I'm Writing a Book! + Writing Sample

I’m officially writing a book!


I’ve been planning, for a while, to write a book entitled Utopia-ish. Yes, the same as my podcast, because, ultimately, the podcast is a way to explore and build a platform for the work that is going into this book, which is about how to envision and build the ideal human society. I finally feel ready to write it. I have a strong idea of the overall arc and the research that will go into it, so here goes!


With non-narrative non-fiction, it’s important to start with a book proposal. I’m using the book How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen, as a guide. This came recommended by Jane Friedman, who has a number of in-depth and authoritative articles on getting published.


Shortly into the book, the very first step is to flash-write 30 pages of the book, so I’ve committed to writing three pages a day for ten days and posting them here.


These will be messy. They are basically stream-of-consciousness style tangents on the topic of my book with no editing. But, I want to share them because: it motivates me when I’m not creating in a vacuum, I think it’s possible that some people will find it helpful to see the writing process in real time, and I’d like to start getting some early feedback from my readers! At this point, I’m primarily interested in relevant resources, clarity-seeking-questions, and counter-arguments. I’m not taking advice on how to write better, for the reasons outlined at the beginning of this paragraph.


If you decide to read these pages, thank you so much. And if you haven’t yet, consider joining my mailing list to receive updates about my writing and episodes of my podcast. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, listen to Utopia-ish on any podcasting platform as well as on Youtube.


Note: "xxx" is a placeholder for areas that require more research.


On to the first 3 pages of my Utopia-ish flash-write!


Edit: I had to go back through my earlier pages to figure out what I'd already addressed as the totally unstructured format became unwieldy. The following has now been revised once, with section headers added, to help me keep track of what I've already said. Sections will still be in a random-ish order, with topics brought up in one paragraph that don't get addressed until many paragraphs later.


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Why Utopia?


It’s time to reclaim the concept of Utopia. These days, we rarely hear the word, and if we do, it’s usually launched with disdain. Utopianism is seen as delusional fantasizing by idealists who are disconnected from reality. But in this book, I’m going to argue that “realism” has taken the form of pessimism and cynicism, disguised.


In truth, idealism is entirely realistic. Optimism about the nature of humans and our capacity to build a well-considered society that suits and serves us is both rational and practical. The pessimism and cynicism that retard and stagnate us are perpetuated by myths and fantasies we’ve told ourselves for so long, we don’t even realize that they are beliefs, not facts.


So, we need to examine these beliefs and break down our assumptions and misunderstandings about what is possible for humans. Once we break the chains of cynicism, we can actually get down to the business of building an effective, enjoyable society; a Utopia. Because a Utopia is not a perfect society. It’s absurd and unrealistic to take an abstract concept, like “perfection,” and use it to write off an entire category of thought, especially when that category’s only purpose is to make the world a better place for all people.


How is that not a worthwhile endeavor? And how did we end up in a situation where the mere idea of such an effort is met with ridicule and scorn, or at the very least, total apathy? It’s time to reclaim the concept of Utopia as a meaningful effort to construct the society that will serve us best, and then to keep iterating on that as we learn and grow.


So, how do we do that? Well… first we must answer some fundamental questions about what a “society” is, what it is for, and how societies come to be. Only then can we begin to examine to what extent we can design our society and to what purpose. We are not helpless. We have, historically, been ignorant. Ignorant of ourselves, as a species, and ignorant in the development of our society. We have acted on impulse and instinct. We have embodied this bizarre intersection between animal and god, a thinking creature with creative power still ruled by base instinct and a lack of understanding of how things work.


But we are becoming significantly more self aware. We are developing the ability to examine ourselves more closely, and now, for the first time ever, we have the ability to communicate and coordinate our efforts on a global scale. We are evolving. It’s a common fallacy to look to the past for answers about the future. The value of looking to the past is to learn from mistakes and change course into the future. Instead, we’ve developed a habit of allowing the past to dictate and limit our beliefs about what’s possible in the future. The act of this, however, is irrational. We ignore a million signs of our capacity for greatness and instead, pessimistically lean into our deepest fears about our nature and the possibilities available to us. And we’ve heard the explanation for this countless times. It is evolutionarily advantageous to put greater emphasis on negative experiences and danger xxx.


This is what Utopian thought is about. It’s about acknowledging that we are a species that has the capacity to reflect upon itself. We have the ability to choose how we want to be. We have the ability to transcend our basest instincts.


