Utopia: All It's Not Cracked Up To Be

Have you ever noticed how much of our political language relies on binary logic? "Binary what?" you say—think the North and South Pole.

Here's an axiom that's half a binary pair: Before making an appeal for political action, describe a moment when the problem did not exist, at least in the form or to the degree it does now. Creating this mental space will then enable people to make progress by looking backward, effectively re-creating a past social order.

Alternative to axiom one: Promise freedom and justice in a world that is yet to come. Although here and now life is alienated, the future will break into history and transform what we have here into an entirely new place.

Both these axioms of political language have their theological counterpart, of course. Since there is no place outside the Garden of Eden that is free from the traps of history, release from bondage can only truly occur in the realm of the ideal.

In the Judeo-Christian West, "time" was destined to become our holy grail. Redemption can be found in time past (the Garden) or time future (heaven), both of which are bound by eternity. Time so conceived has no organic link to place. The forthcoming (future) and the antecedent (past) are not contingent on the horizon of the present.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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