‘Utopia’ has been the topic of many discussions, dreams and revolutions through history. It has borne many forms and names, and taken on the forms of humanity’s yearnings for a perfect future. This promised serenity has known many names--- Hellenism, monotheism, the French Revolution and Communism have all styled themselves to be utopian movements. Yet before we formulate the next utopia, the concept needs to be considered more closely. Each of those past attempts achieved great things, and made an impact upon history’s progress. None, however, could create a society unified in all things, to become one political entity. None could dispel the anxiety and fear of ‘the other’, even as the tide continued to rise.
This vision of utopia, of a unified, global unit, has been the goal and the dream of all cultures. It forms the comparison between all political concepts, for it is the vision of the form of the good writ large. It underlines the defining characteristics of each culture – the governing system, the place of religion in public life, the balance between individual’s wants and needs and society’s. It exposes the heart of the problem we face when we try to dream our future – our dreams are very different from one another.
There are many prescient examples of the diversity of our dreams at work in the world today. No society has the same dreams. The European model, emphasizing civil society, human rights, individual freedom and social democracy, is founded on the premise of a secular representative democracy with a justice system to settle conflicts, a legislative apparatus to create laws, and a free and equal society with a strong separation between church and state. As different as European countries are from one another and from other western democracies like the US, Canada and Australia, they are still very similar. They share history, linguistic family, religion, governing system, basic values. Despite all the differences and conflicts among them, they remain natural allies when it comes to determination of the future world order.
This is a far different system than what the Islamic world aspires. Their dream holds powerful religious leaders governing under Sharia law in order that people might serve the great cause and do God’s will. This system will only provide for those of Dar Al-Islam, or “of the house of Islam”, those who believe. Those of Dar Al-Kharb, or of “the house of the sword”, would either be assimilated or destroyed in war, in order to protect true Muslims in the physical as in the spiritual realm.
There are other dreams in Asia. The Chinese follow a unique cultural synthesis of Confucian ideals, communist ideology and national patriotism to serve the cause of the nation to whatever end. They hope that the world will finally give China the respect they feel it deserves, as the proper centre of the world.
There are other dreams out there, some more ambitious than others, but they all have one thing in common – they are based on imposing the dreamer’s point of view on the rest of the world. We all know that complete superiority of one culture has never truly happened in history, and it does not look likely to happen in the near future. Why do we hang to this fool’s hope? Why do we fight so hard for what we believe in?