It never fails. It’s kind of like, you know, going out side when it’s raining and getting wet. Or being hungry if you don’t eat or sleepy if you don’t sleep.
If you go to a blog in which someone has denounced the crimes of communism, you can expect two things in the comments: one, that there will be idiots saying that what we’re talking about is not communism, because true communism has never been tried. The other is that there will be idiots saying that our system has too many issues NOT to give communism a try: we have discrimination, hatred, crime, poverty, homelessness (at some point on that second one a lot of crazy sh*t will be thrown in, like GMOs, the fact we need vaccines, or the fact we kill animals to eat. I’ve never actually seen anyone throw in the Heartbreak of psoriasis, but let me tell you I also would not be shocked.)
Most of these people are young but not all of them. Many are my age and older, and completely missed — possibly due to being immersed in a leftist ideological soup — the horrors revealed by the fall of the USSR. Or papered over their dissonant feelings with that whole “not real communism” though they might very well have believed that the USSR was “on the way to communism.” At least on odd Mondays.
Part of this is that the USSR was very good at pseudo-logical explanations. The whole of Marxism is, for obvious reasons. Papering over their dissonance and horrors was the only way to continue existing as a regime. For that matter any convinced Marxist has to be able to justify six impossible and mutually contradictory things before breakfast. Which is why the ranks of convinced communists are half and half stupidity and malice. If you meet a convinced communist and he’s obviously not stupid, then he’s malicious. His greed for power over others is such that he’s convinced himself he’s using an “altruistic” philosophy to attain it, and it will, in the end, be for the good of all. The rational, sane part of him might whisper that this is bullshit, because it can never happen, and therefore all they get is power to destroy those they hate and elevate those they like for a time at least, but that rational sane voice is tiny, and the monstrous ego that believes if everyone understood Marxism as the communist does and played its part in the mental play written according to the Marxist exegesis of the communist, then there would be utopia.
It’s a powerful siren song for the maleducted and ambitious, which explains for instance, Obama, who hated Reagan for causing the fall of the USSR and wanted to undo everything Reagan did, because without Reagan’s intervention, we’d already have achieved utopia. Before you laugh, for my entire time in SF/F professional circles, which started about ten years after Reagan’s presidency, I heard people who should be more thoughtful repeat the same inane pap. “If only Carter had had a second term. If only we hadn’t elected Republicans.” Then, in their minds, Utopia would already be here.
The USSR as the genesis of our “progressives” explains much of this, because the USSR was really good at creating Potemkin philosophies and then infecting the west with them viat propagandists and (witting or unwitting) agents in academia and the soft sciences.
For instance, by the seventies, if my (then future) sister in law’s psychology books (required for her MD. All of them coming from America and in English, and, because her English was not great, lingering at our house for my brother to translate (you know the rules. A book came into the house, I read it, even if I had to read it with an English dictionary in the other hand) psychologists tried to explain away mental illness as being the result not of a malfunction that would lead to self-destruction, but a reaction to an unjust environment. They would take things like schizophrenia and glorify it as a reaction to the unbearable burdens of capitalism (ah!). This is at the root of the ambivalence in treating mental illness in the US, and also in the elevating of the homeless (many of them untreated mental patients) into some kind of culture heroes. It’s honestly at the root of a lot of the left’s inversions such as the idea that our speech is violence, their violence is speech, the idea we live in a patriarchy (where males get short shrift in schooling, marriage law, employment and cultural stereotypes, but never mind) and that we live in (this one is new, not coincidentally born with BLM, for obvious reasons) a white supremacy. (Proving they never visited South Africa in the old days, btw.)
The left feels that way because they have a vast number of the maladapted and the mentally ill in their most vocal sectors. And therefore, if they are maladapted and mentally ill, someone must be oppressing them. The game after that is to claim the greatest possible oppression, because that justifies anything you might want to do. Hitting total strangers, whose opinions you misunderstand or distort with bicycle locks is totally an act of heroism, because look how oppressed you are.
