Essay about Utopia
Sir Thomas More writes, in his book Utopia, about a society that is perfect in practically ever sense. The people all work an equal amount and everything they need for survival is provided. Most importantly is that everyone living in this perfect society is happy and content with their everyday lives. In this society everybody supports everyone. The community is only as strong as its weakest link. For society to progress everyone must work together. Opponents of the Utopian system, however, feel that the strong should not have to look after the weak. Progress would be maximized if all the resources are spent on the people most qualified to help society. A Utopian society, as perfect as the one …show more content…
In Utopia, people have an ample amount of free time. During “all the void time, that is between the hours of work, sleep, meat that they be suffered to bestow, every man as he liketh best himself” (More 137). People can focus on the activities which bring them pleasure because they are not trying to elevate themselves in society by working extra hard. People do not pick activities so that they can become the best at whatever hobby they choose. People choose a hobby based upon what brings them the most pleasure. Nearly everyone in the community reads and studies because they all take pleasure out of learning and improving their minds. An equal amount of time is spent in physical activities so that the body as well as the mind can experience pleasure. The Utopians strive to better themselves equally in the mind, body, and spirit.
People of today love to compete. The best athletes and smartest intellects love to show everyone that they are superior to everyone else in their field. On the average people only focus on either becoming either a better athlete or a better scholar. Very rarely does one see a well rounded person. People tend to concentrate on improving
Thomas More's Utopia Essays
Thomas More’s Utopia is a work of ambiguous dualities that forces the reader to question More’s real view on the concept of a utopian society. However, evidence throughout the novel suggests that More did intend Utopia to be the “best state of the commonwealth.” The detailed description of Utopia acts as Mores mode of expressing his humanistic views, commenting on the fundamentals of human nature and the importance of reason and natural law, while gracefully combining the two seemingly conflicting…
Utopia Z Essay
Utopia Z: Recreation Besides being able to live comfortable and easily, the people also have a lot of recreation to do, with in Utopia Z. All of the recreation, is located in the recreation dome, which is located between the Construction Plant, and the Hospital Dome. The Recreation Dome is filled with different activities, such as artificial ski-mountains, a swimming pool, and amusement park, an ice arena, a playground, a football field/track, a bungee jumping station, and a large…
Essay on Utopia
American nation. In Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and Utopia by Thomas Moore, we are presented two life styles, which some might consider very similar in various ways. Both authors focus on a peaceful living lifestyle, to better the people of the nation. Although some of their specific details are different, I believe that Jacobs would definitely approve of the features that More develops in Utopia. Utopia occupies a crescent-shaped island that curves in on itself, enclosing a…
Essay on Utopia
Thomas More’s, Utopia is one of the most politically and socially influential texts to date. His audience, which ranges from academic and social scholars to college students, all can gain a different understanding of the work and it’s meaning. In order to fully comprehend More’s message, one must have an appreciation for the time and culture in which he lived. After grasping historical concepts, one reads Utopia, not as just a volume recounting a fictitious island society, but rather as a critique…
Utopia The text Utopia was written by Sir Thomas Moore in 1516, just before the outbreak of the Reformation. More’s life flourished through the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, which were influential years in the Renaissance, a flowering of art and thought that began in Italy and flooded through Europe and England. Humanists often stressed the dignity of man and the power of reason while remaining deeply committed to Christianity. Their thought and writings helped to break the…
Essay about There is no Universal Utopia
The idea of a utopia is one which has spanned many millennia. The first example of a utopia was the Garden of Eden, and since then mankind has endeavored to reach this perfect existence, a world without problems, where everyone can abide in peace. Just the word ‘Utopia’ summons up a whole assemblage of images, images which differ from person to person. This is why the concept of a utopia has been so tossed around, because no one can truly say what a utopia is. From Plato’s republic in 380BC right…
Utopia And Leviathan
society’s ills. Both Leviathan and Utopia contain faults in logic that work to undermine the very possibility for these new social structures. In the following I will show how each of their views for a new society give insight into what their beliefs of human nature are, while showing some similarities between them. I will point to some of the faults found with both of their arguments that suggest an implicit and at times contradictory view of mankind. More’s Utopia is a response to the world in which…
Utopia In the year 1515, a book in Latin text was published which became the most significant and controversial text ever written in the field of political science. Entitled, ‘DE OPTIMO REIPUBLICATE STATU DEQUE NOVA INSULA UTOPIA, clarissimi disertissimique viri THOMAE MORI inclutae civitatis Londinensis civis et Vicecomitis’, translated into English would read, ‘ON THE BEST STATE OF A COMMONWEALTH AND ON THE NEW ISLAND OF UTOPIA, by the Most Distinguished and Eloquent Author THOMAS MORE…
