An Ideal Society
What’s your ideal society?
This is a difficult question for me, since I have no experience creating societies. I’ll do the best I can do to describe what I think, to me, would be an ideal society.
I will break my society down into its constituent parts.
–Race and Ethnicity
At first, it seems like eliminating ethnic differences would be ideal–because it would remove one area in which prejudice can form–however this has the effect of eliminating many aspects of culture, which may or may not be desirable. To me, this is not ideal, so I would leave things as they are. That is, ethnically diverse, but far more pluralistic than my current society (I say far more, because I include the, hopefully, outliers: those people who promote racial superiority, and would prefer segregation to integration.)
It does not seem possible to make everyone become of one race, since there will always be variation within a species; with humans, this variation extends beyond biological traits, into cultural ones. Ergo, ethnicity, as well, will persist.
What’s left, then, is to have a society in which no minority groups exist: where no one is discriminated against based on the group to which one belongs. A society that has no dominant group, with minority and majority referring only to the number of people within a group.
–Sex and Gender
Here is one area where I believe total equality is senseless (age is another). Females and males differ drastically in many aspects; such as physical characteristics and emotional development (as a result of the differing levels of hormones between them, primarily androgens and estrogens). Therefore, while equality is desirable in the majority of areas, it is not in all.
This is not to say that access to opportunity would be dependent upon sex, it would be based on the person’s qualifications, traits, strength, intelligence, skills: what ever aspect it was that the opportunity required. What I mean by total equality is a complete loss of division between the sexes. Some may want this elimination, I do not. It’s hard to define exactly why this is. I suspect that it is a result of my life experiences, socialization, and my desires (which may, at times, not come from fully rational thoughts).
For gender, what defines femininity and masculinity would be decided by the individual, with society as a whole holding no specific expectations of either. This seems best, since it would allow more people to do the things they want to do.
Though the following is related to social class, I will discuss that separately.
This is perhaps the only area where an impractical aspect seems ideal. In my society, people would live life in roughly the opposite order as it is now lived in much of the world. Instead of people retiring when they grow old, they would work. People would do all the things they desire (if possible) when young, without having to worry about money. After this period of freedom, then work would begin.
This may seem undesirable to some, with nothing to look forward to as they age, however I believe this would give the greatest number of people a chance at happiness, fulfillment even.
As I mentioned previously, this is highly impractical, and would be nearly impossible to implement. There would have to be a set age at which people began working, and it would need to allow enough time for those people to become proficient and productive in their work, before their death. Also, the rate of new humans born would need to be controlled to some degree, since should birth rate exceed the rate of death significantly, support for the nonworking would be exhausted. And that is another factor, how does society support the desires of all those people whose productional contribution would be nil, or close to it?
An alternative solution would be if all work could be accomplished by machines, save for maybe intellectual work, since machines doing our thinking for us has no place in my society. This alternative seems like it would be preferred by most people, since they would then be free to do as they please throughout their entire lives, not just the earlier years of it. And now that I consider the consequences, I think I’d choose this over the above option. However, the technology that would allow this type of machinery would require much work, both mental and physical. So while this may be optimal, it would require the work model described above, or that of current U.S. society, for it to be created.
Another thing to consider is that there would be people who might want to work, who may enjoy it. This would complicate the system were it ever to be enacted or implemented, depending on the method used.
Regarding privilege–and why, again, I think total equality is senseless–a person’s age would not be the determinant for which privileges that person is allowed. Rather, they would be determined by a person’s development. For instance, a child prodigy having more freedom than a child who is mentally handicap. The same would apply for the old as it would for the young. If an elderly person was capable of taking care of himself, then no interference in his life from those whom he did not wish it from would be allowed.
This brings me to another consideration, how those who cannot support themselves would be cared for. If everyone did what he or she liked when young, and if only the old worked, this would leave very few people to tend to those who can’t care for themselves. This, in part, because the workers would be providing for the young, the nonworking old, as well as the handicap. This could cause havoc, with perhaps some workers wanting to eliminate those who make no contribution to society and who never will (similar to how the Tiwi “cover up” their old women). Even if many people, when young, chose to help, I still doubt that it would be sufficient to support all those who are handicap.
Short of mind control, or some other method to control everyone’s view–or more accurately, how she ranks goals, desires, positions, and possessions of others–social class will persist. So my ideal version reflects a solution similar to that proposed by Herbert Gans in his essay “The Uses of Poverty. . .”: where the poor are only so with respect to their income in relation to the rich (since social class would not exist in the same sense as it does today were my ideal, regarding not working when young, to exist, I’ll base these ideals on a society like the current one in America); where they receive a much larger portion of the median than they do today in America; and where the conditions in which they live are different from the rich only concerning value, amount, or size. For example, while a rich person may have a 10,000ft^2 house, a poor person would have a house smaller, but not worse (e.g. in an area with higher crime rates, poorer access to goods and services, superior construction methods, etcetera).
However with this comes another question. What are unacceptable living conditions (since even human suffering is acceptable to some)? How can one condition be absolutely classified as better or worse than another? This is especially relevant should the poor receive more of the median income. If the level of poverty is raised, will people eventually become unsatisfied with that new, higher, level? Since each culture has its own standards of success and wealth, failure and poverty, it seems impossible to ever have a society whose people are happy with the level of poverty. What the average American might consider unsuitable for living, could be perfect for a member of the Yanomamö tribe.
But, since my task is not creating an entire world, only a society, the only obstacle becomes finding a way to have that society’s membership be satisfied with the levels of stratification which exist within it. While this may be difficult, it’s less so than the previous obstacles.
–Family and Groups
There is no single ideal family structure; each person’s is different from another’s. The structure of the family should be created from that family’s history and traditions.
I feel that there are two sub-topics in family that deserve individual attention, these follow.
-Divorce and Marriage
This is an area where my opinion diverges: should divorce be allowed, there are bound to be people–children, spouses, and others–who will, as a result, suffer. Disallow it however, and not only will people suffer, they may also deviate (and in fact this is possible with the previous choice as well). With either choice I will be indirectly allowing, if not causing, this.
-Children and Parents
Should parents rule their children? Should it be the parents’ responsibility to instill values in, or to instruct, their children? What about in cases where the parent(s) does not care about the child?
I am uncertain what would be best, so I will go along with biology: that is, with most mammals, there is a period where the mother cares for her children. The length of time of this period is different for each mammal. In my society, it would be a decision reached among those directly involved–namely the child and mother. I suppose the father’s role would depend on my decision regarding divorce and marriage. As would the family’s status as a primary group.
Groups–those among close friends, to those comprising complete strangers–would be free to form and free to disband as desired, so long as none was illegal.
–Politics, Crime, Deviance
Lacking a benevolent ruler, a democracy seems like it would be most suitable for my society. Considering that this is my ideal society, its people would share the views and values described in this essay, and so the people would create a government that’s laws perfectly align with these.
In dealing with deviance, there would only be a penalty if the deviant act was criminal. Although, if enough people deviate, this could be dysfunctional. For while in normal societies deviance can be functional, in my ideal one, any change brought about by it would be dysfunctional, since it is, already, ideal.
One concluding comment, a problem I foresee, how to keep the society as it is in my depiction of my ideal? As time passes, as generations die, the ways of society would morph, with new aspects emerging. And these too would die. With each new generation, meanings, values, ideals, these all would change. Governments may be overthrown, artificial divisions made, people warring with those who hold views opposed to their own. In short, an ideal society would only be so for a time, then it would not be.