A sidebar article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine interviews Rutger Bregman.
How to Think Like a Utopian.
Bregman is a young Dutch historian who wrote UTOPIA FOR REALISTS (which I blogged about here) and more recently HUMANKIND: A HOPEFUL HISTORY, which argues that cooperation has been a key factor in humanity’s evolution.
Key para from the NYTM piece:
To engage in utopian thinking, you can’t be myopically focused on the present. There’s nothing inherent about our current political, economic and social realities; people made these systems and can make them anew. To envision something novel, read more history and less news. A sensationalistic daily news cycle can constrict your ability to see the world as anything but dangerous, violent and mean. “There’s nothing as anti-utopian as the product that we call the news,” Bregman says. Let your interests be expansive. Read philosophy and psychology. Look around and think, It doesn’t have to be this way. “Take something like poverty; why does it exist?” he says. “We’ve heard things like ‘the poor will always be with us,’ but is that really true?” What if poverty weren’t taken as a given? Sometimes it helps to imagine what future historians will make of us. What will they see? How will they judge us?
In contract to optimistic thinking is paranoid, pessimistic thinking, from conservatives.
Because there are always voters who can be stoked into fear and outrage by the purveyors of panic and alarm (Republicans, Fox News).
The coronavirus pandemic is receding. The economy is gradually climbing back. And according to recent surveys, a wide majority of Americans is feeling optimistic about the future.
On Thursday, the Consumer Comfort Index, a polling measure of Americans’ confidence in the economy, hit its highest level since before the pandemic.
But as our congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman points out in a new article, House Republicans are pushing a much different interpretation of what’s going on. During a news conference they held on Tuesday, the buzzword was “crisis”: It was used about once every minute for nearly half an hour. Republican leaders are arguing that the economy, national security, the U.S.-Mexico border and more are all in peril.
This reflect a general mindset that is forever with us.
Author Gregory Feeley on Facebook: “The animating force behind conservatism in America is not love (of anything) but fear.”
And we recall the writings of Richard Hofstadter, from the 1960s, two books called; Anti-intellectualism in American Life (1963), and The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964). From the latter:
The distinguishing thing about the paranoid style is not that its exponents see conspiracies or plots here and there in history, but that they regard a “vast” or “gigantic” conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power, and what is felt to be needed to defeat it is not the usual methods of political give-and-take, but an all-out crusade. The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of this conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values.
This is why conservatives, including the religious, are more prone to conspiracy-thinking.