NOTES: Add more illustrations, eg. Rabelais, Morris. All the proper names should be in another color or underlined, indicating a link or an alphabetical reference in the Glossary or Devil’s Dictionary of Rebels and Rabble-Rousers at the end of Conspiracy.

A Bet You Can’t Refuse


One Chance in a hundred? – A Challenge for the Imagination – The Power of Utopias – A Fascist dystopia – A Favorable moment? – Mutiny on Starship Earth



One Chance in a hundred?

Let’s be optimistic! Let’s bet there’s still one chance in a hundred that the Earth will still be habitable at the end of the 21st Century!

Think I’m exaggerating? Try answering the following questions honestly:

Do you personally think that weapons of mass destruction are likely to stop proliferating? Do you personally synonyms needed hold that pollution is going to stop getting worse? Do you honestly believe that forests will stop disappearing? The climate will stop heating up?


glaciers stop melting?
oceans stop rising?
coastlands stop sinking?
famines and epidemics stop spreading?
poverty stop increasing?
cities stop deteriorating?

global unemployment stop rising?
armed conflicts stop erupting?
refugees stop multiplying?
petty crime stop flourishing?
corporate crime stop expanding?
real wages stop declining,


religions stop fanaticizing?
nationalists stop killing?
women stop being degraded,
wars stop dragging on forever?
danger of atomic war stop increasing?
danger of nuclear accident stop growing?


security-driven, dictatorial government stop advancing?
useless wealth stop piling up?
rich people stop withdrawing into gated communities?
youth stop despairing?
drugs stop spreading?
AIDS stop spreading?
prisons stop boiling over?
droughts stop getting longer?
storms stop increasing?
desertification stop extending?
world hunger stop increasing?
the struggle for water stop intensifying?
trees, animals and fish stop disappearing?


Need I go on? You know as well as I do that each of these trends will lead over time to foreseeable disasters if left unchecked. Now imagine all these trends interacting. as atmospheric warming leads to glacier melting leading to ocean rising leading to coastal flooding leading to fleeing refugees leading to worldwide epidemics leading to social chaos leading to martial law leading to … you name it. Not a pretty picture. Small wonder we rarely allow ourselves to actually visualize such a future and to imagine ourselves living in it. I dare you to close your eyes and try it, right now, just for thirty seconds…

Hard to stay focused on that picture? Our situation reminds me of people in a story who were living in a city built on the edge of a volcano. We get more or less blithely through the days without cracking up thanks to a single powerful psychological factor: denial. (They don’t call dee-Nile the longest river in the world for nothing). But if we dare peak out from under our security blanket of denial, what do we see?


DIVERSIONS: A READER’S GUIDE: For those who would prefer to turn their eyes away from our catastrophic situation, today’s marketplace provides a full spectrum of diversions for whiling away your time on the way to extinction. Shopping is a sure-fire way to take your mind off things; so are TV and losing yourself in work. Grass is great if it helps you laugh at the absurdity of it all, but if it make you paranoid, stick to booze. I find Alcohol excellent for momentary forgetting, but if you have access to anti-depressants, tranquilizers and perkidans, they’re the drugs of choice for the quietly desperate. Of course, extreme sports are more of a thrill, and a lot of people get their rocks off competing for more and more money, more and more power. Gambling gives you the same rush. Cocaine and speed can be cool too if you like the fast lane, but don’t knock old standbys like opium and heroin if you just want to forget. The unfortunate downside of the opiates is they inhibit sex, which satisfied customers consider the best bet for an inexpensive, healthful, peaceful diversion. On the other hand, beating up on your family or on people from other groups can be diverting up to and including murder and mutilation. For the more introspective, there’s suicide (martyrdom optional). And speaking of martyrdom, let’s finish off this list with the least expensive diversion on the market: obliterating yourself behind a group identity (identities come in religious, national, sexual and racial colors selected for down-market consumers).


We are the children of the 20th Century, the bloodiest so far in history. Future historians, if there are any, will see the 20th as an orgy of mechanized mayhem, featuring brutal totalitarian dictatorships, long bloody world wars (two of them), the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, scientific genocides, and the devastation of vast swaths of the earth. Violence was the epidemic that plagued the 20th Century, and it threatens to overwhelm our own. The 21st got off to a fast start with the September 11, 2001 attacks – a tragic pretext for the planet’s major high-tech military super-power to proceed with plans to invade two different strategically important countries while threatening new invasions. Meanwhile several more unstable states have acquired atomic bombs. A booming trade in conventional arms trade is fueling all the civil wars, slow genocides and intractable regional crises we children inherited from the bloody 20th . Nine decades to go and no peace in sight.

Now add the violence epidemic to the other (mostly man-made) ‘natural’ disasters and figure the chance of people like us (not to mention other animals) surviving the 21st Century.

One chance in a hundred begins to look like generous odds.

Call me an optimist.




A Challenge for the Imagination

For the sake of argument, let’s agree that there is one chance in a hundred for a livable world in 2100. If that one chance exists, shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine it, like in a Sci-Fi story? After all, human beings dreamed of the possibility of space-travel for centuries, and writers of future fictions imagined it with greater and greater accuracy. (As a result, neither the first, top-secret sputnik nor Yuri Gagarin’s epoch-making manned space flight came as a surprise to Sci-Fi fans.)

So shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine a possible future in which Spaceship Earth is saved from self-destruction ?



Let’s put our imaginations to work. What kind of realistic salvation scenario can we imagine for a planet in the thralls of a powerful social and economic system which seems inexorably to be leading us to predictable catastrophes? If we exclude divine or extra-terrestrial intervention from our fantasy, then we need to imagine the emergence of some kind of positive revolution in human relations. In other words, only if we are able to imagine a radical change in the way humans run things, relate to each other and to other living things, can we imagine the planet being rescued before it becomes unlivable.

But is such a positive revolution still even imaginable? The only way to find out the answer to that sorry question is to join with me and others in dreaming one up. If we can realistically imagine such a positive human revolution succeeding, then our one chance in a hundred exists.

So why not dream? Only when humans pay attention to their dreams can Humanity awake from the sleep-walk of neurotic denial and the nightmare of capitalist barbarism. So let’s get together and start dreaming up imaginary visions of possible roads to Utopia. Whatever the odds may be, betting on Utopia seems to be the only chance of winning. And perhaps dreaming together is the most useful thing we can do in the midst of all the conflict and confusion around us: To dream of possible Utopias and imagine the most realistic roads to get there.

SIDEBAR: Translation of above into revolutionary jargon for the benefit of Serious Radicals: “Given the propensity of negative tendencies in the contemporary objective situation to converge into critically critical crisis, the spontaneous semi-conscious mental activity vulgarly known as ‘dreaming’ posits itself as an imperative task that every conscious militant must urgently embrace.”