The Prince and Utopia
The Prince and Utopia The Prince and Utopia are honored as masterpieces that show two differing styles of government. Both books have many similarities and differences in the governments that are in the their respective stories. Many ideas from the governments they portray have profound impacts on our modern government such as various political principles like the military, economy, and religion. The Prince and Utopia are both interesting novels that show creative styles of government. The…
Belief in a Utopia
have laid in bed late at night thinking of how if only we had some magic power to change the world how much better the world. Even thinking about what we would change about the world. Many have tried to achieve a perfect society or in other words a utopia. Possibly the most famous utopian civilization was the Oneida Society built solely for the purpose of everyone being equal. Ultimately though the Oneida people collapsed under the greed of the people who used their metal making skills to create a…
My Utopia Essay
Utopia a state where everything is perfect, or a good place. Many people wonder whether it is truly possible to achieve a utopia like society. Countless people have wondered what a utopian society would be like. A lot come up with a place that asks the question a utopia for who? My utopia doesn’t try to fit the perfect image of utopia rather I like to make it a place where it isn’t a bad place for anyone, yet still strives to be a perfect place everyday improving without infringing on anyone else. Now that’s not to say if you break the law you won’t be in trouble and you can do whatever you want because that would infringe on others in the society. This is a society based on fairness, justice, and basic liberties everyone should be afforded. It is not a society where everyone is completely legal and the same, but the choices are theirs everyone in this society is afforded the same opportunities. It’s what you do with those opportunities that decide who you are.
More’s Utopia is described by Raphael he says, “well, the island is broadest in the middle, where it measures about two hundred miles across. It’s never much narrower than that, except towards the very ends, which gradually taper away and curve right around, just as if they’d been drawn with a pair of compassez, until they form a circle five hundred miles in circumference” (More 49). Raphael goes on to say, “Through this this the sea flows in, and then spreads out into an enormous lake- though it really looks more like a vast standing pool, for, as it’s completely protected from the wind by the surrounding land, the water never gets rough. Thus practically the whole interior of the island serves as a harbour, and boats can sail across it in all directions, which is very useful” (More 49). Utopia was once an a peninsula, but was conquered by Utopos, and made into an island. Much like Utopia, my utopia would be located on island, but my island would be roughly the same size as Australia. The island would be completely man made, to ensure that everyone living there chose to live there, and no one is being forced to give up their land. Also this would eliminate the need for war. In the Communist Manifesto it states, “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite” (Marx)! I would not like my utopia founded on war and oppression of other people. An island offers great seclusion from the rest of the world, and makes it much easier to control who can come into the country. The island would be like living on vacation. The temperature would stay in the 70s to 80s year round, except in the mountains, all located in the center of the island, where you would find snow. It would have two main intersecting rivers. One running north and south, and the other running east and west dividing the country into fours different sections. The center of each of these sections would.
Utopia: The Ideal Society Essay
Utopia: The Ideal Society
A utopian society is a society which has perfect political and social order. When talking about a utopian society, the word perfect is synonymous. A perfect society seems close, but is really very far away. The ideal society consists of knowledge, reverence, and equality. Knowledge is the information that people acquire and use to have a better awareness and understanding of things. Reverence is having a respectful attitude towards something or someone that is held in high regard. Equality is when all living things are equal, and no one or thing is any better than another. These are the grounds on which the utopian society can prevail.
The foundation of the ideal society rests on the human mind. Knowledge brings better understanding. Education and knowledge are very important to this society. Religion dies because people do not feel confused, inferior, or empty. Citizens of the utopia are content with knowing that they lack the knowledge of the overall scheme of things. Of course they seek out this knowledge, but they do not claim to profess this knowledge.
School is necessary to expand one’s knowledge. From the age of five to eighteen, children attend school. In this span of time, children are prepared for their place in utopia. School is where the children gain the tools that will allow them to maintain this utopia. The sort of job one gets depends on desire and availability. If the job desired is not available, a different job is taken until the desired job becomes available. It is recognized that everyone’s part is essential to a perfect society, so no one minds taking a different job than they desire. This is one example of how rationality plays a big part in utopia. Everyone can accept realities and the word “whine” is not a part of their vocabulary. Occupations such as doctors and lawyers are not held in high regard. Only jobs that merit praise receive it, such as teachers. This also pertains to everything else in utopia. Anything that is undeserving of praise is not valued.
