This is probably the most widely read piece of philosophy to come out of England, and understandably so, because its also a very interesting novel. In the story, More meets a man who just got back from the perfect country (Utopia), and the bulk of the novel revolves around the people and customs of this faraway island. It’s a quick read, though a bit tedious if you’re not a socialist (or communist, both of which could have been copied from parts of this work). Its got lots of sarcastic pot-shots at contemporary Tudor England, and I’m told that the original Latin has even more inside jokes on More’s generation.
There isn’t really a plot, and most people have heard of these ideas already (no locks on the doors, eating together, no private property, can’t leave the city without a license, etc) either in school or in a movie. So, instead of recapping the whole litany of ideas from More’s book, I thought I’d share my college paper on the subject. Our teacher had us create our own perfect world (with the assumption that we’d all be good and create nice worlds where there are no guns or religion or environmental abuse). Naturally, in More’s sarcastic tradition, I thought I’d put my favorite fantasies of how-to-get-rid-of-the-environmentalists in the structure. A disclaimer: I am strongly in favor of stewardship of the environment, but such stewardship should benefit humanity, not the other way around. With that, here is my version of “A Green Utopia:”
• Location: A floating island in the sky, powered by green energy, functioning entirely off the clouds and generating only steam exhaust. Utopia looks something like a series of blimps, topped by a platform covered in giant blue-tinted bubbles. The aeronautic plastic bubbles are actually individual platforms that are interconnected for wind and weather adjustments (a hurricane, for example, would contort the platforms but not destabilize them due to the flexibility of the cable connections). Protected by an invisibility shield, radar, and at last resort non nuclear non-chemical anti aircraft and anti missile bombs (preferably deployed over the enemy’s country, or, if said enemy’s country lacks a desert or tundra or grassy plain where the bombs won’t impact the local ecology as badly, over the Sahara). At first it will be one island, but as the project grows there will be families, children, and new potential citizens who see the value of this way of living and want to become part of the ideal society. Every 20 years, therefore, new islands will be built per the number of successful people who complete the citizenship process.
• Mechanisms for social control: Each floating island can hold only so many people, thus each person must be useful. Therefore, as the children grow up and desire to start families and islands of their own, and as more people wish to come live on the island, new islands must be created. Before starting their own island, the desirous group of people will be dropped in the middle of a tropical African war zone and work together to bring peace and harmony to between the locals and the ecology. This will give each new island citizens who confidence that their passion and hard work will bring success, and unscrupulous lazy persons won’t survive to pollute my Utopia. Once the people entering the society have proven their worth, there is no need for social controls beyond the usual respect people have for people who fulfill their ideals and the lack of respect that comes when others fall short.
• Crime and Punishment: the citizens of Utopia have but two remedial methods for criminals. For lesser crimes or for repentant criminals who broke the rules by accident, temporary banishment is in order. The offending party is returned to the earth’s crust and given a non-political, non-monetary, environmentally friendly goal (such as saving a particular tree from destruction while teaching the locals about living in harmony with the ecology. In this example, when they have convinced the locals to spare the tree, they are fully restored to citizenship). The most severe offenses are punished with banishment.
Anyway, it was really amusing exercise, especially since the professor gave me an A and loved the whole floating island and (especially) initiation ideas. My sister loves it to: we’ve always wanted to see the people calling for protection of white mosquitoes and gun control would react to an African war zone. Assuming they survived long enough to get back here.
OVERALL: More is a very interesting author, and while I didn’t like most of his points, its worth reading. The idea of what the perfect society looks like is intriguing, and now I ought to go write my REAL Utopia (no environmentalists allowed).