The Power of Utopias

Isn’t dreaming up roads to Utopia an impractical waste of time, like playing Dungeons and Dragons or Age of Empires?” I hear my parents asking. Maybe, but what if it’s the only way out of the mess they (and their parents) got us into? The human imagination is a powerful thing, and Utopian thought has been a major influence on human society at least since the Greek philosopher Plato outlined his ideal society in The Republic -- a two-thousand year-old book which continues to inspire political thought to this day. During the Catholic Middle Ages, Saint Augustine’s Utopia The City of God set the ideal pattern for Christian a polity. The original book Utopia (the word means No-place in Greek) was written by Thomas Moore, an idealistic churchman and high official at the Court of Henry VIII. Moore saw private property, enforced by violence, as the root cause of the poverty and injustice he saw in England and recounted a traveler’s tale of a faraway land where nobody starved because every able person shared in society’s work for just six hours day (anticipating the French 35-hour work-week). Moore’s outspoken idealism later cost him his head when he refused to approve of the King’s divorce. On the other hand François Rabelais, the unfrocked French monk who wrote the comic novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, created an Epicurian Utopia in his fictional Abbey of Thélème, a parody of a monestary whose only rule is “Do what thou wilt.”



Utopias based on religious visions of human wholeness and holiness have inspired vast peasant revolutions down through history. In 17th Century England, the ‘Diggers’ and ‘Levelers’ shared out the land and wealth; In Germany in 1563, the city of Münster Germany into a radical commune by Anabaptists under Jan of Lyden; and in China, beginning in 1851, the Ta’I-p’ing rebels occupied major provinces China for over a decade. All were led on by dreams of fellowship and equality.


CHINESE UTOPIANS During the Ta’i-p’ing Rebellion of 1851-1864, the rebels conquered and held major portions of China for over a decade before being finally put down by the British General Gordon (henceforth ‘Chinese’ Gordon). Inspired by a religious sect, the T’ai-pings abjured alcohol, gambling and opium ; they practiced complete equality between men and women, equal division of the land, construction of a new social order based on cooperative hamlets of twenty-five families and State graneries as a hedge against recurring famines, which had decimated China in the 1840’s


In the early 19th century, the ‘Dickensian’ poverty of the dawning Industrial Age provoked a new Utopian response in the socialist proposals of Fourier, and Saint-Simon and in the successful colonies created by the philanthropist Robert Owen, all of whom saw private property as the cause. These Utopian visions in turn inspired a young German philosopher named Karl Marx, who sought to integrate them with a new political force that he saw emerging under capitalism when workers’ movements took to the streets throughout Europe in 1848.

Marx and Utopia: The difference between the Utopian socialism of Fourrier and St. Simon and what Marx and Engels called, in the Germanic philosophical jargon of their era, “scientific” socialism was this. The Utopians proposed an ideal model society without worrying too much about how it could be realized (except for Owen, who founded practical colonies). Marx rooted socialism ‘scientifically’ in history, as the successful outcome of the class struggle between worker and capitalist. Marx himself published no Utopian blueprints, although he did theorize about socialism and its higher stage “communism” in letters to his associates. Marx’s ’scientific’ method was to learn from the “actual movement” of the workers, whose “way of knowing” was engaging in social struggles like the English workers’ struggles for a democratic Charter and the Ten-Hour-Day. Thus, when the French workers created the world’s first workers’ government (the democratic, egalitarian Paris Commune of 1871), Marx pointed to the Commune’s “actual working existence” as the answer to the theoretical question of how to organize the state under socialism. Utopia made real in history.


In 1888 the American writer Edward Bellamy published his novel Looking Backward about a dreamer from Boston who awakens in a future society where people live secure, fulfilling lives with no use for money, under a rigorously rational socialist regime. This anti-capitalist best-seller initiated millions of young Americans into “thinking along lines that were entirely new to them” and radicalized a number of future American socialists like Eugene V. Debs, Daniel de Leon, Charles Kerr, and the great defense lawer, Clarence Darrow. Its popularity spawned socialist clubs all over the country and helped unite splinter groups into a growing nationwide socialist movement in the 1890s.

Socialism in the U.S. The half-forgotten American socialist movement had millions of voters, locals in cities and rural areas all over America. Socialists published daily papers in a number of cities as well as 140 magazines in 14 different languages. In 1917, the American Socialists opposed to the entry of the U.S. into the First World War and expressed their solidarity with the Revolutionaries in Russia. In consequence President Woodrow Wilson, that great promoter of democracy, outlawed the Socialist Party, closed its offices, destroyed its presses, jailed its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debbs and set J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and local “Red-squads” on the heels of every socialist, anarchist, Wobbly or pacifist they could lay their hands on. Personal note: my maternal grandfather, the immigrant tailor Sam Levin, was a member of the Hartford, CT local of the Socialist Party. I have apparently inherited his ideas along with an autographed photo of Debs and his library of popular socialist books (Jack London).

In England, the poet and graphic artist William Morris, founder of the “Arts and Crafts” movement, became converted to Marxian socialism around 1880. Morris was uncomfortable with Bellamy’s utilitarian utopia, with its obsessive productivity and state control, and in so in 1890 he answered it with his own successful novel, News from Nowhere. Morris’ dreamer awakes in an idyllic post-revolutionary London, free of industrial pollution, where the inhabitants, handsome, sane and happy, live next to nature and work only for pleasure. This novel had an enormous influence in England. A half-century later, British socialist George Orwell satirical classics Animal Farm and 1984 opened the eyes of millions of readers to the phoniness of totalitarian Communism’s claims on the Utopian dream.

During the later 20th Century a number of North American science fiction writers tried out Utopian scenarios. Among them Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Kim Stanley Robinson and Ernest Callenbach created futuristic Utopias that give us critical perspectives on the present as well as plausible, detailed, brilliantly imagined “histories” of possible future societies in which everything from ecology to sex has been revolutionized. Translated in many languages, these thought-provoking, prophetic, sometimes inspiring Utopian novels have been read by millions.

Fascist dystopias

Future fictions can even inspire deeds. In the 1990’s, a right-wing American named Andrew MacDonald galvanized the racist extreme right with a popular dystopian novel, The Turner Diaries. MacDonald projected a plausible scenario of a bloody race war in the United States. He described the rebellion of the White Christian Patriots organized behind “The Order” against a Leftist government in the service of international Jewery and the Communists acting through the U.N. The real Americans unite behind “The Order” as black U.N. helicopters invade the U.S, blue helmets occupy the United States and hunt down the patriots.


The Turner Diaries became the Bible of the Nazi-Christian armed militias that flourish in the United States. In these milieus, some folks take MacDonald’s paranoid fantasies for actual fact. The Turner Diaries was the bedside reading of Timothy McVeigh, the young ex-soldier who killed more than 400 people with a bomb of his own making when he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He was apparently inspired by the episode where Turner describes how the “Order” dynamites the FBI Building.

