Challenge 9: What, exactly, would “utopia“ look like? (post your “utopia” as comment)
I started the Ph.D. political science program after I had published my first political theory novel. As I currently work on understanding possible distinctions between republicanism and liberalism (dissertation), I found it useful to reread how I envisioned utopia some years ago (May 2009). Below is that exceprt.
Mitchell cautiously followed her stride as they glided onto a dirt road. He added, “Now what if you lived in a society without money? What if college education was free? Would not that be better? You would be educated and debt does not exist. After you graduate you would use your degree to contribute to society.” Mitchell really didn’t care for Marx too much, “that is, after centuries of global capitalism.” A warm breeze rushed through their bodies. Squirrels ran across the road and chased each other into an oak tree. The leaves wafted with the gentle breeze.
“I can’t comprehend such a society.” She thought aloud, “How would I buy clothes?” She asked her heart, “How could money not exist? Money has always…” She stopped herself and knew that money had not always existed and still does not exist in certain indigenous societies. She heard herself think, “Frameworks change.” Mitchell turned down a side street, another dirt road and here the trees doubled. Nasha breathed in the summer air. She began to hear the birds singing summer songs. She began to feel herself contemplate the complexities of Mitchell’s argument. She surrendered and loudly asked, “How could a society like that function?” She quietly thought, “Wouldn’t everyone do the least possible and take the most possible?”
Mitchell noticed Nasha’s appearance. She seemed worn down, sluggish, as if she were at a party last night ‘till the wee hours and had to wake up early this morning. Mitchell turned in between two houses and walked into the forest that bordered those houses. The small path was surrounded by tall reed grass. Nasha walked behind Mitchell. “I will tell you about a secret community called Eldee.” He thought about the life he lived in his dreams at night, “This society is not what Marx envisioned—not even close. Eldee is a thriving community on an island six hundred square miles (15 by 40) in the area of the Bermuda Triangle. A mountain rim surrounds the island, which keeps the vast valley safe from hurricanes and storms. Do you have that—grandchild?”
“Sure grandpa.” The path meandered and then split. Mitchell chose to go to the right. The two could see nothing but a thick forest, thick grass and a thin path.
“Money does not exist on this island. This island is not a state of heaven, or Garden of Eden; it is not always completely peaceful and everyone does not get along either. What does exist in Eldee are tolerance, moderation and a functioning society that exceeds this society technologically, culturally and economically… and that is why we do not know of this place. That is why no human that has come close to Eldee has ever come back from Eldee. I would like to believe that those who found Eldee never wanted to leave, like how Ben Franklin described the Native American societies, knowing its great advantages over our,” Mitchell added with laughable sarcasm as he held down a branch that obstructed their way, “civilized society.” That upset Nasha. She could not tell if he was provoking her intuition or exposing her soul.
“Deer!” she screamed at a whisper. Mitchell and Nasha stood there as they watched the white-tailed deer feeding at a neighbor’s apple bucket. It stared at Nasha then jumped into some bushes and disappeared. As they continued down the path, Nasha felt happier and asked, “Grandpa, are you going to let a deer keep you from telling your story? When has an animal’s ambition,” Nasha giggled and turned her tongue around her lips, “kept you from tirelessly examining philosophy?” Mitchell laughed.
“Our capitalistic society does bring out the animal in me.” They laughed loudly. Mitchell smiled at the vocal evidence that exclaimed an open mind toward philosophy and more importantly, that she might not defend the stagnated status quo of the American system, even though she might never deviate very far from its current capitalistic state. She would at least believe that small changes might be necessary to the American political system. Mitchell continued.
“Very well young one,” he breathed deeply. “Each person I speak of represents one hundred, so if I say that there are ten teachers on Eldee, then there are really one thousand.” Nasha said she understood. “The professions on Eldee are as follows: ten teachers, one doctor, five carpenters, thirty botanist-biologists, one garbage collector—waste management specialist, one cook, one farmer, one messenger, one mediator, one journalist, one historian, seventeen writers, twenty artists, one logistics developer, one shopkeeper, one material designer, one machinist, sixty specialized inventors, one undertaker, fifty specialized scientists, one fisherman, one nurse, two astronomers, one other category to be an experiment from the inventors and a spiritual guider (they still have yet to receive missionaries!) There are a few more that I forget and a few others that you cannot comprehend.”
She thought his last comment was distasteful. Telling someone that they cannot comprehend something seemed to her like the speaker was calling her dumb. But she focused and submitted an open mind as he continued, “These professionals do not become a professional in a field until age thirty. Are you with me, Nasha?” Mitchell always believed that people should have their act together by thirty. He strongly believed that people mentally grow up during their twenties—not teens.
