Saturday, September 06, 2008

Open Question: What would your utopia look like?

You'll have to excuse my diminished interest in the Presidential race. From what I can tell, the Democrats are still building a personality cult around a smart and charismatic tyro, while the much more serious Republicans are now building a personality cult around a smart and charismatic tyro in lipstick. Again, I’m agnostic. Sorry.

But, I don’t want to become a total cynic. I do believe that we should be able to imagine a better world, even if we should never, ever let these particular people try to build that better world. So, an open question would be: what would you like to see in your imaginary utopia? Answers can be in any terms: cultural, political, economic, religious, etc.

My first thought is that I would like to see a world in which healthy food was much cheaper than soda pop and chips, instead of what we have now, which is largely the reverse. Can you imagine what it would be like if, when you made a working class salary, the best way to save money would be to walk to the convenience store and get a vitamin-rich green shake? But, if you were better-off, maybe you could afford to splurge on ramen noodles and Pepsi?

So, that’s my first suggestion. Anyone have any others? (Note: including the lurkers!)


Brian Dunbar said...

what would you like to see in your imaginary utopia?

More biomass off earth, than on.

Holly said...

Teleportation figures prominently for me. Also, an end to the habit of burning things for energy. And also nutrition in pill form, for 90% of meals, so those other 10% can be really, really special.

gregvw said...

I could babble about this for a long time and I have enough seemingly discordant socio-economic-political views to alienate and marginalize pretty much anyone. I'm sure I'm going to forget a lot of things and this is just of the top of my head. Here's how I would unfuck the US:

On the one hand, I have a socialist side in that I like social programs. I favor universal health care, public education, subsidized public transportation and so on. Overall I have no objection to high taxes provided the revenue is spent on bettering people's lives and not invading nations to benefit corporations.

On the other hand, I have a libertarian side in that I don't think the government is entitled to interfere with what adults do with or put into their bodies. Soft drugs should be legalized, but controlled in much the way that hard alcohol is controlled in VA, for example. Abortion should be legal. People should be allowed to own guns with the proper training and licensing. Any two adults should be allowed to marry and enjoy the economic benefits afforded to that status.

The drinking age should be 16 and the driving age should be 21.

Some form of public service should be compulsory for young people for two years between high school and college. It need not be military.

I think that welfare should still exist, but passing a drug test must be required for a hand out.

Religious institutions should enjoy no special tax breaks.

Taxation should be at a flat rate, not a progressive one, but it should apply to ALL forms of income. There should be no loopholes for the very wealthy to exploit.

Corporations would no longer be considered legal persons.

Reinstate the equal time rule.

For foreign policy, I would favor a "work with the UN" attitude instead of the current situation where it seems like the US regards the UN as having outlived it's intended purpose (to cast an air of legitimacy about the establishment of Israel).

We have the technology now to make direct populism a reality. I regard the electoral college as an antiquated machination.

I would focus resources on urban revitalization and public transportation within and between cities. Urban development should be rewarded and suburbanization should be penalized.

Rufus said...

Greg- I agree with a good amount of this, but I'm not sure it's even possible to make these changes in the US anymore. Obviously, this is a theoretical exercise, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better for people who want to see these things happen to focus on places like Canada, or the European countries, where much of this is already seen as moderate. Most of the things that get you called a "radical leftist" in the US make you a Tory in Canada!

One of the things I thought when I watched these conventions is just how deluded "progressives" are about their place in the US. Maybe it's grim, but I just don't think that any of the things they want to see happen will happen in my lifetime, not in the US. They're trying to sell their ideas to people who don't want to hear them.

Because, honestly, if you have even mildly progressive views, there is a certain percentage of your neighbors in the US (unless you live in a handful of urban areas) that outright hates you. I mean, I have relatives who can hardly tolerate the fact that I've lived in France! And they're pretty blunt about their view of people who think the way I do: immoral, anti-American, treasonous, elitist, snobbish, abnormal, sick, anti-family, hateful, etc. etc. They don't actually know how I think, so I don't take it too personally.

I just don't engage. I see no reason to argue with them. I certainly don't hate them, and maybe they don't hate me. But I'm really exhausted and bored with the US. Isn't it just a better idea to jump ship and start working for a better Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, etc.? If Obama loses, which seems increasingly likely, shouldn't these people just leave, like they always threaten to do?

Of course, I am cranky.

Rufus said...

And, of course, I ask all of this remembering that you have, in fact, left.

Incidentally, are you still voting?

Holly said...

How is living in France, sorry, Freedonia treasonous, exactly?

We're not voting.

Rufus said...

Oh, not treasonous, I don't think. Just sort of stupid and vaguely pathetic. Oh, and not something they could ever stomach doing themselves- as if I asked them. These are people who have never had a passport, so their knowledge of France is somewhere between fuck-all and zero.

Brian Dunbar said...

How is living in France, sorry, Freedonia treasonous, exactly?

Speaking of that - when is Carl Steadman going to give up

# whois
Steadman, Carl

Bastard. At the very least he could _put_ something there. Free freedonia!

These are people who have never had a passport, so their knowledge of France is somewhere between fuck-all and zero.

I hear they eat (whisper) snails in France. And dogs. And the women don't shave their armpits. Eew!

Part of the passport thing (I can't speak for your familiy of course), is, sure, ignorance. But some it is .. well what's the point? It costs a bundle to get there and while it might be interesting and fun if you've got a job and expenses it's a once in a lifetime kinda thing. It's certainly a lot cheaper to rent a cabin by Lake Superior and drive than it is to rent a comparable place in Italy and fly.

My wife wanted very badly to see her sister, who spent the last five years in Venice. But the expense for airfare made it impractical. Now the sister has relocated back to Portland and it's a heckkuva lot cheaper to fly to Portland than Venice.

Also .. if you go by 'percentage of people who have never had a passport' I'm one of those guys. Except I did a fair amount of travel courtesy of Uncle Sam. With a SOFA, a military ID card and 'travel under orders' you just pack up your seabag and go.

Now, you don't automatically get to see the really nice, posh parts of wherever you are going, but that's part of the charm. Nothing introduces you to the finer points of a countries geography like slopping around in the muddier parts of it.

And friends, from my point of view, Asia has a lot of mud.

Rufus said...

The Canadian one- is pretty fascinating. Still no Marx Brothers sites, though.

Anyway, I understand the money issue. The *main* reason I decided to study French History at the PhD level was to get someone to pay for me to travel there because I had always wanted to go! American history is easier, in that the language requirement is easier; but I just don't want to spend all my summers reading in Iowa.

So, I understand exactly why people don't do it. But, having done it, I was shocked at how much I had heard about Europe while in America that was utter bullshit. And vice-versa: Europeans believe that Americans are all dodging bullets on their way to the daily religious tent serivice; while Americans believe that Europeans are living in abject poverty, chain smoking, having affairs, burning Bibles, and converting to Islam. The chain smoking part is actually correct- at least, in France.

But, yes, my problem is not with non-travelers, but with the non-traveling experts on places they've never lived in. I know very very little about Japan, aside from food and movies, for example, but I own up to that lack of knowledge! Confucious once said that the wise man knows what he knows and knows what he does not know!

Lastly, for single people, or young people, I highly recommend travel by courrier service- you can get some ridiculously low fares, if your schedule is flexible.

Well, at least, until the teleportation thing happens.

gregvw said...

The Canadian one- is pretty fascinating. Still no Marx Brothers sites, though.