utopia part two
October 20, 2004 03:38 PM

This post is (obviously from the title, I suppose) a continuation of the utopia series. This segment is primarily concerned with the community/family (#3) and governing (#6) questions I brought up last time.

There are few ways in which my utopian vision of feministy delight coincides with a sort of "greatest generation" reverence for the 1950s. But there is one:
I really do think the family is the base unit of government and socialization and all that.

I'm not talking about your nuclear family, but about the people you choose to draw around you, the ones you will count on to take care of you and vice versa. In an ideal world, the resources and flexibility would exist for individuals to be geographically close to their family and to live within like-minded communities (of course your biological family isn't always going to be full of like-minded people, but you'd still have your community, your chosen family). It's analogous to the self-governing "hive" idea that Greens and others have talked about over time.

So, recognizing the importance of chosen family, I'd do away with the institution of marriage as we know it (that is, one with a single set of rules applied to all people and limited to two people of opposite gender) and we'd have the ability to define relationships based on a range of commitment levels, presence of kids in a family, number of people involved, etc. If you could prove you were co-resident or co-responsible for a family, your family - however you defined it - would be recognized by the government.

This guarantees people a support network, and also provides a sort of official understanding for a wide range of families - ideally, each family's contract would also include the process to follow if it were disolved, much like a no-fault divorce. Different communities (i.e. those organized around certain religious beliefs) could certainly emphasize marriage and family in the way these exist today, but over time I'd expect the need for that to decline.

Communities, since they'd be based on mutual agreements over - well, whatever - would automatically choose different rules and levels of rules and would obviously live in quite different ways. There's room in my utopia for a degree of relativism, and respect for the possibility that, say - community A doesn't want any men involved, and community B thinks abortion is murder, as long as neither of those communities infringes on the other or violates agreed upon basic rules. But given our new greater appreciation for subtlety and grey areas (see #2, Dualism/Diversity in the original post), most everyone is willing to accept the possibility that the person they're disagreeing with is, in fact, correct. [Also, pineapple is always in season.]

A problem this introduces, of course, is movement between communities and governing at a higher level. I don't think globalization is contrary to a perfect worldish view, but a world focused on the extended family and community could get myopic. It doesn't need to be, though - we may be us-centered in the US today, for instance, but we're moving through the media towards a bigger picture understanding of the individual as both member of a community and a global citizen. I think that's a good thing.

It also introduces a need for a form of representative government, with members of many communities contributing to a baseline agreement of the rules. To tie it to representative government as we know it, communities would replace cities and states/provinces, coalitions might replace countries, and a global sort of super-duper actually powerful UN would be the forum for creating the overarching rules - which I think of as principles of human rights, methods for commerce between communities, and dispute resolution (including, if absolutely and rarely needed, use of military force).

As for the logistics of this - I actually favor compulsory short-term civil service in concept, and I think that's the most effective way to keep a large representative government fueled with non-bureaucrats. Not to mention giving every citizen of age a certain stake in the political process.

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