A Modern Utopia

All Rights Reserved ©

5.

“We have now a double Canon, a very fine First Canon, and a Second Canon of work by living men and work of inferior quality, and a satisfactory knowledge of both of these is the fourth intellectual qualification for the samurai.”

“It must keep a sort of uniformity in your tone of thought.”

“The Canon pervades our whole world. As a matter of fact, very much of it is read and learnt in the schools… . Next to the intellectual qualification comes the physical, the man must be in sound health, free from certain foul, avoidable, and demoralising diseases, and in good training. We reject men who are fat, or thin and flabby, or whose nerves are shaky—we refer them back to training. And finally the man or woman must be fully adult.”

“Twenty-one? But you said twenty-five!”

“The age has varied. At first it was twenty-five or over; then the minimum became twenty-five for men and twenty-one for women. Now there is a feeling that it ought to be raised. We don't want to take advantage of mere boy and girl emotions—men of my way of thinking, at any rate, don't—we want to get our samurai with experiences, with a settled mature conviction. Our hygiene and regimen are rapidly pushing back old age and death, and keeping men hale and hearty to eighty and more. There's no need to hurry the young. Let them have a chance of wine, love, and song; let them feel the bite of full-bodied desire, and know what devils they have to reckon with.”

“But there is a certain fine sort of youth that knows the desirability of the better things at nineteen.”

“They may keep the Rule at any time—without its privileges. But a man who breaks the Rule after his adult adhesion at five-and-twenty is no more in the samurai for ever. Before that age he is free to break it and repent.”

“And now, what is forbidden?”

“We forbid a good deal. Many small pleasures do no great harm, but we think it well to forbid them, none the less, so that we can weed out the self-indulgent. We think that a constant resistance to little seductions is good for a man's quality. At any rate, it shows that a man is prepared to pay something for his honour and privileges. We prescribe a regimen of food, forbid tobacco, wine, or any alcoholic drink, all narcotic drugs―”

“Meat?”

“In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughter-houses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig. We never settled the hygienic question of meat-eating at all. This other aspect decided us. I can still remember, as a boy, the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughter-house.”

“You eat fish.”

“It isn't a matter of logic. In our barbaric past horrible flayed carcases of brutes dripping blood, were hung for sale in the public streets.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“They do that still in London—in my world,” I said.

He looked again at my laxer, coarser face, and did not say whatever thought had passed across his mind.

“Originally the samurai were forbidden usury, that is to say the lending of money at fixed rates of interest. They are still under that interdiction, but since our commercial code practically prevents usury altogether, and our law will not recognise contracts for interest upon private accommodation loans to unprosperous borrowers, it is now scarcely necessary. The idea of a man growing richer by mere inaction and at the expense of an impoverishing debtor, is profoundly distasteful to Utopian ideas, and our State insists pretty effectually now upon the participation of the lender in the borrower's risks. This, however, is only one part of a series of limitations of the same character. It is felt that to buy simply in order to sell again brings out many unsocial human qualities; it makes a man seek to enhance profits and falsify values, and so the samurai are forbidden to buy to sell on their own account or for any employer save the State, unless some process of manufacture changes the nature of the commodity (a mere change in bulk or packing does not suffice), and they are forbidden salesmanship and all its arts. Consequently they cannot be hotel-keepers, or hotel proprietors, or hotel shareholders, and a doctor—all practising doctors must be samurai—cannot sell drugs except as a public servant of the municipality or the State.”

“That, of course, runs counter to all our current terrestrial ideas,” I said. “We are obsessed by the power of money. These rules will work out as a vow of moderate poverty, and if your samurai are an order of poor men―”

“They need not be. Samurai who have invented, organised, and developed new industries, have become rich men, and many men who have grown rich by brilliant and original trading have subsequently become samurai.”

“But these are exceptional cases. The bulk of your money-making business must be confined to men who are not samurai. You must have a class of rich, powerful outsiders―”

“Have we?”

“I don't see the evidences of them.”

“As a matter of fact, we have such people! There are rich traders, men who have made discoveries in the economy of distribution, or who have called attention by intelligent, truthful advertisement to the possibilities of neglected commodities, for example.”

“But aren't they a power?”

“Why should they be?”

“Wealth is power.”

I had to explain that phrase.