All the which goes to show that “life imitates art.” Oscar Wilde’s profound observation turns out to be more than a witty paradox.

Since around 2000 apocalyptic novels in a series called “Left Behind” has been topping the best seller lists in the US -- a publishing phenomenon generating films and spinoffs. The novels describe the adventures of a group of evangelical Christians who face the rise of the Antichrist -- plus plagues, judgements, and the final battle of Armaggedon (Left Behind Vol. 11). These novels have a born-again Christian audience of forty millions linked by talk radio and fan clubs, where current events are interpreted in terms of the Apocalypse scenario derived from the Bible.

It’s a sad commentary that wackos, racists, survivalists and end-of the world fundamentalists seem to compose the only subcultures with a vision of the future, albeit a negative one. Our strife-torn world cries out for positive visions; it desperately needs Utopia. It isn’t enough for good people merely to protest, to struggle eternally “against” the latest outrage. Of course we must resist war, racism, sexism, police-state repression and a host of other evils. But what we most need today is a positive goal, a vision of a possible future without which our awareness of the endless evils of this world only makes us passive and cynical.




A Favorable Moment? ­­­­­­­­­
Such a vision – at once Utopian and realistic – is needed to strike the imagination and spark hope, without which no positive revolution is possible. One chance out of a hundred isn’t a huge hope, agreed. But we know where despair leads: drugs, anomie, religious and nationalist fanaticism. On the other hand, the historical moment, although dark, may well be favorable for floating a new revolutionary vision of a more human society for a simple reason: since the collapse of Communism, Liberalism and Social-Democracy, there are no more competitors.

During the 90’s Communism, more nightmare than dream, transformed itself into Mafia capitalism in Russia and China and lost its appeal. In Europe Social Democracy is definitively discredited as a Left-wing cover for free-market privatisation. And since 2001 the American model of free market neo-liberal capitalism has lost its sheen. Once proclaimed as ‘the end of history,’ the neo-liberal vision is increasingly tattered. Only yesterday, “greed was good” and CEO’s were gods. Then the dotcom bubble burst, massive embezzling by top management was exposed, looted retirement funds collapsed, and big modern countries like Argentina found themselves bankrupt after submitting to IMF economic “therapy.” Today, the diehard free-marketeers are hardly more credible than the diehard Communists. The world is waking up from the American Dream with a nasty hangover.

Only yesterday, reactionary “new philosophers” in Europe and neo-con pundits from right-wing think tanks in the US had a monopoly on politically correct thinking. Today they are seen as tiresome, not trendy. Their world is in crisis. We are entering a century of breakdown and contestation. It will either end as a century of Utopias or it will end in catastrophe.

The men in suits who rule the world today have no plan for the future. Their main preoccupation is holding onto their power and wealth. Their perspectives are limited to inflating quarterly balance sheets and winning biennial election campaigns. If they don’t see any further into the future, it’s also because they unconsciously understand that there will be no future -- since they are busy killing it. They are the officers of a ship drifting rudderless toward a rocky shore, busy looting the cargo, locking up the passengers and crew below decks and fighting among themselves for the booty.





Mutiny on Starship Earth


The name of that vessel is Starship Earth. Its only hope is that the passengers and crew can figure out a way to get organised and take over the bridge before it is too late. Mutiny on Starship Earth. Great title for a scenario. Just what we need to start with, if we can imagine a plausible one.
That is the nature of the Utopian bet. Even with the odds against us, it’s a bet we can’t refuse. Because like it or not, we are the all in the same boat, passengers and crew alike -- far out at sea and drifting toward shipwreck.
One chance in a hundred may seem like pretty slim odds, but look at it this way: The bad news is that we will soon have nothing to lose but the dismal spectacle of a dying world -- made uglier every day by increasing injustice, suffering, and stupidity. The good news is that we have a finite chance to save a beautiful planet with all our friends on board. Nothing to lose against an infinity of life and beauty? Mathematically speaking, it’s zero against infinity -- pretty good odds in my book. Talk about a bet you can’t refuse!

In any case the bets are down and we are already on board. And since what is possible under the present system is no longer viable, perhaps only the impossible is possible. So let’s play out the hand we’ve been dealt. Let’s dream and take our dreams for realities. Joyfully!
Together, you and I and the others we haven’t met yet will become the authors of a collective novel. Together we can spin an ever-evolving cyber-story through the Internet and out into the world. A Utopian narrative programmed to reproduce itself on hard drives and in peoples’ minds -- accumulating power as it loops between the virtual and the actual.
Wow! Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? It is scary to think of the power we have inside us. And you never know what can happen when people connect.
All power to the imagination!







NOTES: Add more illustrations, eg. Rabelais, Morris. All the proper names should be in another color or underlined, indicating a link or an alphabetical reference in the Glossary or Devil’s Dictionary of Rebels and Rabble-Rousers at the end of Conspiracy.

A Bet You Can’t Refuse


One Chance in a hundred? – A Challenge for the Imagination – The Power of Utopias – A Fascist dystopia – A Favorable moment? – Mutiny on Starship Earth



One Chance in a hundred?

Let’s be optimistic! Let’s bet there’s still one chance in a hundred that the Earth will still be habitable at the end of the 21st Century!

Think I’m exaggerating? Try answering the following questions honestly:

Do you personally think that weapons of mass destruction are likely to stop proliferating? Do you personally synonyms needed hold that pollution is going to stop getting worse? Do you honestly believe that forests will stop disappearing? The climate will stop heating up?


glaciers stop melting?
oceans stop rising?
coastlands stop sinking?
famines and epidemics stop spreading?
poverty stop increasing?
cities stop deteriorating?

global unemployment stop rising?
armed conflicts stop erupting?
refugees stop multiplying?
petty crime stop flourishing?
corporate crime stop expanding?
real wages stop declining,


religions stop fanaticizing?
nationalists stop killing?
women stop being degraded,
wars stop dragging on forever?
danger of atomic war stop increasing?
danger of nuclear accident stop growing?


security-driven, dictatorial government stop advancing?
useless wealth stop piling up?
rich people stop withdrawing into gated communities?
youth stop despairing?
drugs stop spreading?
AIDS stop spreading?
prisons stop boiling over?
droughts stop getting longer?
storms stop increasing?
desertification stop extending?
world hunger stop increasing?
the struggle for water stop intensifying?
trees, animals and fish stop disappearing?


Need I go on? You know as well as I do that each of these trends will lead over time to foreseeable disasters if left unchecked. Now imagine all these trends interacting. as atmospheric warming leads to glacier melting leading to ocean rising leading to coastal flooding leading to fleeing refugees leading to worldwide epidemics leading to social chaos leading to martial law leading to … you name it. Not a pretty picture. Small wonder we rarely allow ourselves to actually visualize such a future and to imagine ourselves living in it. I dare you to close your eyes and try it, right now, just for thirty seconds…

Hard to stay focused on that picture? Our situation reminds me of people in a story who were living in a city built on the edge of a volcano. We get more or less blithely through the days without cracking up thanks to a single powerful psychological factor: denial. (They don’t call dee-Nile the longest river in the world for nothing). But if we dare peak out from under our security blanket of denial, what do we see?


