Comments for Farewell to Utopia

A. M. Smith said...
Mr. Greer,

I recently found your blog and like it enough that I'm reading the posts in order from the beginning. I see that this post has zero comments, so I thought I'd leave one, even though you'll probably never see it.

As an agnostic who was not raised religious, I'm not always convinced when current worldviews are explained as mere extensions of theology. I see the usefulness in the comparison of current myths with older ones, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to insist on the connection between them being so direct and substantial. In this case, I think that by making contemporary ideologies concerning progress and its discontents conform to the binary opposition between progress and apocalypse you end up oversimplifying the current ideologies just to make the comparison work.

My objection arises when you come to the point of having (only) two factions, both of whose hopes for the future are delusions of Utopia. This cynicism is summed up in the following statement: "The future isn't bringing us a better world. It's bringing us instead a world of hard limits, restricted opportunities, and lowered expectations, in which many of our fondest dreams will have to be let go of for the foreseeable future, or forever."

I see your point when it comes to believers in a technological utopia; but I don't see how the above statement applies to those who are critical of the cult of progress, unless you insist upon lumping everyone in the latter category in with Christian premillenialists, the nature of whose utopia I don't know, since you've said nothing about it. But many of the critics of progress with whom I'm familiar certainly do not expect a future free of limits and lowered expectations. What about those who see such limits and low expectations as a source of simple joy, which has been eliminated from our lives by the the progress cult's failed "utopia"? Limits need not be seen as "hard" limits. For some of us, our "fondest dreams" are not of utopias, but of the very limits of which you speak. Unfortunately this post--which might have been called "Knowing Only Two Stories"--has nothing to say about contemporary views that can't be easily assigned to one or another faction of Christian ideology.

I realize that this post is three years old and may not reflect your current views on this subject. Nevertheless, these were my thoughts upon reading it.


A. M. Smith
3/24/09, 7:57 PM
 Alice Y. said...
This is really interesting. The stories I've picked up from the Quaker movement are those of the minority christianity - retaining a largely symbolic and mystical understanding of biblical stories. The narrative I've heard expounded frequently amongst Quakers describes the inbreaking of a world of peace and justice through metanoia - the day of judgment arrives to each person at some point and a person can be convicted by their encounter with the divine light. This can lead to a changed and re-oriented life - the folks I am most in tune with amongst Quakers are living this changed life in the form of a low-carbon lifestyle.
Your account in this post could be used to explain why it seems reasonably straightforward for a fair number of well-seasoned Quaker folks to embrace peak oil initiation and change their lives - the myths of progress and apocalypse in the more usual sense that you describe have been subverted in some of the stories we tell amongst ourselves. 'Apocalypse' is co-opted to describe the inner experience of facing up to reality and making the necessary changes resulting from that. I understand the re-orientation to be about entering into the changed/changing life - at the moment that set of stories is working usefully for me in finding a post-peak life.
10/11/11, 3:18 PM
 J Michael Sullivan said...
While this is one of your "older" blogs, it has shown to be remarkably prescient. I just may have to quote this on social media if you don't mind...
2/23/17, 7:45 AM