He protested. “Wealth,” he said, “is no sort of power at all unless you make it one. If it is so in your world it is so by inadvertency. Wealth is a State-made thing, a convention, the most artificial of powers. You can, by subtle statesmanship, contrive what it shall buy and what it shall not. In your world it would seem you have made leisure, movement, any sort of freedom, life itself, purchaseable. The more fools you! A poor working man with you is a man in discomfort and fear. No wonder your rich have power. But here a reasonable leisure, a decent life, is to be had by every man on easier terms than by selling himself to the rich. And rich as men are here, there is no private fortune in the whole world that is more than a little thing beside the wealth of the State. The samurai control the State and the wealth of the State, and by their vows they may not avail themselves of any of the coarser pleasures wealth can still buy. Where, then, is the power of your wealthy man?”

“But, then—where is the incentive―?”

“Oh! a man gets things for himself with wealth—no end of things. But little or no power over his fellows—unless they are exceptionally weak or self-indulgent persons.”

I reflected. “What else may not the samurai do?”

“Acting, singing, or reciting are forbidden them, though they may lecture authoritatively or debate. But professional mimicry is not only held to be undignified in a man or woman, but to weaken and corrupt the soul; the mind becomes foolishly dependent on applause, over-skilful in producing tawdry and momentary illusions of excellence; it is our experience that actors and actresses as a class are loud, ignoble, and insincere. If they have not such flamboyant qualities then they are tepid and ineffectual players. Nor may the samurai do personal services, except in the matter of medicine or surgery; they may not be barbers, for example, nor inn waiters, nor boot cleaners. But, nowadays, we have scarcely any barbers or boot cleaners; men do these things for themselves. Nor may a man under the Rule be any man's servant, pledged to do whatever he is told. He may neither be a servant nor keep one; he must shave and dress and serve himself, carry his own food from the helper's place to the table, redd his sleeping room, and leave it clean… .”

“That is all easy enough in a world as ordered as yours. I suppose no samurai may bet?”

“Absolutely not. He may insure his life and his old age for the better equipment of his children, or for certain other specified ends, but that is all his dealings with chance. And he is also forbidden to play games in public or to watch them being played. Certain dangerous and hardy sports and exercises are prescribed for him, but not competitive sports between man and man or side and side. That lesson was learnt long ago before the coming of the samurai. Gentlemen of honour, according to the old standards, rode horses, raced chariots, fought, and played competitive games of skill, and the dull, cowardly and base came in thousands to admire, and howl, and bet. The gentlemen of honour degenerated fast enough into a sort of athletic prostitute, with all the defects, all the vanity, trickery, and self-assertion of the common actor, and with even less intelligence. Our Founders made no peace with this organisation of public sports. They did not spend their lives to secure for all men and women on the earth freedom, health, and leisure, in order that they might waste lives in such folly.”

“We have those abuses,” I said, “but some of our earthly games have a fine side. There is a game called cricket. It is a fine, generous game.”

“Our boys play that, and men too. But it is thought rather puerile to give very much time to it; men should have graver interests. It was undignified and unpleasant for the samurai to play conspicuously ill, and impossible for them to play so constantly as to keep hand and eye in training against the man who was fool enough and cheap enough to become an expert. Cricket, tennis, fives, billiards―. You will find clubs and a class of men to play all these things in Utopia, but not the samurai. And they must play their games as games, not as displays; the price of a privacy for playing cricket, so that they could charge for admission, would be overwhelmingly high… . Negroes are often very clever at cricket. For a time, most of the samurai had their sword-play, but few do those exercises now, and until about fifty years ago they went out for military training, a fortnight in every year, marching long distances, sleeping in the open, carrying provisions, and sham fighting over unfamiliar ground dotted with disappearing targets. There was a curious inability in our world to realise that war was really over for good and all.”

“And now,” I said, “haven't we got very nearly to the end of your prohibitions? You have forbidden alcohol, drugs, smoking, betting, and usury, games, trade, servants. But isn't there a vow of Chastity?”

“That is the Rule for your earthly orders?”

“Yes—except, if I remember rightly, for Plato's Guardians.”

