Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Utopia

I have not found Utopia.  But I did read Utopia and have decided that I don't ever want to live there.

As part of the Back to the Classics Challenge of 2016,  I chose to read Utopia by Sir Thomas More because its also a chance to pre-read for AmblesideOnline year 8 (we are about to begin year 5!).  I helped lead the discussion of this short book on the AO forum, and enjoyed the discussion more than the book.

Not that its a bad book.  I liked my translation (Dover Thrift edition, no translator listed), it wasn't a difficult read compared to some others this year, and it includes interesting ideas.  However, it was full of satire and I found it hard to distinguish the satire from the serious parts...if there were any.


Utopia is a story within a story, told by a man the character Thomas More meets.  They hit it off, grab lunch, then the secondary story begins.  All the virtues of the Utopian way of life are extolled.  Everyone proclaims they are happy living this special way on an island of exact measurements with cities of certain specifications, wearing the same clothing as everyone else, sharing the fruit of their labors and renting out their diplomats to help the governments of other countries.  They have more money than they can ever use (communally), despise jewelry or things that draw attention to individuals, and have to switch houses and lands every so often to prevent the idea of "rights' taking hold (at least, that's my take on it).  They all are offered education, work hard and freely at the jobs assigned to them, and have slaves to do the dirty jobs.

It seems to me that the whole story must be satire, not just some.  However, since it was written, communist governments took it at face value, and encouraged all their citizens to read it!  I don't see how anyone can read this and think its a good idea to try to implement it.  The whole thing is only ideal if slaves aren't real people, and human nature doesn't exist, neither of which are possible.

So - do read this book, if only to disillusion yourself of the notion that Utopia is a nice place to be.

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