DIVERSIONS: A READER’S GUIDE: For those who would prefer to turn their eyes away from our catastrophic situation, today’s marketplace provides a full spectrum of diversions for whiling away your time on the way to extinction. Shopping is a sure-fire way to take your mind off things; so are TV and losing yourself in work. Grass is great if it helps you laugh at the absurdity of it all, but if it make you paranoid, stick to booze. I find Alcohol excellent for momentary forgetting, but if you have access to anti-depressants, tranquilizers and perkidans, they’re the drugs of choice for the quietly desperate. Of course, extreme sports are more of a thrill, and a lot of people get their rocks off competing for more and more money, more and more power. Gambling gives you the same rush. Cocaine and speed can be cool too if you like the fast lane, but don’t knock old standbys like opium and heroin if you just want to forget. The unfortunate downside of the opiates is they inhibit sex, which satisfied customers consider the best bet for an inexpensive, healthful, peaceful diversion. On the other hand, beating up on your family or on people from other groups can be diverting up to and including murder and mutilation. For the more introspective, there’s suicide (martyrdom optional). And speaking of martyrdom, let’s finish off this list with the least expensive diversion on the market: obliterating yourself behind a group identity (identities come in religious, national, sexual and racial colors selected for down-market consumers).


We are the children of the 20th Century, the bloodiest so far in history. Future historians, if there are any, will see the 20th as an orgy of mechanized mayhem, featuring brutal totalitarian dictatorships, long bloody world wars (two of them), the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, scientific genocides, and the devastation of vast swaths of the earth. Violence was the epidemic that plagued the 20th Century, and it threatens to overwhelm our own. The 21st got off to a fast start with the September 11, 2001 attacks – a tragic pretext for the planet’s major high-tech military super-power to proceed with plans to invade two different strategically important countries while threatening new invasions. Meanwhile several more unstable states have acquired atomic bombs. A booming trade in conventional arms trade is fueling all the civil wars, slow genocides and intractable regional crises we children inherited from the bloody 20th . Nine decades to go and no peace in sight.

Now add the violence epidemic to the other (mostly man-made) ‘natural’ disasters and figure the chance of people like us (not to mention other animals) surviving the 21st Century.

One chance in a hundred begins to look like generous odds.

Call me an optimist.




A Challenge for the Imagination

For the sake of argument, let’s agree that there is one chance in a hundred for a livable world in 2100. If that one chance exists, shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine it, like in a Sci-Fi story? After all, human beings dreamed of the possibility of space-travel for centuries, and writers of future fictions imagined it with greater and greater accuracy. (As a result, neither the first, top-secret sputnik nor Yuri Gagarin’s epoch-making manned space flight came as a surprise to Sci-Fi fans.)

So shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine a possible future in which Spaceship Earth is saved from self-destruction ?



Let’s put our imaginations to work. What kind of realistic salvation scenario can we imagine for a planet in the thralls of a powerful social and economic system which seems inexorably to be leading us to predictable catastrophes? If we exclude divine or extra-terrestrial intervention from our fantasy, then we need to imagine the emergence of some kind of positive revolution in human relations. In other words, only if we are able to imagine a radical change in the way humans run things, relate to each other and to other living things, can we imagine the planet being rescued before it becomes unlivable.

But is such a positive revolution still even imaginable? The only way to find out the answer to that sorry question is to join with me and others in dreaming one up. If we can realistically imagine such a positive human revolution succeeding, then our one chance in a hundred exists.

So why not dream? Only when humans pay attention to their dreams can Humanity awake from the sleep-walk of neurotic denial and the nightmare of capitalist barbarism. So let’s get together and start dreaming up imaginary visions of possible roads to Utopia. Whatever the odds may be, betting on Utopia seems to be the only chance of winning. And perhaps dreaming together is the most useful thing we can do in the midst of all the conflict and confusion around us: To dream of possible Utopias and imagine the most realistic roads to get there.

SIDEBAR: Translation of above into revolutionary jargon for the benefit of Serious Radicals: “Given the propensity of negative tendencies in the contemporary objective situation to converge into critically critical crisis, the spontaneous semi-conscious mental activity vulgarly known as ‘dreaming’ posits itself as an imperative task that every conscious militant must urgently embrace.”



The Power of Utopias

Isn’t dreaming up roads to Utopia an impractical waste of time, like playing Dungeons and Dragons or Age of Empires?” I hear my parents asking. Maybe, but what if it’s the only way out of the mess they (and their parents) got us into? The human imagination is a powerful thing, and Utopian thought has been a major influence on human society at least since the Greek philosopher Plato outlined his ideal society in The Republic -- a two-thousand year-old book which continues to inspire political thought to this day. During the Catholic Middle Ages, Saint Augustine’s Utopia The City of God set the ideal pattern for Christian a polity. The original book Utopia (the word means No-place in Greek) was written by Thomas Moore, an idealistic churchman and high official at the Court of Henry VIII. Moore saw private property, enforced by violence, as the root cause of the poverty and injustice he saw in England and recounted a traveler’s tale of a faraway land where nobody starved because every able person shared in society’s work for just six hours day (anticipating the French 35-hour work-week). Moore’s outspoken idealism later cost him his head when he refused to approve of the King’s divorce. On the other hand François Rabelais, the unfrocked French monk who wrote the comic novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, created an Epicurian Utopia in his fictional Abbey of Thélème, a parody of a monestary whose only rule is “Do what thou wilt.”



Utopias based on religious visions of human wholeness and holiness have inspired vast peasant revolutions down through history. In 17th Century England, the ‘Diggers’ and ‘Levelers’ shared out the land and wealth; In Germany in 1563, the city of Münster Germany into a radical commune by Anabaptists under Jan of Lyden; and in China, beginning in 1851, the Ta’I-p’ing rebels occupied major provinces China for over a decade. All were led on by dreams of fellowship and equality.


CHINESE UTOPIANS During the Ta’i-p’ing Rebellion of 1851-1864, the rebels conquered and held major portions of China for over a decade before being finally put down by the British General Gordon (henceforth ‘Chinese’ Gordon). Inspired by a religious sect, the T’ai-pings abjured alcohol, gambling and opium ; they practiced complete equality between men and women, equal division of the land, construction of a new social order based on cooperative hamlets of twenty-five families and State graneries as a hedge against recurring famines, which had decimated China in the 1840’s


In the early 19th century, the ‘Dickensian’ poverty of the dawning Industrial Age provoked a new Utopian response in the socialist proposals of Fourier, and Saint-Simon and in the successful colonies created by the philanthropist Robert Owen, all of whom saw private property as the cause. These Utopian visions in turn inspired a young German philosopher named Karl Marx, who sought to integrate them with a new political force that he saw emerging under capitalism when workers’ movements took to the streets throughout Europe in 1848.

