Commentary by Chris Clegg
Plato is regarded as one of the great thinkers in history. His teacher, Socrates, and most notable student, Aristotle, are household names. They are the elite of thinkers and revered even today, thousands of years later.
But even Plato had his bad days!
In examining his views on utopia, Plato believed the following: “Marriage was governed by genetic considerations. The best married the best, the inferior the inferior. Only superior children were allowed to live; the others were killed at birth. Survivors were put in a rearing pen and brought up as a group.” [The People’s Almanac, Vol. 2]
Plato’s utopia was also not a free society.
Today, we regard such thinking as crimes against humanity. Still, I suppose everyone is entitled to their view of utopia, however wrong or right they may be.
For example, Thomas More believed in slavery and submission of women. Its economy was based on communism.
Tommaso Campanella’s utopia was ruled by priests. Women were shared by men and under severed discipline. A capital offense was wearing high-heeled boots. Humans were selected for breeding as carefully as animals.
James Harrington was one of the first to believe in the secret ballot. Men were educated for free but he mentions no education of women.
H.G. Wells wrote children were brought up on large estates where they lived sheltered lives and learned good habits. Except for the “sheltered” part, that sounds a lot like school, right?
We all dream of our utopias. Some of us call it Shangri-La, Pala or Ecotopia. Even heaven!
We all dream of that perfect place where everyone lives in harmony. In building utopia in our minds, we tend to stray what is good for everyone and only what is good for us. Utopia is in fact only utopia if it’s good for us, and fulfills our individual desires which, unfortunately, may include greed, lust and power. That utopia may be good for the individual and very bad for the rest of society.
Can there be a true utopia if such a place is not good for everybody? Of course not! Someone has to do the work, and
in most utopias the rulers do very little except rule. Someone had to feed the animals, tend to the crops, build the roads, and even clean the toilets! What can utopia be like if you have a clogged toilet with no one to fix it?
Many believe dreaming of utopia is in reality a fantasy. It’s an unattainable goal. It’s only an escape from the real world and it problems. It takes us away from the problems of today. It’s why so many of us are drawn to entertainment and sports. For a brief moment, we are allowed to forget our troubles and wrap ourselves in a world that really has no bearing on our lives. Does it really matter if the Edmonton Oilers win another game or Justin Beiber has a new flame?
Actually, each day most of us try to create our utopia. We go to work, buy a few toys and scratch out a meagre living. We are content if we pay the bills, raise good children, and follow the laws of the land. A few of us may even volunteer and help others.
Utopia is not a beautiful desert island, a mountain top, or scenic lake. Utopia is simply what you make it. At the end of the day, if you can go to sleep happy and contented, you are in utopia.