“The Utopia is a vision of the rational form of society, and it is best seen, not as an end,
but as an informing principle.” – Northrop Frye.
Our mistrust of politics is just a mask for our mistrust of ourselves. Human nature is fluid, fortunately, as is politics, which flows from our nature.
Politics is unavoidable. If the fondest dreams of an advanced society become reality and peace and harmony reign, there will still be politics. Nice politics, but still behaviour that tries to develop and maintain those dreams, that harmony.1
Politics is deciding how to balance the opposite tendencies of stasis and change. Even when peace and harmony reign, there will still be change. An ideal political system protects the dreams that have been made reality and at the same time allows for more dreaming, to bring more nuance and individual expression into play in everyday living.
The fluid collective
No, this is not about how drinking makes people best buddies. It’s about how a collective can help individuals, if it’s fluid and lets the individuals experiment.
To experiment within a collective is a sweet dance between grasping what the collective wants/aspires to and forging a new way to meet those aspirations. The fluid collective both shares what it knows and allows deviance, because it trusts its members.
When a collective aspires to support and seek the emergence of the best in human nature—as New Human City may do some day—it uses both accepted, group-sanctioned behaviour and new, potentially counter-productive behaviour. Fluidity allows the collective to develop, noting successes and failures alike.
Divergence works for society when collectives, like individuals, step out on new paths—deviate—but with understanding across the divergent groups that deviations are to be tolerated. “You go your way, I’ll go mine,” as the singer wrote.
Divergence emerges with stress, such as the stress of catastrophic weather events, massive crop failure, pandemics or a really ignorant world leader. The sense of time running out that we hear in connection with climate change is universally stressful. Our mistrust of politics grows wildly when the politicians fail to tidy up the results of centuries of collective, consumerist behaviour, AKA climate change.
Today, divergence without conflict is becoming rarer as the “winners and losers” mindset—fear—makes people behave in rigid, defensive ways. That mindset is mistrustful by definition, a mistrust that denies the promise inherent in every infant, the promise of relationships that heal and lift people up.
“Soft, what light on yonder window breaks?!” Gently, gently, perceive the wispy hope you can barely believe in, that seems so out of place and unattainable, but lingers tantalizingly, real in spite of its incongruence. Your humanness has picked up on something strange and beyond your experience, yet something familiar and true.
Share the light that’s in you, let it illuminate dark corners in you and those you meet and hang out with. Whatever inkling of trust you feel in humanity will feed you and others. Politics is a hard, blunt tool these days, serving trouble and fear; it’s a hard mask, not like the face it hides.
Collective behaviour is soft, like water, true to the gravity of human souls. It pulls us. If it’s in search of new human ways, it also pulls people unlike us. Trust humans to bring out the best in each other.
1. It’s a big topic; some for whom politics is suspect might cite Hanna Arendt’s view that bourgeois society’s “foremost political principle [is] that political activity centers around protection of property and profits.”
(The Origins of Totalitarianism, Schoken Books, New York, 1948/2004, p. 104)↩