“Yes. It sounds very easy, grandpa.”
Mitchell made a left at another small trail. The aged landscape was colorful, beautiful and lush. “It’s not easy,” Mitchell said. Nasha thought she saw deer ahead as Mitchell stopped and whispered, “During the garbage collector internship, for example, the student picks up trash on Monday, studies logistics routes and staffing issues Tuesday, work with the landfill transformation scientists Wednesday and completes very intense mathematic and chemistry classes Thursday.” He tried to convince her, “Which are well beyond our understanding.”
“But how do they feed everyone? Don’t they need to import?”
“The scientists and farmers created five story vertical-spiral farms. They also eat a lot of seafood.”
“Well what about electricity? Coal or nuclear?” She was trying to believe him.
“They use the ocean current. There’s a constant motion the scientists harness. There is plenty of energy. Would you like to hear more about Eldee?”
“All children must attend school four days a week, from 10am until 4pm, until they are sixteen years of age. The adolescents graduate from school at sixteen and all must take a two year vacation. At age eighteen, they are all randomly selected for each profession to intern for two months with one month off between internships—to live each life.” He held down another branch, “For example, twenty-eight 18 year olds will draw twenty-eight numbers and each person will attend one of the twenty-eight professions, all different internships. I mean, one person will draw to be a carpenter, another a doctor and yet another a garbage collector. Each person will thus engage in four internships every year, with four full months vacation and will hence accomplish every internship, what is twenty eight divided by four, in seven years. Are you following all that, Nasha?”
“Yes grandpa. It all seems very practical and I like the extended vacation time. Keep talking!” Nasha brushed against some weeds and her ankles began to itch. Mitchell thought about where they were in the forest, he smiled and kept walking. Nasha felt hers senses perk.
The intellectual spoke freely, “Each person thus completes their internships by age twenty-six so that each person has spent two months working in all twenty-eight major professions. Then at age twenty-six, once all sessions are completed, they must all accept another two year vacation and often these people will get married during this vacation. This vacation’s chief purpose is to allow each person to reflect on their internships, so as to be able to wisely choose what profession they would like to live. Did I mention anything about the government?”
In Mitchell’s voice she heard what he was saying, “economic systems are separate from governmental systems.” She looked into his grey hair and admitted, “I thought before that the government and its actions might be inherently separate from the economy and its actions.” She drank as he thought, swallowed and finished, “No, you mentioned nothing of the government yet in Eldee.”
“Well briefly,” he held down a branch and examined the leaves, “it’s a confederacy, unlike our federal system,” he glanced at her to deduce whether or not Nasha understood the terms, “meaning an association of communities; unlike our local, state and national governments, which create and enforce different laws according to their constitutional rights. In Eldee, the local governments are entitled to create and maintain 95% of the laws, while inter-community conflicts are settled at the regional level by six members from each local government and finally two members from each local government all vote to settle inter-regional conflicts.” He plucked a broadleaf for examination, “They haven’t engaged war there for many, many,” he inhaled, “many generations.”
“Why don’t we know about this place?”
“The scientists on Eldee are centuries ahead—maybe millenniums.”
“A few examples, please.”
“Each community creates its own food supply in vertical towers that surround the city. Their machinery’s energy supply is electrical—by harnessing the tide and heat vents within the ocean floor. It creates no pollution. nd the island appears to be water from our satellite view.”
“And they’re self-sufficient?”
“Completely! And they don’t fight on their island surrounded by a vast sea.”
“Why not?” She felt as if she were hooked on the story but fought to understand why it might be relevant to her today. She began to sense the logical metaphor.
“Well one of the reasons we fight is because we value our land or our home or someone else’s land and home; but each internship is always in a different community and so…”
“They have a certain respect for the entire island by the time their internships are over, since during those three months they would have made friends in each and every city. And since each city creates its own laws, then they would know which location best suits their lifestyle.”
He thought about why this conversation was extremely relevant to her current life and continued, “Then, at age twenty-eight, they will all go to a town meeting and state two choices to the community and two different locations to live. You might think that too many people would want to be doctors, but this is not the case at all. In fact, the medical profession is always struggling to find recruits…”
“Since money is not their reward!” she finished his sentence.
Mitchell’s body stopped. His head perched up while his eyes set upon a white owl resting on an oak branch. She continued the logical assumptions, “The government doesn’t need to provide for education, social services, healthcare, et cetera.” She wrapped her hands around the back of her head, “What is their reward? What keeps people coming back to work every day?” Nasha instinctively questioned as she bumped into her grandfather. She had walked into him. She looked at Mitchell and then turned her eyes to what was captivating his attention.
