Todd May’s philosophical rumination on what we would do were we to aspire to be someone else:
We live in world in which the lives of those with more wealth or fame or recognition or influence or beauty are constantly placed before us as though they were something to aspire to. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with aspiration in itself. But to the extent these lives are presented to us as something to be hankered after, as lives we would certainly want if only we could have them, we are presented with an image that asks us to forget what is important to us. In an age of acquisitiveness, and one moreover in which the normative constraints on acquisitiveness have largely fallen away, it is comforting — and perhaps even imperative — to recognize that of all the personal histories that we might choose from, it is our own that would be our likely choice.
Is having an utopian consciousness necessary for a modern society?
Yes, writes Espen Hammer:
There are reasons, however, to think that a fully modern society cannot do without a utopian consciousness. To be modern is to be oriented toward the future. It is to be open to change even radical change, when called for. With its willingness to ride roughshod over all established certainties and ways of life, classical utopianism was too grandiose, too rationalist and ultimately too cold. We need the ability to look beyond the present. But we also need More’s insistence on playfulness. Once utopias are embodied in ideologies, they become dangerous and even deadly. So why not think of them as thought experiments? They point us in a certain direction. They may even provide some kind of purpose to our strivings as citizens and political beings.
A philosopher ponders on the other history of America’s evolution over time. The question he asks is a valid, though not a quintessentially “patriotic” one: If only a refugee child were to be told about the history of violence, cruelty and systemic disenfranchisement of groups that white supremacists have successfully weakened, decimated and dominated, how would she perceive her adoptive home?