Marx and Utopia: The difference between the Utopian socialism of Fourrier and St. Simon and what Marx and Engels called, in the Germanic philosophical jargon of their era, “scientific” socialism was this. The Utopians proposed an ideal model society without worrying too much about how it could be realized (except for Owen, who founded practical colonies). Marx rooted socialism ‘scientifically’ in history, as the successful outcome of the class struggle between worker and capitalist. Marx himself published no Utopian blueprints, although he did theorize about socialism and its higher stage “communism” in letters to his associates. Marx’s ’scientific’ method was to learn from the “actual movement” of the workers, whose “way of knowing” was engaging in social struggles like the English workers’ struggles for a democratic Charter and the Ten-Hour-Day. Thus, when the French workers created the world’s first workers’ government (the democratic, egalitarian Paris Commune of 1871), Marx pointed to the Commune’s “actual working existence” as the answer to the theoretical question of how to organize the state under socialism. Utopia made real in history.


In 1888 the American writer Edward Bellamy published his novel Looking Backward about a dreamer from Boston who awakens in a future society where people live secure, fulfilling lives with no use for money, under a rigorously rational socialist regime. This anti-capitalist best-seller initiated millions of young Americans into “thinking along lines that were entirely new to them” and radicalized a number of future American socialists like Eugene V. Debs, Daniel de Leon, Charles Kerr, and the great defense lawer, Clarence Darrow. Its popularity spawned socialist clubs all over the country and helped unite splinter groups into a growing nationwide socialist movement in the 1890s.

Socialism in the U.S. The half-forgotten American socialist movement had millions of voters, locals in cities and rural areas all over America. Socialists published daily papers in a number of cities as well as 140 magazines in 14 different languages. In 1917, the American Socialists opposed to the entry of the U.S. into the First World War and expressed their solidarity with the Revolutionaries in Russia. In consequence President Woodrow Wilson, that great promoter of democracy, outlawed the Socialist Party, closed its offices, destroyed its presses, jailed its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debbs and set J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and local “Red-squads” on the heels of every socialist, anarchist, Wobbly or pacifist they could lay their hands on. Personal note: my maternal grandfather, the immigrant tailor Sam Levin, was a member of the Hartford, CT local of the Socialist Party. I have apparently inherited his ideas along with an autographed photo of Debs and his library of popular socialist books (Jack London).

In England, the poet and graphic artist William Morris, founder of the “Arts and Crafts” movement, became converted to Marxian socialism around 1880. Morris was uncomfortable with Bellamy’s utilitarian utopia, with its obsessive productivity and state control, and in so in 1890 he answered it with his own successful novel, News from Nowhere. Morris’ dreamer awakes in an idyllic post-revolutionary London, free of industrial pollution, where the inhabitants, handsome, sane and happy, live next to nature and work only for pleasure. This novel had an enormous influence in England. A half-century later, British socialist George Orwell satirical classics Animal Farm and 1984 opened the eyes of millions of readers to the phoniness of totalitarian Communism’s claims on the Utopian dream.

During the later 20th Century a number of North American science fiction writers tried out Utopian scenarios. Among them Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Kim Stanley Robinson and Ernest Callenbach created futuristic Utopias that give us critical perspectives on the present as well as plausible, detailed, brilliantly imagined “histories” of possible future societies in which everything from ecology to sex has been revolutionized. Translated in many languages, these thought-provoking, prophetic, sometimes inspiring Utopian novels have been read by millions.

Fascist dystopias

Future fictions can even inspire deeds. In the 1990’s, a right-wing American named Andrew MacDonald galvanized the racist extreme right with a popular dystopian novel, The Turner Diaries. MacDonald projected a plausible scenario of a bloody race war in the United States. He described the rebellion of the White Christian Patriots organized behind “The Order” against a Leftist government in the service of international Jewery and the Communists acting through the U.N. The real Americans unite behind “The Order” as black U.N. helicopters invade the U.S, blue helmets occupy the United States and hunt down the patriots.


The Turner Diaries became the Bible of the Nazi-Christian armed militias that flourish in the United States. In these milieus, some folks take MacDonald’s paranoid fantasies for actual fact. The Turner Diaries was the bedside reading of Timothy McVeigh, the young ex-soldier who killed more than 400 people with a bomb of his own making when he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He was apparently inspired by the episode where Turner describes how the “Order” dynamites the FBI Building.

All the which goes to show that “life imitates art.” Oscar Wilde’s profound observation turns out to be more than a witty paradox.

Since around 2000 apocalyptic novels in a series called “Left Behind” has been topping the best seller lists in the US -- a publishing phenomenon generating films and spinoffs. The novels describe the adventures of a group of evangelical Christians who face the rise of the Antichrist -- plus plagues, judgements, and the final battle of Armaggedon (Left Behind Vol. 11). These novels have a born-again Christian audience of forty millions linked by talk radio and fan clubs, where current events are interpreted in terms of the Apocalypse scenario derived from the Bible.

It’s a sad commentary that wackos, racists, survivalists and end-of the world fundamentalists seem to compose the only subcultures with a vision of the future, albeit a negative one. Our strife-torn world cries out for positive visions; it desperately needs Utopia. It isn’t enough for good people merely to protest, to struggle eternally “against” the latest outrage. Of course we must resist war, racism, sexism, police-state repression and a host of other evils. But what we most need today is a positive goal, a vision of a possible future without which our awareness of the endless evils of this world only makes us passive and cynical.




A Favorable Moment? ­­­­­­­­­
Such a vision – at once Utopian and realistic – is needed to strike the imagination and spark hope, without which no positive revolution is possible. One chance out of a hundred isn’t a huge hope, agreed. But we know where despair leads: drugs, anomie, religious and nationalist fanaticism. On the other hand, the historical moment, although dark, may well be favorable for floating a new revolutionary vision of a more human society for a simple reason: since the collapse of Communism, Liberalism and Social-Democracy, there are no more competitors.

During the 90’s Communism, more nightmare than dream, transformed itself into Mafia capitalism in Russia and China and lost its appeal. In Europe Social Democracy is definitively discredited as a Left-wing cover for free-market privatisation. And since 2001 the American model of free market neo-liberal capitalism has lost its sheen. Once proclaimed as ‘the end of history,’ the neo-liberal vision is increasingly tattered. Only yesterday, “greed was good” and CEO’s were gods. Then the dotcom bubble burst, massive embezzling by top management was exposed, looted retirement funds collapsed, and big modern countries like Argentina found themselves bankrupt after submitting to IMF economic “therapy.” Today, the diehard free-marketeers are hardly more credible than the diehard Communists. The world is waking up from the American Dream with a nasty hangover.

