The Utopia of Creating a New Person in a New Society –
The Promise and the Risk
To Utopia and Back
(Slides from a lecture in the Urfeld Circle)
Dr. Yair Palgi
• The Greek source of the name (ουτοπία) has a double meaning:
1. No place
2. Good place
In today's daily language:
An imaginary ideal model of society that has no faults, tensions, disputes and conflicts. Utopia is a perfect ideal place where eternal peace prevails.
Sir Thomas More
• In his book “Utopia” (1515) wrote:
• The goal is to create a society that advocates social welfare.
• A society of harmony and mutual respect among people; a society where poverty and war no longer existed.
• Achieved by management and control.
• The needs of society precede those of the individual.
The Social Utopia in the Bible
• And it shall come to pass in the end of days… and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2/2).
• המושג אחרית הימים
• ישעיהו ב', ב'
ויהי באחרית הימים …
למזמרות ולא ישא גוי
אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו
עוד מלחמה …
ישעיהו יא', ו' ; 6/11 Isaiah
• But with righteousness shall he judge the poor… and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins… And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them… for the earth shall be full of the knowledge
• ושפט בצדק דלים …
וברוח שפתיו ימית
רשע והיה צדק אזור
מתניו … וגר זאב עם
כבש ונמר עם גדי
ירבץ ועגל וכפיר
ומריא יחדו ונער קטן
נהג בם … לא ירעו
ולא ישחיתו בכל הר
קדשי כי מלאה
הארץ דעה …
עמוס ט',יג' ; 13/9 Amos
• Behold, the days come… that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt… and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof… And I will plant them upon their land,
• הנה ימים באים …. ונגש
חורש בקצר ודרך ענבים
במשך הזרע והטיפו
ההרים עסיס וכל
הגבעות תתמוגגנה …
ונטעו כרמים ושתו את
יינם ועשו גנות ואכלו את
פריהם ונטעתים על
The Law of Jubilee
ויקרא כה', י' ;10/25 Leviticus
• And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
• וקדשתם את שנת
החמשים שנה וקראתם
דרור בארץ לכל ישביה
יובל הוא תהיה לכם
ושבתם איש אל אחזתו
ואיש אל משפחתו …
The Ideal of the Law of Jubilee
• The year of Jubilee is an attempt of the biblical law to secure social and economic justice.
• The Law of Jubilee was left as an idea, utopia, and not as a biblical command.
Factors that Create a Communal Society
• Belief, ideology, vision.
• A leader that can turn a vision into reality.
• Crisis or external threat.
• The human need of belonging.
Factors that Can Destroy the Communal Society
• A change in the beliefs, ideology, vision.
• A loss of leadership.
• Economic, social or other existential threat.
• A human need for individuation.
Thoughts of a Veteran on Generations in the Commune
“The first generation – creates the vision.
The second generation – continues to hold its parent’s vision but is not fully committed to it.
The third generation – allows itself to revolt and creates a new vision.
…This is how it is with mankind….”
The Human Being
The vision of creating a new human being:
• In the military framework.
• In the Church (priests, monks, nuns).
• In Communism.
• In the Nazi ethos.
• In Zionism.
• In the Kibbutzim.
• “I create here a new person, and I do not want it to be corrupted…”
Advantages for the Individual in the Communal Society
• The society as a source of strength, hope.
• The individual as part of a bigger mission.
• Belonging as means to overcome alienation and loneliness.
• Social belonging can bring out the best in a person.
• The collective education invests more in the individual.
Risks for the Individual in the Communal Society
• Unrealistic demands from the individual.
• False promises result in desperation.
• Personal needs might be viewed as negative.
• Group’s intolerance to one’s weaknesses
• Justification and rationalization of judging others.
• The dangers of the Utopian state of mind.
Risks for the Individual in the Communal Society (cont.)
• Righteous haunting of deviants in order to “weaken” them.
• Strong control of the individual that can encourage dependency.
• Social control harms the abilities of the individual.
• The core idea of Utopia is the aspiration for good.
• It has to be strengthened by the cold water of reality…
• The utopic, in my view, is striving to achieve Utopia.
• May the Utopian future we have envisioned for ourselves not blind us to other possible futures…
• We have to be careful that our aspiration for a better, Utopian future, will not transform us into tyrants.
• Be open and ready to listen to the other.
• Repeatedly check ourselves and our motives.
• Look at our own weaknesses before we blame others.
• Seeking for the optimal balance between the needs of the individual and the society.
• Please describe to the group one dilemma you faced in your community life. A dilemma in which there was a conflict between your personal needs and the needs of the community. How did you and the community resolve this dilemma, and how did it affect your life in the community afterwards?
• After you heard all the dilemmas other group members have described what conclusions on community life do you have?