Everyone gets what they are entitled to and greed no longer exists. No one takes more than they should, so everything is equally divided without actually having to divide it. Respect for fellow man is a driving force of this civilization. Crime does not exist, so law enforcement and courts do not exist either. Justice is already there without having to establish it. There is no government because it is not necessary, and there is no desire for it in the utopia. Nobody is ever treated unjustly or unfairly, and the thought of it is unfeasible due to the amount of reverence that is shared.
Not only do humans live in harmony, but humans and nature do as well. There is no unnecessary tampering or destruction of nature. Animals are no longer killed for food because it is realized that it was never essential. Nor are they slaughtered for clothing. Utopian citizens are good-natured. Anything worth caring for, they hold in very high regard.
Parents have no more than three children. This is the greatest number of children that parents can have while still paying essential attention to them. Parents in utopia are ideal, so nobody grows up with any unnecessary problems. People act within reason. Any sort of racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, controlling or just plain hateful way of thinking or acting does not even exist.
In conclusion, concepts of the human mind and realities of the world must reside in harmony in order for a utopian society to succeed. Knowledge, reverence, and equality are the fundamental ingredients in a perfect social order. In the ideal society, these elements all come together to allow everyone to live in serenity. Nothing ever goes wrong, nor could anything ever. If anything went wrong in this society, it would no longer be perfect, and therefore it would no longer be a utopia. Utopia seems like it may be right in front of us, but unfortunately it is nowhere in sight.
Why the Giver Is a Great Example of a Utopia Essay
One of the main reasons why I believe the giver is a utopia is because no one cares what they wear, they never have to worry about what anyone thinks because there are no attraction relationships. For example they don’t get to choose their spouses; they are just giving to them. Another reason it doesn’t …show more content…
I believe that Jonas’s community is a utopia because even thinking about living in a place where everyone follows the rules, everyone is happy and content and no one is better than anyone else sounds like a perfect community. When living in a place like this it does require many rules and lack of knowledge about some things but aren’t very important. Like knowing about what an elephant is or what it’s like when it’s freezing cold. But who wants to know about things that make
Why Google Is a Great Place to Work Essay
Why Google is a great place to work ￼ Prepared by Ekaterina Miller Instructor: Michael Marcis History Google began in March 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Their goal was “to develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library.” And was funded through the National Science Foundation among other federal agencies. Google has created some very impressive milestones of its time and continues to grow rapidly every day. The name…
Why Are Prisons Overcrowded Essay examples
Abdulhakim Muhammad Law and Social Change Soc-235 Dr. Hocne Fetni 11-12-11 Why are prisons overcrowded. 1) Introduction to thesis, statement of purpose Most prisons do not make education a priority, so prisoners who are released without education are more likely to return to prison increasing recidivism and overcrowding. Most prisons do not make education a priority because teaching basic skills in prison is fraught with tensions, most particularly through exposure of concealed…
Why Tourism Matters Essay examples
CH.35- Why Tourism Matters By Sharon Bohn Gmelch In spite of lying on extravagant beaches, visiting famous sites like the Niagara Falls or whichever fun experiences you may have in mind. Tourism plays a huge role in the global economy. Tourism is the largest industry in the world. One in every twelve workings is associated with it. In the year 2006 there was 840 million international tourists crossing their nation’s boarders around the world. In 2020 it’s expected to double, generating…
Great Literature – What Makes it so Great? Essay example
Great Literature – What Makes it so Great? What is “great” literature? What makes it so great? Who decides it is great? And, most importantly, why should people read it? The answers to these four questions tell their own story, the story of the grandest works ever written. Great literature is what has stood the test of time. This time frame can be as long as many thousands of years, and as short as twenty. What is important is that the piece of literature has been thoroughly…
Does Utopia describe an ideal society? Essay examples
Does Utopia describe an ideal society? Thomas More was born in London in 1477. More had an extensive education and rose quickly through the Government hierarchy and attained high office. In May 1515 he was appointed to a delegation to help revise an Anglo-Flemish commercial treaty. During this time he began writing Utopia and completed it upon his return to London. Utopia was first published in Latin, at Louvain in December 1516. More added Utopia just before the outbreak of the reformation…
The Giver: Utopia and Dystopia Essay
Trang Le Antarctica – March 10, 2010 The Giver Essay Lois Lowry’s The Giver is set in a futuristic, dichotomous society, one that is both utopian and dystopian. In response to the overwhelming destruction and chaos in the world, the Elders have attempted to create and maintain a peaceful and orderly utopia, but this security comes at a price. The citizens of the community have sacrificed their individuality and freedom. Although most adult members have some knowledge of the hypocrisies involved…
