Saturday opinion. UTOPIA by Hal O’Leary. Enjoy your weekend, Yareah friends. Art is everywhere and up to you!
***Long ago, in the innocence of my youth, I had dreamed of Utopia. That was, until it occurred to me that all through the ages others must have been dreaming the same. Slowly my dream succumbed to cynicism. The sorry history of the insanity of humanity leaves little hope for anything approaching Utopia, and, if anything, it seems to be receding. We are now in an age of perpetual war with the senseless horror and sacrifice of soldier and citizen alike.
Beginning with Guernica, followed by London, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki respect for human life, once considered sacrosanct has all but disappeared. It’s now referred to as unintended “collateral damage” which makes it somehow acceptable. I am amazed at the seemingly smug hypocrisy of those who, in their “right to life” obsession, would murder or endorse the murder of doctors who perform abortions, and at the same time support the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children taking place daily in the Middle East. This insanity is supported, of course, by a church that tortured and burned suspected witches at the stake.
The virtues that once were looked upon as the necessary components of Utopia are fast receding. Truth is no longer expected. Deceit is now condoned as being necessary for success. With the loss of truth, trust becomes impossible, and, of course, with the loss of truth and trust, love becomes unimaginable and meaningless. The irony, of course, is that it is not hard to find adequate instruction for a better way. The sages of the ages, The Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Christ and more recently the great poet John Donne, to name a few, have outlined in detail the path we must follow should Utopia be attainable. The great truth revealed by all of these ancient figures that we foolishly pay lip service to but fail to heed is brotherhood. We are our brother’s keeper. How could we have gotten it so wrong? As a Secular Humanist, I have long contended that the book of Genesis, with its tale of Adam and Eve being evicted from the garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, is but a myth to depict the dawning of man’s awareness of his own existence. By virtue of this knowledge and in the interest of survival, it became the onerous obligation of man to be responsible for those of his kind. “We belong to each other.” Buddha, “Do your best for others.” Confucius, “I am a citizen of the world ” Socrates. “Do unto others”” Christ, “No man is an island” John Donne.
But in spite of all the warnings modern man seems bent on alienation. How has this come about? Could this idea of competition we take such pride in be the culprit? I believe it may be in nature, there are more examples of symbiotic relationships than competitive ones. Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” became “the law of the jungle”, which is a misreading of Darwin’s intent. It had nothing to do with competition. It simply meant that through natural selection the most adaptable organism to the environment would be more likely to survive. BUT, the Law of the Jungle became the law of the land for capitalistic societies. It made it not only acceptable for employers to exploit labor, it made it mandatory. Robber barons like Andrew Carnegie were suddenly freed from the dictates of their religions and conscience to, obsessively and without obstruction or inhibition, pursue wealth for the sake of wealth. Of course, this dismissive rejection, not only of the basic tenants of most religions but of the wisdom of the ages, brought about man’s inhumanity to man. Such evils as eugenics and genocide were seen as a means of improving and controlling the population. While Hitler’s drive for the Aryan Ubermensch discredited eugenics, genocide is on the rise unabated, and in the mad pursuit of wealth, avarice and envy have given credence to the foolish notion of the “rugged individualist” in defiance of all the wisdom to the contrary. The irony of all this is that with all the talk of individualism, we live in a society that insists on a, not so subtle, conformity which is all too often in conflict with the natural and unique talents and tendencies of the individual. For acceptance he is required to sacrifice his interests and aspirations to the questionable objectives of a neurotic society. Even his education is directed to the end of bringing about his conformity. In fact, he is not educated in the Socratic sense but indoctrinated and trained to meet not his unique needs but the needs of the corporate controlled society. However, in the face of all that seems to have led us astray from any possible hope for Utopia, at least in my lifetime, if ever, my cynicism was recently alleviated. I was thankfully taught by my son, a playwright, that although I may have had to give up on any dream of Utopia, I can be at ease in believing in the basic goodness of man for which there is so much evidence. I truly believe that we are hard wired from birth for empathy and altruism and it becomes a day today struggle to keep it from being overwhelmed by the machinations of those who have succumbed to the status quo. In his very first play, “Wine To Blood” he writes of the futility of the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War. In truth, it was a war between two ideals, Fascism and Communism. While it is doubtful that Communism could lead to Utopia, it is certain that Fascism could not. So, what is one who aches for justice, Utopia, to do if even the dream seems out of reach? This line at the very end of Wine To Blood says it all, and it has served to show me a way forward.
“I don’t know if there is a Utopia, but I am certain that we must act as though there can be”.