Against possessionsless utopias
How can you distinguish utopias from dystopias?
I follow the apparent decline of ownership as a fashionable concept, because it is a trend heavily dependant on, and somehow caused by, digital technologies. Be it for lack of money, or for the freedom that comes by being unburdened by earthly possessions, living without ownership is a concrete thing for more people every year. Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things and this is the Age of Access, when “new technologies are even eliminating concepts of “property” and “ownership” from our lives”.
OK. And good, to the extent that access instead of ownership does reduce both the anxiety that plagues too many people, and their material consumption of limited resources. The problem is to know where to stop, and here is an article, from 2016 that really helps to find where to draw the line.
The article, written by a member of the Danish Parliament isnot, in her own words, “a utopia or dream of the future. It is [instead] a scenario showing where we could be heading - for better and for worse”.
“Welcome to the year 2030. Welcome to my city - or should I say, “our city”. I don’t own anything. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t own any appliances or any clothes.”
“It might seem odd to you, but it makes perfect sense for us in this city. Everything you considered a product, has now become a service. We have access to transportation, accommodation, food and all the things we need in our daily lives. One by one all these things became free, so it ended up not making sense for us to own much.”
So far so good. Kind of.
A bit down in the article, we get to the main point, the excess to really avoid, access or not:
“In our city we don’t pay any rent, because someone else is using our free space whenever we do not need it. My living room is used for business meetings when I am not there”.
Imagine living like that with a family. With kids. Imagine not “owning” (or renting, it’s the same) no room that is reserved for your family, 24x7x365. No place where you can enjoy your kids, partner, parents… whenever you want, without reservations, business meetings be damned.
There is one easy way to distinguish social utopias from dystopias, or even from plain dumb, 1000% unfeasible ideas: if it doesn’t work for families, if it doesn’t work when at least three generations are involved, can and want to stay close to each other… don’t waste any time or energy on it. It won’t work, and very likely it shouldn’t. Not even in theory.