Alexander the Great Essay examples
of all.” These are the words of Alexander the Great. These words spoken so truly to reflect his passion of Greek culture, Alexander the Great expressed these words throughout his entire being. This famous man, who to some, was like a god, accomplished many impossible tasks to any ordinary person while spreading his love of Greek culture around the world. On July 20, 356 BC, a legend was born to King Philip II and Queen Olympia. Alexander the Great was recognized early that he could change the world…
Why the Giver Is a Great Example of a Utopia Essay
just knowing that no one will ever say anything mean to you or do anything to upset you, sounds pretty like a utopia don’t you think? That is why I think Jonas’s community is a utopia. One of the main reasons why I believe the giver is a utopia is because no one cares what they wear, they never have to worry about what anyone thinks because there are no attraction relationships. For example they don’t get to choose their spouses; they are just giving to them. Another reason it doesn’t matter what…
Why Alexander the Great Was Great. Essay
bravery. The vicissitude he bequeathed to military tactics made it perceptible that he was not an asset of the society he lived in, but a ruler. Alexander, born as Alexandros, son of King Philip I of Macedon and his wife Olympias, could be considered great due to the fact that he was an incredible leader, forming the largest empire in all of history. The creation of his empire was a journey toward anti-racism, uniting people from the Balkan Mountains to the Indus River and encouraging them to work together…
Satire in the Great Gatsby Essay examples
Satire in the Great Gatsby Is Fitzgerald writing a love story that shows the American ideals, or is it a satire that comments on the American society in the roaring twenties? The novel The Great Gatsby is a satire type novel that comments on the American society during the roaring twenties. This is shown through the contrast of The Valley of Ashes and Gatsby’s parties, Gatsby himself, and Myrtle and George Wilson. Through these characters and places, Fitzgerald shows through satire, how the American…
Utopia: Utopia and Perfect Society Essay
The word “perfection” does not have a set-in-stone list of requirements, due to the fact that its definition is subjective and rooted in opinion. I interviewed several people and asked how they defined perfection, and then asked if they thought a perfect society was achievable. The answers I received varied from silly things like “never ending ice cream” to more compassionate things such as “world peace”, but most of the people I interviewed agreed that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve perfection in society.
The best way to define a perfect society is one where each individual’s personal idea of perfection is achieved. This, however, may not be as easy of an idea as it appears on paper. Imagine if my personal perfection involved having a huge castle with guards surrounding it and protecting me constantly. This means that the fulfillment of my perfect life requires the employment of other people. Now, imagine the guard’s idea of personal perfection- unless it involves guarding my castle 24/7 (which is highly unlikely), then his or her personal perfection has not been achieved. Conflicts like these would be prevalent no matter how close society came to being perfect. Direct conflicts of someone’s definition of perfection are not the only reasons society could never achieve a Utopian status. Every single person has a different personality, and humans are naturally inclined to ostracize people with different opinions (Through the Wormhole). Let’s say there is a man who loves eating meat, and he believes that perfection is having plenty of bacon around to eat at all times. On the other hand, we have a vegetarian man who, while not being directly affected by the meat lover, disapproves of his choices. This means the vegetarian is not really having a perfect life, because he knows that the meat lover is eating meat. Judgment of others’ choices is just another thing that can cause an otherwise perfect life to be imperfect. The world is a very diverse place. People in the Western World lead very different lives than those in the Eastern World, and the people that live in the varying regions of Earth are very different from one another. People have a tendency to be very proud of where they live, often to the point of being defensive of that place. It’s a natural trait that people have, and it can often lead to some very violent confrontations. Similar things happen when it comes to people’s religions. People can be very defensive and violent about their own personal beliefs and backgrounds, and disagreements like those will always happen. Sometimes of the biggest problems that face humanity aren’t caused by the humans themselves- sometimes it’s simply the environment they live in. Someone living in a place with little to no water or food obviously wouldn’t be living a perfect life, and there are some places where the damage done to the land is completely irreversible. Places like these are the last place on Earth someone would want to live, but oftentimes they don’t have a choice. With population increasing rapidly as time goes on, more and more people are going to be forced to live in places that are seemingly uninhabitable- and their lives will not be perfect. Even if…
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Celebrating conformity: Disney’s Mickey Mouse utopia
Verso, 340 pp., £17, 26 June, 1 85984 772 2
Celebration, USA: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins.
