Throughout the ages, man has come to idealize a word that is most commonly related to ?heavenly? or ?perfect? without actually picking up the book and realizing for themselves that there is no such thing. A Utopian society could never exist because man is made to want, to desire success. Man is competitive by nature and would never be happy in a society where everyone is equal and there is no chance of advancement. Sir Thomas More dreamt of a land that was much like England but could never surpass time. He opened the eyes of a nation and made its people desire something new. Views were significantly changed and the world would never be the same. Sir Thomas More inspired dramatic changes in religion, community life and even paved the way for communism. And he did all of this through one simple book about one simple society.
In a perfect utopian society, there is no official religion. The people are allowed freedom of belief. ?Some worship for god the sun, some the moon, some some other of the planets? (117). The only thing that they all believe in is that there is one supreme ruler that creates miracles and brings them such joy. This is all quite contrary to the beliefs held in 1516 England. Their opinions resemble those of Christianity: their priestly caste, their high standard of morality, their prayers, and their hymns. However, in England the Roman Catholic Church allowed no freedom of beliefs. In fact, the church was firm in its insistence upon the principle of one church and one authoritative doctrine. More even went so far as to poke fun at the idea of the priests of Utopia being men of eminent piety. This remark, under normal circumstances, should be taken as a matter of course. However, in Europe at the time there were many outcries against the laxity and corruption among the clergy. Therefore, many saw this as an indirect thrust at the Christian priesthood. The fact that Utopian priests could marry represents a significant difference from the Catholic vow of celibacy. This was shocking to the citizens and especially clergy of England and Europe. The idea of a married priest was not something that they were quite ready for but were willing to think about. Another surprising contrast to Christian rule was that in Utopia, women were appointed to the priesthood occasionally. Although there were many contrasts, there was one overwhelmingly similar point among the two religions. In Utopia Atheists were scorned by the public and were not allowed to hold any sort of public office. This was similar to England at the time because of the overwhelming presence of one strict religion. Many found that More was recommending modifications to religion while others thought his writings of religion were fantasy just like the rest of the book. One thing is for certain, it made people think.
Community life in Utopia is something very important to More. The citizens live in what are now called communes, which he refers to as ?families?. These families consist of forty men and women that live and work together. However, in Utopia, each of these communes has two slaves and a magistrate who presides over thirty of these homes. The life of a farmer in Utopia was not much different from that of an English farmer in the 1500?s with the exception of living with so many other people. Much like in England, the Utopian farmer did not own the land he farmed or the house he lived in. It was simply a question of who owned the place one farmed ? a rich lord in England or the state in Utopia. What is really different is that there existed an opportunity to change jobs or activities for the Utopians because farm work was more difficult on the body than most city occupations. As More describes it, ?These husbandmen plow and till the ground, and breed up cattle, and provide and make ready wood which they carry to city either by land or by water as they may most conveniently? (58). However, in order to make sure that no one felt constrained against one?s will most people were transferred to work in the city for two years after having completed two years of farm labor. It was arranged so that only half of the farm ?family? was moved in a given year so that no job was left unfilled. The intense amount of farming was done so they would produce more food than is required for the support of the population. They stored two years surplus in case of crop failure and then sold the rest to foreigners. This is one of More?s better ideas, but would it work? In a perfect society, of course! There would be no worrying about the crops or back up supply going bad once stored. In a Utopian society these events would never happen. But it was a new idea that could be easily interpreted into another idea in order to provide a back up source of food and supplies for the countries in Europe in the 1500?s. More makes suggestions as to how a country should be run throughout Utopia and some of these are evident today. The community life is one that involves sharing, teamwork, and a strong sense of Utopian pride.
There is a tendency to think of the word ?communism? when discussing More?s Utopian plan. This is no doubt due to the conflict that has since developed in association with the term. The fact is More?s Utopian commonwealth was a communist society. There is no denying it led the way. The meaning of ?communism? according to The American Heritage Dictionary, is: ?A social system characterized by the absence of classes and by common ownership of the means of production and subsistence.? This proves that Utopia must be classified as communist which is far from a perfect society. Unfortunately, many confuse the governments of Russia and formerly China as Communist countries. The official and proper name for these governments is socialism. There are significant differences in the main features of these countries and those of Utopia. For example, at the core of the Utopian system is kinship of property and services and the elimination of money and commerce. None of these features is characteristic of the Russian or Chinese systems. Also, the kind of democracy practiced in Utopia is not accepted in the totalitarian Soviet states. The different approaches to religion reinforces the necessity for sharply separating the two types of society. It is perfectly correct to call More?s Utopia a communist society, but it is not to be confused or even compared with the socialist forms of government that most think of as representing communism in the modern world.
In a Utopian society all men are created equal, money is non-existent, a corporate ladder does not exist, tie-dye shirts have never been heard of and slaves wear gold and jewels. In a Utopian society everyone works the same amount of time, at the same job and for no money. In a Utopian society, everyone shares everything and no one gets ahead. In a Utopian society, very few are able to explore their talents and dreams, they are required to work if visiting another city for too long and do not even know what vacations are. In a Utopian society a true American would commit suicide after realizing that they could no longer be individuals. In a Utopian society … there is no such thing. Utopia is England with no specific jobs. It is England with more structure and a little bit more freedom. Utopia is England if Sir Thomas More was ruling England. Utopia is not an idealistic place to live. It is a trap for those who can not get ahead in the real world and for those who just want to belong. Utopia changed the eyes of a nation and opened the minds of millions. It gave light into what perhaps the world should be like without forcing it upon anyone. It has crept into most governments and lands and has remained there ever since. It is Utopia and its presence is immense. Utopia may not be the perfect society but some of its traits could help to create one.