Only yesterday, reactionary “new philosophers” in Europe and neo-con pundits from right-wing think tanks in the US had a monopoly on politically correct thinking. Today they are seen as tiresome, not trendy. Their world is in crisis. We are entering a century of breakdown and contestation. It will either end as a century of Utopias or it will end in catastrophe.

The men in suits who rule the world today have no plan for the future. Their main preoccupation is holding onto their power and wealth. Their perspectives are limited to inflating quarterly balance sheets and winning biennial election campaigns. If they don’t see any further into the future, it’s also because they unconsciously understand that there will be no future -- since they are busy killing it. They are the officers of a ship drifting rudderless toward a rocky shore, busy looting the cargo, locking up the passengers and crew below decks and fighting among themselves for the booty.





Mutiny on Starship Earth


The name of that vessel is Starship Earth. Its only hope is that the passengers and crew can figure out a way to get organised and take over the bridge before it is too late. Mutiny on Starship Earth. Great title for a scenario. Just what we need to start with, if we can imagine a plausible one.
That is the nature of the Utopian bet. Even with the odds against us, it’s a bet we can’t refuse. Because like it or not, we are the all in the same boat, passengers and crew alike -- far out at sea and drifting toward shipwreck.
One chance in a hundred may seem like pretty slim odds, but look at it this way: The bad news is that we will soon have nothing to lose but the dismal spectacle of a dying world -- made uglier every day by increasing injustice, suffering, and stupidity. The good news is that we have a finite chance to save a beautiful planet with all our friends on board. Nothing to lose against an infinity of life and beauty? Mathematically speaking, it’s zero against infinity -- pretty good odds in my book. Talk about a bet you can’t refuse!

In any case the bets are down and we are already on board. And since what is possible under the present system is no longer viable, perhaps only the impossible is possible. So let’s play out the hand we’ve been dealt. Let’s dream and take our dreams for realities. Joyfully!
Together, you and I and the others we haven’t met yet will become the authors of a collective novel. Together we can spin an ever-evolving cyber-story through the Internet and out into the world. A Utopian narrative programmed to reproduce itself on hard drives and in peoples’ minds -- accumulating power as it loops between the virtual and the actual.
Wow! Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? It is scary to think of the power we have inside us. And you never know what can happen when people connect.
All power to the imagination!

NOTES: Add more illustrations, eg. Rabelais, Morris. All the proper names should be in another color or underlined, indicating a link or an alphabetical reference in the Glossary or Devil’s Dictionary of Rebels and Rabble-Rousers at the end of Conspiracy.

A Bet You Can’t Refuse


One Chance in a hundred? – A Challenge for the Imagination – The Power of Utopias – A Fascist dystopia – A Favorable moment? – Mutiny on Starship Earth



One Chance in a hundred?

Let’s be optimistic! Let’s bet there’s still one chance in a hundred that the Earth will still be habitable at the end of the 21st Century!

Think I’m exaggerating? Try answering the following questions honestly:

Do you personally think that weapons of mass destruction are likely to stop proliferating? Do you personally synonyms needed hold that pollution is going to stop getting worse? Do you honestly believe that forests will stop disappearing? The climate will stop heating up?


glaciers stop melting?
oceans stop rising?
coastlands stop sinking?
famines and epidemics stop spreading?
poverty stop increasing?
cities stop deteriorating?

global unemployment stop rising?
armed conflicts stop erupting?
refugees stop multiplying?
petty crime stop flourishing?
corporate crime stop expanding?
real wages stop declining,


religions stop fanaticizing?
nationalists stop killing?
women stop being degraded,
wars stop dragging on forever?
danger of atomic war stop increasing?
danger of nuclear accident stop growing?


security-driven, dictatorial government stop advancing?
useless wealth stop piling up?
rich people stop withdrawing into gated communities?
youth stop despairing?
drugs stop spreading?
AIDS stop spreading?
prisons stop boiling over?
droughts stop getting longer?
storms stop increasing?
desertification stop extending?
world hunger stop increasing?
the struggle for water stop intensifying?
trees, animals and fish stop disappearing?


Need I go on? You know as well as I do that each of these trends will lead over time to foreseeable disasters if left unchecked. Now imagine all these trends interacting. as atmospheric warming leads to glacier melting leading to ocean rising leading to coastal flooding leading to fleeing refugees leading to worldwide epidemics leading to social chaos leading to martial law leading to … you name it. Not a pretty picture. Small wonder we rarely allow ourselves to actually visualize such a future and to imagine ourselves living in it. I dare you to close your eyes and try it, right now, just for thirty seconds…

Hard to stay focused on that picture? Our situation reminds me of people in a story who were living in a city built on the edge of a volcano. We get more or less blithely through the days without cracking up thanks to a single powerful psychological factor: denial. (They don’t call dee-Nile the longest river in the world for nothing). But if we dare peak out from under our security blanket of denial, what do we see?


DIVERSIONS: A READER’S GUIDE: For those who would prefer to turn their eyes away from our catastrophic situation, today’s marketplace provides a full spectrum of diversions for whiling away your time on the way to extinction. Shopping is a sure-fire way to take your mind off things; so are TV and losing yourself in work. Grass is great if it helps you laugh at the absurdity of it all, but if it make you paranoid, stick to booze. I find Alcohol excellent for momentary forgetting, but if you have access to anti-depressants, tranquilizers and perkidans, they’re the drugs of choice for the quietly desperate. Of course, extreme sports are more of a thrill, and a lot of people get their rocks off competing for more and more money, more and more power. Gambling gives you the same rush. Cocaine and speed can be cool too if you like the fast lane, but don’t knock old standbys like opium and heroin if you just want to forget. The unfortunate downside of the opiates is they inhibit sex, which satisfied customers consider the best bet for an inexpensive, healthful, peaceful diversion. On the other hand, beating up on your family or on people from other groups can be diverting up to and including murder and mutilation. For the more introspective, there’s suicide (martyrdom optional). And speaking of martyrdom, let’s finish off this list with the least expensive diversion on the market: obliterating yourself behind a group identity (identities come in religious, national, sexual and racial colors selected for down-market consumers).


We are the children of the 20th Century, the bloodiest so far in history. Future historians, if there are any, will see the 20th as an orgy of mechanized mayhem, featuring brutal totalitarian dictatorships, long bloody world wars (two of them), the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, scientific genocides, and the devastation of vast swaths of the earth. Violence was the epidemic that plagued the 20th Century, and it threatens to overwhelm our own. The 21st got off to a fast start with the September 11, 2001 attacks – a tragic pretext for the planet’s major high-tech military super-power to proceed with plans to invade two different strategically important countries while threatening new invasions. Meanwhile several more unstable states have acquired atomic bombs. A booming trade in conventional arms trade is fueling all the civil wars, slow genocides and intractable regional crises we children inherited from the bloody 20th . Nine decades to go and no peace in sight.

