This is the subtext behind the schemes of Dennis Chamberland and all the aspiring Atlantians throughout history. The reason to build new colonies undersea or in space or other terra incognita is not because we can, not even because we must, but because this is the next logical step in advancing civilization. Contrary to what some might believe, Utopians, broadly speaking (and this goes for both Chamberland and Donnelly), like civilization. They like technology. They don’t see civilization as fundamentally flawed, either continually improving as it goes or so flawed that it will one day, mercifully, end forever. Utopians love civilization but they think it gets banged up and needs to be remade every so often. Civilization is like a favorite wig — nice until it doesn’t sit right anymore and then you’ve got to toss it out and get a fresh one. It’s no mistake either that the Atlantis story, as it is now understood, sounds so much like the story of Noah’s Ark (Atlantis = Antediluvian World), or that Donnelly and Chamberland look at the ocean as a powerful entity that is fundamental to civilization and yet also has the power to renew it by first destroying it. Chamberland never talks about the destruction of Earth. On the contrary, he wants his undersea colonists to be Americans, to live under U.S. rules. It makes perfect sense. The secret whispers of redemption and renewal in Chamberland’s efforts are right in line with all the American idealists that have come before him. “We are not running away from anything,” he writes, “but instead are running toward the new dominion of man.” It could have been written by Donnelly himself, but also by the Shakers, or Thoreau, or any number of the founding fathers. Perhaps if we understand “Why?” and “How?” there’s only question left: “When?”
more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.