[PREV - UTOPIA] [TOP]
(That's Ed Brenner,
of course, aka
Ed talks about a concept he The TOADKEEPER.)
calls "Providence", which is
the best of all achievable
realities, as opposed to
Utopia which literally means Another word for
"no where". Providence might
be Omelas. Or "An Omelas"?
there are many
"He had fled from Salem to Providence - local maxima?
that universal haven of the odd, the Or perhaps just
free, and the dissenting ..." that there are
-- H. P. Lovecraft, many visions.
"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"
Some paragraphs quoted from "The Pompous Rose" by
Charles Platt and Gregory Benford, from the
March 1985 Patchin Review. Also published as
"Reactionary Utopias" by the University of Southern Illinois.
(Book title unknown.)
_The Left Hand of Darkness_, her first novel
with a strong social message, postulated a colony
of human beings who have become hermaphroditic.
Interviewed in _Mother Jones_ magazine, Le Guin
has said that eliminating gender was the only way
she could postulate a society without war; to her,
men -- or at least, the differences between them
and women -- evidently seem the root cause of
In _The Dispossessed_, _The Left Hand of
Darkness_, and _The Eye of the Heron_, the small
communities of idealists are nonviolent,
thoughtful, compassionate, and hard-working. They
reach decisions by consensus. When a member of
the group is too disagreeable to be reasoned with,
he is simply ignored; exclusion is the only form
Again, it seems mean-spirited to disparage
such right-minded behavior. And yet the very idea
of anarchy by consensus is an oxymoron. Freedom
to do as we please, so long as we all agree with
each other and remain in a state of Zen harmony
with the cosmos, is no freedom at all. It is
little better than a religion in which faith in a
deity has been replaced by faith in some
half-baked historical truths of the human spirit.
It is a single-party political system that seems
congenial only because the people in it are
somewhat implausibly easygoing and nice.
The result is a system as superficially
benign, yet as subtly authoritarian, as
But ever-so-gently disapproving of traits such
as aggression, leadership, defiance, and
acquisitiveness, and ever-so-gently suggesting
that our only choice is to cooperate with (her
interpretation of) the way things really are, Le
Guin is an authoritarian writer. She may express
doubts about the fate of her cause, but never
about its justness. She may depict her gentle
people losing a brave battle against oppressors,
but she never casts doubt on the _rightness_ of
their struggle. Her politics may seem radical,
but in fact she is advocating an inflexible,
Possibly, Ursula Le Guin might argue that her
social models are not intended to be taken as
literal prescriptions for utopia. Perhaps it is
the role of the idealist merely to encourage hope
and the dream of transcendence, just as it is the
role of a fantasist to remind us of the myths that
make us human.
In that case we would reply that it is
misleading and dishonest to couch such vague
promises in such seemingly concrete terms,
depicting make-believe as if it _could actually
happen_. Le Guin's societies are anything but
realistic, in that they deny all the harder
lessons of history.
[NEXT - LEGUIN]