where hypotheses come to die (madman101) wrote,
where hypotheses come to die
madman101

The Right Honourable Sir

UTOPIA and THOMAS MORE:  (starting with wiki) -

There are several religions on the island: moon-worshipers, sun-worshipers, planet-worshipers, ancestor-worshipers and monotheists, but each is tolerant of the others. Only atheists are despised (but allowed) in Utopia, as they are seen as representing a danger to the state: since they do not believe in any punishment or reward after this life, they have no reason to share the communistic life of Utopia, and will break the laws for their own gain. They are not banished, but are encouraged to talk out their erroneous beliefs with the priests until they are convinced of their error. Raphael says that through his teachings Christianity was beginning to take hold in Utopia. The toleration of all other religious ideas is enshrined in a universal prayer all the Utopians recite.

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.

Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries or are the Utopian criminals. These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view.

Privacy is not regarded as freedom in Utopia; taverns, ale-houses and places for private gatherings are non-existent for the effect of keeping all men in full view, so that they are obliged to behave well.

There is no private property on Utopia, with goods being stored in warehouses and people requesting what they need. There are also no locks on the doors of the houses, and the houses are rotated between the citizens every ten years.


NOTE: Are you folks sensing any ominous contradictions here?  What is going on?  So much of Utopia seems to be a dystopia, like the one we have been entering into, in this 21st Century.

I don't think More even knew what he was saying.  His Utopia seems sometimes a satire, and sometimes propaganda for the Catholic persecution of heretics and Protestants.  Marx and Engels supported the book's apparent advocacy of Socialism or Communism.  But More was actually coming from the experience of Monastic Communalism, which may have tended to be a tad moralistic.  Indeed, Utopia has elements of a Police State, authorised by some strict morality, not entirely dissimilar to that of the Third Reich.  The famous Russian dissident against USSR's oppression, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, "argued that Soviet communism needed enslavement and forced labour to survive, and that this had been ' ...foreseen as far back as Thomas More, in his Utopia'.[110] "

When I attended Catholic High School, where Sir Thomas More was SAINT Thomas More, for his martyrdom against the institution of Anglicanism by Henry VIII, I got to see, "A Man For All Seasons."  I tended to lionize More then, for his principled stand, (even while I was taking a stand against aspects of Catholicism).  After all, it was Henry VII and the Scot, JAMES, who inflicted severe crimes, leading to genocide, against the (Catholic) Irish, (who ironically were once called, "Scots," from time of Dal Riata).  (James was a protestant who authorised the King James version of the Bible which was toxic anathema to Catholics).  The crimes of Protestantism are well documented.

On the other hand, More was standing up for a Catholicism which was persecuting Protestants, and heretics, such as atheists, gays, thieves and whatever.  The transition to Anglicanism didn't seem any better, as it executed thieves, etc., and Catholics, (such as More).  Utopia allowed More, "to discuss some of the modern ills affecting Europe such as the tendency of kings to start wars and the subsequent loss of money on fruitless endeavours. He also criticizes the use of execution to punish theft, saying thieves might as well murder whom they rob, to remove witnesses, if the punishment is going to be the same."  More said that the main reason for thievery was that land was being closed off to commoners, an early form of what Americans call, "privatization."

So: A martyr for one terrible vice, versus another - what is so great about that?

It seems to me that More was a very passionate schizophrenic, in the ideological sense.  The, 'man for all seasons'.  He was caught in a time of history where European civilisation was trying to work through some moral issues, and find new ways of evolving, along with emerging capitalism.  He was in a psychic battle of hypocrisy, where his demonic Catholicism conflicted with his rising humanitarianism, and he tried to resolve this by turning it against the Anglicans.  Similarly, Henry, etc., were doing the opposite: blaming their own psychic conflict on More and the Catholics.  England was caught in a comparable pivot, of economic and political allegiances to Spain versus France or Holland, or between Rome and the wave of Protestantism in Germany, Switzerland and Holland.

I want to emphasize that while the scourges of Catholicism have been great, from the Inquisition, to the Conquistadors, to collabouration w/ NAZI Germany, to the sexual abuse pandemics, the backlash against Catholics which More apparently anticipated, has been massive as well.  In following centuries, there was serious discrimination and persecution against Catholics in England and Ireland - and then came the insane Irish Potato Famine.  Irish Catholics who immigrated into the USA were discriminated against for years, despite fighting both sides of the Civil war, as were subsequent Catholics.  JFK was assassinated, probably for views threatening the economic (Protestant/Jewish) hegemony, and the first Catholic president, Reagan, was largely elected because he supported the powers that be.  After the French Revolution, there was a movement against Catholics, (whereas Protestant Huguenots had been persecuted earlier in the 16th century).  Finally, Catholics are persecuted and killed in Moslem or Islamic countries, which is something the West refuses to acknowledge.

Needless to say, Jews have been persecuted in Protestant and Catholic Europe, the Middle East, and America.  There is no getting away from the petty game of violence between this and that mega-group, each convinced that it is the righteous Chosen People.  Note: I think Jews have been safest in England and the Netherlands, and in the USA, with the former emphasizing academic, and the latter creative and capitalist, careers.  Marx and Engels, Salmon Rushdie(sp?), and possibly even Shakespeare(!), all did pretty well for themselves in England.  So did a lot of Irish and Scots, ahem...

