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A Review of “Utopia for Realists”

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2021

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal WorldUtopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Yeah. Utopia for anything, any reason or topic always sounds good. Do you know how many descriptions like the one this book has here I’ve read over many decades from authors dating back centuries? Do you know how many were right or proven right? Yeah, I do. The answer would be NONE! Why? Cause no matter how brilliant they may seem or even be, these concepts and theories are little but pipe dreams. Fantasy. Let’s give the kids of the world some hope, some premise and promise, something to dedicate their lives too … and then not deliver. Again and again. Over and over.

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An obvious example or two. One of the most obvious: Marx and Engels’ semi-brilliant (in theory) deconstruction of economic and political systems to even the playing field for the common man via communism (Marxism). It would be Utopia for the workers. Naturally most western capitalists will gleefully say it was BS, didn’t work out and died the ugly death it deserved. And despite their misguided arrogance, on the whole they’re technically right — in terms of the original and most influential communist system, with the collapse of the Soviet Union (and with China then sliding into a more Sinese type capitalist-centric system while retaining the power elements found throughout the history of typical communist countries), it might seem like communism was inferior to anything else, most notably capitalism. It didn’t work.

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But before the Reagan worshippers get too frenzied, while hundreds of books have been written on this so I don’t need to, let’s look at two big, fairly related points. One, did Marxist communism fail to be Utopian, if even fair or safe, because it was a horrible theory, terrible idea, total BS? No. Here’s the truth about nearly every Utopian theory or premise ever thought up and advocated on nearly any subject at all throughout human history. They’re virtually all mere pipe dreams. Cannot and will likely never fulfill their promise, no matter how promising. Because they’re crackpot theories and promises? No, not necessarily and not in the case of communism. The problem is few people ever really take into account the one consistent variable nearly always at the root of any Utopian failure: human nature. Yeah, it’s so simple that it should easily be obvious every time but mankind has this bad habit of rarely learning from past mistakes.

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Marx actually had some really good ideas. Like the author of this book. Yet Marx’s theories, when implemented – just as surely would seem to be the case with the author – were doomed to fail because not only are people different, but what seems reasonable, rational, logical, FAIR to huge numbers of people will ultimately typically die from within because despite any original good intentions, the fact is it’s impossible to stop power-hungry tyrants, autocrats, dictators, murderers, greedy, fascist EVIL people from being involved or becoming involved, or from falling victim to the lure or power and riches, that despite the original terms used in many such efforts and movements, they’re just semantics and largely meaningless. The Marxist Bolsheviks rebelled against the czar for the people, yet Stalin would become the most famous of the genocidal madmen there to destroy the Utopian dream Marx had described — because he could (with the aid of men like Yezhov and Beria). And he wanted to and took advantage of opportunities and lied and murdered and the term communism was always used but did it fail cause Marx was an idiot? No. Because at heart, much of human nature is evil and those people who “go to the dark side” (Did I get the Star Wars reference right?) abuse that as well as the huge number of people trying to make an honest, sustainable life of it, only to be crushed under the boot of tyranny. (Additionally, the Stalinist interpretation of Marx’s communism was rather warped — thus the war against Trotsky and the edging Lenin out so he could take over…)

However if you think capitalism is the obvious “winner” in this competition, think again. Those who have pushed the fantasy that it can be Utopian if you only pull yourself up by your bootstraps, work your damn ass off (and vote for the “right” political party) and then the American Dream will be possible for all is an even bigger pile of shit because while Marx and his colleagues were naively Ernest, those pushing this capitalist equation to obtain the American Dream, dating further back than “trickle down economics” – a theory so transparent in its lies, non-logic, hypocrisy and true goals, that the fact that so many chump Americans are still spouting bullshit like “America: Love It or Leave It” shows how pathetically stupid, naïve and easily manipulated we are — and sadly that’s not limited just to Americans.

