Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fanatical Utopias

"Papa was unprepared for the Age of Fanatical Utopias."

Kati Marton, Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America

Marton's gripping memoir,biography and expose traces her parent's heroic encounter with Nazism and Soviet Communism in Hungary. The almost total society of spies, informers, misinformation and oppression engulfed and tortured her journalist parents but then miraculously spit them out as the regime stumbled momentarily from revelations about Stalin and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Her family escaped to America.

At about the same time, a different sort of Utopia was being constructed in Chicago and other cities to house poor, Black families in high-rise public housing.

"The realities of high-rise life soon became apparent and smashed these utopian dreams. One resident complained in 1965:'The world looks on all of us as project rats, living on a reservation like untouchables.'"

Dominic A. Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography

I'm not arguing equivalencies. Projects are not regimes. Highrises are not encompassing ideologies. What struck me was the different scale and scope of utopian thinking in these examples and how this thinking bred a vicious oppression that fed on people in different ways.

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