Death & Life in Utopia for the Stupid (a flashback)

19. VII 2021

The rational is always the rationality of an irrational (Fèlix Guattari)

If utopia represents the impossible [imaginary places where social relations are represented, contested, and inverted], and developed society has reached the point where (almost) everything is possible, then the problem of finding our way is no longer the problem of disappearing utopia, but the problem of vision and politics[1]. So, what is the neoliberal utopia really like? What is a logical extrapolation of the neoliberal experience and what could be the next frontier for its all-around permissiveness?

Of all the issues that have emerged in the last years, murder has been the most divisive. From police brutality, to vigilante killings, mass murders, shooting of cops or innocent bystanders and terror attacks. All these cases were really about who has the right to kill whom, and at what price. Black lives matter, terrorism, the OJ Simpson trial, the idiot coup … they have all been about the same theme: Is it ok for whites to kill blacks, for Muslims to kill Christians, for rich to kill poor, or even for the rich blacks to kill not-so-rich whites, etc.? There has always been some implicit hierarchy of rules in that space.

Issues that have played a similar divisive role in the past have been alcohol prohibition, teenage drinking, abortion (right to life), legality of drugs, prostitution, gay marriage, speed limits, etc. In many countries where these issues have been put to rest, tensions and problems associated with the issue have disappeared.

It is common sense to assume that removing an aura of taboo reduces the appeal of the vice. By legalizing something, one eliminates the challenge and reduces the abuse. For example, incidence of teenage drinking, drunken driving etc. are much lower in countries which have no minimum drinking age, and similarly in the case of car accidents vs. speed limit. In the same manner, one can argue, that the legalization of drugs could lead to lower incidence of drug abuse and a reduction in crimes associated with illegal drug trafficking. Same holds for prostitution. The upside of legalizing these activities is that society becomes less polarized – people get along better with each other – and, once divisive aspects are removed, politics becomes more constructive.

Utopia for the stupid

Stupidity does not understand context. It assumes knowledge and extrapolations of experiences to contexts where those do not belong and often cannot hold. This is the summary of neoliberalism’s essence and its destiny as an ideology premised on applying the laws of the markets to life as a whole. In the final days of the unraveling of the neoliberal reign, this has become the era of stupidity. Therefore, entertaining the counterfactual reality that reflects the future as a neoliberal utopia of permissiveness, by allowing for its virtual triumph and applying its patterns and rules to situations where they do not belong, should be done based on the same foundations of confused contexts and argued with the same logic as the ideology itself.

By analogy with the well-know cases of causal connection between bad habits and their status of social taboo, it is fair to ask the same question regarding murder. Following the logic of neoliberal reasoning, one can argue along the following lines:

First, in America, there is an insane number of murders every year. By now, we probably have more than one mass murder for each day in the year. Obviously, the fact that murder is a capital offense is no detractor for killers; the rate of killing (individual/random/mass) keeps increasing. The legitimate question to ask then is: Would the number of murders decrease if they were to become legal? Following the same line of reasoning as with drinking or drug abuse, one could argue that most likely, there would be an initial surge, but then the trend would gradually subside and a new lower equilibrium murder rate reached.

Death by shooting would gradually be accepted as a consequence of our freedoms, in the same way as death caused by traffic accidents, plane crashes, fire, or natural disasters have.

The benefits would be immediately visible. First, guns would get the status of a regular appliance, like car or TV — everyone would own (at least) one. This would be plain common sense. All debates about the second amendment would become obsolete and with them the polarizing effects would go away. There would be no justification for the existence of the gun lobby. The NRA would be rendered politically irrelevant and politics, free of its influences, would be able to focus on issues that matter. Without polarization around the second amendment, republicans and democrats could even merge into a single party.

Smart guns would become the new technological frontier. Apple would produce first iGun, synchronizable with iPhone and iWatch, and Teslas would come with special road rage software and appropriate smart guns usable in such situations.

Compulsive killing would be frowned upon. It would be deemed uncool, along the lines people treat compulsive eating and obesity. There would be awareness groups that provide counseling and talk shows where compulsive killers would be subjected to public shaming.

The US would enter its post-political phase. There would be less need for police; private protection would be the new area of economic expansion. There would be far fewer people in prisons, both private and state-run. No debates about the death penalty or life sentences? All these would free the federal budget for more constructive projects. People would be much more considerate and respectful of each other’s feelings. Conflicts would tend to be avoided. Everyone would be nice to each other (assholes would have a very low chance of survival). Generally, people would get along much better. Right?

At the end, it would be every man for himself, just as Margaret Thatcher said: There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. These thoughts represent the basic axiom of neoliberalism and its sociopathic core. It, therefore, doesn’t come as a surprise that, when stripped of the constraints of moral judgment, the utilitarian logic of neoliberalism, if applied consistently and carried to its final consequences, inevitable leads to over-optimized dystopian world of sociopathy. A sociopath truly practices the notion of morality developed by utilitarianism. He need not necessarily lack intelligence, but on a landscape of normal human interaction, he is lost – that is what defines his affliction. For him, morality designates a behavior one adopts by way of intelligently calculating one’s interests (in the long–run, it profits us all if we try to contribute to the pleasure of the greatest number of people). A sociopath sees morality as a theory one learns and follows and not something one identifies with: [in his universe] doing evil is a mistake in calculation, not a guilty act[2].


[1] Fredric Jameson, An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army, Verso (2016)

[2] Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan, W. W. Norton & Company (2007)

2 thoughts on “Death & Life in Utopia for the Stupid (a flashback)

  1. Peter Goulet

    More than 50 years ago Atlantic Monthly published a futuristic short story positing a world where everyone had a gun and not having one was the grave miscalculation. My mother was an avid reader of Atlantic and I don’t believe I ever saw her so shaken than after she read that story.

    Like

    Reply

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