Holt, 342 pp., £18.99, 23 September 1999, 0 805 05560 6
For a committed sedentary like myself, one of the most striking aspects of the populating of the town of Celebration, Florida, built by the Disney Corporation in the late 1990s, was the ease with which people made the decision to sell up and move there. In some cases, they crossed the continent, gave up substantial careers, took the kids out of school, put their property on the market, and signed a financial commitment to buy a plot of land on which not a single brick had been laid, in an alligator-infested swamp owned by a corporation which specialised in producing cartoons and simulations of historical and geographical cliches. Some people just popped in after a trip to next-door Disneyland and signed up for a new existence, others packed up and moved to rented accommodation nearby in order to be on the spot when the lottery for the first plots of land was announced.
You don’t have to drive for very long in the States before you find yourself stuck behind a slow-moving house. Not one of those recreational vehicles that might as well be a house, but an honest to goodness two-bedroom, living-room, kitchen and bathroom house that will, when it arrives where it is going, be fixed on elevated bricks and be called home by its inhabitants. At least for a while. The buildings in America may be on the move, but it’s nothing compared to the lack of fixity of the people. Even houses that are built in situ, in towns and suburbs, have, no matter what the diversity of architectural style, an air of slightly rackety impermanence, as if their original builders had settled only for as long as it took for word to arrive of somewhere better. People in America move. They always have. They moved to get there in the first place, and then moved again for land, gold, work or just the thrill of going somewhere new. Ghost towns stand as relics of this tradition, signposted with pride as if their empty, decayed structures told the American story better than the towns and cities presently throbbing with living inhabitants who for the most part have come from somewhere else, or are going there. To be in one spot is a kind of limbo, whereas the ghost town’s echo of an extinct past, of people upped and gone, the sense of a place utilised and then forsaken seems to speak of the romantic vigour of those who moved on, more than the waste and abandonment of what they left behind. The itinerant town was an essential component of the making of America. As the tracks were being laid across the wilderness by the railroad companies in their frantic race to bridge the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, supply trains brought the workers and their materials, along with the entire makings of an instant town for the labourers to sleep, eat and play in. These were the original hell on wheels, entire prefabricated buildings, broken down into their clapboard parts like flats for a stage set, and, travelling in the coaches behind, the saloon keepers, prostitutes, restaurateurs, gamblers and other essential personnel ready to set up the whole town in a day at the current furthest extent of the railroad. Whereupon life, death, drinking, whoring, gambling, fighting and doubtless a little quiet poetic contemplation went on until the railroad tracks had been laid beyond a certain outer limit, when the whole kit and caboodle was taken down, put back on the train and trundled off to the next stopping place.
There is no special mention of this restless tendency in either of these books on the town of Celebration, but for a European, the rootlessness of Americans is a central curiosity, and in this case a factor the several authors fail to take into account in judging the degree to which families and individuals were really committing themselves in buying into the Disney dream life. The power of Disney in the psyche of America accounts for a good deal of their blind trust, but the readiness of people of all ages and classes to disrupt their lives and move elsewhere underlies and possibly undercuts that trust. Belief that Disney could turn its own fantasy into their reality persuaded people to take large risks.
‘People trusted Disney,’ said one resident. ‘They trusted that Disney standards would ensure that the community they were going to live in would be better than most, if not superbly better than most. I think that is the only reason most people came here.’ The original planners of Celebration themselves feared the Disneyphiles they would attract, the ones ‘who go to Disney World eight times a year and think that because Main Street is clean they can extrapolate that to a community. Those are the people who think their kids will never get a B in school and there is never going to be a weed in their lawn when they move to Celebration.’
None of this prevented the Corporation from blazoning the literature with Disney’s name and putting a 30 per cent premium on local property prices for unbuilt houses as an entrance fee to the Disney town. But the risks and the naivety of those who paid their dollars to Disney were diluted by their sheer willingness to move and then move on. If the pixie dust turned to dandruff you could always call U-Haul and wash it out of your hair. Ken and Patti and their three teenage children had already relocated from Minneapolis to San Antonio. ‘It was two days before the lottery at Celebration, so I flew down and entered it. We didn’t really know much about Celebration, but we decided to try it anyway. We figured if it didn’t work out, we could always move again.’