Like the end game of the European Kings was to claim they were descended from Jesus Christ, and therefore ultimately from G-d himself, the end game of the devout Marxist is to claim the whole of society is oppressing him or her. Imagine how much leeway you get from that. You can do anything and STILL be a hero.
Anyway, if it were just a few crazies, we could ignore this notion of “a nation must be perfect to criticize any other nation” or “a culture must be perfect to criticize any other culture” (try to criticize a culture that dresses its women like sofas and pitches its sexual non-conformists from roofs or pulls walls on top of them and you’ll get hit with “patriarchy” eating disorders and the elusive and unprovable — or disprovable — “rape culture.”)
But it’s not a few crazies. Our children in our schools — and for this assume I’m talking for the entire west — are taught all the flaws of their own culture, while being dissuaded from examining the flaws of any others. Sooner or later, they’re exposed to the “progressive” (my kids? Middle school, every fricking teacher. Okay, except two one of which was a navy vet) ideals and the idea that it’s supposed to create the perfect society for everyone.
By that time the kids know everything that’s “wrong” with our system, but haven’t been taught to think rationally about history or culture, or to see the flaws in everything human, outside that fabled “arrow of history” in which “progress” (defined as Marxism) has slowly been winning throughout history.
It’s no wonder the poor mites comes screeching onto blog comments yelling that “it wasn’t real communism, and if you give us time, we’ll build utopia.”
A similar process was used on my generation, under the cold war, to convince us communism wasn’t that bad to live under (“I bet it’s really warm in the bear’s belly) and that the systems were roughly equivalent and only opposed in trivial stuff, and only at each other’s throats because capitalism requires imperialism and the stealing of resources from undeveloped countries (hell, I was taught that. Fortunately (?) there were enough refugees from Africa to tell me how the Soviet “liberation” of former colonies was progressing. Don’t ask. And don’t look into what Cuban mercenaries did to the Portuguese parts of Africa unless you have a really strong stomach.
So, you get those too.
But the problem is this: Utopia is impossible for real humans. This applies to communist utopia, to Christian utopia, to just about every kind of utopia imaginable or even guessable at.
And it’s not even because “humans are flawed” — though it is that, too. At least in the darker portions of our society — it’s “Humans are different and bring the baggage of their childhood with them.”
For instance, my mother had — by and large — my best interests at heart. My best interests as she perceived them.
We are actually vaguely similar facially (she’s much prettier, possibly still.) But I have dark eyes, and dad’s dark olive coloring (note if you saw me before, oh, two months ago you might pause here, but trust me. Now that my thyroid is close to balanced, I’m holding pigment again. Hypothyroidism makes you pale and sort of swollen. Even before I started losing weight, my face became less of a moon shape as the thyroid supplements worked.) Mom is pale (well ruddy tan because she spends so much time outside) with light brown hair and green eyes. She is heavy on top and slim on bottom. I’m a pear.
She could not — COULD not — realize this. Even though by profession she picked the best colors and fits for her clients, she kept buying and making me clothes that looked great on her, and insisting on dressing me in greens, browns and what I call “dead reds” (no, not pictures of Che) which made me look ill.
Similarly, having come from a ah…. difficult area, with a culture where women were often the only ones keeping the kids fed (when they weren’t also drinking it away) and where wife beating was a sport everyone took part in, and being unable to fully internalize the culture of dad’s family (granted only my generation of women went to college but all the women in my family, time out of mind were literate and often read for fun, which was still weird when I was a kid, and must have been bizarre centuries earlier.) she tried to prepare me for the world she’d grown up in. This included pushing a lot more house cleaning on me than was sane for me at that age, discouraging complaining, and telling me illness or my schoolwork were no excuses. (Okay, this was partially bolstered by the fact some idiot doctor telling them I was so premature I’d be mentally retarded. My parents have such faith in “learned people” that until I passed the exam that gave access to university prep, they regarded my grades as proof of the sad decay of education, that a poor slow girl could have As. One of my earliest memories is hearing them talk late at night in their room and saying it was okay if I was stupid. Mom would train me to make some man a great wife. Fortunately I was young enough that I remember the words but didn’t internalize them or apply them to me. In fact it took me years to realize they were actually talking about me.) At the same time she did this, she was telling me never to let myself be abused. But she was in fact training me to accept and live through abuse (which has served me very badly in my professional career) because in her back brain this was equivalent to my having a stable and happy future in the horrible world she’d been brought up in.
