A Modern Utopia

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The samurai 1.

Neither my Utopian double nor I love emotion sufficiently to cultivate it, and my feelings are in a state of seemly subordination when we meet again. He is now in possession of some clear, general ideas about my own world, and I can broach almost at once the thoughts that have been growing and accumulating since my arrival in this planet of my dreams. We find our interest in a humanised state-craft, makes us, in spite of our vast difference in training and habits, curiously akin.

I put it to him that I came to Utopia with but very vague ideas of the method of government, biassed, perhaps, a little in favour of certain electoral devices, but for the rest indeterminate, and that I have come to perceive more and more clearly that the large intricacy of Utopian organisation demands more powerful and efficient method of control than electoral methods can give. I have come to distinguish among the varied costumes and the innumerable types of personality Utopia presents, certain men and women of a distinctive costume and bearing, and I know now that these people constitute an order, the samurai, the “voluntary nobility,” which is essential in the scheme of the Utopian State. I know that this order is open to every physically and mentally healthy adult in the Utopian State who will observe its prescribed austere rule of living, that much of the responsible work of the State is reserved for it, and I am inclined now at the first onset of realisation to regard it as far more significant than it really is in the Utopian scheme, as being, indeed, in itself and completely the Utopian scheme. My predominant curiosity concerns the organisation of this order. As it has developed in my mind, it has reminded me more and more closely of that strange class of guardians which constitutes the essential substance of Plato's Republic, and it is with an implicit reference to Plato's profound intuitions that I and my double discuss this question.

To clarify our comparison he tells me something of the history of Utopia, and incidentally it becomes necessary to make a correction in the assumptions upon which I have based my enterprise. We are assuming a world identical in every respect with the real planet Earth, except for the profoundest differences in the mental content of life. This implies a different literature, a different philosophy, and a different history, and so soon as I come to talk to him I find that though it remains unavoidable that we should assume the correspondence of the two populations, man for man—unless we would face unthinkable complications—we must assume also that a great succession of persons of extraordinary character and mental gifts, who on earth died in childhood or at birth, or who never learnt to read, or who lived and died amidst savage or brutalising surroundings that gave their gifts no scope, did in Utopia encounter happier chances, and take up the development and application of social theory—from the time of the first Utopists in a steady onward progress down to the present hour. [Footnote: One might assume as an alternative to this that amidst the four-fifths of the Greek literature now lost to the world, there perished, neglected, some book of elementary significance, some earlier Novum Organum, that in Utopia survived to achieve the profoundest consequences.] The differences of condition, therefore, had widened with each successive year. Jesus Christ had been born into a liberal and progressive Roman Empire that spread from the Arctic Ocean to the Bight of Benin, and was to know no Decline and Fall, and Mahomet, instead of embodying the dense prejudices of Arab ignorance, opened his eyes upon an intellectual horizon already nearly as wide as the world.

And through this empire the flow of thought, the flow of intention, poured always more abundantly. There were wars, but they were conclusive wars that established new and more permanent relations, that swept aside obstructions, and abolished centres of decay; there were prejudices tempered to an ordered criticism, and hatreds that merged at last in tolerant reactions. It was several hundred years ago that the great organisation of the samurai came into its present form. And it was this organisation's widely sustained activities that had shaped and established the World State in Utopia.

This organisation of the samurai was a quite deliberate invention. It arose in the course of social and political troubles and complications, analogous to those of our own time on earth, and was, indeed, the last of a number of political and religious experiments dating back to the first dawn of philosophical state-craft in Greece. That hasty despair of specialisation for government that gave our poor world individualism, democratic liberalism, and anarchism, and that curious disregard of the fund of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice in men, which is the fundamental weakness of worldly economics, do not appear in the history of Utopian thought. All that history is pervaded with the recognition of the fact that self-seeking is no more the whole of human life than the satisfaction of hunger; that it is an essential of a man's existence no doubt, and that under stress of evil circumstances it may as entirely obsess him as would the food hunt during famine, but that life may pass beyond to an illimitable world of emotions and effort. Every sane person consists of possibilities beyond the unavoidable needs, is capable of disinterested feeling, even if it amounts only to enthusiasm for a sport or an industrial employment well done, for an art, or for a locality or class. In our world now, as in the Utopian past, this impersonal energy of a man goes out into religious emotion and work, into patriotic effort, into artistic enthusiasms, into games and amateur employments, and an enormous proportion of the whole world's fund of effort wastes itself in religious and political misunderstandings and conflicts, and in unsatisfying amusements and unproductive occupations. In a modern Utopia there will, indeed, be no perfection; in Utopia there must also be friction, conflicts and waste, but the waste will be enormously less than in our world. And the co-ordination of activities this relatively smaller waste will measure, will be the achieved end for which the order of the samurai was first devised.

Inevitably such an order must have first arisen among a clash of social forces and political systems as a revolutionary organisation. It must have set before itself the attainment of some such Utopian ideal as this modern Utopia does, in the key of mortal imperfection, realise. At first it may have directed itself to research and discussion, to the elaboration of its ideal, to the discussion of a plan of campaign, but at some stage it must have assumed a more militant organisation, and have prevailed against and assimilated the pre-existing political organisations, and to all intents and purposes have become this present synthesised World State. Traces of that militancy would, therefore, pervade it still, and a campaigning quality—no longer against specific disorders, but against universal human weaknesses, and the inanimate forces that trouble man—still remain as its essential quality.

“Something of this kind,” I should tell my double, “had arisen in our thought”—I jerk my head back to indicate an infinitely distant planet—“just before I came upon these explorations. The idea had reached me, for example, of something to be called a New Republic, which was to be in fact an organisation for revolution something after the fashion of your samurai, as I understand them—only most of the organisation and the rule of life still remained to be invented. All sorts of people were thinking of something in that way about the time of my coming. The idea, as it reached me, was pretty crude in several respects. It ignored the high possibility of a synthesis of languages in the future; it came from a literary man, who wrote only English, and, as I read him—he was a little vague in his proposals—it was to be a purely English-speaking movement. And his ideas were coloured too much by the peculiar opportunism of his time; he seemed to have more than half an eye for a prince or a millionaire of genius; he seemed looking here and there for support and the structural elements of a party. Still, the idea of a comprehensive movement of disillusioned and illuminated men behind the shams and patriotisms, the spites and personalities of the ostensible world was there.”

I added some particulars.

“Our movement had something of that spirit in the beginning,” said my Utopian double. “But while your men seem to be thinking disconnectedly, and upon a very narrow and fragmentary basis of accumulated conclusions, ours had a fairly comprehensive science of human association, and a very careful analysis of the failures of preceding beginnings to draw upon. After all, your world must be as full as ours was of the wreckage and decay of previous attempts; churches, aristocracies, orders, cults… .”

“Only at present we seem to have lost heart altogether, and now there are no new religions, no new orders, no new cults—no beginnings any more.”

“But that's only a resting phase, perhaps. You were saying―”

“Oh!—let that distressful planet alone for a time! Tell me how you manage in Utopia.”

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