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(And Reagan isn’t to blame. It’s hard to pinpoint an actual individual or group of individuals responsible for foisting this dramady onto the American worker, thus forever using the stick and carrot routine which never fails to work brilliantly. Many attribute this “conspiracy” to powerful men such as JP Morgan, the Rockefellers, some of the major financial leaders (often theorists love to throw in the Rothschild family, which hasn’t been proven but can’t be discounted), but led by a mysterious visitor from Europe who, it was alleged, was. a Rothschild representative. When the Jekyll Island retreat resulted in the invention of a central bank, later to be called the Federal Reserve, or the Fed (and there are a dozen of them around the country, not just one…) — (an interesting aspect to this is the Fed never was and is not still a government agency or government anything, yet many people don’t know that. Why does a largely private bank control the country’s currency, interest rates, print the money, etc., on behalf of the government and the people when it is not at all related to that very government? Who then is benefitting from this little scenario? And when researching history combined with some reflection, it’s interesting to ponder about how a few mysterious but very rich and powerful men controlling the Fed have ultimate power over the country, if not the world, because with the simple unanticipated move by them, such as a serious loan rate change, a devaluation of the dollar, etc., the Fed can create recessions at will, can end them equally, conceivably start wars and more — and yet they’re not a part of the government despite being potentially more powerful.) that venture has and does beg the question or perhaps confirms the suspicions some people have of a “conspiracy” of rabid capitalists controlling various countries with the future goal of that dreaded phrase we hate so much and which I won’t bother writing here, but just think of the Euro as the first major step in that direction. And since I’m off topic with popular theories about the advent of a capitalist plot to create sheeple who lack critical thinking abilities and will do what they’re told by the authorities — something Orwell wrote about with horror, something that our educational systems have embrace, and something that has succeeded brilliantly and that’s not me — I’ve read interviews with top CEOs in journals like Forbes where they complain they can’t hire college graduates worth a damn anymore because everyone is a specialist, no longer generalists, and virtually all lack critical thinking skills, thus limiting them in the workplace. And to get through this aside, the other main popular conspiracy theory with any credibility is the ole Skull and Bones one, which many people laugh off without bothering to research the details of the Russel Trust or the Bavarian intellectuals who influenced those early Yale men, their colleagues who returned from Germany to found the University of Chicago, Princeton Theological Seminary (I think) and Johns Hopkins University and take on the role of the first presidents, who then installed said German immigrant academic intellectuals at their institutions and elsewhere, all allegedly influenced heavily by a bizarre Bavarian psychologist and it gets really crazy sounding, but when you do the research and find that Prescott Bush was a major player (who financed the Nazis throughout WW2, following Henry Ford), as well as a Dulles or two, both Bundy brothers, possibly two of the most powerful, devious and evil Americans of the twentieth century as McGeorge Bundy worked his magic on Kennedy and Johnson to get and keep the US in a southeast Asian unwinnable war while William rode shotgun at the CIA, and it gets crazier sounding when you dig deeper, but allegedly a S&B elite has run for president every cycle since Carter with possibly one exception, and certain Yale devotees were delighted to note that when W ran against Kerry, both candidates were Skull and Bones men, so they couldn’t lose no matter who won…

So after admittedly getting way off track on those potential initial starts at creating a capitalist system to ultimately do what it’s done, when I have the audacity to make a critical remark about US corporations being equal to people to enable the rich and powerful to buy elections, at best I get verbally attacked. Yet typically the atmosphere changes when I ask a simple question, which might be followed up with a couple more — “So, how’s capitalism working out for ya? You personally and your family? Are there any businesses or jobs left in your community and do the jobs even pay enough for you to have enough money in the bank if you have an unanticipated car emergency, like a wreck, requiring, say, $500 to get it fixed?

