that.
And pardon the absurd typos in my last comment, my phone's keyboard is pretty terrible. I'd fix them but HN doesn't allow edits after a certain amount of time so the gibberish must remain.
1. Early on many benefit and costs are minimized per capita.
2. As the benefits diffuse across the population, smart/wily/greedy individuals push the optimization to squeeze more value for themselves.
3. Benefits begin to centralize among the smart/wily/greedy. Awareness of costs starts to grow. The general population becomes ambivalent. Regulation can keep the system in this state for a while, but it too will eventually be optimized.
4. The arms race of optimization ultimately excludes all but the smartest/wiliest/greediest from any benefit while the rest of the population eats the cost. The optimization is now Bad For Society™.
My gut says this pattern is true for any social construction, from marriage and markets to card games and communism. The only meaningful insight I take away from it is that ideological conflict (competition between optimizations) is literally the foundation of a functioning society.
The relative balance that tension provides doesn't strike me as mediocre. Without it, everything devolves into an oscillating heaven and hell, mirroring your ideology.
This is an important idea. Optimality shifts when the environment shifts, and some ideas which work well in one environment may end up working badly when the world changes.
Because the world is inevitably complex and stochastic, we need enough dynamism in society in order to continually adapt, and for that we need a system that permits competing ideas, as well mechanisms to limit the amplification of the effects of bad ideas (good democratic institutions do a decent job at the latter).
Is it synonymous with social change? Most social changes aren't optimisations, they are complicated changes to how resources are distributed; leading to unpredictable outcomes.
Take social welfare. This can probably be considered a social optimisation and most reasonable people would agree that some level of welfare is appropriate. But there doesn't seem to be any particular agreement on the economic or social front about whether the optimum amount is more or less. Or what we are optimising for.
Social welfare is a perfect example of "competing optimizations" precisely because there are so many different (and often mutually exclusive) organizational models and success metrics.
A bit like a 3D spiral slowly going "up" locally (even one might argue it's folding over itself in the long term)
Who is optimizing metrics to an extreme, where did you get that definition?
Taken metaphorically, a utopia is a idealized state of affairs where perfection (optimality) is reached. This state of affairs is imaginary however, because the world in which such a perfection is attained is also imaginary. Attempts to achieve it in our reality (communism, etc.) ends up running up against a complex system of nonlinear tradeoffs, which is what I imagine the OP is alluding to.
I think it's a correct view. I think they're absolutely right about the SR-71. I posted a comment arguing they're wrong, because I think my comment is also a correct view. The SR-71 is the wrong plane for many, many applications. For the few that needed it, it was an absolutely vital tradeoff. Engineering isn't just about optimizing a metric. It's about optimizing many metrics, and finding a set of tradeoffs that fits. It's about finding the point on the line where people are satisfied.
Perhaps - Engineering is about finding the proper fitness functions, and then finding the optimal solution from there. Both are hard problems. Having the right fitness function/requirements gathering is the most screwed up stage of any development, and software developers are no exception, but I feel our industry has gotten away with a lot. Optimizing globally is often an unbounded problem, so finding efficient approximations (like evolutionary algorithms or hill climbing functions) is often the right approach - But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try for the correct one.
Ultimately it was the right solution for a very specific scope and time. The knowledge gained helped avoid nuclear conflict — an extreme benefit worth a lot of cost.
Once satellites matured, it’s utility was reduced. Once drones were a thing, it’s utility went to zero. Top-secret state of the art stuff in 1990 is on the deck of a mueseum today.
Feudalism and slavery were awful, but don’t come close to the concentrated human misery inflicted by the utopian projects of the 20th century.
By that I assume you're largely referring to the Soviet Union and China during the cultural revolution? Yeah sure, those were bad, but it's hard for me to say whether they were particularly better or worse than slavery (at least from the perspective of a slave).
