Butterflies and Utopia (again)

May 7, 2010, easterly view across southern slopes of Twin Peaks.

I rode my bike up to Twin Peaks on Friday, May 7, a common ride for me. But this time I went with some real anticipation and hope that I’d see a Mission Blue butterfly on the slopes. I spent an hour walking around the southeasterly slopes (on the trails mostly), occasionally sitting in a less windy spot to see if a Mission Blue would come by. I didn’t see one. But I did have a visitor who kept me company for a while:

Kept me company while I waited for a Mission Blue!

The cacophony of song birds amidst the rushing wind and swaying wildflowers was great! But no Mission Blue for me… I was inspired to see if I could find one by an email last week from my pals at Nature in the City. It trumpeted the successful effort to restore the diminutive blue butterfly to the top of San Francisco’s iconic hills. Amber Hasselbring got a great photo of one on Twin Peaks:

Mission Blue on Twin Peaks in May 2010. Photo by Amber Hasselbring.

An article on yesterday’s SF Gate told the story well:

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May Day, Red and Green and Immigrant Rights!

Saturday, May 1, 2010, marching on Mission Street.

May Day brought another march for Immigrant Rights, starting at 24th and Mission and going all the way down Mission to 9th before turning towards the Civic Center. I took a bunch of photos which say more than I can say about it. After that I have an excerpt from Peter Linebaugh’s “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day,” which I performed with LisaRuth both at CounterPULSE on Friday night, and at the Dolores Park anarchist picnic on May Day.

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Imagining Utopia

Members of the Kaweah Cooperative Commonwealth stand in front of the Karl Marx tree in what is now Sequoyah National Park (photo c. 1889).

I’ve been attracted to utopian thinking for as long as I can remember. The concept of utopia implies for some “perfectability” but I never really took it that way. Seen in that light, it’s easy to see why some now hold utopia with suspicion, seeing it as harboring totalitarian nightmares of total control, an entirely prescribed and regulated life. For me, utopia has always been a kind of beacon, a challenge to think big, an opportunity to cast aside the patently stupid institutions and assumptions that plague our everyday lives and to imagine a life that proceeds under different structures. This doesn’t mean that the humans living in such an imaginary alternative society are suddenly perfect, or always good, or even that they all are committed to the same vision. Just that we could do a helluva lot better than this madhouse when it comes to imagining, and then implementing, a social system that facilitates human and ecological well-being.

There are hundreds of utopian visions in literature and history. Utopias as imaginary places are usually commentaries on the real world from which they emerged. Some go back to Plato’s Republic, but a more common starting point is Thomas More’s Utopia, written in 1516. Plenty of analyses have been written about utopia as a concept and as an historic phenomenon. One of the better treatments is Marie Louise Berneri’s Journey Through Utopia, in which she identifies the authoritarian Utopian State as a concept running through much of the literature. A desire to orchestrate good behavior through various hierarchical arrangements, analogous to a mechanical system with predictable results ensured by regulated consistent behavior, is a dark shadow over many utopias.
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