There are very many definitions of the ideal society. What an ideal society means to one person may not be what it means to another person. To me, an ideal society could be one without wars and suffering. To another person, it could refer to a society that is just. Some people feel that an ideal society is one in which the rights of all persons are respected irrespective of their sexual orientation, race, religion, or political status. To them, an ideal society is one that respects gays and lesbians. Others feel that a perfect society is one that allows people to do as they please even if what they are doing is harmful to their health. These are people who feel that those who smoke marijuana should be left to do so in silence as the others watch. However, when we look at the term ideal society, it is a term that has been in use since time immemorial. It is not something that came into existence the other day. One Thomas More first used the term ideal society in 1516. Although he gave it a name utopia, his intended meaning was that of an ideal society. According to More, Utopia means an ideally perfect place in its social, political and moral aspects (American Heritage Dictionary 897). It, therefore, means that any place whose politics serve the interests of the citizens, whose society is morally upright and upholds social values, is an ideal society. When we look further at the meaning of Utopia, we get that it means no place. In short, what we are trying to say that an ideal society is non-existent in the contemporary world. Therefore, there is no ideals society in the whole world.
When we look at Barnet’s work, he argues that when we are defining a term, we must also use the opposite of that word so that it can be better understood (Barnet 67). According to Barnet, therefore, we can say that a word that is in stark contrast to the ideal utopia is dystopia. Dystopia is an evil place that houses all bad things that can be found on this earth. The Collins English Dictionary (354) defines dystopia as a place that is as bad as it can be. We can, therefore, say that dystopia is the exact opposite of utopia. When we look at the etymology of utopia, we can see that it came into existence in 1516 when it was used by Sir Thomas More in his book by the same title. He used this term to refer to an island that was fictional in nature and which existed in the Atlantic Ocean. He had wanted to use this word to describe an ideal society that is devoid of flaws and where everything works in harmony with its environment. Presently, the word is used when we are talking about a non-existent society, but one that we would have wished to have. According to Barnes (90), it is good to put a word in its contemporary use so that readers can understand its meaning. An example of utopia is a society that is free from wars, hatred, and political instability, is morally upright and has a caring population among other positive virtues. Barnes (99) also tells us that it good to use the word in its cultural context for people to relate to it. Towards this end, we can say that Utopia describes a perfect family set-up where the family members co-exist peacefully and without any squabbles. It is a family that has love and understanding for all its members.
Different authors have spoken differently or given a different opinion about an ideal society. More gives us the thoughts of the people who existed in the sixteenth century and we see that they are related to the present day thought of an ideal society. In his book Utopia, More talks of the role that the government should play in ensuring that the society is ideal. He appears to be criticising the idea that sometimes it is not good to punish wrongdoers without addressing the reason for their wrongdoing. He gives an example where a thief is sent to the gallows yet the reason for his thieving has not been addressed. It means that other people will still engage in thievery as they are facing the same problems as those of the thief that was punished. We can, therefore, say that according to More, a perfect society is one that has addressed all the problems of its members and, therefore, no member has any thought that can make him do bad things. More’s assertion appears rhetorical as no society can address all its problems at once and for all. Problems will be rearing their ugly heads now and then, and those issues must be dealt with for the members to exist peacefully. In a nutshell, More is using very many words to tell us that such a society does not exist. In as much as LeGuin posits that an ideal society does not exist, she is of an opinion that the rot in the society is as a result of people living under governments. To her, it is the governments that make people evil. She goes ahead and states her reasons for blaming the government. She says that the unequal distribution of wealth is the single most factors that have created an evil society (LeGuin 35). She says that the ideal society is ambiguous as it means that the people of that community will not be normal people. When we look at the Jefferson vision, we see that he had a vision of a good country that is governed by the rule of law. An ideal state to him is one that does not condone corruption, has put in place mechanisms for the enjoyment of equal rights by all citizens and one that takes note of the downtrodden and helps them rise. It is this vision that was in the mind that made him be at the forefront of forming the Republican Party. As things are at the moment, many countries have not attained the Jefferson vision. The many governments of the world have a long way to go in order for them to come closer to this vision.
From the many definitions that are given of an ideal society, we see that the central point is that of perfectness according to different people. What Le Guin considers to be a perfect society is not what More considers to be a perfect society, and it is also very different from what Jefferson thinks is the ideal society. We can, therefore, say, that the ideal society can only exist in the mind of an individual, but it cannot be found in the world. Unless the way people reason and respond to situations is made to be the same, there can never be an ideal society in this world. Texas is not a perfect society. Texas is a society where everybody is himself and God for us all. Every person is just carrying out his duties and responsibilities in a manner that serves his interests. Nobody is interested in the welfare of the other person. There are very many evils in Texas that make it a more of a dystopia than an utopia. The expectation of the government on the citizens is putting a lot of pressure on the citizens making them engage in petty crime for their survival. The fact that there are very many disparities in the manner that wealth is distributed in Texas makes it impossible to be called a perfect society. The way there seems to be a lot of confusion in Texas makes it a classic example of how things can get bad.
From the look of things, a perfect society does not exist. When we look at the work of More and Le Guin, we see that their books are set in places that are far away from human settlement. More’s book has its setting on an island in the Atlantic Ocean while that of Le Guin has its setting in a land that is hanging in the universe. It shows that these two authors were not able to get a realistic setting for their books in the current world.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition, By Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt Publishing Company. 2011.
Barnet, Sylvan. Currents Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and
Augments with Readings. Ninth Edition. 1987
Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged 2012 digital edition. William Collins
and Sons Limited
Le Guin, Ursula K. Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia
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