A Modern Utopia

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8.

After that I remember we fell talking of the discipline of the Rule, of the Courts that try breaches of it, and interpret doubtful cases—for, though a man may resign with due notice and be free after a certain time to rejoin again, one deliberate breach may exclude a man for ever—of the system of law that has grown up about such trials, and of the triennial council that revises and alters the Rule. From that we passed to the discussion of the general constitution of this World State. Practically all political power vests in the samurai. Not only are they the only administrators, lawyers, practising doctors, and public officials of almost all kinds, but they are the only voters. Yet, by a curious exception, the supreme legislative assembly must have one-tenth, and may have one-half of its members outside the order, because, it is alleged, there is a sort of wisdom that comes of sin and laxness, which is necessary to the perfect ruling of life. My double quoted me a verse from the Canon on this matter that my unfortunate verbal memory did not retain, but it was in the nature of a prayer to save the world from “unfermented men.” It would seem that Aristotle's idea of a rotation of rulers, an idea that crops up again in Harrington's Oceana, that first Utopia of “the sovereign people” (a Utopia that, through Danton's readings in English, played a disastrous part in the French Revolution), gets a little respect in Utopia. The tendency is to give a practically permanent tenure to good men. Every ruler and official, it is true, is put on his trial every three years before a jury drawn by lot, according to the range of his activities, either from the samurai of his municipal area or from the general catalogue of the samurai, but the business of this jury is merely to decide whether to continue him in office or order a new election. In the majority of cases the verdict is continuation. Even if it is not so the official may still appear as a candidate before the second and separate jury which fills the vacant post… .

My double mentioned a few scattered details of the electoral methods, but as at that time I believed we were to have a number of further conversations, I did not exhaust my curiosities upon this subject. Indeed, I was more than a little preoccupied and inattentive. The religion of the samurai was after my heart, and it had taken hold of me very strongly… . But presently I fell questioning him upon the complications that arise in the Modern Utopia through the differences between the races of men, and found my attention returning. But the matter of that discussion I shall put apart into a separate chapter. In the end we came back to the particulars of this great Rule of Life that any man desiring of joining the samurai must follow.

I remember how, after our third bout of talking, I walked back through the streets of Utopian London to rejoin the botanist at our hotel.

My double lived in an apartment in a great building—I should judge about where, in our London, the Tate Gallery squats, and, as the day was fine, and I had no reason for hurry, I went not by the covered mechanical way, but on foot along the broad, tree-set terraces that follow the river on either side.

It was afternoon, and the mellow Thames Valley sunlight, warm and gentle, lit a clean and gracious world. There were many people abroad, going to and fro, unhurrying, but not aimless, and I watched them so attentively that were you to ask me for the most elementary details of the buildings and terraces that lay back on either bank, or of the pinnacles and towers and parapets that laced the sky, I could not tell you them. But of the people I could tell a great deal.

No Utopians wear black, and for all the frequency of the samurai uniform along the London ways the general effect is of a gaily-coloured population. You never see anyone noticeably ragged or dirty; the police, who answer questions and keep order (and are quite distinct from the organisation for the pursuit of criminals) see to that; and shabby people are very infrequent. People who want to save money for other purposes, or who do not want much bother with their clothing, seem to wear costumes of rough woven cloth, dyed an unobtrusive brown or green, over fine woollen underclothing, and so achieve a decent comfort in its simplest form. Others outside the Rule of the samurai range the spectrum for colour, and have every variety of texture; the colours attained by the Utopian dyers seem to me to be fuller and purer than the common range of stuffs on earth; and the subtle folding of the woollen materials witness that Utopian Bradford is no whit behind her earthly sister. White is extraordinarily frequent; white woollen tunics and robes into which are woven bands of brilliant colour, abound. Often these ape the cut and purple edge that distinguishes the samurai. In Utopian London the air is as clear and less dusty than it is among high mountains; the roads are made of unbroken surfaces, and not of friable earth; all heating is done by electricity, and no coal ever enters the town; there are no horses or dogs, and so there is not a suspicion of smoke and scarcely a particle of any sort of dirt to render white impossible.