He thought about how many times he had looked for an owl—how he so desired to be with it in presence. He reflected about the ancient owl. He contemplated the nature of the owl. “Look.” He was so excited, “The owl is looking at us.” A massive grin, hidden to Nasha, filled his face. He focused. Mitchell admired its shape, demeanor and place. He glanced down at Nasha and wrapped his left arm around her. “Beautiful owl.”
As it was, Mitchell and the owl simultaneously moved in opposite directions. The old man and young woman continued to walk down the narrow path. He answered her question, “Their greatest reward is contributing to the community,” he inhaled slowly, “and guess who does the least amount of work?” He heard the owl hoot in the distance.
“The doctors?” Nasha only heard her thoughts about this community.
Mitchell remembered the sight of the owl, “Right. Remember, this island is located in the tropical Bermuda Triangle. It is seventy-four degrees everyday and there are no outside visitors to ever bring infection. People go years without catching a cold.” Mitchell temporarily lost his train of thought, “And there is little stress.” He let the thoughts of the owl go, “because of their culture and priorities.”
He focused on Eldee, “So, at twenty-eight you pick two fields and for two years you contribute two days to one field and two days to another. After the two years, at age thirty, everyone chooses the one field they would like to live, hence, at thirty everyone in the community chooses their job. They are all apprentices for ten years and one day of four each week while they work, each apprentice must watch the professionals and write suggestions and recommendations down that would create greater efficiency and effectiveness. They also are at liberty to change jobs. Any questions so far?”
“Who takes care of the kids when the parents work?”
Mitchell sighed. “Parents work during the school day. It is only after age fifty that the true professional contributors of Eldee work early or later hours and even then they do not work more than six hours a day. Older citizens rarely work at all. Those sixty and over just supervise, rather, contribute—at will.”
Nasha could not imagine such an egalitarian and perhaps, enlightened society. “But what if someone just does nothing, or worse, they did a bad job? What do they do about the person who breaks the law? Do they have jails?” They were still deep within the forest, but Nasha began to hear peoples’ voices, instead of the birds. Was someone having a summer party in the woods?
“No Nasha. They do not have jails, police officers, lawyers and no one breaks what we would call felony laws, or is useless and lazy.”
“Why not? We have plenty of people like that here!”
“Culture, Nasha. Eldee is truly a civilized society. They interact in society because they all believe it is normal to socialize and because there is no money to cause greed, ambition, or jealousy among themselves. Remember Rousseau? Remember that there were Native American cultures without the word ‘rape’ in their dictionary because they did not know such things could exist!”
“But what if I want a mansion?”
“Then the carpenters will build you one on the parcel you decide to ‘own’ at thirty, which would be in the city Schlemmer. Yet, why would you need so much space? There are mansions in every city, but most cities’ citizens choose to build them for community meetings, plays, ceremonies, sports events, dinners, et cetera. And think,” he stopped a moment, “seriously,” he began to walk forward, “would you really want to do nothing productive every day? How many retired people do you know that literally do nothing?”
“What if I want another person’s house?”
“You can move to other cities, but generally, the exterior can be changed while the interiors become your customized taste.” He shook off his frustration with Nasha, “People think and live differently in Eldee. You can’t really compare the attitudes of an American city and Eldee.”
“Just contrast. Right?” It was difficult for Nasha to believe that some place at present was far superior to America culturally, technologically and economically. “So does the government embrace capitalism and individual profit or does the government mandate laws to impose equality—to impose a distribution of resources?” She thought it would be the latter.
“Neither.” He stopped, closed his eyes, breathed deeply and repacked his pipe. As he strutted forward he said, “If your education is an opportunity to explore the knowledge of your choosing and your internship and job placement is also an opportunity to explore the knowledge of your choosing; then couldn’t you reasonably conclude that your goal was competition of knowledge? That they created knowledge instead of wealth? What do you think the public ceremonies recognize?”
He thought about his favorite city. “In Brano,” he tried to accurately describe his deepest dreams, “the 10 story, 5,000 square foot per family living quarters circles around the center of town,” he held out his hand, “forming the shape of the letter C.” He stopped and drew it in his palm, “In between the center of town and the massive living quarters,” his eyes widened, “whose first floor creates the world’s largest mall,” he smiled, “grows a circular park 5 acres deep, flush with scenic paths and outdoor activities. After passing Pygmy-owls,” he stared into her eyes and added with great excitement, “Saffron Finch, beautiful Red Macaws, the occasional Ivory-billed Woodpecker and vibrant Passenger Pigeons, you might take a breather at a cafe-gazebo or 200 meter long pool.” She listened spellbound as he finished, “So from your 5,000 square foot flat and through the 5 acre wide park comes the center of town— the community buildings and professional buildings.” He inhaled, “In fact, people chose this town because they chose this living lifestyle, one where evening events and artists flourish. And with nine out of ten thousand units occupied, the diversity of activities is endless.”
