Is a perfect world – a utopia – truly attainable, or is it just a figment of human imagination? This week, I discuss the illusion of utopia and why individualism is the better deal.
Table of Contents
- Exploring Utopia: The Reality of the Ideal Society
- Individualism: A Realistic Alternative to Utopia
- An Example Of How Individualism Is Not Utopian
- How Do You Oppose Other People’s Desire For Utopia?
- How Do You Fight Your Desire For Utopia?
- Always embrace responsibility and accept the imperfections of the world
- Individual Responsibility And Utopia
Exploring Utopia: The Reality of the Ideal Society
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.” – Oscar Wilde
Utopia is “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.” In this context, I discuss a flawless utopian society that benefits everyone: the poor are cared for, the sick are attended to, and the lame are supported. There is little to no violence, poverty, or suffering.
Unfortunately, such a society cannot exist; perfection is a fool’s game.
It is better to set an ideal, then allow for failure and change when reasonable. This ensures we do not impose unrealistic or disappointing goals. Furthermore, we must account for man’s sins and build societies that punish vices and regulate comforts.
The main utopian ideas, philosophies, and societal structures involved variations of communism, statism, and socialism. Mainly, these social structures place power in the hands of the few and expect these few leaders to act with integrity and clarity. The end result of such concentrated power is death, famine, and suffering. The romantic ideal fails.
However, many people would argue individualism is utopian. Let’s start our discussion by disproving this assertion.
Individualism: A Realistic Alternative to Utopia
Individualism is a social theory that values the individual above the needs, wants, and desires of the collective and the state. Politically, it is expressed through libertarianism, minarchism, and anarcho-capitalism. Economically, it is expressed through capitalism.
Now let’s give the devil his due. Individualism is very idealistic in many ways. A world where individuals embrace personal responsibility is tough to achieve. Man is compelled to pursue vice; if he has the technology and legal structure, he will dwell in nihilism and comfort.
While these are valid arguments, let’s examine two realities that make individualism a more pragmatic approach compared to other philosophies.
- Firstly, personal responsibility is the only solution to both personal and societal issues. Individualism isn’t ideological because it is the only concrete way to fix what ails everyone. You cannot externalize virtue or duty. Either the individual makes his life better, or the world never improves. It is utopian to believe you can make the world sustainable, just, and good by enlarging the state or suppressing an individual’s virtuous ends.
- Secondly, the alternatives to individualism are equally, if not more, absurd. Is it unrealistic to believe people will choose personal responsibility? It is equally ridiculous to pretend our leaders will act justly or voters will choose virtuous leaders. Everything from individualism to capitalism to limited government has its issues. But take any alternative and see the same problems and more damning concerns. It’s not utopian to choose the better option.
An Example Of How Individualism Is Not Utopian
Here is an example highlighting why individualism, the only real solution to most social and individual problems, is not utopian. Let’s take the example of believing that people will exercise and care for themselves may be utopian.
Fair enough, but the only solution to weight loss that is sustainable and cost-effective is if everyone exercises. All the alternatives will not work:
- Relying on diet pills for the rest of your life isn’t a sustainable solution.
- Fat acceptance doesn’t erase the reality of the long-term costs of obesity.
- Making healthcare free won’t make it cheaper because people will still not address the core issues they have.
- Removing junk food from shelves or ingredients is a good start, but people are still broken and will fill the void in other ways. Additionally, a government big enough to regulate food in such a way is big enough to meddle in other aspects of life.
The only sustainable, affordable, and universally applicable solution to obesity lies in individual commitment and determination.
Every solution to a problem, every societal structure proposed, and every ideal is by its very nature utopian because it seeks a better alternative to what we “realistically” have. But we must consider whether an idea is achievable, sustainable, and better than the alternatives.
Individualism is our best choice; thus, I do not consider it unrealistic or utopian in the strictly negative sense.
Regardless, people will attack individualism as unrealistic, then put their utopia forward. So, how do we oppose people’s desires for perfection?