Walt Disney was filmed unveiling his plan for a city of the future in 1966. It was that high-tech, old-fashioned future of the postwar era with twenty thousand inhabitants living under a vast dome, flitting from skyscraper to skyscraper by high-speed monorail. You can almost see Captain Kirk’s thigh-hugging trews and belted tunic. Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) would have no slums and no unemployment. This was not an unrealistic daydream on Disney’s part because Epcot would be built on the 45 square miles of land Disney had accumulated in Florida, and no one without a job would be allowed to live there. Nor would there be any home ownership: everyone would have to rent their housing from the Disney company. Whether Disney ever planned to build Epcot is doubtful. The point of his speech was to persuade the Florida Senate to approve the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District so that the Disney land would become a sovereign government with the right to issue tax-free bonds for internal improvements, to construct new rides, sewers and buildings according to its own codes and standards without seeking approval from the Orange County planning department. With the Senate’s approval, the company’s total control over the environment was ensured. There were in the event just forty inhabitants of Reedy Creek who were entitled to vote, and they were all employees who lived in company housing. Even before the Magic Kingdom theme parks had cast their spell over generations of Americans, the Disney dream had turned the heads of politicians. Though those heads were not entirely soft. The financial spin-off for Orange County of millions of tourists heading in its direction was deemed to be worth the loss of political control. After which Walt Disney died, and no more was heard of the fabled city of Epcot, until in 1997 parts of the 1966 film were edited into a video produced by the Disney company to promote the sale of plots of land in the newly planned town they called Celebration. The magic had by now had thirty years to take hold and its powerful grip on the imagination of Americans is indicated by something a man in the audience of prospective buyers whispered to his companion: ‘He hasn’t aged at all.’
It depends on your notion of future and past whether you view the shift from Epcot to Celebration as a backward or forward movement. Luckily, the movie Back to the Future came out in 1985 and elided the two directions, pointing to an underlying anxiety at the heart of the Disney conception of the new town. It was necessary to go back in order to improve the future. Something had gone wrong with postwar living arrangements and turned a hopeful world sour. The source of the problem was town-planning and architecture. And the source of that problem was Modernism. When Cesar Pelli was invited to design the Celebration cinema he said he wanted to create a modern movie theatre. That was fine, he was told by Robert Stern, who was overseeing the town’s look, as long as Pelli understood that as far as Celebration was concerned, modern ended in the 1930s. The future as defined by the brochure from Michael Eisner’s Disney Corporation was to be found not in Walt’s skyscrapers and monorails, but in a long-lost past of white picket fences and pastel dormer windows, so lost that perhaps it was entirely mythic:
“There was once a place where neighbours greeted neighbours in the quiet of summer twilight. Where children chased fireflies. And porch swings provided easy refuge from the care of the day. The movie house showed cartoons on Saturday. The grocery store delivered. And there was one teacher who always knew you had that ‘special something’. Remember that place? Perhaps from your childhood. Or maybe just from stories . . . There is a place that takes you back to that time of innocence. A place where the biggest decision is whether to play Kick the Can or King of the Hill. A place of caramel apples and cotton candy, secret forts, and hopscotch on the streets. That place is here again, in a new town called Celebration.”
It was only at the last minute that they decided against providing a back-story for Celebration, a concocted history that had the town built by the survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon or rising from the rubble of General Sherman’s march through the South. In fact, Celebration rose from a swampy lot at the edge of the Magic Kingdom that was used to relocate alligators once they grew too big for the ponds beside the golf courses and theme parks. It was a flourishing wetland of ten thousand acres, which, if left undeveloped, was in danger of being taken over by the State of Florida for its environmental value. Disney could have created a highly profitable gated community of the kind springing up all over the States for ‘white flight’ middle-class refugees from what they see as a troubling multicultural world. But Michael Eisner and his Imagineers wanted to try for something with more glory. Walt’s (possibly duplicitous) dream of Epcot became a dream of building a neo-traditional community from scratch. Great empire-builders in the past have wanted to leave monuments, and so perhaps did Eisner, who described the architect Aldo Rossi’s office building at Celebration as ‘our own La Defense’. Andrew Ross relates that a few years before that Rossi had broken off discussions with Eisner about designing a building for Euro Disney, declaring: ‘I realise I am not Bernini. But you are not the King of France. I quit.’
Instead of a back-story they had the five cornerstones that newcomers were invited to recite at their induction meeting: education, wellness, technology, place and community. The good past as represented by a fleet of famous post-modernist architects was to be combined with the latest in fibre-optic internet technology from AT&T and Hewlett-Packard, medical equipment from Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoWellcome, and progressive education devised by Stanford University.
