Paths through utopias: Starting the journey

IssueNovember 2007
Feature by John Jordan, Isa Fremeaux

“Of course another world is possible... As a matter of fact, thousands of people are experimenting with new ways of organising themselves for a more just, less destructive society: look at the Zapastistas in Mexico, the occupied factories in Argentina, the Landless peasants in Brazil”.

How many times have we heard or spoken these words? How many times have we felt the uplifting sensation of possibility given by these wonderfully inspirational examples of true democracy in action? But how many times have we also felt a tinge of discouragement at the realisation that they are all located in such different cultural and socio-political backgrounds, and that trying to replicate them is impossible in a European context? So they remain a beautiful inspiration... and we remain a little disempowered as to how to change our own reality...

As European activists, we have been working for years on resisting. We have helped create beautiful moments where dignity, justice, peace and freedom is experienced collectively during acts of resistance - Reclaim the Streets, Anti G8 convergence centres etc. But it always felt too temporary, with too many no's, not enough yeses.

However, dotted around Europe are thousands of experiments that are just as radical and inspirational as those across the oceans. The trouble is we rarely hear about them. So we decided to go on a journey, for seven months across our continent to visit these Utopias on our own doorstep, to meet the thousands of people who share similar backgrounds, issues, legal and cultural barriers and yet have managed to build other worlds despite the dystopia of capitalism.

In August we embarked on our Paths Through Utopias project. What we are after however is not Utopia in the sense of a fixed perfect society. The Utopias that interest us are those which reject perfection in the face of the natural impermanence of life, they are the ones that celebrate the fact that the only constant is change, and that to strive for perfection on a planet where everything is evolving and in flux, is like trying to freeze the flow of time.

We want to give a sense of the extraordinary diversity of people that are tackling various aspects of everyday life outside of the confines dictated by capitalism. We want to see how growing food, educating, making love, living differently can be an act of resistance. Our journey will take us from the self-managed Climate Camp to a Spanish anarchist school, a squatted French hamlet to an occupied factory in Serbia, a free love eco-village outside Berlin to an urban social centre in Italy.

We don't really know what awaits us, but we hope to return with more immunity to the relentless bad news, wars for depleting resources and climate catastrophe. Within the encroaching deserts and ruins of this system we hope to discover myriad utopian oases.

Topics: Utopias