Adventures in Ethics and Science

You say you want a revolution

Dr. Isis expresses reservations about signing on for Twisty Faster’s revolution.

ScienceWoman offers a sketch of what her revolution might look like.

Me? I’m pretty exhausted from today’s outing with my offspring, what with it being Winter Break, otherwise known as 24/7 parenting. But I have a few brief ideas of what I’d like to see on the post-revolutionary landscape.


It would be a joyous thing for us to create a world — professional, civic, social, familial — where each individual human being is regarded as fully human, rather than as part of some special category not deserving of our full regard. (This obviously requires work to address sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, and a host of other ills. It probably also requires us to seriously reconsider how we treat children.)

In this utopia, people would not be put in the position of having to uphold the reputation of their gender or racial or ethnic group or home state or socioeconomic class or handedness. Our choices would be our own; no greater significance would be tied to them, and no overriding social script would drive them. (Dismantling those social scripts would seem, therefore, to be part of the path to the utopia. So would ensuring that people have free access to the full range of choices, minimizing the chances that any one person is saddled with being the token in a particular realm.)

Not surprisingly, mine is a utopia in which learning is valued not simply for its practical applications but also for its intrinsic pleasures. Everyone will be encouraged to learn what they want, on the theory that we are better off as individuals and as a society with more learning, and with a well-honed ability to keep learning new things. Learning will be a life-long endeavor, more valued and loved than the new television season or the next generation iPod or iPhone.

Of course, people will direct some amount of their learning and skills to addressing the needs that press on us all individually and collectively. Moreover, in this post-revolutionary situation, we’ll recognize and value all of this work — whether in the form of research that produces biomedical advances or the caring work of those providing care for children, the elderly, or the sick or injured; from those engineering devices, buildings, or infrastructure or from those building or maintaining them; from those producing music, art, or entertainment, or those producing food or clothing.

If there’s still money in my utopia — and that’s a big if — we won’t judge a person’s value to society by the size of his or her paycheck. And everyone will be given time to play.

Indeed, ideally, I’d like to live in a world in which people are serious about taking care of each other while at the same time taking care of themselves. The martyr at the temple of self-sacrifice would be a thing at the past. We will do what we can for each other and ask for help when we need it, understanding that help is something we all deserve.

In the event that we can nail this down, I don’t think we’ll have much occasion to care what kind of shoes anyone wants to wear, or whether they’re wearing make-up or not. (After all, if my memory can be trusted, there were some boys in my youth who looked quite nice in eyeshadow — eyeshadow which in no way impaired their ability to learn and grow, to help others or to receive help.)

I don’t know the precise specifications of the revolution that gets us from here to there, nor whether we could get there incrementally. But by golly, I think it’s worth some amount of discomfort to find out whether we could have this kind of world.

I’m pretty sure it would be a lot more fun, much of the time, than the one we have now. And I reckon that half the work of getting there is not giving up on the idea that our world really could be better in these ways.

So let’s see what we can do about that.

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    December 27, 2008

    Hmmm. The details may have changed a bit, but I could swear I’d heard the song before.

  2. #2 ScientistMother
    December 27, 2008

    I don’t if its because I did not grow up in the ERA of MLK, or because I just watched First Contact, but I thought of the Star Treks Utopian Society when I read your post.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 28, 2008

    Sign me the fuck up!

  4. #4 ...tom...
    December 28, 2008

    Indeed, ideally, I’d like to live in a world in which people are serious about taking care of each other while at the same time taking care of themselves.

    Your dream (with no intended allusion to an earlier comment) falls apart when the second part does not precede the first; when too many are looking to be ‘taken care of’ instead of taking care of themselves . . .well…

    …tom…
    .

  5. #5 Alex
    December 28, 2008

    If there’s still money in my utopia — and that’s a big if

    Getting rid of money has been tried. It doesn’t seem to work too well.

  6. #6 D. C. Sessions
    December 28, 2008

    I’d like to live in a world in which people are serious about taking care of each other while at the same time taking care of themselves.

    You are, after all, a philosopher. It’s not surprising that you would share a dream expressed over 2000 years ago [1]:

    If I am not for myself, who will be?
    If I am for myself alone, what am I?

    Unfortunately the implementation isn’t proceeding all that rapidly, because the original concludes:

    If not now, when?

    [1] What, you thought I’d maxed out with MLK?

  7. #7 waterrocks
    December 28, 2008

    The link to Sciencewomen isn’t working — there’s an extraneous “k” at the end of the url.

  8. #8 anxiocrat
    December 28, 2008

    help is something we all deserve

    What about total jerks? There’s always going to be total jerks, and dealing with them is going to bring everyone down. There better be a solid plan in place for this before the revolution goes ahead.

  9. #9 D. C. Sessions
    December 28, 2008
    help is something we all deserve

    What about total jerks?

    That would be me. Well, come to think of it that would be all of us. Except maybe you, but in general total jerks deserve help too. Who knows? Maybe if we got some slack we wouldn’t be total jerks.

  10. #10 Becca
    December 29, 2008

    Huzzah! Especially huzzah for the line about children.

    And anxiocrat, I’m not sure that people who are unwilling to give the cookies to the total jerks aren’t a bigger obstacle to utopia than the jerks themselves.

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