Our existence on this planet is hellish because the complexities of human nature clash with the way the world works.
Humans are fragile beings who are obsessed with control and certainty. Indeed, we have wired our world based on a cause-and-effect system that conditions us to believe that every cause has an effect. In this way, we can plan for the future. In fact, if we could go in the future to know what will happen, we probably would.
It makes us feel safe that we are in control; we crave stability.
But the world does not actually work that way.
We live in an uncertain world
There is very little that we are in control of.
Nothing is really certain.
Despite the rapid developments in science, we still have plenty of unanswered questions and gaps in our knowledge about the world.
Things rarely happen according to plan, because we are not always in control of how events will unfold.
At any given moment, there is a chance that we lose everything from our beloved ones, our life savings, our belongings, or even life.
The stability we seek is almost nonexistent.
We live in a society where injustice prevails, especially in the Arab region and more particularly in Lebanon.
We live in a society where the corrupt evade every brutal thing they do, including taking the lives of hundreds and causing their families so much anguish.
We live in a society where we work six to nine jobs to barely make ends meet or provide for our families.
We live in a society where so much emphasis is put on fame, luxury, possessions, and reputation.
We live in a patriarchal society where the bodies of women and girls, let alone their human rights and bodily integrity, are controlled by men.
We live in a society where species are going extinct and the water, land, and air keep getting more polluted.
The system, the world, or the society in which we live has failed to provide us with the space to explore our capabilities and live not to just survive, but to genuinely love living.
We live in a society where it is easier to destroy than to build.
Because the lack of certainty and stability threatens our psychological integrity, we would like to imagine alternative options to the current system, such as utopian societies.
We want to explore the what-ifs
Utopias are idealized visions of a perfect society. By envisioning utopian societies, we are escaping our hellish realities to explore the ideal state of existence.
What if we actually like our jobs, like in Thomas More’s Utopia?
A lot of us spend most of our lives working jobs we may not necessarily be happy with because they don’t really fit our principles. Or perhaps, we simply don’t enjoy them. But we go for these jobs just so that, at some point, we can afford to leave those jobs, retire, and then pursue the job we actually want.
Within the utopian context, people do already what they like to do. Parents usually teach their children the craft of their expertise. However, if a child finds that they have a different inclination than the family they are born into, they can join a family that is known for the craftsmanship that they are interested in.
What if we had competent politicians to lead our country, like in Tommasso Campanella’s City of the Sun?
We are used to corrupt and incompetent leaders, particularly as Lebanese people. We have seen our government fail to protect its citizens and provide them with their most basic needs, such as electricity, water, and protection. The unemployment rates are skyrocketing with the economic collapse.
In Campanella’s vision, the governance system is derived from the education system such that positions of governance are attained based on degrees of knowledge or education. It is always ensured that the best fit governs, because if ever there was anyone identified as more fit for governance, that current ruler happily steps aside and hands the duties to the more qualified person.
What if everyone was equal, like in Louis Sébastien Mercier’s society?
Inequalities are prevalent in the societies we live in. Over the last three decades, there has been a drastic rise in income inequalities, making extreme economic inequality one of the defining issues of our time. Another major issue is that of gender inequalities when it comes to legal protection, access to education, and employment.
Mercier’s society is built on the principle of equality amongst citizens. Everyone is born equal and treated as such. The only distinctions are those which naturally arise among men naturally from their virtue, their genius, and industry.
What if there was no patriarchy, like in Charlotte Gilman’s Herland?
Patriarchy is a structure that still exists in many parts of the world where power is in the hands of men. Our current system is set up in the subtle language of because women are loved, they need to be protected by men from other men. But what if there were no men, to begin with?
Gilman isolates her society of only women to emphasize what women are capable of if the environment is conducive to undoing the damage of male chauvinist society. The notion of feminine and masculine doesn’t exist there because there are no men. As such, Herland lacks what masculinity usually seeks and causes: women no longer need to fear men or be feminine, and men no longer need to protect women from men or be masculine.
We tend to envision such utopian societies because they are more in touch with our humanity than the societies we currently live in.
We would like to imagine a better life.
We would like to think that our lives could be different.