The Dangers of Utopian Thinking, Composing, 05/07/2014

A little utopia can be a dangerous thing. Of course, that depends on whose it is. 

Only in the last two days, the Hobby Lobby decision has become a potentially dangerous precedent in the restriction of rights to reproductive medical technology. Essentially, a majority of the United States Supreme Court has interpreted their own ruling to imply that an organization of any kind (business, charity, non-profit, college) can shift the burden of contraceptive insurance onto government health care services, further abdicating responsibility for the comprehensive health care of their employees. The fiery dissents of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor state the implications for the freedoms of workers and women.

Hobby Lobby's Steve Green with one of
the first Biblical antiquities in his
collection, currently the world's
second-largest, which will soon be
housed in a Washington D.C. museum
two blocks from the National Mall.
However, one can also understand this decision as a victory for religious freedom, as the Green family, who own Hobby Lobby, and others of similar religiosity, are no longer forced to provide services to which they morally object. It’s all very well to say that the Greens are wrong in considering the birth control methods they object to covering do not actually induce abortions, that preventing a possibly fertilized egg from implanting in a uterine wall actually isn’t an abortion, and that plenty of fertilized eggs fail to implant naturally. But whether a belief is wrong doesn’t seem to matter when the belief itself is to be protected. The Christian fundamentalists of America have never been all that concerned with scientific facts. Their argument lies entirely in protecting their ideals and beliefs from interference by the laws of the land. 

But if any good can come from this court decision, it’s that the Green family have become extremely visible public figures, and we can see precisely what their plan is for the United States: a cultural revolution that crafts the country as a unified Christian nation. VICE journalist Grace Wyler has written a fascinating article on the Greens’ curriculum for an Oklahoma school district which bases most of its content on a reading of the Bible as literal and absolute truth. Philosophically, the Greens are acting to turn the United States into the kind of ideal society they want. And it is such a pure, heartfelt, complete conviction that it can’t be argued with rationally.

The Greens are a living expression of the toughest challenge any utopian political philosopher must face: demonstrating why their vision of a better world trumps the visions of their competition. This will be the ultimate challenge of the Utopias project as a work of philosophical writing. Although I will engage with the vision Filippo Marinetti expressed in his doctrines of Futurism, as I believe these concepts form the spine of the planet’s overall cultural narrative of the last hundred years, you can understand the peaceful anarchist ideals with which the book will end as my alternative to this vision.

But as a utopian thinker, I’ll also have to defend my own alternative to the ecological (that the world exists for us to dominate and use up) and moral (that the production of wealth is the greatest social value anyone can have) violence of the last hundred years is itself a better path than the religious fundamentalism of people like the Greens.

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