Editorial: Whose utopia is it anyway?

IssueMarch - June 2002
Comment by Ippy D

It would be very easy to argue that the true “axis of evil” is actually rather short, and stretches from the White House across the river Potomac and down to the Pentagon. But perhaps we would begin to sound like “America bashers”.

The problem is, as many have noted, that in this reality there is one dominant force (in a hegemony that also includes Britain, most of the European Union and some of south Asia) and that is the United States.

Total war

The “war on terror”, or perhaps we should call it the “total” or “permanent” war, provides us, with a new or at least more obvious and renewed, paradigm. When we look at the list of “enemies” Mr Bush has kindly prepared for us, we see the same old story: North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Somalia. What is new is the openness with which these countries (and more importantly their inhabitants) have been identified as targets. Parallels with the Cold War are easily drawn.

Tough love

Since 11 September new levels of double-speak have been reached. Human rights are being curtailed around the world in order to “maintain our freedom”; the US has “liberated” women in Afghanistan; the US and its allies have, while bombing, “saved a people from starvation and freed a country from brutal oppression”. This “tough love” approach to foreign policy (you need to be bombed because we know what's best for you), while traditional, smacks of a final push to “persuade” the likes of Iraq, North Korea, et al that they'd better get with the (capitalist) programme or prepare to suffer the consequences.

Pitfalls of armed struggle

As well as being gruesome in their direct consequences, the actions of the 11 September “terrorists” have provoked ripples across the world. If you are committed to a long and violent struggle - where your opponent is the biggest military force on the planet - these “ripples” might sound OK. While the deportations, arrests, raids, racist harassment, restrictions on movement, new laws and so on, may reveal the true behaviour and purpose of government, it's still not much fun for the rest of us.

Irrespective of the morality, armed struggle - or erratic violent tactics - rarely contribute to a workable, positive, strategy. Even when “successful”, the use of force to achieve political goals lays a poor and frequently rotten foundation for the “new” power base.

Take Zimbabwe for example. A country which broke free from the colonial masters, some would claim exclusively through armed struggle. Fast forward 20+ years and we see the “heroic” liberators still in positions of power, desperately clinging on to it through oppressive domestic policies and practices.

The issues of hierarchy, formal or otherwise, militarism (who “controls” the army in a “liberated” country?) and personal greed seem to remain present in all forms of society and community whenever power is gained “through the barrel of a gun” (look at the “benevolent” state that China is today).


Internationally, tackling a range of issues which stem from a problem of economics combined with a militaristic mindset, patriarchal values, and a specific (as in species) superiority complex, throws up a few challenges! However, when we look at the range of known options available to us in confronting these issues, both individually and collectively, it becomes obvious that some of the simplest and least violent tactics are the ones we often choose to ignore.

For example, it would be relatively easy to chop away at the metaphorical legs of global capitalism through refusing to work in main-stream industry, commerce and - because it would only be a matter of time before they were called on to suppress such non-compliance - the military. A deliberate attempt at using, maintaining and supporting only the services and products we really need (education, health, fire service, local food production, etc), even for just a few months, would send a clear message.

Your utopia, my dystopia

This new/old place we find ourselves in today probably is someone's idea of utopia. The bosses are rich, they have the militaries on their side (mostly), opposition is in flux, and women still know their place (mostly): white men still own and control pretty much all of the planet's resources.

In our post 11/09 world, creating a viable, flexible and inclusive scheme for living, which encompasses all the things we collectively hold dear to our hearts: respect, non-hierarchy, nonviolence, tolerance and so on, has become more important than ever.

In the French sci-fi film The Fifth Element, a vast and evil energy source appears in the galaxy, consuming everything thrown at it. Its purpose: total power. Only through bringing together the elements representing life can it be defeated. Like the hapless (but audaciously Gaultier-suited) heroes and heroines of the movie, that is our mission too. One question: can we do it in such style?

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