How Do You Oppose Other People’s Desire For Utopia?
“It’s wrong to deprive someone else of a pleasure so that you can enjoy one yourself, but to deprive yourself of a pleasure so that you can add to someone else’s enjoyment is an act of humanity by which you always gain more than you lose.” – Thomas More
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do directly about the mob and its madness. They are willing to kill and destroy to reach whatever perfect society they have in mind.
For example, the Kulaks were killed by their neighbors because the Kulaks were successful. The neighbors wanted a utopia free of “exploitation,” so they killed people. The result? Everyone starved because the mob was full of idiots who thought killing all the farmers was a great idea.
Here are a few things to get you started:
- Learn how to grow your own food
- Get in better shape so you can defend yourself and prevent health issues
- Learn new skills and diversify your skillset for more career and monetary opportunities.
In each instance, you seek to establish your community, strengthen your body and mind, and reduce your dependency.
But we must remember that we are individuals, and the desire for utopia can infect us. How can you also fight your hunger for a perfect society?
How Do You Fight Your Desire For Utopia?
Remember, all utopias are, by their very nature, idealistic. However, you must avoid wanting a utopia where you are not responsible for yourself.
Here is the way you can reduce your desire for a utopia:
Always embrace responsibility and accept the imperfections of the world
Because society and the men in it are imperfect, we need to strike a balance between ideals and realities in society. This involves creating structures that allow dynamism while providing the correct guardrails for our poor behaviors. I argue God, family, and free markets provide these solutions.
- The free market forces man to work for his food. Because he has to work and serve others, he is humbled. He has to engage with others voluntarily, and they have to engage with him freely. Such freedom, borne of service and competence, forces the best within us. The free market also takes man’s innately selfish desires and turns them towards service. You cannot legalize your way to the top spot in the free market. You have to provide a better service than your competitors.
- The free market is great but can promote vice and hedonism for “free exchange.” Thus, a solid moral system, usually provided by religion and God, keeps such human excesses in check. Furthermore, we are provided both the narrative and the reasoning as to why we should serve others outside of profit-driven reasons. Lastly, we are given a clear purpose through religion and God, which can help prevent nihilism.
- Lastly, the family, when done virtuously, gives people the comfort of community. That community promotes the best within us and demands our most virtuous selves. The family also acts as the social safety net, replacing the need for a large state. Your family members will push you harder than the state ever will because they have to pay for your vices.
Socialists or communists often believe societal perfection can be achieved without personal effort or responsibility. Each pillar I highlighted above requires you to be your best. God, the free market, and the family challenge you. But in turn, you have to challenge each aspect as well. You are not passively receiving benefits from these aspects of life.
Such active, responsible living is difficult to achieve but is necessary. In the most negative sense of the world, it is utopian to believe the government or mob rule can replace such critical aspects of living.
With these three things in place, we can correct man’s imperfections while giving him a choice. Through each pillar, he is forced to curtail his vices, work for the betterment of others, and pursue his most virtuous self.
Individual Responsibility And Utopia
“The search for Nirvana, like the search for Utopia or the end of history or the classless society, is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle.” – Christopher Hitchens
The pursuit of a utopian world is an innate human trait arising from our longing to eradicate evil and create an ideal society.
However, history and reality show us that this quest for perfection, often at the cost of personal responsibility, can be both dangerous and counterproductive.
Individualism, on the other hand, encourages us to take responsibility for our actions, promoting growth and progress at a personal and societal level.
While ideals like God, free market, and family may present challenges, they ultimately force us to curtail our vices, work for the betterment of others, and chase our most virtuous selves.
So don’t sit around and wait for perfection. Get up, work hard now, and you will achieve your utopian self one day.
- What does your perfect society look like? Why do you think it can’t be accomplished? What can we do to accomplish it?
- Think again about your perfect society. How can you recreate that society in your day-to-day life? What is involved in that process?
- What utopian society have you heard from others? Why are such visions unrealistic? How do they remove or give responsibility to the individual?
Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.