The Great Utopian Delusion

There are many works of science fiction in which Man, having come to his senses, has repented of his rapacious ways and turned his planet into a peaceful garden. But there is no “Man” that can repent and come to his senses, only individual men who can repent and come to their senses, and often already have; and also individual men who have not repented or come to their senses and probably never will. On past form, the defeat of the men who have come to their senses by the men who have not appears to be inevitable.

Now, there is no Lamarckian process whereby those who have come to their senses pass their enhanced rationality on to their children through their genes. They may well give their children the benefit of their acquired wisdom by lecturing them, but we all know what good that does. Each generation starts with a clean slate, except for cultural recommendations, which they can follow or reject as they see fit.

Moreover, in such utopian SF we never actually see the political processes by which Man comes to his senses. Since in our species all social arrangements enshrine some form of internal predation, there will always be predator interests and prey interests, even within the same individual. Everything we know of politics in our own age suggests that any programme of turning the Earth into a peaceful garden would achieve powerful backers only if there was something in it for them; only non-players advocate the doing of good for its own sake. And then the players whose relative power would fall if the power of the ecologists rose would mobilise the people through their proprietary mass media, whose absurd lies will be believed, because they always are.

Abolition of poverty? This is in the interest of the poor, but against the interest of the rich and therefore cannot happen, ever. Saving the rain-forest? For that to come about, powerful individuals need to perceive it as being in their own private interest, by a sufficient margin to overpower the powerful individuals whose private interest lies in torching the place. That can theoretically happen, which is not to say it must.

Even the dinosaur-killer asteroid will not be averted unless somebody can turn a tidy profit from the expedition; and even then, people who do not profit from it will surely oppose it, even though they stand to die along with the rest of us if it is not done. For the individual predatory drive is stronger than any putative racial will or species consciousness, and whatever happens at the macro level is only the resultant of the sum total of those individual predatory drives. Why should it be any different merely because everybody has digital watches? A case can be made for capitalist accumulation being a form of OCD, which not even the threat of planetary annihilation will interrupt.

The notion of a collective “we”, who can realise and decide things for the good of the species tends to be a specifically left-wing delusion, for the right wing knows all about and even celebrates homo homini lupus. Conservatism is accordingly an ideology for the predators themselves, and for exceedingly stupid prey. “The question is, who is to be master, that’s all.”

Posted on April 11, 2012 at 10:34 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, "Who Is This 'We', White Man?"

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Urban Djin
    on April 11, 2012 at 13:14
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    Why do we continue to insist on denigrating wolves as violent monsters even though we know a lot more about wolves than Plutarch did? Homo homini homo works quite well, thank you. The evidence for human savagery and violence is incontestable. Wolves, in refreshing contrast, are noble creatures.

  2. Written by Grinebiter
    on April 11, 2012 at 15:44
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    It’s just shorthand for intraspecies predation, even though AFAIK wolves don’t do that. You want to unpack all our shorthand and metaphor, enjoy the hard work. We could start by asking what you mean by “noble” — wolves are conscious of purer lineage than, say, foxes, who are consequently obliged to bring them their own kills and feel flattered when the wolves eat them?

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