Celebration was to be an experiment in neo-traditionalism and privatisation on a grand scale. To escape the soulless deserts of American suburbia, dormitories designed for the benefit of the motor and tarmac industries, the new concept was for high-density – five or six dwellings per acre rather than one or two – mixed housing, where public space was valued more highly than private enclosure. The houses were to have small back gardens and porches rather than alienating front lawns, to persuade people to use the communal parks and piazzas instead of retreating behind their own four walls. To enhance a sense of community the houses were to be within walking distance of the commercial centre of the town and had to conform to guidelines that regulated everything from basic house design to the colour of the curtains seen from the street and the plants that might be grown in the yards and on balconies. Buyers signed contracts agreeing to these things, among others. No more than two people were permitted to sleep in one bedroom, the Celebration Company (TCC) had the right to dispose of any pet which caused complaint without consulting its owner, and political signs measuring no more than 18 by 24 inches were allowed to be posted in a yard for 45 days before an election.
If certain individual freedoms are given up, it is for the benefit of the community as a whole, the rubric goes. In the case of Celebration this runs to political freedom. It is a town whose senior officer is not an elected mayor, but the manager of the Celebration Company owned by Disney. The Celebration Company retains a veto on all matters of government and there is no democratic representation in the running of the school, hospital or town hall.
A doctor living in the town explains: “I’d rather live in a civil than a political society. Here we have a contract with TCC that defines our property rights, and we are not frustrated by bureaucrats with their own agenda. I don’t have a contract with politicians . . . What we have here is a deconstructing of government, a rollback of politicisation. In a civil society you feel a desire to fit into a community and satisfy your neighbours. In a political society, under the heavy hand of government, you expect your neighbours to satisfy you.”
A former teacher who runs the Media Centre agreed. “I accept this. I’m happy with it. I personally am opposed to elected officials. People who want to go into elected positions, I am suspicious of their motivations.”
Ross, who lived in a rented apartment in Celebration for a year in order to write his book, disagrees as he ponders the future of the town based on corporate management:
“There could hardly be a worse way of guaranteeing the public interest in education than by turning it over to corporate hucksters, or even by entrusting it to temporary corporate executives, however sympathetic, who see a way to boost the PR ratings of their employer by doing a few good community deeds. In the corporate world, allying with a well-known brand name is like hitching your wagon to the brightest star in the firmament, at least until the next stock market swing, leveraged buyout, or disappointing quarterly statement. But public trust needs the support of earthly bodies, in an orbit that is dependable, for the long run. When a society allows public education to be dependent on lottery funds or the passing benevolence of toy manufacturers and soda producers, it has already walked away from its democratic obligations.”
Certainly the inhabitants of Celebration discovered that when things began to go wrong, the Disney name disappeared overnight from the town sign. The two construction companies licensed by Disney to build and sell the houses were not able to maintain the fabled Disney standards. Houses were eighteen months late, with faulty roofs, sewage systems and air-conditioning. Those who could not stand the disruption were offered a deal by TCC: they were allowed, against their contracts, to sell their houses before the first year was up, providing they did not go to the press. The ultra-progressive school turned out not to use books, and refused to grade students, assessing them instead with evaluations such as ‘not yet’, ‘listens actively for a variety of purposes’ and ‘respects human diversity as part of our multicultural society and world’. When parents realised this would not get their kids into any decent college, they held meetings in secret, for fear of being termed ‘negative’ and shunned by the community, but they had no elected voice within the school government. People turned to Disney with their grievances, even writing to Michael Eisner, but they received no reply from the Corporation, which dreaded bad publicity. The fabled fibre optics came to nothing after the relevant division of AT&T was sold off and the company withdrew its experimental equipment.
Nonetheless, the pressure to be a happy member of the community was enormous. Residents of Celebration were watched and watched each other like hawks. The watchers were even within their community. Ross in his apartment, and Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins in a house that they actually bought in order to write a book about the town. Both parties were open about their intentions and both invested a year of their lives, and in Frantz and Collins’s case a year of their two children’s education as well as $350,000 on purchasing the house. Ross has a tougher take on what it was that made the will to conform so strong. The public silence of the townspeople about the disasters of Celebration – the jerry-built houses, the school, and the intense pressure on dissenting individuals to stop complaining or leave – was much more, for Ross, to do with keeping up the property values than with an underlying community spirit. All along, a Disney town was perceived as a good investment opportunity, and people paid above the odds and put up with the vagaries of a town not yet fully built in the hope that their houses would rise in price. They had hitched their wagon to Disney’s star for more perhaps than the dream value. Frantz and Collins do not make this analysis and seem to have integrated more fully into the community than Ross. They try to write as residents rather than as outsiders, though the line they walk is too fine to be convincing.
Neither party intended to stay beyond gathering data for their books – Ross had a sabbatical from NYU – but Frantz and Collins give the impression of wondering if they might. In the event they remained an extra year, leaving finally because despite getting on well with their neighbours, they missed edge and culture. ‘The town looked inward, sealing itself off from a world that ended at its borders. It was restrictive, almost tribal, and it left us feeling at times out of touch and uncomfortable in a place where life’s edges were rounded and smoothed not by time but by choice.’ They note that ‘almost none of the houses we visited had bookshelves.’