Moreover, I think that the assumption that those 20th century projects failed because they were utopian is unsourced. I think I could equally validly claim that they failed because of a fundamental failure to understand basic economics and/or a deep lack of empathy or realism on the part of national leadership.
Yes, but this is not about their eventual failure, but about their Dystopianism, which was part of their programme.
Lenin explicitly stated that his "Jacobian party would never reject terror, nor could it do so". Lenin espoused state terror and mass murder, justified by "the greater good". If that is not idealism causing Dystopia right here, I don't know what is.
“Utopian” is used in this context to refer to efforts to rebuild society from the ground up on logical principles chosen in isolation.
The population of Ancient Egypt was about 1 million at the start of recorded history and about 5 million during the Roman conquest. Yet, even though the number of Egyptians in slavery were only in the millions at its highest it was crime that was very widespread in relation to the population.
1/3 of the world’s Jewish population was wiped out in a decade. At least 1/10th of the population of Ukraine starved in the two year Holodomor. Double-digit percentages of the entire populations of the Soviet Union, Poland, Greece, and Yugoslavia perished in the Second World War as did about 8% of all Germans. 1/4 of Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. All within brief periods of time.
It’s fair to say that when communism was merely awful rather than utterly catastrophic, it was merely because at those specific times and places, it was still pursued with at least a nod to pragmatic concerns. It’s no coincidence that the best form of communism—Deng’s “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”—was the most explicitly pragmatic variation of communism.
A century before cars, if you told people that a commonplace device could quickly and inexpensively take you to the very store or house you wanted to go to at speeds up to a mile a minute, that would sound utopian. Now we know such systems have serious downsides.
Be careful what you ask for. You may get it. Or, as I put it, into any complex system whatsoever, some suckage must come. Solving one problem either exposes or creates another.
For instance, people raised inside of a generation tend to have a similar cluster of personality traits to some degree. These traits propel certain innovations forward , leave other things lagging, and cause a reaction formation in the next generation who tend to value opposite traits. These new traits then alter which innovations are pushed forward, which are left behind, etc.
There are additional cycles I’m not covering here, but together they form a sort of “super cycle” with great periods of unrest as well as innovation occurring when the lines converge periodically.
"It is our utopias that make the world tolerable to us: the cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live." - Lewis Mumford
The sentiment is true if Utopia is persued at a mass level, but what we need are more attempts and experiments at small utopias.
— Brave New World Revisited, Huxley, 1958
In the introduction to The Utopia Reader, a compendium of utopian and dystopian literature, the following definitions are given:
* Utopianism—social dreaming
* Utopia—a nonexistent society described in detail and normally located in time and space
* Eutopia or positive utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably better than the society in which the reader lived
* Dystopia or negative utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably worse than the society in which the reader lived
* Utopian satire—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as a criticism of the existing society
* Anti-utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as a criticism of utopianism or of some particular eutopia
* Critical utopia—a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as better than contemporary society but with difficult problems that the described society may or may not be able to solve, and which takes a critical view of the utopian genre
Given that utopias are speculative explorations of possible futures and societies, it seems hard to reconcile that with questioning whether reality is a utopia or a dystopia, as the author does here. That just doesn't type check, and then the article is more about the author telling us about various things he considers dystopian.
For a more interesting take on the concept of utopia, I highly recommend the Fun Theory sequence on LessWrong: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/K4aGvLnHvYgX9pZHS/the-fun-th...
How do you pronounce "Utopia"? How does it differ from "Eutopia"? Your definitions are fine, internally consistent, and quite clear for serious in-depth discussion... But they align badly with the common set of definitions (In which Utopia is your Eutopia), and so reading vernacular writing is probably unclear or poorly argued when using such - But that doesn't mean that their argument is bad, only that you're misreading it.
>Likewise, dystopias are inevitably totalitarian: to achieve a perfect society, nothing can be beyond the reach of the state.
This discounts anarchist utopias entirely, and any argument against the attainability of an anarchist utopia makes it all the moore utopian. The author seems to be using a shoddy, half-baked definition created for the purpose of this article.
