Monday, January 15, 2007

Blibbettyblob - it's here! Rejoice!

A few days ago, Norm linked to a nice piece by Fred Halliday.

From a list of ‘worst ideas;
"In the modern world, we do not need utopias:

Dreaming, the aspiration to a better world and the imagination thereof, is a necessary part of the human condition."

Subsequently, Norm has been able to pick up, critically, on some interesting responses to it.

There are a few double-negatives in there, so think about it before you go on.

I always find discussion of utopianism - for and against - a little hard to take seriously though, because there seems to me to be a contradiction within the idea of 'utopia' that makes it largely redundant.

The oft-quoted observation from Milan Kundera about utopias always coming bundled with a gulag is not my only objection either. Utopias, you see, are an end-point. A point at which things cannot get any better.

And my idea of hell is living somewhere in which there is no prospect of things getting better. One of the most troubling things about a lot of the negativism in public debate is that one worries how the poor fuckers that engage in it are able to even get out of bed in the morning.

For example, I think that it has been amply demonstrated that an absence of scarcity in any good thing is not enough to satisfy many people. Wealth, after all, is positional thing as much as it is a thing that can be counted in stacks of banknotes. I suspect that other benchmarks that we can use to measure quality of life are similar. And it’s not for nothing that John Donne used to pun around orgasms and death. Orgasms or foreplay? It’s ‘the getting there’ that’s all the fun.

This doesn't mean that I don't largely agree with Fred Halliday's view that there is something worrying about an absence of aspiration.

Indeed, if you wanted to come up with a new word - call it anything you like - how about 'blibbettyblob'? - A Utopia - but one in which there is no gulag and a reasonable a prospect for improvement. I'd subscribe to it. Here's what it could look like:
  • A liberal democracy in which a large and growing number of people are able to participate in decision-making - and one in which there was an agreement that this decision-making should strive for optimal policy outcomes (not purely a representation of the public will or some crude version that privileges 'fairness' 'sustainability' or 'efficiency', but instead an agreed synthesis of the these metrics).
  • A successfully evangelistic liberal democracy that is promoting democratic renewal and improvement in existing democracies and one that is recruiting new nations to the club every year
  • An international community that benefits from a legitimate version of international law - one that is more firmly binding and is only framed - in a weighted way - by liberal democracies that have demonstrated their credentials.

And when would this happen, ideally? This blibbettyblob would be arrived at during a football season not unlike the 1977-8. It would happen in the pre-Xmas run when we were pretty sure we were the best side that the world had (or would) ever see – but we were looking forward to the satisfaction of seeing it being proved.

Is this all too much to ask for? On the first two points, above, I’m not even sure that this is asking for something that we haven’t already got. Obviously, the 1977-8 bit is the really improbable utopia here.

Perhaps there is a better name for it than blibbettyblob as well. How does 'democratic socialism' sound?

Naff-blogging update: I admit that I re-read about an hour after posting it and noticed a major omission. I've corrected it.

1 comment:

Shuggy said...

This doesn't mean that I don't largely agree with Fred Halliday's view that there is something worrying about an absence of aspiration.

I wouldn't disagree with this either - my problem was with the lack of any kind of acknowledgment that there was and is any downside to this aspiration which is indeed 'necessary' to the human condition.