The confluences and crashes of religions, which ultimately serve the economic interests of certain large groups, especially the elites in those groups, can create battles and bloodshed, in certain lands, which we might only see as sad and ironic, if only we would use a wider lens.  I mean that one side usually looks a lot like the other, when shorn of the robes and emblems and lingo.  One side has faces painted white and black, the other has faces painted black and white.  As that Irish woman I mentioned said, "They both look pretty much the same to me."  It is now that the UK is splitting from the EU - the economic forces - that Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are expected to fall back into old religious violence, yes?  So, with this basic ambiguity in mind, read what More said IN DEFENSE of Henry, apparently before Henry was still a Catholic.  Before Henry had somehow magically transformed into the very antithesis of Catholicism...


...Luther set out his doctrine of salvation through grace alone, rejected certain Catholic practices, and attacked abuses and excesses within the Catholic Church.[12]:225–6 In 1521, Henry VIII formally responded to Luther's criticisms with the Assertio, written with More's assistance. Pope Leo X rewarded the English king with the title 'Fidei defensor' ("Defender of the Faith") for his work combating Luther's heresies.[12]:226–7

Martin Luther then attacked Henry VIII in print, calling him a "pig, dolt, and liar".[12]:227 At the king's request, More composed a rebuttal: the Responsio ad Lutherum was published at the end of 1523. In the Responsio, More defended papal supremacy, the sacraments, and other Church traditions. More, though considered "a much steadier personality",[93] described Luther as an "ape", a "drunkard", and a "lousy little friar" amongst other epithets.[12]:230 Writing under the pseudonym of Gulielmus Rosseus,[23] More tells Luther that:




for as long as your reverend paternity will be determined to tell these shameless lies, others will be permitted, on behalf of his English majesty, to throw back into your paternity's shitty mouth, truly the shit-pool of all shit, all the muck and shit which your damnable rottenness has vomited up, and to empty out all the sewers and privies onto your crown divested of the dignity of the priestly crown, against which no less than the kingly crown you have determined to play the buffoon.[94]



Yeah, that's about as enlightened as me when I am severely drunk and yelling at my ceiling.  Sounds like a fucking Celt to me.

The name, "More," or, "Moore," is commonly a Scottish or Welsh name.  So, my guess is that Thomas More was not much of an Anglo Saxon in derivation.  Henry VIII was of the Welsh Tudor Dynasty.  On the other hand, many of the houses of English Royalty were related to Ango Saxons, Normans or Presbyterians.  I think it is obvious to anyone who is honest about it, that England has a history of importing Celts or Gaelics, and others, to do its more creative work, which includes in the discipline of argument, or philosophy.  English industrial and intellectual advances were greatly fueled by the Scottish Enlightenment, itself importing a lot of Irish talent.  This has also occurred in the realms of literature, poetry, theatre and music.  The examples are too numerous to discuss here.

On the other hand: Much of Britain has been very much a polyglot hodgepodge melting pot, anyway, right?  And, I am not dismissing the many contributions of Anglo Saxon or Romanesque Brits.  However, it appears that the more satisfied 'Germanic' establishment has had a habit of relying on the very people they oppressed for their various entertainments.  Tell me that this has not been a pattern occurring throughout the world's history.  The original elites, who are generally of a particular 'race', tend to win out with the wealth, whilst employing the marginals to do it's biddings, and produce the actual wealth.  So, I just think Thomas More was just some estimable Celtic maniac caught up in the political-economic, ergo religious, confluxes of the day.  A kindred spirit, Henry, instead took a completely opposite route.

Many historical figures I admire supported or praised More, including Erasmus, various Socialists, Jonathan Swift, (an Irish Anglican), and others.  He also influenced Shakespeare.


More is the focus of the Al Stewart song "A Man For All Seasons" from the 1978 album Time Passages, and of the Far song "Sir", featured on the limited editions and 2008 re-release of their 1994 album Quick. In addition, the song "So Says I" by indie rock outfit The Shins alludes to the socialist interpretation of More's Utopia.

Utopia was the book that invented a new genre of fiction. It was the first book to use a made up world, a “Utopia” in its framing. This spawned books and stories that have continued to dominate the industry of storytelling to this day. Books like “The Hunger Games,” and “Divergent” can all trace their origins back to Thomas More's most famous work (Getty 321). More wrote this story to make a point about socialism, whether in defense or as a criticism of. It could be argued, however, that Utopia's greatest impact could be in its world creation. More was the first to create his idealistic world, and the framework he created has stuck around for hundreds of years (Getty 321).


More was neither a demon or a saint - or both - I think.  We should just look at him as being caught in a different, earlier time; and have compassion on him, as we have compassion on more primitive animals, or on anyone who acted in ways that were not crimes until our day,  for all of us, like the stars, derive from a common seed. 
Tags: books - 'utopia', history - tudor england, more - sir thomas, movies - 'man for all seasons', religion - conflict politics & war
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