Is there such an attempt? I see a lot of discussion of Dystopia, a few restatements of the thesis, but I don't actually see anything attempting to prove the thesis. The logic is "Not everything bad is a dystopia. Dystopias really suck. Trust me, Dystopias come about from trying to achieve utopia.
The author DOES distinguish speculation from perfection, so your criticism of the above post is correct, but even with the author's provided definition, I don't actually see any ARGUMENT being made, just a claim with some disconnected but true statements around it.
One's long life indeed benefits from a controlled environment able to consistently provide food, water, air or protection from potential dangers.
But why would society's survival works like my own? The dinosaurs didn't last but life itself did. Abilities to evolve and adapt to change or the multiplicity of methods to keep going proved themselves as some of the reliable skills to survive.
Anyway, I'm eagerly awaiting any future story of a society able to provide each one with a promising and somewhat reliable environment while managing as a whole to evolve and overcome any new challenges the universe constantly throws at us :)
They both have the property that progress has ended; that we have ceased learning about reality. An undesirable state to be in!
Yet ideas of utopias and dystopias have been used to advance the careers/interests/ambitions of the power-hungry, e.g. when they reluctantly accept power. they don't want power (allegedly) and will cede it when the utopia is achieved (it will never be achieved).
We are prone to believe that the ends justify the means. When the ends are infinite good, we therefore become willing to inflict unlimited harm to achieve them. In practice the infinite good people aimed for has proven to be debatable, but the harms inflicted have not.
The more right you feel your cause is, the more that this should worry you.
In all of the utopias we studied -- from Plato's Republic through Thomas More's Utopia and including Marx's Communist Manifesto -- the question that kept ringing in my ears was "utopia for whom?" Every utopia makes assumptions about people that naturally divide them into identifiable groups. Some of these groups end up happy, others not so much. A utopia which purports to make everyone happy (shouldn't they all?) is one that assumes all people are the same or it endeavours to make them so. Either way, we lose our humanity in the process.
Strange this is mentioned as the communist manifesto contains a whole chapter criticizing Utopias.
Also - establishment intellectuals from Hegel to Fukuyama to Pinker talk about how we are in Utopia now, at the end of history with capitalism and liberalism triumphant.
Marx said not only was capitalism self-destructive, with crises (like the 2008 government bank/insurance/etc. bailout), but that socialism would be self-destructive too. Hard to call someone postulating the next system will self-destruct is utopian.
Also Marx replied to socialists wanting utopian plans from him by replying he was not August Comte, and he did not want to "write recipes for the cookshops of the future".
Marx was about as unutopian as you can be, other than he thought the progress of production and technology over the millennia would continue, with effects on relations of production. Something you read on HN regularly.
So the contrapositive is that because people differ all societies require some people to suffer? That's a great way to justify all sorts of exploitation.
> In all of the utopias ... including Marx's Communist Manifesto
Ah, the Chicago school framing. What's primarily a positive work describing existing material conditions and relations is utopian, because it is not a kind assessment of those conditions.
Describing is not the same as justifying. Nature is what created us as individuals. Humanity could have been a vast society of clones (like an ant colony) but it isn't. We take all of the good and all of the bad together when we accept our individuality.
primarily a positive work describing existing material conditions and relations is utopian
It sounds to me like you're conflating the Communist Manifesto with Capital. The Manifesto is distinctly and unabashedly utopian. It is not a critique of any extant society, it is a call to arms. It sets forth a sharply bifurcated worldview, proletariat versus bourgeoisie, and attempts to rally the former in revolution against the latter.
This fact is so obvious, to so many people, that terms like "Communist utopia" and "worker's paradise" have become clichés.
We have little means of empirically separating what is natural versus social construct (or even qualifying what such a distinction means) when it comes to human behavior and society. Claiming that our nature makes inevitable that societies require some significant portion of their constituents to suffer is not simple description, it's a conceit that, like most naturalistic fallacies, is consistently used to excuse and justify existing social order. Viz evopsych, etc.
