“It is not a finished utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active”- Bertrund Russel
The word ‘Utopia’, first coined by Thomas More, means both ‘good place’, and ‘no place’, leading many to question whether it can ever become a reality. And yet, perhaps striving for an ideal that can never be reached does not detract from the value of striving. After all, a life without hope is hardly worth living. In the words of Oscar Wilde,
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias”
Recent years have seen a declining interest in the pursuit of ‘Utopia’, as though people no longer believe in it. The message from our elders is that utopia doesn’t exist and that we’ve never had it so good; we should stop complaining. I disagree. I don’t want to hear that despite rising rates of depression, young people have no reason to be unhappy. Why should I listen to a generation whose single greatest legacy is the almost irreversible destruction of the planet? I’m sure we’ve all wanted to make the world a better place. I know I have because I’m just not satisfied. All it takes is passing a homeless person on the street for the blinding realisation to hit me that the world is not as I would like it. It can be better.
I remember the lesson in school where I learnt what rainforests were, and it was in that same lesson that I learnt that they were being destroyed. All my education has taught me is that I am a human and humans make a mess. This is a critical time for Humanity as the consequences of our actions finally catch up with us. As global temperatures rise, more and more of the planet will become inhospitable, catalysing mass migration and exacerbating poverty. The world’s problems – poverty; conflict; depression – are bred by inequality and corrupt power, but they are catalysed by climate change. Climate change affects us all. In facing this realisation, one begins to ask “Who is responsible? Who is going to save us?”
It can only be us. We all need to envision a better future, one that can unify rather than terrify. Only then will people start feeling good about making the tough choices that are inevitably needed, and governments can feel confident in doing so. It’s time to think about Utopia again.
In Naomi Klein’s recent publication ‘No is not enough’, she concludes that taking small steps to address these issues facing the planet is not enough; we need big change and we need it fast. This kind of ‘leap’ takes more than the vision of a single individual. The utopia we will strive for now will be our vision; a collective re-imagining of what human life can be, of how our needs can be met, and of how we can look after our earth so that it looks after us for many years to come.
No more wrapping everything in plastic, no more eating cows every day, no more continuing to feed our addiction to fossil fuels. We must exchange values of competition and greed for patience and generosity. We must start measuring success not by economic gain, but by happiness.
That’s my utopia, what’s yours?
We would very much like to see your ideas on utopia and the opportunity is on its way. Funraising’s Hidden Utopia will be making an appearance at Hidden, Manchester, on the 23rd September for a very special event: Love For The Streets: Behind The Headlines. Come along and help raise funds and awareness of hidden homelessness. According to Crisis.org, “Homelessness is not just about people sleeping rough…There is a sizeable group hidden from view in squats, with friends, in police cells, with strangers, or sleeping rough in less visible locations.” These people apparently find themselves “as vulnerable, and their housing situations as precarious as their more visible counterparts.” A recent survey by Crisis.org found that 92% of respondents had experienced hidden homelessness, highlighting the prevalence of the issue. Unseen by the public eye and underrepresented by the media, this shocking side to homelessness persists. We think it’s high time this problem got some attention. Funraising’s hidden Utopia will be a place to explore ideas about how to make the world better. Not the easiest task, we know, but we believe change begins with imagination and as Rutger Bregmen recently pointed out, “the inability to imagine a world in which things are different is evidence only of a poor imagination, not of the impossibility of change”.
And there’s no need to pull your hair out, we will have plenty of inspiration for you as you draw, write and design our giant Utopia boards. Plus, there’ll be all sorts of bits and pieces to get crafty with while you think- we’ve collected a load of recycled materials, pens, feathers, paper and general groovy, glittery shit, to get those creative juices flowing and make some accessories that’ll see you through the night. It’s all about taking rubbish and making something beautiful.
Edited by Joseph Brennan.
‘The hidden truth about homelessness’, Experiences of single homelessness in England Kesia Reeve Report Summary, May 2011 https://blog.crisis.org.uk/media/236816/the_hidden_truth_about_homelessness_es.pdf
Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists and How We Get There, 2018, pg. 199
Naomi Klein, No is Not Enough, 2017