A common credo for the world improvement movement is “Another World is possible“. The question is how to get started to get there? We asked the first winner of the Utopian World Championship, T.R.O.Y about his beliefs and his reasons for engagement.
ANNIKA: In your introduction to “The new world disorder” you claim that whether another world is possible or not depends on “ What you are willing to do to make it happen “. What are your biggest political challenges at the moment ?
TROY: After I wrote the essay for the UWC I actually visited the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. It has become an annual event which has steadily grown in size, effectivity, and influence. The latest Forum took place in Mumbai, India last week. Even before I visited the Forum in Porto Alegre I had begun, with others in Lund, Sweden, to take initiative to Skåne Social Forum, a localized version of the larger event. After lots of organizing it finally took place in October 2002 and was a big success with about 60 organizations participating and thousands of visitors. Right now we are preparing for the second Skåne Social Forum which will take place in May, 2004. The challenge is to maximize the efficiency of the Forum at both the local as well as global levels. How can it become effective without becoming bureaucratized? How can it become a tool for change without becoming either co-opted or marginalized? How can the network structure that is used maintain transparency and the Spirit of democratic process? How can the Forum best suit the needs of grassroots activists and society at large? What changes might need to be made? What developments might we need to be prepared for?
ANNIKA: Many people agree on that the world has to be changed, but for most it seems to be a gap between what you think and what you do. What made you start with your political activities?
TROY: I first became politically active by living in a family of political activists in a town in the United States which is highly dependent on the military-industrial complex for its sustenance. Everyone knows several people who are somehow connected to the military where I grew up. That the military was and is being used the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of the world´s wealth was and is self-evident.
ANNIKA: How can we create a mental climate where the gap between activity and passivity is being minimized ?
TROY: That there is a discrepancy between how one thinks and how one act in such a society is not surprising. In fact, I think it is normal. Only in a society where individuals and their needs are harmonized with the order of society would I expect people to manage a decent synchronicity between thought and action. If the order of society is imbalanced (which it is) then people´s actions will be necessarily imbalanced but their thoughts (that is, their ideals) will necessarily be placed on the hopes of creating another order of society. Considering the nature of multi-cultural/post-modern society today I would expect everyone to be stuck with this fact for some time to come. Aside from the excessive disparities and gross inequities that prevail today, the very idea of creating a democratic society amongst widely opposing interest groups entails that all groups -via compromise- will be somewhat out of sync with the order of society. A fundamentalist Christian or Islamist has to compromise their lifestyle in modern society just as an Anarchist, Communist or a Nazi has to.
The point, I believe, is not to develop some unreachable state of social purity or ´utopia´ but to be able to gradually and steadily maximize the amount of equity, justice, and freedom in any given society. Different societies and different conditions will naturally require different methods and responses. Utopia, in this sense, is the process by which one constantly challenges oneself, society, and the world to stretch itself - to minimize (not eliminate) the gap between ideal and action. The revolution, the goal is not something that occurs sometime in the future but in the immediate challenges of everyday life. How to organize our schools, our jobsites, our cultural activities, our commerce, our social lives, our media and communication and so on.
I think a key ingredient is a sense of practical hope, a real feeling based in experience that what one is doing matters. Obviously, spirituality or religion allows some people to achieve this. Belief in an impending revolution allows others to do it. Perhaps the most effective method though, is finding small but meaningful activities which either have a visible impact or which give back as much energy (or more) than they take. To find fulfilment in what one does is a way of securing meaning in it, even if the results may not be seen until after one is dead.
ANNIKA: Who or what is the inspiration for your political commitment?
TROY: The Zapatistas, the ploughshare movement, and Malcolm X are some well-known names. Ramona Africa, Rachel Corrie, Alexander Berkman, my wife, brothers, and friends are others.
ANNIKA: It´s two years since your visionary essay won the UWC 2001, is there anything you have reconsidered in it?
TROY: Yes and no.
"Yes" because certain parts -such as the description of the giant meetings of the Global Alliance have irked me since I wrote them. They are, to say the least, inadequate, vague and misguiding.
"No" because I don´t -and didn´t- expect the essay to be perfect anymore than I expect ´utopia´ to be perfect. I simply don´t believe in perfection. The essay I wrote could be rewritten ad infinitum but I consider it ´perfect´ in its imperfection. It is one idea, one concept, one possibility and to the extent that it can challenge the reader to consider the possibilities of life the potential for action, it is a success.
ANNIKA: In what way have you been affected by being the first Utopian Champion ever?
TROY: On one hand it´s given me opportunities to speak out more often and at places I otherwise would not have been invited to speak at and on the other it has challenged me to both develop my ideas and my articulation of those ideas.
In conjunction with this interview we´re publishing T.R.O.Y.´s text The Challenge of Utopia which you can download as an rtf document.