(Yokohama) The second and third stops on our itinerary bring us to another Pacific archipelago, and the ports of Yokohama and Kobe, Japan. With its blend of modern industry amidst preserved ancient culture, Japan presents a variety of options for experiential learning. Students often enjoy getting a glimpse into traditional Geisha culture, taking a train to Tokyo, or exploring the many options for top-notch Japanese cuisine in Yokohama’s Minato Marai 21 neighborhood or the Harborland district in Kobe.
A body of writings commonly associated with the utopian tradition even though the works seem to be in direct contradiction are variously referred to as anti-utopian or distopian. This group includes some distinguished books, the most famous being Samuel Butler's Erewhon, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and George Orwell's 1984. If it is remembered that the primary motivation for all utopian writing is a desire to attack the ills of existing society and to point directions for the amelioration of human society, we will recognize that these anti-utopian documents are not entirely remote from the traditional utopias. Indeed, the anti-utopian works purport to offer utopian solutions to social, economic, and political problems at the outset, but sooner or later — usually sooner — the reader discovers that the author's real purpose is satirical.
The great society of the future, he believes, will have a worldwide structure, a World State. Nationalities will no longer have significance. The entire human race will become one commonwealth with uniform customs and mores and with a common language. Money will still be used for exchange, and individuals will still hold the right to ownership of personal property, though all of the earth's land and all sources of power will belong to the State — that is, to everyone. He does not subscribe to the idea that all work can be made pleasurable; consequently, he declares that every member of society shall be required to perform work up to a minimum which earns him enough to discharge his obligations. Beyond that, he may choose to work more to earn more or he is free to enjoy his leisure.
Sir Francis Bacon, New Atlantis. Although he never completed it, this utopian novel by one of the great philosophers of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras is well worth reading. It was published posthumously in 1627 and outlines a perfect society, Bensalem (its name suggesting Jerusalem) founded on peace, enlightenment, and public spirit. Available in Three Early Modern Utopias Thomas More: Utopia / Francis Bacon: New Atlantis / Henry Neville: The Isle of Pines (Oxford World’s Classics) along with More’s Utopia and another early utopian novel, Henry Neville’s The Isle of Pines.
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.
The trailer of " Voyage en Chine " (Trip to China) is undoubtedly attractive : while it displays beautiful views of the Chinese countryside it sets against them the shapeless figure of an aging, limping, more uncomely than ever Yolande Moreau. The effect is that you can't help asking yourself what the Belgian comedian is doing in such an exotic place ? And the title is only half explicit about that, for this trip does not look like a sightseeing one. Well, for more information, there is no other solution than... to go and see the film. Which I did. I then found out what Yolande Moreau was doing in the Middle Kingdom. In the film she is in fact Liliane Rousseau, a fifty-odd-year-old nurse sharing her modest suburban house with a husband she does not seem to particularly care for. One night she learns by phone the death of her twenty-five-year-old son Philippe : the young man has just been killed in a car accident in China, his adopted homeland. Due to administrative complications, the grieving mother brings herself to go to China, in order to try and sort things out of course but also and above all to mourn her only child with dignity. Only she insists on going alone, certainly not in the company of her husband Richard, whom she blames for having misunderstood their son and caused his estrangement from them. And this is precisely what she does, landing first in Shanghai where Philippe lived and then in the province of Sichuan where he had his accident. Speaking a little English (which does not help very much in the countryside) but not a word of Chinese, this journey proves no pleasure cruise. However Liliane, like a brave little soldier, holds on and finally achieves her initiatory voyage - with a little help from local friends naturally. And just while she opens up to China and its people she gets closer to her son, even if it is too late for him. A profound theme combined with the discovery of another civilization, it looks like we are on track for a masterpiece... Unfortunately this is not really the case. The film is pleasant, yes. As expected, you discover many things about China, particularly about rural China, which is rarely shown in fiction cinema, the views are beautiful and Yolande Moreau is great. So, how come you leave the theater vaguely dissatisfied? One explanation may lie in its exceedingly slow pace. Too many scenes last too long and as they are not rich enough in meaning and/or emotions, a distancing effect (unwanted by the director, I suppose) sets in. With the result that instead of translating the meditative mood of his heroine, Zoltan Mayer inoculates a slight dose of boredom in the viewers' brains. A little more dynamic editing and scenes a little richer in content would have helped give "Voyage en Chine " more impact, which it deserved actually. Another weak point is the way the scenes connected with Philippe's death and funeral. Oddly enough, while the general tone of the film is subdued (even a little too much, as I mentioned before), this part of the film is presented in a melodramatic, if not whiny, fashion. An illustration of it is the (inappropriate) way Mayer directs the pretty Chinese actress Qu Jing Jing, who embodies the late son's former fiancée : she expresses grief too conventionally. So, when she finds herself face to Yolande Moreau, it is disturbing to see the former play while the latter lives. But don't get me wrong: even if I dwelt at some length on the film's imperfections these are only reservations. On the whole, as it is, " Voyage en Chine " remains a respectable work, at any rate worth seeing. Simply, it could have been even better. On the other hand, knowing that this is photographer Zoltan Mayer's first feature, such defects are understandable. So, if you feel like a trip to grassroots China, you can try this one. Just do not expect too many thrills and spills.
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.
Francis Bacon's New Atlantis was probably written in 1624, but was not published until 1627, a year after the author's death. Like the work of his contemporaries, Campanella and Andreae, Bacon's book shows the influence of More in certain broad aspects. It purports to relate the discovery by an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean of an island where the natives have developed a society offering much to admire. The goal of the common good is sought through learning and justice. The principal attention of the account is focused on an elaborate academy of science. Bacon has incorporated in this society the basic ideas that he developed more elaborately in his longer philosophical and scholarly treatises; namely, that the advancement of human welfare can best be achieved through the systematic exploration of nature. His famous "scientific method" is founded on painstaking observation of natural phenomena and constructing, through inductive reasoning, a body of knowledge based on those observations. He urges experimentation to improve general knowledge and to develop inventions for human comfort and pleasure. The central institute in the capital of New Atlantis, called Solomon's House, is a huge academy which foreshadows the later creation of scientific laboratories and academies, such as the English Royal Society.
There is, of course, nothing new in all of this program, nothing fantastic such as Huxley's "Hatchery and Conditioning Centre." The reader, while he cringes at the horror, keeps repeating to himself, "It can't happen here." Nevertheless, Orwell compels us to recognize not only Nazi devices but also certain telltale symptoms in our own social and political practices that cannot help but undermine our complacency.
Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy, the most successful and influential American author writing in the utopian vein, presents a vision of a glorious future society. Julian West, a young, aristocratic Bostonian, falls asleep under a hypnotic trance in 1887, but through a remarkable set of circumstances, is awakened in the year 2000. His host family in this new age introduces him to their amazing society, explaining their institutions and the rationale for their system.