The earliest religious texts we have available to us from the Bible, to the Four Vedas of Hinduism, to the five classic of Confucianism, all carry with them the laws required in order to have peace in this life. The Utopian literary genre built on these traditions now comprises thousands of volumes covering more than 1000 years of history. The idea that there could be peace on earth spans the globe, and is found among nearly all cultures and religions. More modern Utopian texts date from 1516 with Moore’s Utopia. Although he was not the first to write about the ideal society, he was one of the most influential. Texts before and after it are judged to be Utopian based on his model.
Although the mechanism for attaining this perfect society differs among religions and cultures, there is a general consensus on what makes up a Utopian society, and what is necessary to achieve it. It includes equitable laws for all people, the abolition of class, full employment, high education, is generally agrarian in nature and has top down management — even, for some authors, becoming totalitarian in order to maintain the peace. Much of the modern critique on the idea of Utopia center on the lack of freedom seemingly advocated in order to attain peace.
There are few if any individuals or societies that would say that they did not want peace. The complication arises in how to obtain it.
I came across a tradition that outlines much different mechanism for obtaining Utopia, which is very different from the traditional top-down approach. These are the element of its history:
1) The ideal condition is established that governs both the mind and the heart — there is to be no contention, and we are not to see each other as more or less valuable.
2) Individuals are taught these conditions and are asked to accept them and live according to them
3) As they do so of their own free will and choice they find peace in their life and continue in that path and help others see it.
Positive natural consequence of inner peace are felt by those who follow the law. Those who chose to not adopt the law are allowed to continue in their path — but must face the consequences of their decisions.
4) Individuals have to learn to keep the law as individuals and obtain that peace first.
5) Once they do they are married and then learn to keep the laws of peace within their marriage
6) Extending from the marriage, the children are taught the same.
7) This peace within individuals, then between men and women in marriage, and then between generations begins to radiate out until it affects the entire society.
How that all happens exactly is obscured by history. We only see the result, not how it was achieved exactly. But that was less important to me than how the end result was described . . . Utopia was a place where “there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness… there were no robbers, [or] murderers.” What struck me was how many of these evils are particularly important to women. Most of the Utopian societies described in the traditional literature may be a good place for men to exist, but most of the conditions would not be considered ideal for women.
But in this special Utopia, not only are all things common so there there are no poor, no war, and there is freedom in education, etc., the text also describes removing personal attitudes that too often break homes and marginalize women. The text describes the people as the happiest on Earth — both the men and the women. I think ths is unique in Utopian literature, because so often it is just man’s world that has been perfected, often at the expense of the women themselves.
Here is what I take home from these passages.
1) There was no fighting. They had learned to air their differences in a way that did not disrupt the peace. I imagine this is because they had put away their pride and could discuss topics based on their merit and not on the emotional connection to one idea or another.
2) All things were common between them. Regardless of being a man, woman, child, divorced, sick, widowed, etc., ALL things were equal before them. How they managed to do it is not explained, but the result was peace. One person did not put himself or herself above another. They did not think they deserved more. In sharing and in equality they were all free.
3) Marriage was central to the peace. But these were not your average marriages. For one they were established among people that were absolutely equal in every way. Based on that foundation and then learning to keep the commandments as a couple ensured that there was no contention in the land.
4) This equality and love started in the individual, moved to the family, and then spread to the nation – it can and should permeate the heart and mind of all those who desire to be a part of it.
Although each individual and family cannot affect the world in its entirety on their own, it is possible to have a major influence, on that which we do have some control over. As an individual I can develop a truly altruistic heart and learn to minimize my negative impact on society and the demands I place on it. As I get married I can ensure that I treat my wife as a full partner in the marriage and then do my part to ensure that our marriage is based on equality. This is an ideal world to raise children in and give them the best shot at achieving peace and perpetuating the ideal found in the original parental example. It may not fix the world tomorrow, but it will be getting better.
Anyway, my point is that we can achieve at least 2 out of the 3 levels of peace. And, as the saying goes, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. And if we can get these first two levels fixed, who knows what influence we might have on the world . . .