To answer that question, just in case you think it’s theoretical, the answer to people having jobs paying well enough to have $500 for an unanticipated emergency the next month is NO. Look it up if you don’t believe me. The average American (and this isn’t even “average” as it’s actually the vast majority) doesn’t have enough money to pay rent, buy a new set of tires, etc., for just one simple future month and the middle class that is now a distant memory has (had) to learn some hard lessons…and I would keep writing for hours, but I’ve already been doing this for several hours on a mobile device (takes me longer now that I’m old and feeble) and I’m tired and my arthritis is killing me (LOL!), so I’m just going to have to end prematurely. Capitalism, like Marxism, sounds good in theory, but like communism, in practice the Utopia of the American Dream is a lie and a pipe dream for over 90% of the people. Because of human nature, again. The sharks want power and money and see millions of suckers out there (who sadly and pathetically buy into their little game) and lie and manipulate to STILL ensure people are forever getting fucked by US capitalism will be willing to fight to the death against a critic despite their being victims of the very oppressive system they defend! So does capitalism work? Sure, if you have obscene wealth and power and are cutthroat and heartless enough to be hypocritical to your (typically American) religion and to betray and screw your fellow man just to keep edging toward the top, while the rest of us are now in such bad situations that the literal majority of US bankruptcies are for excessive medical bills but yet the powerful know we’re so stupid we’ll vote against our own interests in refusing to do what every other first world nation on earth does — act ethically enough to provide at least basic health coverage to their citizens for free. Even the tiny Republic of North Macedonia, which didn’t even exist as recently as 1990, provides free healthcare to its citizens. Jesus allegedly talked about aiding and caring for the sick and the poor more than any other topic in the Gospels. Yet today’s power brokers, often white well off evangelical “Christians,” are adamantly opposed to anything their messiah ever said, especially when it comes to helping or aiding the sick and poor. They want the sick and poor to basically die as they annually try to kill off the few pathetic “entitlements” Americans have while instead they focus on two topics — abortion and homosexuality — to the point of violence and murder (WWJD), despite the fact that Jesus cared so very much about these two most important issues that he NEVER felt compelled to even ever mention them at all, while aiding the sick and poor are mentioned over 160 times. Obviously his priorities were out of place for current American so-called “Christians.” Or maybe since they’re representatives and witnesses of their god and their religion, this whole Jesus peace and love bullshit is just that — hypocritical bullshit. Because the vermin have come out of hiding, already despised for their judgmental persecution of everyone else in the world while always claiming to be the only victims in America (I grew up in a hardcore fundie home and heard that brainwashing crap every day). They no longer feel the need to hide the fact that not only have they not read their “holy” book, but they don’t give a shit about it anyway, or like the Jews and Muslims, they might actually consider following it, rather than attacking and in some cases killing anyone who won’t convert — just like the Taliban. Funny how life works sometimes.

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A point in that last huge chunk on capitalism was merely to give an example of people buying into Utopian bullshit and just displaying the rampant hypocrisy of it all. One could go on to mention many of the naïve Utopian ideals of the 1960s and ‘70s — flower power, free love, the thousands of communes, protesting the war, etc. — but just to end this with one last thought, American students protested the Vietnam war by the hundreds of thousands, claiming it was an immoral war and shouting about standing together with their South Vietnamese brothers in solidarity, which had an idealistic, somewhat Utopian narrative. Until it didn’t. Once “our boys” came home (to be ignored, abandoned, abused, criticized, thrown to the wolves), our great “solidarity” kinda disappeared since the Americans were gone and it was just poor little yellow/brown men against other poor little yellow/brown men and I guess the protestors shifted showing their solidarity by disappearing, shutting up, moving on to other things like the fight for the rights of oppressed American minorities (valid) while South Vietnam got crushed and essentially disappeared two years later. Did the solidarity protesters even care? One of the implicit points of this last example is that those hypocritical protesters were Boomers who took For Granted the American Dream OWED them (there’s a great book on that and I think I reviewed it here) as they went on to switch from Ginsberg and free drugs and sex to ‘80s Reagan Republicans, with many joining the Moral Majority and many more buying into the decade of greed — these, the hippies who rejected a traditional oppressive capitalist society guilty of colonial imperialism and genocide, living off the land in communes, many replacing currency with barter. A decade later, they were rich Wall Street tycoons before breaking into politics to work on destroying the country from the inside out, year by year regardless of party.

This book’s author wants to talk about good, generous wages, 15-hour work weeks, a new dynamic, a type of Utopia. I applaud that. While trying to decide whether to laugh my ass off or roll my eyes as another potentially great idea will be left to crash and burn once again, if it even approaches getting off the ground to begin with. What was that term? Oh yeah, “pipe dream.”

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3.5 for decent, enthusiastic book/comments. A 1 for naïveté due to apparent lack of study and analysis of (recent) history, among other crucial topics. Ultimately a 1 because despite being an intriguing fantasy, it’s unfortunately little more than that and there are far too many fantasies better than this one. Yes, I’m sadly that jaded. Not recommended.

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[All photos in this piece have been obtained via Google Images and credit is given when required and/or possible.]

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