Which comes first, Utopia or personal happiness? Should you learn to be happy while building Utopia, or build Utopia first and worry about happiness later?
If you think the answer is obvious, think again. "Once we get the culture fixed," goes a common refrain, "then we can worry about personal happiness."
To hold this idea, you have to project unhappy people fixing a culture until it is a good society of unhappy people, who can now begin to achieve personal happiness. That is, you must reify culture—think of it as existing apart from the people who make it up. You treat culture not as a set of values, but as a set of clothes.
When parents tell kids what and how they think, they are imparting cultural norms. If the kids accept and act according to the norms, the culture stays the same. If the kids reject these in favor of other norms, the culture changes. A culture is irrational when the people in it do not know or use methods of thinking that make them successful in living. A culture would be rational if people did use methods of success in living. Success in living is called happiness.
"The point is," say some, "that I do know the methods of successful living, but I am prevented from using them by this evil culture. When we fix it, we will quickly be happy."
The openly subjective way to put that would be: "As a condition of my happiness, I demand that the culture be fixed."
Subjectivity, viewed in relation to culture, is the idea that I do not conform to cultural reality, it conforms to me. Since man has free will, even in Utopia there will be irrationality. To be happy in Utopia, one will need methods for dealing with irrationality. Refusing to learn and use those methods now is not objectively handling reality, but subjectively demanding favors from reality.
Many objective thinkers are working happily and effectively to change the culture. That is, they are learning more and more methods of dealing with irrationality. They do not focus subjectively on the horrors of irrationality. They focus objectively on the opportunities presented by the weakness of irrationality. They do not fear evil as powerful; they disdain evil as powerless.
If happiness requires that you be satisfied with all around you, then it requires a miracle. If happiness is success in living, then it requires that you be free to act in your own interest, and that you know how to be certain what your interest is. Knowing what would make you happy in the future is not a qualification for living in a rational culture. The qualification is skill in being happy now, when things are not satisfactory, so you are able to act toward gaining your values. It is that action that will, in fact, change the culture.
Happiness is the way to Utopia, not the result of Utopia.
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