The premise I'm contesting is that minimizing suffering due to social constructs necessitates homogeny, which is a condition that narratively pits potential social orders against the individual.
> It sounds to me like you're conflating the Communist Manifesto with Capital...It is not a critique of any extant society
The Manifesto contains the class struggle interpretation of history, the labor theory of value, excess value, the means of production, etc. Those are all models and critiques of extant society. It is not as descriptive or theoretical a work as Capital, but it primarily argues for a model of things as they are and have been. To my decades-old recollection only the third section is focused on ideal societies, and a large portion of that on contemporary political movements.
You can disagree with those models of extant society, or like me view them as historically significant but superseded theories, but you must admit the fundamental contrast to something like Moore's Utopia. They both have explicit normative perspective, but the Manifesto's are constructed out of an analysis of existing conditions, whereas Utopia is primarily concerned with describing the order of its hypothetical social ideal. Books like The Road to Serfdom are rarely framed as being utopian despite primarily being normative.
Politics is the art of the possible. Labeling perspectives on social order as "utopian" is a move designed to exclude them from the realm of possibility. I also first read the Manifesto in a political philosophy course as part of a unit on utopianism. It was only years later I realized the framing by the right-libertarian professor to demarcate it from serious political philosophy, despite post-Marxism having at least as comparable a profile as an academic philosophical tradition to the just-market apologetics that made up the remainder of the course.
If you eradicate violence then those who love violence will suffer. You can't please everyone. This is not a normative claim, it's a fact of individuality. If your Utopian society is free of violence, then you must exclude people who love violence. How you accomplish this without committing violence is another matter.
you must admit the fundamental contrast to something like Moore's Utopia
I don't, actually. More was every bit a critic of his contemporary society as Marx was of his. The difference between More and Marx is that More was one of the most brilliant rhetoricians of all time. Taking the form of a Socratic dialogue, Utopia employs a pair of interlocutors, one of whom is the author himself, in order to present a critique of enclosure and the excesses of nobility that flew right over most nobles' heads. To call it "primarily concerned with describing the order of its hypothetical ideal" is to completely miss the author's point. I suggest you read it again.
I would look at America over the last 40-50 years, instead of asking about Trump specifically.
This is one question asked in the article, and I think that the author does a massive disservice here, while simultaneously writing an article that suggests that any Utopia is also a Dystopia, but never asks the question: is there a subset of Americans that would consider America today to be Utopic. I would argue that yes, that is the case: Those who hold massive quantities of capital. They collect massive amounts from the economy, and pay relatively little in taxes, all by design, since Reagan. More speak against them today, but it is relatively new to see the arguments against their economic value, or whether such concentrated power is dangerous, at least for me.
I could go one step further and look at oil production and usage in this country, and probably be able to formulate utopia/dystopia from it.
However, neither of these are specific to "Trump's" America, and instead discuss an America that has existed and been going in this direction for some time. I consider inability to see dystopia and utopia in this system to be lack of creativity.
It would be hyperbole to call the suburbs an example of a dystopia for teenagers created in an attempt to create a kind of utopia intended for parents. But I have to admit that was the first thing that popped in my head as I read the article.
A dystopian ruler does not believe they are destroying humanity, they believe they are rescuing humanity from some exogenous menace, whereas a more Hobbes-inspired ruler believes themselves to be rescuing humanity from itself.
If humans are only evil because they are brainwashed by capitalism, or patriarchy, religion, or royalty, or lizardmen, or the government, or some other menace then any brutality used to purge this evil is both justified and a temporary state of affairs. On the other hand, if you assume that some people are just a little bit naturally anti-social then trying to fight this (through either soft measures like education, or hard measures like punishment) is only justified if the the tangible benefits (not the promise of some eventual Utopia) exceed the costs.
For example, we're the fattest people on the planet, at all income levels, due to ridiculous overabundance of food. People throw away 40% of their food!
