An "Out of Focus" Utopia
After our discussion ended on Tuesday, I left class still pondering the results of our utopia exercise. While some might think a perfect socio-politico-legal system is easy to construct in theory, I had (and continue to have) trouble conceptualizing a world in which “equality,” a word that implies affording all people the same status, rights, and opportunities*, does not inevitably translate into “sameness,” a word that wipes away all sense of individuality and fails to acknowledge or cherish differences. I’m reminded of Orwell’s Animal Farm, which details first the liberation of animals on a farm from oppressive humans, then the animals’ attempt to set up a utopian society in which all members of the farm are equal, and finally the emergence of a hierarchy in which (spoiler alert) the pigs take control of the farm and reduce the original seven commandments to only one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
(An interesting take on the current state of our society...)
In this “no-place” that is our hypothetical utopia, all citizens would be afforded the same legal rights and opportunities, which I believe is a considerably hefty but someday attainable goal. What I struggle with realizing most is the social component of this utopian equation. Society would have to be free of any and all bias whatsoever, and no person’s individual contribution could be more valuable than another’s. Is this feasible? From a gen/sex perspective, would straight couples be more valued than gay couples because of their ability to reproduce and carry on the species, or would we compensate with IVF and new reproductive technologies? Would women be more valued than men for their ability to bear children and breastfeed? Excerpts from Margaret Price’s book only serve to further complicate the process of constructing a utopia by illuminating the constraints academic society puts on students with mental disabilities. Would there be no need for medications to combat these issues in our utopia because everyone would be guaranteed the same learning experience regardless of the way in which they chose to learn? Would egodystonic conditions even exist in utopian society, and if they did, what sort of label would they have? How could every student compete on a totally equal playing field with the existence of such conditions? I have so much difficulty envisioning a world in which no group emerges as more successful, and therefore more powerful, than another. The world I am left with when I conjure up the image of a true utopia is a world filled with sameness, a place that guarantees the loss of diversity and depth, and it’s grey, bleak, flat, and meaningless.