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When speaking of personal transformation and rebuilding the social order, one often hears the objection that this is Utopian, meaning an impossible dream. However, one of the requirements of such a transformation is precisely to have a positive vision of the future. Before beginning a building, all good architects make drawings and models to portray what they have in mind. Actors visualize their performance before going onto the stage. Successful companies develop a shared vision to which all staff members can commit themselves.

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  1. 1. How did we catch it? What is the cure?(c) 2007 - Peter C. Newton-Evans Newton-
  2. 2. Ubiquity of Social Dilemmas: if everyone does whatis expected of them, the system breaks down Ecological dilemma: beyond the point of no return, borrowing from future (stealing from our children) Economic dilemma: unbridled capitalism generates its own dilemmas of volatility, instability and collapse. Political dilemma: The shameful theater of party politics has the masses cynical and non-participatory. non- International dilemma: The national security system is generating war instead of preventing it, as supposed.Collapse of an old world: and simultaneous birthpangs of a new world civilization.
  3. 3. Resetting society: from competition, win-lose, zero/ win-negative sum, to cooperation, win-win, positive sum win-Living within our planetary means: from recklessconsumption to environmental sustainabilityCurbing the extremes of wealth and poverty: fromunbridled accumulation to social accountabilityProactive human rights: from fighting for legal rightsto social stewardship of each human lifeA world-wide federation of nations: from nation–state world- nation–to world–state, under a universal legal system world–And many more…
  4. 4. Isn’t this all Utopian idealism?
  5. 5. Utopia = “without place,"coined from Greek roots bySir Thomas More in 1516Eutopia = a “good place,"the opposite of...Dystopia = a “bad place,”or a utopia proven false.Utopophilia = belief inthe possibility of abetter future.Utopophobia = anirrational rejectionof all utopias; a socialpathology of the20th Century.
  6. 6. 19th Century: Belief in human goodness, Century:social progress, utopophilia.20th Century: Dystopia & utopophobia. Century:Today: Utopian = unrealistic, impossible.Today:Problem: Pessimism prevents change.Problem:Proposal:Proposal: Bring back Utopia!
  7. 7. Social Function ofLiterary UtopiasTraining, Escape and CatharsisPurpose, Identity and InspirationCritiques of Contemporary SocietyVisions of future; proposals for changeSocial “Laboratories” or “Experiments”Exploration of Philosophical Hypotheses
  8. 8. Social Function: Training, Escape and Catharsis Ruppert: “Some utopias are fictitious, playful Ruppert: explorations” of different aspects of society. Means: Means: Eutopian and dystopian novels and films. The danger in eutopias: Clinging to an imaginary world eutopias: like a drug that paralyzes action and impoverishes life through ‘negation’, like Harry Potters wishing mirror that trapped him in a fantasy. The danger in dystopias: Representing violence is not dystopias: only cathartic, but also increases social violence and deepens the prevailing pessimism and negativism.
  9. 9. Social Function: Purpose, Identity, Inspiration Afnán: “People need a sense of purpose in life, to know not only Afnán: where they are going as individuals, but also the meaning of their lives in the overall plan of the universe.” Preterit Eutopias: A sense of guilt for losing paradise, or of Eutopias: historical identity: our ‘glorious past’ made us who we are. Preterit Dystopias: Lessons to avoid future mistakes or warnings Dystopias: of divine chastisement. Futuristic Eutopias: Inspire hope of a better world to be built, or Eutopias: of a heaven or Kingdom of God to be won or inherited. Futuristic Dystopias: Fear of the final judgment or hell, or warning Dystopias: of what will happen if we continue down the present path.
  10. 10. Social Function: Critique of Contemporary Society They say what is wrong with the world, what is needed to improve it, and what to expect of the future. Afnán: Afnán: “Utopian novels can be critiques of present-day society, a present- warning or alert, a call to change, a manual for reform.” Up-scaling: They take ideas, proposals or circumstances to their Up-scaling: ultimate consequences to judge their value. Ruppert: They encourage critical thought, creating tension Ruppert: between present society and its utopian alternative. They put readers between “an unacceptable social reality and an impossible utopian dream,” obliging them to question their own social beliefs.