This is my mother, a smarter than usual individual, who really thought she was doing her best for me.
And she not only had no idea who I was or what I wanted, but if she’d designed a utopia for me it would have been hell. And she’d never realize she’d put me in hell.
As my boys lives are playing out, and their wishes and desires taking turns, I can pretty much tell you I can’t design paradise for them. They have to make their own.
In the same way…
Well, in many ways any of our ancestors, even possibly in the 19th century seeing how we live would think it was utopia. And sure for many people, it is hell.
But you can’t create a utopia, in which there’s no suffering, be it physical mental or emotional. You can’t because no one can know what is best for others. I used mom’s and my example because though biologically related our upbringing and interests are so different (and yet, pursuing from the same impulses. Mom is intellectually curious, rebellious and wildly creative. But he upbringing channeled those another way.)
Now imagine some anonymous bureaucrat with the writing of Marx in his head trying to make a perfect society.
You don’t have to imagine. We have the records of a century of multiple experiments. The result is always death. In the millions. Many argue a hundred million is a low estimate, and I agree. No one was counting in Africa, for instance.
This is because, even given the best intentions — and as explained above those are almost impossible, because smart people can’t help but see the contradictions in Marx — it is impossible to create “perfect communism” or any other utopia, because you don’t know what other people need or want, or what would constitute paradise to them.
I get a lot of push back from people on the right, for instance, because my favorite place to live is (would be. Husband’s is opposite, so we compromise) the center of a large city. I have my reasons for this, including the fact that I’m an introvert and get bored easily. One of my best friends, Dave Freer, lives in a remote Australian island and makes most of his living off the land. He loves it. To him that is Utopia. To me, it would cause me to jump in the sea and swim to the nearest large city. And I can’t swim. And I’m sure the distance is too large. And yes, this is a friend, someone I esteem and respect. And yet, our ideas on where to live are diametrically opposite.
Now imagine a faceless government bureaucrat deciding where each of us would live and work.
“But there wouldn’t be bureaucrats,” says the indoctrinated innocent. “In perfect communism everyone just gets what he needs and works at what he wants.”
Pull the other one, kid, it plays jingle bells. No matter if you come back with superabundance, and everyone being educated the same way by robots — two already big begs that are unlikely to come to pass — humans are too different for this to work. It’s not even two people wanting the same thing when there’s only one of that. It’s that people might not be able to tolerate the way their neighbor lives. Sure, live and let live. But if paradise for your neighbor is beating dogs to death in his backyard, how long will you let it go? And some people feel just as strongly about other things that YOU might consider paradise.
The only way to make everyone act the way some ideologue thinks they should is to have a totalitarian government, a strong police state, a structure of spying on every action, every thought, every idea.
What those utopians are saying is that they want everyone to live in what’s a perfect society FOR THEM. In other words, they want power over your very soul.
I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it.
There is no utopia. Some people will be miserable in the wealthiest, cleanest, most considerate society ever. This is also not a conjecture. They are. And they scream about patriarchy and oppression and white supremacy that exist only in their heads.
My solution is to work towards a society that’s even safer and more prosperous. Because then fewer people will fall through the cracks. And more confident, so we give people the tools not to be driven mad by excess wealth (this seems to be a strong correlation throughout history, if you look at the scions of very wealthy families. Maybe because being built on a scavenger frame, man needs to struggle at least somewhat.)
And the way to get there is freedom.
Not the red-throated “freedom” of the lock step masses and the groups of widgets fighting against other groups of widgets, but the true freedom of the individual to — to coin phrase — be all that he/she can be.
It ain’t utopia, but it’s as close as we can get to it in this world.