Utopia: a society where beauty reigns, poverty and misery are absent.
It is a beautiful spring day. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing and the prospect of summer approaching warms the heart of this generation X’er. Appreciation for winter being over is not unique to specific generations. We are all thankful for those moments of bliss and feeling that everything in the world is right. I emphasize the word moment. I treasure those utopia like moments. Where the strife of human kind and the poverty and misery I witness daily in my non-profit work are quiet in my head. But then…I come back to reality, the moment is appreciated and noticed but quick and fleeting.
Where am I going with this you ask? Well…I recently landed on an advertisement for homes in “The Villages,” a utopian retirement community catering to boomers in Florida-it is currently 80,000 people strong. I watched the advertising video’s with perverse interest. However, I haven’t been able to shake the creepy feeling I was left with after watching clips about “cowboy hat Friday’s” and “we are living a permanent vacation!” The community is entirely self-sustaining, privately owned and operated-from utilities to law enforcement. There are strict guidelines to how long grandchildren can stay, almost no crime and there are 9,000 golf tee times a day. And apparently, it is such popular place that residents have signed up in droves to live on vacation daily.
So I ask myself, why the weird feeling? Does the idea of some people getting to live on a permanent vacation bother me? Is it the gross emphasis on a monoculture that bugs me? Was it the resemblance to the Stepford Wives that got under my skin? I’m not a golf fan so maybe it was all the golf that pushed me over the edge.
No, it is the philosophy that utopia is attainable and if it isn’t present, we’ll just create it. A mindset that I believe is far more prevalent in the generations before me. An inclination that has served the non-profit advocacy movement well for many years. Why work the long hours for little pay if you don’t believe that at the end, there IS utopia? An end to poverty, an end to racism, domestic violence and child hunger.
I believe Utopia is a good read and fabulous place to visit for a spell, but it is purely fiction.
X’ers are typed as being pessimistic by nature. We hope for change, we just don’t expect it. We aren’t surprised by failed systems, failed people or leaders. So the idea of utopia for us, really is fiction. We aim for impact, we plan for change, we work for outcome. But the outcome is rarely the end of some social ill, it is rather a change in the way to prevent or respond to it.
Meanwhile, boomers are on the linear plane. Thinking of how to get from here to there-”there” being utopia. The ideal. We must create the ideal. We CAN create the ideal.
You can imagine there may be a bit of a conflict when it comes to administration and leadership of non profits that are founded on “curing” human misery. I see it in board strategic planning sessions, executive evaluations, outreach events and discussions about “the movement”. While the conflict is frequent, the root of it generally goes unnoticed while we get stuck throwing labels around like “naïve idealist” and “cold-hearted cynic”.
In typical X fashion, I bring attention to the conflict yet I am without concrete answers to resolve it. I’m interested in your thoughts about utopia and the ideal. Meanwhile, I’m going back outside to enjoy the short-lived spring weather.