“There is a Rule of Chastity here—but not of Celibacy. We know quite clearly that civilisation is an artificial arrangement, and that all the physical and emotional instincts of man are too strong, and his natural instinct of restraint too weak, for him to live easily in the civilised State. Civilisation has developed far more rapidly than man has modified. Under the unnatural perfection of security, liberty and abundance our civilisation has attained, the normal untrained human being is disposed to excess in almost every direction; he tends to eat too much and too elaborately, to drink too much, to become lazy faster than his work can be reduced, to waste his interest upon displays, and to make love too much and too elaborately. He gets out of training, and concentrates upon egoistic or erotic broodings. The past history of our race is very largely a history of social collapses due to demoralisation by indulgences following security and abundance. In the time of our Founders the signs of a world-wide epoch of prosperity and relaxation were plentiful. Both sexes drifted towards sexual excesses, the men towards sentimental extravagances, imbecile devotions, and the complication and refinement of physical indulgences; the women towards those expansions and differentiations of feeling that find expression in music and costly and distinguished dress. Both sexes became unstable and promiscuous. The whole world seemed disposed to do exactly the same thing with its sexual interest as it had done with its appetite for food and drink—make the most of it.”

He paused.

“Satiety came to help you,” I said.

“Destruction may come before satiety. Our Founders organised motives from all sorts of sources, but I think the chief force to give men self-control is Pride. Pride may not be the noblest thing in the soul, but it is the best King there, for all that. They looked to it to keep a man clean and sound and sane. In this matter, as in all matters of natural desire, they held no appetite must be glutted, no appetite must have artificial whets, and also and equally that no appetite should be starved. A man must come from the table satisfied, but not replete. And, in the matter of love, a straight and clean desire for a clean and straight fellow-creature was our Founders' ideal. They enjoined marriage between equals as the samurai's duty to the race, and they framed directions of the precisest sort to prevent that uxorious inseparableness, that connubiality which will reduce a couple of people to something jointly less than either. That Canon is too long to tell you now. A man under the Rule who loves a woman who does not follow it, must either leave the samurai to marry her, or induce her to accept what is called the Woman's Rule, which, while it excepts her from the severer qualifications and disciplines, brings her regimen of life into a working harmony with his.”

“Suppose she breaks the Rule afterwards?”

“He must leave either her or the order.”

“There is matter for a novel or so in that.”

“There has been matter for hundreds.”

“Is the Woman's Rule a sumptuary law as well as a regimen? I mean—may she dress as she pleases?”

“Not a bit of it,” said my double. “Every woman who could command money used it, we found, to make underbred aggressions on other women. As men emerged to civilisation, women seemed going back to savagery—to paint and feathers. But the samurai, both men and women, and the women under the Lesser Rule also, all have a particular dress. No difference is made between women under either the Great or the Lesser Rule. You have seen the men's dress—always like this I wear. The women may wear the same, either with the hair cut short or plaited behind them, or they may have a high-waisted dress of very fine, soft woollen material, with their hair coiled up behind.”

“I have seen it,” I said. Indeed, nearly all the women had seemed to be wearing variants of that simple formula. “It seems to me a very beautiful dress. The other—I'm not used to. But I like it on girls and slender women.”

I had a thought, and added, “Don't they sometimes, well—take a good deal of care, dressing their hair?”

My double laughed in my eyes. “They do,” he said.

“And the Rule?”

“The Rule is never fussy,” said my double, still smiling.

“We don't want women to cease to be beautiful, and consciously beautiful, if you like,” he added. “The more real beauty of form and face we have, the finer our world. But costly sexualised trappings―”

“I should have thought,” I said, “a class of women who traded on their sex would have arisen, women, I mean, who found an interest and an advantage in emphasising their individual womanly beauty. There is no law to prevent it. Surely they would tend to counteract the severity of costume the Rule dictates.”

“There are such women. But for all that the Rule sets the key of everyday dress. If a woman is possessed by the passion for gorgeous raiment she usually satisfies it in her own private circle, or with rare occasional onslaughts upon the public eye. Her everyday mood and the disposition of most people is against being conspicuous abroad. And I should say there are little liberties under the Lesser Rule; a discreet use of fine needlework and embroidery, a wider choice of materials.”

“You have no changing fashions?”

“None. For all that, are not our dresses as beautiful as yours?”

“Our women's dresses are not beautiful at all,” I said, forced for a time towards the mysterious philosophy of dress. “Beauty? That isn't their concern.”

“Then what are they after?”

“My dear man! What is all my world after?”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.