Utopia. The word comes from the Greek: οὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place“. Is it possible? I believe so but not in the way you might think. Turn on the television and what do you see. News about poor souls starving in Africa, migrants fleeing the warzones of Syria and Iraq. What drives them is the same as what drives the rest of us. The constant hope for a better future.
Well I’m here to argue that not only is Utopia possible but that it will probably arrive within our lifetime. Say in the next forty years. That is a bold statement. You might think while you are reading this that I am extremely naive. Things do look bleak. But there is reason for hope. Women now make up the majority of University graduates in the Western World. I don’t need to tell you how huge this is. Yes there is still a gender pay gap but I have every confidence that it will be closed. There are so few certainties in this world but the one thing that is beyond doubt in my mind is the enormous transformation of society for the better that takes place once the economic, political and social equality of women is finally realized. I think that if you want to see what the future has in store for us, you need look no further than Rwanda. After the genocide that took place there, something absolutely extraordinary happened that has truly no precedent in history. After their husbands and brothers and sons were butchered in the streets, Rwanda’s girls stepped in to fill the void. They took over their husbands businesses and the job of running the country.
We still have a long way to go of course in the West. Violence against women is a pandemic. Male privilege and entitlement won’t be surrendered without a fight but I believe things are finally beginning to change. The word Feminism is no longer a dirty word anymore, perhaps still to some but they are in the clear minority. Just the fact that it is on everybody’s lips today is clear evidence that the old days when violence against women was tolerated are gone forever.
Another sign of doom is the very real threat looming over us of catastrophic climate change. But even here I see signs of hope. It is clear that we can no longer continue consuming the way we do. The Earth has limits. A total restructuring of society is the only way we can avoid the worst destruction. We will have to adapt and in some cases do without the physical comforts we have long enjoyed and taken for granted. But I am excited. If there is one thing studying history has taught me is that events occur and recur over and over again. The rise of home vegetable and roof top gardens reminds me of the victory gardens of World War Two. The social consciousnesses of the future that calls on everybody to do their part for the common good, to fight climate change mirrors the communal effort that defeated Nazi Germany. We are living in exciting times. Times of struggle and hardship. But no less joyous.
Everybody knows from experience that when things get hard, most people come together. The bonds of affection are woven even tighter in times of crisis. Everyone looks out for everyone. The last forty years has regrettably seen the unraveling of the social fabric that emerged out of World War Two, but with a new war to fight, a revival and awareness of social responsibility seems appropriate. Some of the greatest pieces of legislation were signed when the world was under threat
People have every right to be cynical. But I believe with all my heart and soul that what gets us through another day on this rock hurtling through space is the simple, naive belief that our lives will be better tomorrow. That there is a reason to hope. The utopia I envision will not be a picnic. We will have to go without many of the things we love and take for granted, but I think what we will gain is enormous. We will have achieved sustainability, gender equality and a more equitable distribution of wealth. Is that not more than the society we have now. Where women still get paid less than men for doing the same work. Will we not look back and say, I would rather live in a world where all forms of oppression have been relegated to the history books and poverty in the midst of plenty is no more, than to enjoy the crass comforts of consumerism, destruction of the natural world and various forms of oppression that I am happy to tolerate as the price for keeping those said comforts. I sincerely hope so.