Friday, October 28, 2005

No Vision, No Future, And No Ketchup

I presume this was intended as a joke.
Look at the way we live now, in the west. We grow up in increasingly fragmented communities, hardly speaking to the people next door, and drive to work in our self-contained cars. We work in standardised offices and stop at the supermarket on our way home to buy production-line food which we eat without relish. There is no great misery, no hunger, and no war. But nor is there great passion or joy.
Dylan Evans is having a rough week, and it's the fault of liberal democracy. Perhaps he needs a change. He could go and talk to his next-door neighbours, perhaps, or find a job that interests him more than lecturing at the University of the West of England apparently does. Alas, his society is lacking a philosophical infrastructure that would enable him to do so. Instead he is forced by an uncaring system to write appalling nonsense like:
More, Campanella and Bacon all agree that everyone must work. When work is shared out between all members of society, Campanella calculates that each person will have to work no more than four hours a day. That would leave plenty of leisure time, as well as energy to use that time wisely by, Campanella suggests, attending lectures.
It's about time we got that sorted out. Only four hours a day if we all pitch in and help with each other's jobs? Good job, Tommaso Campanella. I'm glad this figure was "calculated" - as opposed to "pulled out of your ass" - otherwise I might doubt its real-world applicability.

The problem with the utopianism/consumerism binary is that Evans is wrong about the paucity of utopian thinkers. There are more of the bastards than ever. What he's actually complaining about is that there's no single utopian ideal to which we're all forced to subscribe. The beauty of consumerism - invisible to Evans as he drives his self-contained car home from his standardised office, munching on a production-line sandwich - is that everyone gets to have a shot at implementing their own utopian vision for themselves. Our success rate is every bit as dismal as the society-wide utopian thinkers', but at least we get to go to the bar in the evening instead of listening to lectures. (And besides, if he was already at the supermarket to pick up the production-line food, couldn't he have bought some relish as well? Even if you're trapped in a depraved consumerist wasteland, there's no need to deprive yourself of condiments.)