  11. 11. Social Function: Vision of a Possible Future Ruppert: “Utopian literature offers us diverse visions reflecting Ruppert: the dreams of those who built them.” King Solomon: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Solomon: Buckminster Fuller: “We need to choose between utopia and Fuller: disappearing.” Be realistic: Double reality - actual and potential. Imagining the realistic: house before building it. Martin Luther Kings "dream." Self- Self- fulfilling prophesies. Seeds of what may come. Bellamy: “The dawn of the new era is already close, and the Bellamy: plenitude of day is soon to follow. The Golden Age is before us.” (Looking Backward) Ruppert: “Rather than the antithesis of utopia, anti–utopia is its Ruppert: anti– reversal. We know what utopia is by learning what it is not.”
  12. 12. Social Function: Proposals for Social Change Ruppert: Some utopias are “solemn, serious proposals Ruppert: meant for immediate implementation.” Julio Verne: “Whatever a man can imagine, others can Verne: make a reality.” Proposals going more than a few steps beyond current situation are perceived as ‘utopian’ or impractical. Strategies: Break them down into smaller goals that are Strategies: easier to meet. Cultivate a broader historical vision. Use artistic inspiration, rhetorical convincing and scientific illustration to mobilize the masses of humanity towards change.
  13. 13. Social Function: The "Social Laboratories" Utopian Experiments: They act as models of proposed forms in Experiments: action and referents for studying their practical usefulness. Seek the light: Study trials with a not too critical eye, but rather light: seeking any light thrown on the issue. Example: Intentional communities, whether religious, political or economic, such as the Brüderhof and Cuba. Conditions: (1) That the experiment be respected by all; Conditions: (2) That participation be voluntary, not forced. When they fail: Not failure of the experiment, but of the model. fail: Shows the world that the proposal was erroneous. Ideologies: Do not cling to failed models, such as materialism, Ideologies: whether of East or West, Left or Right. When a hypothesis is falsified, a scientist accepts this and seeks a better answer.
  14. 14. Social Function: Exploring Philosophical Hypotheses Common questions: questions: How important is historicity to social wellbeing? Is progress inevitable, contingent, or impossible? Can we reach perfection, or will challenges remain? Does society determine the individual, or vice-versa? vice- Relationship between power, freedom and happiness. Is happiness material, or can joy be transcendent? Are unity & diversity necessarily opposites?
  15. 15. A Corporate Vision of a Desired Future for the World A good vision should: Be based on shared principles, ideals and values Be feasible Pose a challenge Touch the noble essence of man.
  16. 16. Vision and Context “Crisis” as danger: Context –> Vision = Obstacles “Crisis” as opportunity: Vision –> Context = Opportunities
  17. 17. Dynamics of Vision Vision of an Raise current ideal situation situation to visionUnderstanding the Lower the vision current situation to the current situation
  18. 18. Degree of Commitment Personal Institutional Vision Vision Personal Institutional Vision Vision Higher level of commitment Lower Level of commitment
  19. 19. Historical ProjectA clear view of a historical process (past,present and future), our current place init, and what task is required of us now.With this understanding, a society can: preserve the essential, positive elements of its culture; consult on how to change secondary or negative elements.
  20. 20. Types of Utopias Binary Pairs – Claude Lévi-Strauss Eutopias vs. Dystopias Definitive vs. Progressive Isolated vs. Integrated Revolutionary vs. Gradual Ahistorical vs. Historical Power vs. Freedom Necessary vs. Contingent Freedom vs. Happiness Individualism/collectivism Uniformity vs. Diversity Absolute vs. Relative Materialistic vs. Humanistic
  21. 21. Patience with ProcessesIf this planet’s life were equal to 24 hours, manwould have appeared the last minute of the day.This gives us patience, and we are not surprisedat resistance to change.Let us emphasize guiding children and youth:their minds are more receptive to new ideas.A good historical perspective gives us long- long-term commitment.
  22. 22. Words of Encouragement“Do not think the peace of the world an ideal im- im-possible to attain! Nothing is impossible... Do notdespair! Work steadily... How many seeminglyimpossible events are coming to pass in thesedays! Take courage! Let your hearts be filled withthe strenuous desire that tranquility & harmonymay encircle all this warring world. So will successcrown your efforts... Many a cause which pastages have regarded as purely visionary, in this dayhas become easy and practicable.
  23. 23. Words of Encouragement“Why should this most great Cause - the daystarof the firmament of true civilization and thecause of the glory, advancement, well-being and well-success of all humanity - be re- re-garded impossible to achieve?Surely the day will come whenits beauteous light shall shed il- il-lumination on the assemblageof man.” (‘Abdu’l- (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
  24. 24. http.cultureofpeaceprogram.org