The 12+12 Books of Christmas #7


Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), or Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia in the original Latin, is a misunderstood work. We use the term utopia to denote an ideal society where everything is absolutely perfect for everyone. But if you think about the notion for two seconds, you will begin to notice cognitive dissonances that will make your head spin. How, for example, can a society cater to all the needs of all of its citizens? What do people do in a utopia anyway? If all their needs are met and everything is fine all the time? If everything is perfect? Utopia begins to sound like a hellish limbo very quickly.

More’s Utopia is nothing like a perfect society. Or rather, it is a perfect society if you happen to be a pseudo-fascist, white, male and a masochistic religious nut. People like More have a submission fetish you can spot a mile away. It’s not that they want to rule over others with an iron fist. They have a desire to bend over and be bound in chains so that daddy can have his way with them any time he so chooses. In a word, More’s Utopia is a stinking dungeon for most people and a paradise for a few perverts.

We should really begin to use the term utopia in this general sense: a racist, sexist hellhole built for submissive fascists. Of course, we would have to get rid of the term dystopia if we refashioned the meaning of utopia, but I’m fine with this since the two terms practically mean the same thing. The distinction melts away with some thought and is reduced to nothing.

The other option would be to never detach any writer’s notion of utopia from the author’s personal preferences. There are many cases where the author matters enormously and many others where he or she is unimportant. I’m not someone who argues, in principle, that the author is or is not important. Deciding on a single opinion that applies to all pieces of writing in the entire world is simply a systematic way of making yourself stupid. Generally, I’m not big on authors. In this case they do matter, because shedding light on the author may be the only way to save utopias.

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