But is that really even the nature of this process? We’ve somehow developed a belief that our nature is beastly, selfish, and even cruel. But humans have a very wide-ranging set of natural qualities. It is my belief that these qualities are enhanced or exacerbated by the society within which we find ourselves. We have the capacity for great empathy and cooperation, just as we have the capacity for great cruelty and destructive competition. It is time that we take stock, reflect, and choose how we want to move forward. It is time that we break down all assumptions of how the world must be based on how it has been, or how we have seen it be, and start to recognize how the world can be. The good news is that there are just as many real life examples that point to the positive possibilities for our species as there are negative ones. Utopia is not a pipe dream, it’s an attitude adjustment.


What is a society?


So what is a society? Xxx And what is a society for? A society is an organization, a collaboration, an infrastructure that allows us to create, to survive, and to collect, generate, and distribute resources. Its functions have become increasingly more complex as we’ve evolved and our technology has advanced. So, we can start with a scientific answer about what purpose a society serves in evolution, and that answer is relevant. It is important in understanding how society began. But it’s not the whole answer. We must also ask ourselves what purpose a society serves in the world of today, where survival is not the primary concern for many people. More than anything, a society is a cooperation. It’s supposed to serve a largely unified, if varied in its inner workings, goal. Yet somehow we have developed a system that treats our society as a competition. It’s important to explore this function, the why and the how, in order to understand that it doesn’t have to be this way. Both competition and cooperation exist in nature. Both of these exist within us. We can choose how we want to engage in these principles to the benefit of our species and our planet.


How did competition become the dominant paradigm?


So, why is the core structure of our society competitive? The work of Christopher Ryan and Calinda Jetha in Sex at Dawn suggests, with significant evidence, that pre-historic and pre-agricultural humans were egalitarian. Sharing was vital to survival and any form of selfishness was deeply frowned upon. But, after the agricultural revolution, populations increased and resources became scarce. The concept of ownership had been introduced, which complicated things farther. There is significant evidence to suggest that this was also the dawn of patriarchy and the institution of marriage as a form of business contract. Many things changed. Xxx. Before agriculture, small bands of humans roamed largely empty and fertile plains. There was no war. There was nothing to fight over. There was no scarcity. When resources ran out, you simply moved to a new location. When you got bored of your friends, you joined a different band.


But after agriculture, when humans were required to sow and reap their own food, when populations skyrocketed, scarcity became a problem. The concept arose that it was necessary to earn one's living. Trading ensued and then became so complicated that currency was introduced. It was suddenly important to accumulate more than one needed. The world became zero-sum. And we’ve continued that way. The ideals that arose during that period became unquestionable doctrines about the nature of people, societies, and economies, because it is all we can remember. Sharing has been out of the question. It’s us or them. Dog eat dog. The bottom line is, there isn’t enough to go around, so you have to take care of your own and get as much as you can for yourself. We didn’t know or remember anything about the way humans were before history. We thought to ourselves, “this is the way things are.” And we’ve continued to believe that dangerous lie.


Cynicism


I have found people to be largely unimaginative. In fact, the psychology of cynicism truly boggles my mind. It combines, not only, the dismissal of the significant piles of optimistic evidence in favor of human kind’s capacity for cooperation and abundance, but also a vehement closed-mindedness that prevents so many from ever believing that anything different from what they’ve been conditioned to believe about humans could ever be possible. I was going to say, “anything different from what they’ve experienced,” but the truly remarkable thing is that almost everyone has experienced significant and uncounted instances of cooperation and good intentions from other humans.


So, why is pessimism such a rampant and stubborn pestilence? Xxx Why is it so difficult for people to imagine that something new-to-them might be possible? My dad experienced the invention of color television and now possesses an iphone. Miracles abound. But yes, I can already hear your objection. Technology is not the same as human behavior. Wars have raged for thousands of years and they havn’t gone away. You’re correct. However, with technology has come the information age, and information and global communication are exactly the tools we need in order to progress the more slow moving components of our society.


With technology, scientists and anthropologists are able to discover more about human nature. We are able to understand that humans were once egalitarian. With technology, we are able to move beyond scarcity, even with our population bursting at the seams. The only thing holding us back is our antiquated values. We currently have the technology to provide food, clothing, and housing to every human being on the planet. Xxx.


So… why don’t we? Competition. Namely: Capitalism. Who run the world? Unfortunately, not girls. Profit. Profit runs the world. But what the fuck does that even mean? What is profit and why does it run the world? Xxx. What does profit represent? What is the meaning of all this?


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Thank you for reading! I’ll probably be publishing three pages a day for ten days (non-consecutive), so if you enjoyed this, keep an eye out! Feel free to leave comments, reach out to me via email at alliejessing@gmail.com, or on instagram at @alliejessing.