Now add the violence epidemic to the other (mostly man-made) ‘natural’ disasters and figure the chance of people like us (not to mention other animals) surviving the 21st Century.

One chance in a hundred begins to look like generous odds.

Call me an optimist.




A Challenge for the Imagination

For the sake of argument, let’s agree that there is one chance in a hundred for a livable world in 2100. If that one chance exists, shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine it, like in a Sci-Fi story? After all, human beings dreamed of the possibility of space-travel for centuries, and writers of future fictions imagined it with greater and greater accuracy. (As a result, neither the first, top-secret sputnik nor Yuri Gagarin’s epoch-making manned space flight came as a surprise to Sci-Fi fans.)

So shouldn’t we be able at least to imagine a possible future in which Spaceship Earth is saved from self-destruction ?



Let’s put our imaginations to work. What kind of realistic salvation scenario can we imagine for a planet in the thralls of a powerful social and economic system which seems inexorably to be leading us to predictable catastrophes? If we exclude divine or extra-terrestrial intervention from our fantasy, then we need to imagine the emergence of some kind of positive revolution in human relations. In other words, only if we are able to imagine a radical change in the way humans run things, relate to each other and to other living things, can we imagine the planet being rescued before it becomes unlivable.

But is such a positive revolution still even imaginable? The only way to find out the answer to that sorry question is to join with me and others in dreaming one up. If we can realistically imagine such a positive human revolution succeeding, then our one chance in a hundred exists.

So why not dream? Only when humans pay attention to their dreams can Humanity awake from the sleep-walk of neurotic denial and the nightmare of capitalist barbarism. So let’s get together and start dreaming up imaginary visions of possible roads to Utopia. Whatever the odds may be, betting on Utopia seems to be the only chance of winning. And perhaps dreaming together is the most useful thing we can do in the midst of all the conflict and confusion around us: To dream of possible Utopias and imagine the most realistic roads to get there.

SIDEBAR: Translation of above into revolutionary jargon for the benefit of Serious Radicals: “Given the propensity of negative tendencies in the contemporary objective situation to converge into critically critical crisis, the spontaneous semi-conscious mental activity vulgarly known as ‘dreaming’ posits itself as an imperative task that every conscious militant must urgently embrace.”



The Power of Utopias

Isn’t dreaming up roads to Utopia an impractical waste of time, like playing Dungeons and Dragons or Age of Empires?” I hear my parents asking. Maybe, but what if it’s the only way out of the mess they (and their parents) got us into? The human imagination is a powerful thing, and Utopian thought has been a major influence on human society at least since the Greek philosopher Plato outlined his ideal society in The Republic -- a two-thousand year-old book which continues to inspire political thought to this day. During the Catholic Middle Ages, Saint Augustine’s Utopia The City of God set the ideal pattern for Christian a polity. The original book Utopia (the word means No-place in Greek) was written by Thomas Moore, an idealistic churchman and high official at the Court of Henry VIII. Moore saw private property, enforced by violence, as the root cause of the poverty and injustice he saw in England and recounted a traveler’s tale of a faraway land where nobody starved because every able person shared in society’s work for just six hours day (anticipating the French 35-hour work-week). Moore’s outspoken idealism later cost him his head when he refused to approve of the King’s divorce. On the other hand François Rabelais, the unfrocked French monk who wrote the comic novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, created an Epicurian Utopia in his fictional Abbey of Thélème, a parody of a monestary whose only rule is “Do what thou wilt.”



Utopias based on religious visions of human wholeness and holiness have inspired vast peasant revolutions down through history. In 17th Century England, the ‘Diggers’ and ‘Levelers’ shared out the land and wealth; In Germany in 1563, the city of Münster Germany into a radical commune by Anabaptists under Jan of Lyden; and in China, beginning in 1851, the Ta’I-p’ing rebels occupied major provinces China for over a decade. All were led on by dreams of fellowship and equality.


CHINESE UTOPIANS During the Ta’i-p’ing Rebellion of 1851-1864, the rebels conquered and held major portions of China for over a decade before being finally put down by the British General Gordon (henceforth ‘Chinese’ Gordon). Inspired by a religious sect, the T’ai-pings abjured alcohol, gambling and opium ; they practiced complete equality between men and women, equal division of the land, construction of a new social order based on cooperative hamlets of twenty-five families and State graneries as a hedge against recurring famines, which had decimated China in the 1840’s


In the early 19th century, the ‘Dickensian’ poverty of the dawning Industrial Age provoked a new Utopian response in the socialist proposals of Fourier, and Saint-Simon and in the successful colonies created by the philanthropist Robert Owen, all of whom saw private property as the cause. These Utopian visions in turn inspired a young German philosopher named Karl Marx, who sought to integrate them with a new political force that he saw emerging under capitalism when workers’ movements took to the streets throughout Europe in 1848.

Marx and Utopia: The difference between the Utopian socialism of Fourrier and St. Simon and what Marx and Engels called, in the Germanic philosophical jargon of their era, “scientific” socialism was this. The Utopians proposed an ideal model society without worrying too much about how it could be realized (except for Owen, who founded practical colonies). Marx rooted socialism ‘scientifically’ in history, as the successful outcome of the class struggle between worker and capitalist. Marx himself published no Utopian blueprints, although he did theorize about socialism and its higher stage “communism” in letters to his associates. Marx’s ’scientific’ method was to learn from the “actual movement” of the workers, whose “way of knowing” was engaging in social struggles like the English workers’ struggles for a democratic Charter and the Ten-Hour-Day. Thus, when the French workers created the world’s first workers’ government (the democratic, egalitarian Paris Commune of 1871), Marx pointed to the Commune’s “actual working existence” as the answer to the theoretical question of how to organize the state under socialism. Utopia made real in history.


In 1888 the American writer Edward Bellamy published his novel Looking Backward about a dreamer from Boston who awakens in a future society where people live secure, fulfilling lives with no use for money, under a rigorously rational socialist regime. This anti-capitalist best-seller initiated millions of young Americans into “thinking along lines that were entirely new to them” and radicalized a number of future American socialists like Eugene V. Debs, Daniel de Leon, Charles Kerr, and the great defense lawer, Clarence Darrow. Its popularity spawned socialist clubs all over the country and helped unite splinter groups into a growing nationwide socialist movement in the 1890s.

Socialism in the U.S. The half-forgotten American socialist movement had millions of voters, locals in cities and rural areas all over America. Socialists published daily papers in a number of cities as well as 140 magazines in 14 different languages. In 1917, the American Socialists opposed to the entry of the U.S. into the First World War and expressed their solidarity with the Revolutionaries in Russia. In consequence President Woodrow Wilson, that great promoter of democracy, outlawed the Socialist Party, closed its offices, destroyed its presses, jailed its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debbs and set J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and local “Red-squads” on the heels of every socialist, anarchist, Wobbly or pacifist they could lay their hands on. Personal note: my maternal grandfather, the immigrant tailor Sam Levin, was a member of the Hartford, CT local of the Socialist Party. I have apparently inherited his ideas along with an autographed photo of Debs and his library of popular socialist books (Jack London).

