“We all know when we wake up that this is all we get.”
— YACHT, “Utopia”
“Utopia” itself describes a tension. It is the good-place, but it is no-place. The term is a literary pun that has come to stand for a real world paradox. Throughout human history utopias have been conceived and sought after. Early civilizations hearkened to Heaven or the Pure Land. Modern ideologies have given us the Worker’s State and the American Dream. Whatever the name, utopias have always promised and never followed through.
The good-place always exists outside of the margins of reality. The no-place is the standard plot device of escapist fantasies. We are lulled into passivity toward the existent by the poetry of the non-existent. Dreams of that which does not exist numb our senses of how to survive and overcome that which does exist.
Anarchist utopias vary greatly in their imaginal outlines, from post-catastrophic tribalism, to post-human mass-mechanization. But the most frightening of all anarchist utopias is the land of the endless meetings. The wide variety of anarchist-conceived utopias further demonstrates that one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia.
The conclusion seems unavoidable: utopia is itself an authoritarian construct. For a utopia to exist in the mind, the myriad of living individuals, human and non-human, must be subject to the designs of the thinker. They are constrained by the limits set, even unconsciously, by the utopian schemer. When one strives to bring their vision of the no/good-place into the real world, they reproduce these autocratic relations. How much more so those who perch atop the mountains of misery?
The longing for utopia is the distorted desire to negate this society. The healthy attitude of revulsion against the present is supplanted by fixation upon Nowhere. We would not choose this ground, but it is what we have. What we can choose is to ascertain the territory in which we find ourselves and how to utilize it to our advantage. The same imaginal powers which are wasted in utopian speculation are our strength when we apply them to the terrain of conflict. The defenders of order always leave important details off their maps. It is by seeing what they cannot that we might outwit them. We can be certain that we will never see our respective ideal societies to come to fruition, but why should that deter us from strategic incursions against this quotidian nightmare?