"Utopia is a Dangerous Ideal: We should Aim for 'Protopia'…
"Utopia is a Dangerous Ideal: We should Aim for 'Protopia'" - Michael Shermer (Aeon)
An ideal way of living is not practicable because people all have different views on what’s the best way to live.
People all have different interests, values and morals which impact their views on the ideal way of life.
Thomas More, a British writer, wrote a book about a perfect society in 1516. More knew that such a society could never truly exist, which is why he called his book 'Utopia', a word meaning 'no place'.
Humans are perfectible and can create perfect societies.
Humans will inevitably make mistakes because a perfect society is not intended for imperfect beings.
Utopian ideas are especially vulnerable when governments try to put them into practice.
Utopia is a social theory that attempts to combine authoritarian rule and the concept of command-and-control, which contradicts the natural human desire for freedom, choice and preferences.
People all have different abilities and preferences, which cause inequalities in society. This then creates imperfect living and working conditions that are intolerable to a utopian dream.
Numerous utopian experiments were carried out in the 19th century and were relatively harmless and did not pose severe risks to society.
The experiments were harmless because the groups lacked economic and political power. Combining these two factors with utopian experiments could turn utopian dreamers into dystopian murderers and oppressive rulers.
People typically act on their beliefs and when they believe that a particular group or individual is preventing them from achieving heaven on Earth, their actions have no boundaries.
Examples of actions with no bounds are genocide, religious and political wars like the Crusades and the two world wars, witch hunts as well as homicide and murder based on ideological or religious beliefs.
Leon Trotsky, a Soviet Politician, believed that humans are perfectible and yet he established concentration camps for all those he believed stood in the way of a Marxist Utopia.
94 million people were killed by revolutionary Marxists and utopian communists in Russia, China, North Korea and other states in Africa and South America.
The elimination of some for the benefit of the many is acceptable to ensure the realisation of a utopian society.
This way of thinking leads to a dystopian society in which murder is condoned.
Many people in Western countries agree that killing one person to save five is morally permissible, through the trolley problem.
Utopias offer a perfect society based on what the utopians believe to be rational such as comfort, safety and common sense.
The British writer, George Orwell, argued that perfect societies forget that people are essentially driven by emotion and not utopian rationality.
We should aim for Protopia
Protopia offers a humane alternative to utopia.
Protopian societies are not only more practical than utopian societies but they are also realisable.
Protopia seeks incremental and realistic steps to improve society but does not aim for perfection.
Important moral achievements over the past several centuries such as the abolition of slavery, the end of the death penalty, the creation of civil rights and the attenuation of war were achieved through small but realistic and positive steps.