Friday, November 19, 2010

Something to think about

For all we know, the wholly harmonious individual might be without the impulse to push on, and without the compulsion to strive for perfection in any department of life. There is always a chance that the perfect society might be a stagnant society.

Eric Hoffer
from The Passionate State of Mind

Given that this would be possible: Is this bad--to be without the impulse to push on and not strive for perfection? Why?

In addition, perfection is generally conceded to be impossible to attain, so those who strive for perfection are always dissatisfied.

Again, if possible: would a perfect society be a stagnant society? Is this a bad situation? Why?

Hoffer seems to be going against the current here, for there are thousands, if not millions, of people out there with their preconceived ideas about how to achieve the perfect society. Are all these people wrong, not so much as in what their ideas are, but simply in so far as they are attempting to create the perfect society?

Would you want to live in the perfect society--whatever that may be?

Or, do you think we already live in a perfect society?


  1. Fred,

    I was actually thinking about this very topic this morning. I was thinking about people groups in history that were perhaps thought of as living harmoniously with the land ( i.e. native people of the Americas, African natives, aboriginal people, etc.). Some were invaded and "conquered" by people who came from places where the living was less harmonious, harsher, etc. . Did the "harmonious living" ill prepare them to deal with what happened to them? I hope you can get what I'm trying to say here - I'm not too eloquent.

  2. Perfection is one of those words that either does too much or too little work, doesn't it? I myself prefer to live in a perfect society, understood to mean one that (1) promotes economic and social equality, (2) gets a great ROI in education, health care, and the public infrastructure, (3) eleveates literacy and the quality of public discourse, and (4) minimizes the need for a consumer-materialist culture. Finland and Sweden meet these criteria for the most part, and I don't believe they've destroyed initiative or the impulse to continuously improve, etc.


  3. Cheryl,

    It's an interesting point. Would a harmonious society be less equipped to deal with other societies? For one thing, those less harmonious seem more ready to go out and explore whereas those harmonious societies seem to be satisfied with where they are.

    Perhaps lacking the stimulation and experience of dealing with other cultures makes them weaker in some respects than those societies or cultures that have members who are dissatisfied with the status quo, and therefore go out and learn from other cultures. They certainly seen to be more aggressive than those who live in a harmonious society.

  4. Kevin,

    Yes, "perfect" is a very ambiguous term. The first point that has to be made in a discussion is the definition of "perfect."

    I like your four points for they establish a concrete basis for a discussion. Now, everybody in the discussion knows what you mean by it. Those who have a different definition can start another discussion based on their definitions.

    And, others can start a discussion on the differences between the two definitions.

  5. Kevin,

    The first three seem straightforward, but I find the fourth to be the most interesting.

    "(4) minimizes the need for a consumer-materialist culture. Finland and Sweden meet these criteria for the most part, and I don't believe they've destroyed initiative or the impulse to continuously improve, etc."

    Just what have Finland and Sweden done to met the fourth criteria? What is there in place of the "consumer-materialist culture"?

  6. Finland and Sweden's per capita savings is a lot higher than the US, for instance. I suspect their advertising spend is considerably less, too. And it would be interesting to see how many useless consumer gadgets and silly brand name clothing and accessories they buy relative to the US and Australia and even Japan, which despite its high per capita savings is also fiercely materialistic, as I recall. Cheers, K

  7. Kevin,

    I wonder what they do instead of focusing on being good consumers. Is there any hint of how their leisure time activities differ from ours?

  8. I don't know; I'm not familiar enough with their cultures, their day-to-day activities. However, I'm eager to be a good non-consumer and would like to learn from others. Cheers, Kevin

  9. Finland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, as well as having a high rate of alcoholism. (Google it.) Not good indicators of a wholly harmonious society, IMHO.

  10. Kevin,

    It would be interesting to find out what their culture considers important, or more important than consumerism.

  11. Cheryl,

    I've heard the same about many of the countries in the northern tier--Sweden, Russia, Norway. . .

    Perhaps it has something to do with the reduced amount of sunlight--SAD--seasonal affective disorder.

    I read that Seattle has the highest suicide rate among urban areas, possibly due to its cloudy weather--lots of rain.

    Or--perhaps Finland does have an harmonious society and these are the ones who can't fit in.

    Interesting to speculate about.