Sunday, June 05, 2011

Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy FTW!

It seems to me that most utopias I have read or heard about, including the very first one by St. Thomas More, require two conditions:

(1)    An incorruptible ruling class who will not selfishly exploit the system, and

(2)    A class of ruled who will meekly go along doing what they are told.

Clearly neither of these things exist in reality, except in the most fitful and localised way;  and clearly if they did exist , any cockamamie socio-political system you can make up would work just fine. The only one I have ever come across that comes up with a plausible way of achieving these two things is ‘Brave New World’, which is not conventionally described as a utopia, I guess, but looking back on after all these years would certainly be much more pleasant to live in as a regular sort of person than any of those bona fide utopias would.  I remember how much it crushed me the first time I read the scene where John the savage is arguing with the Controller and the Controller comprehensively demolishes all of his arguments in favour of a world like ours. I expect we will get there in the end, if the finances allow. This world seems to be more like the Brave New one with each passing year. 

Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east. …

(I read a biography of Aldous Huxley earlier this year- did you know he taught briefly at Eton, and that the authors of ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘The Fall of Constantinople’ were both boys in his class? It still staggers me how few degrees of separation there are between all the famous Englishmen of the early 20th century).

I wanted to write about the shoddy tricks played by Kim Stanley Robinson and Julian May to make their utopias work, and mostly to complain about how deeply dissatisfactory I found the ‘Galactic Milieu’ series. But I shall save those for another time.

4 comments:

Cornelius Gallows said...

Throw in a critique of the Roddenberry Utopia - as a reference point, it being the one with which I am most familiar - and I'm on board.

Dr Clam said...

Good plan, Cornelius! Can you recommend some good source documents on the Roddenberry Utopia? Unless otherwise directed, I am likely to rely heavily on David Gerrold's "The World of Star Trek", which reflects on said utopia as filtered through 20th century western sensibilities...

Marco said...

I liked your mention of Brave New World and look forward to seeing what these shoddy tricks are. I am probably oblivious to them.

Cornelius Gallows said...

Not sure that I can point to the specifics, but Gerrold's undoubtedly a good source for analysis.