In England, the poet and graphic artist William Morris, founder of the “Arts and Crafts” movement, became converted to Marxian socialism around 1880. Morris was uncomfortable with Bellamy’s utilitarian utopia, with its obsessive productivity and state control, and in so in 1890 he answered it with his own successful novel, News from Nowhere. Morris’ dreamer awakes in an idyllic post-revolutionary London, free of industrial pollution, where the inhabitants, handsome, sane and happy, live next to nature and work only for pleasure. This novel had an enormous influence in England. A half-century later, British socialist George Orwell satirical classics Animal Farm and 1984 opened the eyes of millions of readers to the phoniness of totalitarian Communism’s claims on the Utopian dream.

During the later 20th Century a number of North American science fiction writers tried out Utopian scenarios. Among them Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Kim Stanley Robinson and Ernest Callenbach created futuristic Utopias that give us critical perspectives on the present as well as plausible, detailed, brilliantly imagined “histories” of possible future societies in which everything from ecology to sex has been revolutionized. Translated in many languages, these thought-provoking, prophetic, sometimes inspiring Utopian novels have been read by millions.

Fascist dystopias

Future fictions can even inspire deeds. In the 1990’s, a right-wing American named Andrew MacDonald galvanized the racist extreme right with a popular dystopian novel, The Turner Diaries. MacDonald projected a plausible scenario of a bloody race war in the United States. He described the rebellion of the White Christian Patriots organized behind “The Order” against a Leftist government in the service of international Jewery and the Communists acting through the U.N. The real Americans unite behind “The Order” as black U.N. helicopters invade the U.S, blue helmets occupy the United States and hunt down the patriots.


The Turner Diaries became the Bible of the Nazi-Christian armed militias that flourish in the United States. In these milieus, some folks take MacDonald’s paranoid fantasies for actual fact. The Turner Diaries was the bedside reading of Timothy McVeigh, the young ex-soldier who killed more than 400 people with a bomb of his own making when he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He was apparently inspired by the episode where Turner describes how the “Order” dynamites the FBI Building.

All the which goes to show that “life imitates art.” Oscar Wilde’s profound observation turns out to be more than a witty paradox.

Since around 2000 apocalyptic novels in a series called “Left Behind” has been topping the best seller lists in the US -- a publishing phenomenon generating films and spinoffs. The novels describe the adventures of a group of evangelical Christians who face the rise of the Antichrist -- plus plagues, judgements, and the final battle of Armaggedon (Left Behind Vol. 11). These novels have a born-again Christian audience of forty millions linked by talk radio and fan clubs, where current events are interpreted in terms of the Apocalypse scenario derived from the Bible.

It’s a sad commentary that wackos, racists, survivalists and end-of the world fundamentalists seem to compose the only subcultures with a vision of the future, albeit a negative one. Our strife-torn world cries out for positive visions; it desperately needs Utopia. It isn’t enough for good people merely to protest, to struggle eternally “against” the latest outrage. Of course we must resist war, racism, sexism, police-state repression and a host of other evils. But what we most need today is a positive goal, a vision of a possible future without which our awareness of the endless evils of this world only makes us passive and cynical.




A Favorable Moment? ­­­­­­­­­
Such a vision – at once Utopian and realistic – is needed to strike the imagination and spark hope, without which no positive revolution is possible. One chance out of a hundred isn’t a huge hope, agreed. But we know where despair leads: drugs, anomie, religious and nationalist fanaticism. On the other hand, the historical moment, although dark, may well be favorable for floating a new revolutionary vision of a more human society for a simple reason: since the collapse of Communism, Liberalism and Social-Democracy, there are no more competitors.

During the 90’s Communism, more nightmare than dream, transformed itself into Mafia capitalism in Russia and China and lost its appeal. In Europe Social Democracy is definitively discredited as a Left-wing cover for free-market privatisation. And since 2001 the American model of free market neo-liberal capitalism has lost its sheen. Once proclaimed as ‘the end of history,’ the neo-liberal vision is increasingly tattered. Only yesterday, “greed was good” and CEO’s were gods. Then the dotcom bubble burst, massive embezzling by top management was exposed, looted retirement funds collapsed, and big modern countries like Argentina found themselves bankrupt after submitting to IMF economic “therapy.” Today, the diehard free-marketeers are hardly more credible than the diehard Communists. The world is waking up from the American Dream with a nasty hangover.

Only yesterday, reactionary “new philosophers” in Europe and neo-con pundits from right-wing think tanks in the US had a monopoly on politically correct thinking. Today they are seen as tiresome, not trendy. Their world is in crisis. We are entering a century of breakdown and contestation. It will either end as a century of Utopias or it will end in catastrophe.

The men in suits who rule the world today have no plan for the future. Their main preoccupation is holding onto their power and wealth. Their perspectives are limited to inflating quarterly balance sheets and winning biennial election campaigns. If they don’t see any further into the future, it’s also because they unconsciously understand that there will be no future -- since they are busy killing it. They are the officers of a ship drifting rudderless toward a rocky shore, busy looting the cargo, locking up the passengers and crew below decks and fighting among themselves for the booty.





Mutiny on Starship Earth


The name of that vessel is Starship Earth. Its only hope is that the passengers and crew can figure out a way to get organised and take over the bridge before it is too late. Mutiny on Starship Earth. Great title for a scenario. Just what we need to start with, if we can imagine a plausible one.
That is the nature of the Utopian bet. Even with the odds against us, it’s a bet we can’t refuse. Because like it or not, we are the all in the same boat, passengers and crew alike -- far out at sea and drifting toward shipwreck.
One chance in a hundred may seem like pretty slim odds, but look at it this way: The bad news is that we will soon have nothing to lose but the dismal spectacle of a dying world -- made uglier every day by increasing injustice, suffering, and stupidity. The good news is that we have a finite chance to save a beautiful planet with all our friends on board. Nothing to lose against an infinity of life and beauty? Mathematically speaking, it’s zero against infinity -- pretty good odds in my book. Talk about a bet you can’t refuse!

In any case the bets are down and we are already on board. And since what is possible under the present system is no longer viable, perhaps only the impossible is possible. So let’s play out the hand we’ve been dealt. Let’s dream and take our dreams for realities. Joyfully!
Together, you and I and the others we haven’t met yet will become the authors of a collective novel. Together we can spin an ever-evolving cyber-story through the Internet and out into the world. A Utopian narrative programmed to reproduce itself on hard drives and in peoples’ minds -- accumulating power as it loops between the virtual and the actual.
Wow! Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? It is scary to think of the power we have inside us. And you never know what can happen when people connect.
All power to the imagination!