The radiated influence of the uniform of the samurai has been to keep costume simple, and this, perhaps, emphasises the general effect of vigorous health, of shapely bodies. Everyone is well grown and well nourished; everyone seems in good condition; everyone walks well, and has that clearness of eye that comes with cleanness of blood. In London I am apt to consider myself of a passable size and carriage; here I feel small and mean-looking. The faint suspicions of spinal curvatures, skew feet, unequal legs, and ill-grown bones, that haunt one in a London crowd, the plain intimations—in yellow faces, puffy faces, spotted and irregular complexions, in nervous movements and coughs and colds—of bad habits and an incompetent or disregarded medical profession, do not appear here. I notice few old people, but there seems to be a greater proportion of men and women at or near the prime of life.

I hang upon that. I have seen one or two fat people here—they are all the more noticeable because they are rare. But wrinkled age? Have I yet in Utopia set eyes on a bald head?

The Utopians have brought a sounder physiological science than ours to bear upon regimen. People know better what to do and what to avoid, how to foresee and forestall coming trouble, and how to evade and suppress the subtle poisons that blunt the edge of sensation. They have put off the years of decay. They keep their teeth, they keep their digestions, they ward off gout and rheumatism, neuralgia and influenza and all those cognate decays that bend and wrinkle men and women in the middle years of existence. They have extended the level years far into the seventies, and age, when it comes, comes swiftly and easily. The feverish hurry of our earth, the decay that begins before growth has ceased, is replaced by a ripe prolonged maturity. This modern Utopia is an adult world. The flushed romance, the predominant eroticisms, the adventurous uncertainty of a world in which youth prevails, gives place here to a grave deliberation, to a fuller and more powerful emotion, to a broader handling of life.

Yet youth is here.

Amidst the men whose faces have been made fine by thought and steadfast living, among the serene-eyed women, comes youth, gaily-coloured, buoyantly healthy, with challenging eyes, with fresh and eager face… .

For everyone in Utopia who is sane enough to benefit, study and training last until twenty; then comes the travel year, and many are still students until twenty-four or twenty-five. Most are still, in a sense, students throughout life, but it is thought that, unless responsible action is begun in some form in the early twenties, will undergoes a partial atrophy. But the full swing of adult life is hardly attained until thirty is reached. Men marry before the middle thirties, and the women rather earlier, few are mothers before five-and-twenty. The majority of those who become samurai do so between twenty-seven and thirty-five. And, between seventeen and thirty, the Utopians have their dealings with love, and the play and excitement of love is a chief interest in life. Much freedom of act is allowed them so that their wills may grow freely. For the most part they end mated, and love gives place to some special and more enduring interest, though, indeed, there is love between older men and fresh girls, and between youths and maturer women. It is in these most graceful and beautiful years of life that such freedoms of dress as the atmosphere of Utopia permits are to be seen, and the crude bright will and imagination of youth peeps out in ornament and colour.

Figures come into my sight and possess me for a moment and pass, and give place to others; there comes a dusky little Jewess, red-lipped and amber-clad, with a deep crimson flower—I know not whether real or sham—in the dull black of her hair. She passes me with an unconscious disdain; and then I am looking at a brightly-smiling, blue-eyed girl, tall, ruddy, and freckled warmly, clad like a stage Rosalind, and talking gaily to a fair young man, a novice under the Rule. A red-haired mother under the Lesser Rule goes by, green-gowned, with dark green straps crossing between her breasts, and her two shock-headed children, bare-legged and lightly shod, tug at her hands on either side. Then a grave man in a long, fur-trimmed robe, a merchant, maybe, debates some serious matter with a white-tunicked clerk. And the clerk's face―? I turn to mark the straight, blue-black hair. The man must be Chinese… .

Then come two short-bearded men in careless indigo blue raiment, both of them convulsed with laughter—men outside the Rule, who practise, perhaps, some art—and then one of the samurai, in cheerful altercation with a blue-robed girl of eight. “But you could have come back yesterday, Dadda,” she persists. He is deeply sunburnt, and suddenly there passes before my mind the picture of a snowy mountain waste at night-fall and a solitary small figure under the stars… .

When I come back to the present thing again, my eye is caught at once by a young negro, carrying books in his hand, a prosperous-looking, self-respecting young negro, in a trimly-cut coat of purple-blue and silver.

I am reminded of what my double said to me of race.

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