Choice and utopia: Lovers or enemies?

clockwork-orange-1We often contemplate or dream of a utopia where we would all have a perfect life. A perfect society where everyone is good and everything correct. But would we? As argued by Burgess in his magnus opus A Clockword Orange ‘Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.’ Similar themes can be seen in contextually relevant novels including Brave New World, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale. These are considered dystopian novels, and indeed they are. However, they serve are more than examples of what society can turn into. These warn about the consequences of the existence of perfection as a notion in society. Perfection is a dangerous notion because it is impossible to define, as it will inevitably by defined by an imperfect person. It creates the excuse for political extremists to commit atrocities and repress people all under the hunt for this noble pursuit. It is the removal of choice that allows for a perfect society, one where every one follows all the rules. Utopias require a lack of choice and it is therefore necessary to question what we consider to be utopic. Perhaps it is a society where people have absolute choice over their actions.

We can have a perfectly good society in the total absence of choice or we can have absolute choice and an imperfect society. Neither option is ideal, however it is vital to question the extent to which choice and its removal lie at the base of a hierchical societal functioning. It is possible to have choice and freedom but much less so to have goodness and freedom. We all have the possibility to be good and equally to be bad. The problem arises when we seek to define and legislate what they are and impose the right thing. For example, in The Handmaid’s Tale the right thing is for women is to accept to be completely dehumanized as the state tells people that this is what God wants. I doubt that any God would want this. At the base of the most fascist and oppressive society lies  a similar idealized concept, one usually involving a deity. It is at the time when bad people define and impose their version of good that everyone becomes bad.

Finally, we should consider striving more towards an impartial distribution of information on choice and its consequences, rather than to impose good or bad. A good person is good but a bad person choosing to be good is a better person. The problem lies in this concept of perfect and in the imposition of a general idea on individuals, which collectivizes them into a powerless whole. It is perhaps time to stop defining perfect to suit ourselves and begin to strive towards fair-involving encouraging the consumption of goods with positive externalities such as education and healthcare.

 

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