"In the modern world, we do not need utopias."To which Halliday responds:
"Dreaming, the aspiration to a better world and the imagination thereof, is a necessary part of the human condition."It has often occurred to me that it is a paradox of the human condition that consciousness by its very nature allows human beings to 'imagine a better world' and it is this that is essential for anything we might describe as progress in human affairs. But at the same time, those who seek to reach beyond mere dreams and make them a reality are predestined to be disappointed, or worse.
The scale of the disappointment depends on the nature of what is imagined and it's here I have a problem with the use of the term 'utopia' because by most people's definition this has something to do with perfection, rather than with a state of affairs that is merely better than what presently exists.
Arguably the capacity to imagine, to simply say 'things could be otherwise', is the very basis of human morality and in that sense it is indeed an absolutely essential facet of the human condition.
But this is surely a different matter altogether to imagine a human state of affairs that could achieve perfection and it is surely more contentious to suggest that this is in any way essential to the human condition or even if it were, to say with any degree of certainty that this has been a net benefit to mankind?
Isaiah Berlin argued that in human history, no single idea has been responsible for a higher pile of corpses than the notion that there is a final solution - that all [legitimate] human wants and desires can be fitted into a single harmonious pattern.
In the same vein Milan Kundera said that "there is always a gulag built onto the side of paradise", this not being a regrettable lapse from the pursuit of perfection but rather something that was intrinsic to it.
Both had in mind the totalitarian experiments of the 20th century and their religious parents, the various political attempts throughout the ages to achieve the entire sanctification of the mundane and bring the City of God to earth.
Surely this should at least be considered as a contender to be among mankind's worst ideas? Not least because it has endured and is still with us today. Essential to the human condition, perhaps. But desirable? No.