Celebration has no poor either. The teachers at the school couldn’t afford even the rented apartments in town, while Disney employees, often Hispanic immigrants, paid the minimum wage of $5.95 an hour, couldn’t hope to buy into Celebration. Disney agreed to pay Osceola County $300,000 over three years instead of building affordable housing into their plans. Brent Herrington, TCC’s community manager, saw the lack of cheap housing as a plus:
“What happens is, in an affordable house that is couched as an entitlement, you don’t have the same kind of personal commitment and pride in your accomplishment in this new home. If people come to a place just because their name popped up when that community had a vacancy, they are not going to have the same commitment to the town. That’s the part I think the residents would probably have some squeamishness about.”
Both sets of journalists report residents bemoaning the lack of black neighbours (even middle-class blacks would not buy into the Disney dream) and the homogeneity, but neither is convinced. A businessman from Celebration spoke to Ross of a recent ‘Latin influx’ to Osceola County (many of whom would be Disney employees), making a distinction between good and bad Hispanics: ‘These are not Latins from Long Island, mind you, they are from south of the border and Puerto Rico.’ A woman tells Ross: ‘Osceola is a low-rent county with too many ethnics – it’s basically a bedroom community for hotel domestics.’ Younger people of the boomer generation are more confused about their racism: ‘I don’t care myself, although this is a white ghetto. I would welcome more diversity as long as it doesn’t drive the prices down.’ Ross makes the wider point:
“Today, white people are often at their most white when they believe that consciousness of race is not natural. white-skin privilege abides and goes unexamined when it’s no longer ‘natural’ to think about someone’s racial background and is perceived to be racist to do so. As Malcolm X pointed out, ‘racism is like a Cadillac. There’s a new model every year.'”
Ross regularly provides the wider analysis, while Frantz and Collins capture the texture of life in Celebration, but both, having been neighbours of those they are writing about, are remarkably gentle about the fantastic absurdity of the Magic Kingdom dream that brought the residents of Celebration together, and the intellectual process that lies behind both the decision to build and the decision to live in a community out of sentimental escapism.
After all, the quality of dreaming matters. There are dreamers and dreamers. Great dreamers, on the whole, are saints or sinners (the Marquis de Sade, Simon Stylites), variations on innocence, whom we revere or abhor, while your everyday small-scale worldly dreamer (the bloke down the road who wants to build a conservatory, the woman saving up for a breast enhancement) is a more mundane figure for whom we are more likely to feel contempt. The degree to which we admire or despise dreamers depends mainly on the size of the dream and the distance of the dreamer from our own lives. We are very pleased that Martin Luther King had a dream, and that Nelson Mandela held to his dream through 28 years in jail, mostly because we are grateful that we don’t have to do it ourselves. Impractical dreaming that amounts to something in the world we positively venerate, at least in retrospect. But then very often what we call admiration is, on closer examination, a special form of contempt.
But what of those who simply dream of having a notionally nice life and who are in the fortunate position to buy into it when an ersatz version is offered to them by a corporate dream-maker? This is very difficult for the liberal observer because to admit contempt for ordinary dreams goes terribly against the grain. As soon as news broke of the Disney Corporation building a ‘real’ town to be filled with real people that took an idyllic homely past as its theme, the press and academia groaned their disdain. It was OK to despise Disney, the progenitor of the saccharine Mouse who has become a synonym for all that is false and tacky. But what about those who choose to take up residence in the Magic Kingdom? What follows is a customer’s review from Amazon.com of Frantz and Collins’s almost excruciatingly balanced account of their stay in Celebration:
“Written by left-leaning, snivelling reporters. They are critical of Disney’s handling of the wetlands, yet the authors bought a house in the middle of the wetlands. They snipe about Disney not giving away part of their profit margin to accommodate low-income people, yet didn’t rent out their ‘granny flat’ to an underprivileged person. As true liberals the authors see corporations as responsible for everyone’s welfare. It would be nice at least once to hear them thank Disney. Thank you Disney for your vision. Thank you Disney for risking your capital. Thank you for fighting the political battles to make Celebration possible.”
Utopia, these days, is a Mickey Mouse business.
• To read more online essays from the current edition of the London Review of Books visit the LRB. The extensive online archive of essays from past editions includes John Lanchester on the rise of Microsoft, Alan Bennett’s Diary and much more.