07 March 2012


It's the mother of all utopia's. Thomas More's original work on a good place that does not exist (eu topos/ou topos) gave rise to a whole genre of books, or rather; two, as the dystopia can be indirectly ascribed to him as well. I tend to prefer the latter; I'm perhaps a bit of a literary pessimist. But curiosity drove me to Utopia after all. So how utopic is it really?

The general gist of the described society is quite attractive; as many Utopias after it, it can be described as "communism that works", with added peacefulness. A splendid idea! But I think it doesn't and can't exist. And altogether, in the book things get so sensible and wholesome and responsible it makes you nauseous like a Nutella commercial.

So beside sub-pacifism (the Utopians will defend their territories when they are attacked) and communism, what do they have? Freedom of religion, for one thing. Quite liberal! Just a pity his thoughts on such matters cost More his head. They even have euthanasia, by the way, but that didn't help the author...

What else do we have? Slavery! But some socially acceptable version; it's not hereditary, slaves are not taken by force from other peoples; only as a punishment one can become one. And if one redeems, freedom is obtainable. In a way, it's the 16th century version of community service.

Of course there's no equality between the sexes; wives have to answer to their husband, but not the other way around. What can I say. How much 21st Century political correctness can you expect in a Tudor mind?

Altogether I think More was one of the many unfounded optimists that time has produced. If he lived today he might be involved in the "occupy" movement, or am I taking things too far now? Either way; it's good to see some are not too numbed by reality to contemplate the best possible society. And when we put the fruit of his thoughts away we deal with real life again. Which isn't bad at all; all my life I have never personally been involved in war, I haven't felt hunger, and I've never been prosecuted for reasons such as religion or sexual preference. (N=1 statistics!) So even in this quite materialistic and not very egalitarian society, that More would most likely quite disprove of, I think we're doing rather well. I only wish that would hold for more countries...

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