The only crisis in America is a crisis of whiners, which has reached epic proportions.
"There are certain permanent things in society: the health of the family, inherited political institutions that insure a measure of order and justice and freedom, a life of diversity and independence, a life marked by widespread possession of private property. These permanent things guarantee against arbitrary interference by the state. These are all aspects of conservative thought, which have developed gradually as the debate since the French Revolution has gone on."
(Or so proponents seem to believe.)
The problem with utopianism is the desire to create a new society out of whole cloth, with no regard for the lessons of the past, or the structure of existing society. Drastic changes, like those of the communist revolutions, rarely bring about positive change (not never), and frequently bring about huge disaster. Instead, changes on the margins tend to more reliably improve things. There are exceptions of course.
I like the perfectionism vs progressivism thing. My analogy would have been that it's like "the truth": if you think you're in full possession of the full truth, or ever could be, that's silly. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to learn more, be more honest, and so on. "truth" with a small t is still a useful concept. But it's always subjective, and requires people figuring that out both alone, with nothing between themselves and their conscience, and together (which will never change it to being objective, or completely agreed upon by all, or mean 100% the same thing even for two identical twins who "totally agree" on it).
Just like one could say we are the "result" of what our cells are doing all the time (I know you really couldn't simplify it like that at all, but for the sake of argument), society is the result of the daily decisions of the actual people in it - what they think others expect of them, and whether they listen to that or their inner voice, and so on.
It seems to me many want to change society "on" others rather than with them, you might say they would rather attempt to change society on a drawing board to change their neighbours, than get to know their neighbours and themselves in the first place. But societies aren't really that different from personal relations and families. People grow over time, societies grow, decay or heal over time, too -- not as the result of turning a switch or throwing out everything that was before on a dime, just because we really want to.
> Until now the totalitarian belief that everything is possible seems to have proved only that everything can be destroyed.
-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"
A non-utopian way of improving society is to have robust, good-faith discussion between progressive and conservative factions, where the progressives keep trying to find safe, marginal reforms to make while the conservatives act as a skeptical check on those marginal reforms turning into a utopian project.
At least in the United States, where I live, this doesn't happen because the "progressives" are radicalizing towards utopianism while the "conservative" faction is themselves split between utopianism and reaction.
Sometimes It feels like the "conservatives" are more utopian than the progressives. They just live in the utopia of a past that never existed.
So yes, a push to one direction or another will increase and raise risistance, but then that's due to lack of engaging with the resistance and as we see play out time and time again in politics. Instead of engaging, it becomes one of posturing and what I call playground politics, with name calling and labeling to dismiss the opersition. Both sides are guilty of this, they both equaly hate it when they are the minority at the time and on the recieving end. Yet nothing changes. So you end up with a sing to one side for a few years or decade and then a swing the other way.
How do you solve it, well as with any negotiation, compromise, as they do in buisness. But I'm sure many who have been at board meeting trying to get thru a project would love to resort to the political approach of labeling and dismissing all objections and vilionising such objections in an internal marketing campaign. But we don't as we are adults. I just lament how politics today on both sides, often forget they are adults and left the playground behind years ago.
Sure there are politicians who are above such approaches, but alas they are drowned up by the masses and I often wonder - has politics today improved or gone downhill? Equally has it always been the case and is it more due to more faster communications of the news and media access that has allowed us to see it more clearly?
But then, physics has taught us that for every action there is a reaction. Which parallels in many walks of life outside physics.
In America there are socially conservative people that believe the in the right for women's choice in abortion, and there are otherwise socially liberal people who believe in removing that right, these people are left voiceless to the benefit of the two entrenched parties and end up see-sawing back and forth between who has been the least terrible recently.
Though when we keep failing to produce a simple electronic voting system, a problem shared around the World. You wonder if perhaps the World could come together and group design an open source solution that the people of the World could audit and help improve, until we all become happy. That would be a start.