News from Nowhere was Re: Vision of a better world ? We don't haveone.

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Sat Jun 3 00:50:36 MDT 2000

I must say that I am on the side of the utopianists here and in
disagreement with Carroll and Jose with all due respect of course to two of
the finest political minds on the list. But Leninism and hard politics die
slowly it seems and many a good comrade cannot see how the Bolsheviks and
other tough folk grew out of the swamp of 19th century utopian dreaming.

I myself think that part of the crisis we face is in the collapse of
desire.  Humanity is simply too content with what passes for the 'good
times'.  This is especially so in Australia where the working class is
still firmly wedded to the notion that this is the 'lucky country'.

Recently in one class I was chairing a discussion of the Richard Lowenstein
documentary 'Evictions' which is about Communist Party anti-eviction
struggles during the depression.  The debate about the dole surfaced
because it is a central part of the film that the dole was won through
struggle and is not state charity.

I asked the students who had experience of being on the dole and how it
felt.  Four students put up their hands and told of their
experiences.  They were Australian and they all agreed that it had been
horribly humiliating.  A fourth student was a Norwegian and she told of how
she had been on the dole for 6 moths and no one had harassed her and it was
humiliating and that the dole was her right.  The rest of the class sat in
stunned silence.  She then went on to digress into an attack on Australian
feminists for putting up with such sexist advertisements.  I loved it all.
I did also point out to my students that the Norwegian government pays it
students to study abroad while the Australian govt fines Australian
students for studying at home though its Higher Education contributions
scheme (HECS).

Getting warmed up to my theme I said that Australian students had to want
more and not be so passive.  I went on to write my favorite quote from
William Morris on the white board.  "We must teach desire to desire, to
desire more but above all to desire in a different way."

Surely this is utopian thinking at its best.  We have to want a better
world even if this means only for our grandchildren.  Utopian thinking is
nothing less than the presence of the future in the present.  Under
capitalism we are all but dominated by the presence of the past in the
present. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare
on the living.



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