Thomas More lived from 1477 to 1535. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. It was translated to English by Ralph Robinson in 1551. The translation by Clarence Miller was published by Yale University Press in 2001. [This review is based on the Miller translation.]
“ HECUBA: I had a knife in my skirt, Achilles. When Talthybius bent over me, I could have killed him. I wanted to. I had the knife just for that reason. Yet, at the last minute I thought, he's some mother's son just as Hector was, and aren't we women all sisters? If I killed him, I thought, wouldn't It be like killing family?Wouldn't it be making some other mother grieve? So I didn't kill him, but if I had, I might have saved Hector's child. Dead or damned, that's the choice we make. Either you me ...more ”
It is mainly (or only) the slaves who kill for the Utopians, but it did not require any killing to become a slave. In fact, "the most serious crimes" (unstated, but clearly not only murder) are punished by "servitude" (slavery). "If slaves are rebellious or unruly, then they are finally slaughtered like wild beasts that cannot be restrained by bars or chains." On the other hand, if they are "tamed by long suffering and show that they regret the sin more than the punishment, their servitude may be either mitigated or revoked, sometimes by the ruler's prerogative, sometimes by popular vote." (100)
These statements occur near the end of Book 1, which began, after some preliminaries, with a conversation about the justice of the death penalty for theft. (In an endnote on page 145, Miller tells of a report from 1587 that "in the reign of Henry VIII alone 72,000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged.") Hythloday believes that theft is a necessary consequence of personal property. Unstated but evident is that he believes also that personal property is not only a sufficient condition for theft (which makes theft a necessary consequence of it), but also a necessary condition for theft (which makes theft contingent upon it). Removing personal property, then, removes the possibility of theft, he believes: with the unexamined assumption that you cannot steal what you already own in common with everyone else. But of course you can: you take it and keep it for yourself so no one else can use it, taking what belongs to everyone, and not sharing it with anyone. Only the coercion of others, through established law or otherwise, can alter this. But then you are back to the existence of theft and social restraints to admonish and respond to it.
Gattaca is a science fiction film directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It depicts the life in the futuristic dystopian Earth society, in which quality genetic makeup controls the destiny of every person. The main protagonist Vincent was born in an old-fashioned way. He is seen as genetically inferior and is doomed to a life of servitude. He tries to change his destiny by buying identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a potential swimming star whose career ended in a car accident.
Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is a prime example of the eighteenth-century vogue of primitivism which was spurred by Rousseau's thesis of the "noble savage" and which generated such novels as St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia and Chateaubriand's Atala. Diderot's book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer. The central portion of the story presents an imaginary dialogue between a French chaplain and a native of Tahiti (Orou) in which a comparison is made between the customs and institutions of Europe and those of Tahiti. The way of life of the islanders is eloquently defended, and that of the Europeans discredited. According to the Tahitian, man's natural instincts, which are equated with the laws of nature, are interpreted as justifying complete freedom in sexual relations. Their observance of community property is defended as minimizing personal conflicts and legal entanglements and promoting a general concern for the welfare of the community as a whole.
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