On the left side of the ideological spectrum, you will sometimes observe an element of Rousseauian-style longing for state-of-nature primitivism. (Not to pick on the left exclusively; the right has its own version of unattainable and unwelcome utopias.)
All this technology, this economic complexity, fancy finance and complex systems of ownership, what has it really done for us? It’s only alienated us and made us dependent, causing wars, exploitation, and every manner of human suffering, they have variously said. We should return to the blissful past to find our true selves and live in closer touch with nature.
This attitude you see revealed in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s casual dismissal of internal combustion and dalliance with the idea of ending plane travel. What could go wrong?
But surely this is all just romantic theorizing. It’s not serious, surely. If it really came down to it, these dreamers would be horrified at the results of trying to feed 8 billion people with hunter/gatherer technology.
Or maybe they just see what they want to see. There is a long record of ideological fanatics visiting poor countries ruined by dictators and declaring the places to be utopias. Paul Hollander chronicled this weirdness in his great book Political Pilgrims. The Soviet disaster from 1918 onward was blessed by Western intellectuals for decades, even through the last days of the old regime.
What about Venezuela today? Surely the hyperinflation, the jailed dissidents, the blackouts, and so on, would shock the most dedicated socialist. Yes, US sanctions have been damaging as well, but it wasn’t the sanctions alone that imposed the price controls, inflated the money supply, and drove the economy into the deepest-possible pit in which the people are suffering.
And regardless of what you think about the relatively bad consequences of domestic socialism and dictatorship vs. US sanctions, surely we can all agree that the suffering is pretty bad in this once-wealthy country.
One might think so but it’s not the case, not always.
I just read an interview with two English journalists who returned from Venezuela and found the place to be quite wonderful in every respect.
Look at this exchange.
“What about the power cuts that have plagued the country?”
“During blackouts, people told stories, played music, or went out and talked on the streets. It was a paradise, no TVs, smartphones, but real human contact. People cook together. During the day they’re playing board games, dominoes, and kids are having fun.”
What about the food catastrophe?
“So what are Venezuelans eating?
“A vegetarian diet. People apologized as they couldn’t offer us meat, instead vegetables, lentils, and black beans. So everyone has been forced to have a vegetarian diet, and maybe the main complaint was that people couldn’t eat meat like they used to do. The situation is not that serious.”
“What surprised me was how many people are growing their own vegetables. It is a bit like in Russia, where everyone has a dacha. Venezuela is tropical, so it is easy to grow produce. Mango trees are everywhere, so you can pick a mango whenever you want.”
So charming! So healthy!
So there we go. Probably there is nothing else to say and I could end this article now except that I’m reminded again of scenes from when I visited Nicaragua in the 1980s, and found the place filled with West German theological students who had come to see the new utopia being born. They would sit in coffee shops amid vast poverty and read Soviet Life magazine, longing for the new world and observing its being born right before their eyes. Never mind the troops on every corner carrying semi-automatics. They are just there to protect against Western imperialism.
People see what they want to see. The lights go out and the meat vanishes and the Marxian/Rousseauian observer sees renewed human connection and the meritorious rise of vegetarianism.
Think of this when you are astonished at the prospect of mass poverty under the Green New Deal or any of the other big plans pushed by the ideological left. Surely they don’t know what kind of impoverished and human suffering this would cause – or perhaps they will welcome it as a much-needed liberation from our dependency on things and meat.