They slowly walked closer to this place filled with people. There was not a house in sight, yet people were sitting outside under maple and oak trees. What was happening there? Nasha could not accept that such a society could exist. She bit her lip at this decision and thought about why she could not accept such a civilized society. “There’s not enough land. Someone would usurp power, property and politics! Someone would want it all! Someone would take it all! And the society would have to punish that person and then that person would turn into two people and soon the society would be repressive!”
“No Nasha,” Mitchell spoke with a soothing voice, stopped and looked at his granddaughter, “A written millennium of documents show that Eldee’s citizens’ purpose is to suggest a better way to live—to live in that community light. There’s is individual culture to become more humane.” Mitchell grasped Nasha’s shoulder, “I know it’s difficult to imagine anything different than what we are born into, but no other country is like America either.” He withdrew his hand and smiled, “They only work twenty four hours a week, without a noticeable or intrusive government and everyone chooses their profession based on their experiences during those twenty-eight internships!” Mitchell looked at the people sitting at the picnic benches forty yards out and quietly said, “The inventors are often the non-conventional thinkers and they are encouraged (and supported) to develop their ideas. What would you do living in a place like that?” He began to walk toward the people.
Nasha stayed still. She spoke to her grandpa as a grandchild, “someone would want to change the government. Someone would overthrow its government. Someone would want to become the government. Someone would want to become all power!” Nasha hoped that her grandfather would not keep walking. She still did not know what was outside of the forest since she had never walked these paths. Her heart had never attempted to grasp greed like this before.
Indeed, Mitchell stopped, turned around and slowly approached Nasha. He asked with a calm and curious voice, “Young one, what is your feeling about your American future?” He stopped three feet from her. She said nothing. Mitchell could not tell whether she did not wish to speak or could not speak. He gently asked, “What would be your feeling toward an Eldee future?” Mitchell turned around and walked to the forest’s edge. He did not feel that this conversation warranted anything more than the feelings it had already been given. He did not believe that adding “people who would want it all would be like possessed swine” would create greater understanding with his granddaughter in her current state of mind.
Nasha began to understand why she struggled with her future. She peered into the distance at the crowd sitting under large oak trees. She turned and stared into the forest. Her ears became caught between the sounds of the forest and the sounds of people at picnic tables.
She escaped the forest.
 i.e. Libertarian Dreamland.
 We understand this ocean technology today but the public still talks about clean coal and safe nuclear energy. According to telegraph.co.uk (November 29, 2008), “Such vibrations (in the ocean), which were first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of ‘Aeolian Tones’, can cause damage to structures built in water, like docks and oil rigs. But Mr. Bernitsas added: ‘We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature. If we could harness 0.1 per cent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people. In the English Channel, for example, there is a very strong current, so you produce a lot of power.’” CNN reported online (December 29, 2008): “EPA: Rivers High in Arsenic, heavy metals after sludge spill…a spill that unleashed more than a billion gallons of coal waste.” The article finished, “‘Once the ash has settled to the bottom of the rivers, all heavy metals will hang around for a long time,’ he said. ‘When coal releases into the water, the mussel population goes into deep freeze. They are the ‘canary in the coal mine.’ They are the main indicator of how healthy our water is.” On January 9, 2009, the Associated Press reported (Seattlepi.com), “Millions of tons of toxic coal ash is accumulating in power plant ponds in 32 states, a situation the government has long recognized as a risk to human health and the environment but has done nothing about.
An Associated Press analysis of the most recent Energy Department data found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to one that ruptured last month in Tennessee. On Friday, a pond at a northeastern Alabama power plant spilled a different material.”
 They generally run the pools, parks and clubs… and “put in their fun time.”
 12 foot ceilings. Custom built. Each owned apartment has a balcony on the front… rooftop gardening and rooftop pools… quiet bars and passenger pigeons.
 We all dream of a different America (especially after reflecting on the previous few chapters). Eldee still embraces ownership (utopians step aside), but the humans there are free of the Columbus Doctrine. Again, they learn through their real-world experiences to respect the entire island (another major argument for American educational reform as we enter this realized global age)!