Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chapter 51: Utopian Hypocrisy

So with the election coming up, I decided to get a little political... and not so much. A lot of people feel that our president will lead us to communism if he is elected again; our last free election as we know it! Maybe he just wants to bring more order to the US. People must be governed, right? Isn't communism just a tight grip on order so the people and nation will be equal and strong? Here is my theory about Order with examples from out ancestors, the English, in my favorite time period, the Renaissance, and my most favorite book to argue about: Sir (Saint) Thomas More's "Utopia".

How is it order if it is oppression? Forced into roles. Fermer says God is a God of order, but true order should be delightful then. The Utopians say that natural health is the highest form of pleasure(quote). So natural things should be order. Like a woman in pants. She has legs, that is natural. (Hic pg 268) Saying a women should not dress like a man because it is not how God intended is illogical. Man created pants and said that is what a man ought wear not a woman (Quote Hic, maybe). Enforcing man’s inventions onto God’s design--by the logic and norms of the Renaissance Europe--should have been labeled as rebellion and therefore part of disorder. As described by Coriolanus in his “Unrest in the Midlands” rebellion is the worst sin: “How horrible a sin against God and man rebellion is cannot possibly be expressed...” (Coriolanus 556), which Fermer established as against God since he is a God of order.

I mainly want to focus on the hypocrisy of the writings with my main points coming from Utopia with backups from the texts.
Order plays a big role in “Utopia” with the people of the land blindly following along with no questions. Clearly, a few people in Renaissance Europe didn’t want to just follow along as is evident in the “Unrest in the Midlands”.
Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia” is supposed to describe a place where everything is perfect and is never in chaos. But what does that mean exactly? Are the people happy? If so, why? What do they find so pleasurable about their government and commonwealth? according to the editors, the word “utopia” means “no place”. As a reader, I can only guess that More knew this was painting a picture of place that would never exist. Why it would never exist is what I plan on exploring. Is it because it’s just too perfect and humankind could never achieve that level of peace, government, and perfection? Or is that such a place should not exist? Whether they meant to or not, Renaissance England seemed to be striving to achieve such a peace and government through control of the one thing that people would most likely listen to if more than their lives--maybe their soul-- on the line; the church. Order means, according to Webster, “a condition in which each thing is properly disposed with reference to other things and to its purpose; methodical or harmonious arrangement”. Harmonie. Properly. Order is this thing that magically means “the way it is supposed to be”. Wherever that came from. Logically, for order to work, someone must suffer, because being a species, mankind will individually choose or want to do something else besides what he is told. That’s what the brain is for. Therefore, a society where everyone is equal and in “order” is one of the utmost hypocritical societies. The biggest example of order and hypocrisy: the hierarchy.    
The first rung of hierarchy is, of course, the monarch. In Renaissance England, a common belief was that the monarchy was divinely chosen by God to rule. Orlin shows us that government was “necessary to thwart the chaos” and “hierarchies were understood to have been created by God” (Orlin 143). That meant that the citizens had better obey their king (or queen) on punishment of being accused of treason. Wrightson explains this in the beginning of his writings “Degrees of People” where he says “they began by making distinctions, by classifying and ranking”. Orlin even says everyone acted on agreement that “monarchy was the best form of government” (Orlin 139). This is not only prominent in the readings we had but also in “Utopia” by Thomas More. In class, we discussed how everything is hierarchical--from government to the common household-- and therefore we see that a man is over his wife just as the king is over his people and God is over his church. Even in the “Debate About Women” the author states that the “most significant justification is religious and biblical”. If one was to obey, one was simply following biblical commandments. This is seen also in the ten commandments in commandment number five where it states that the father and mother should be honored. In the “Unrest in the Midlands” we see many accounts of uprisings and rebellions for various reasons who were very determined: “But said he wee will never yield but goe through with yt.” This kind of stubborn rebellion was not to be tolerated from subjects. This is a good example of what I said earlier about not all humans wanting to go along with “order”.  
Orlin brings us into the homes of  Renaissance England quoting Robert Cleaver when she says, “A household is as it were a little commonwealth.” This goes back to the household hierarchy of a wife obeys her husband and the children obey their mother. But it was hard to accept that a husband and a wife might have to have equal power in this little commonwealth or “joint ownership” as Orlin calls it. She says that men of the time were “reluctant to acknowledge that children and servants were generally supervised by wives” (Orlin 147). That was almost a disruption in the English hierarchy. A good example of the hypocrisy that was so invisible to the English so desiring order.
But these dominating husbands are just yeomen or farmers; all below their lord or king and must have also conformed to the “social stratification” of the day (Wrightson 40). To elaborate on how these men were just workers in the hierarchy, Wrightson goes on to say that the husbandmen “could generally be dismissed as having ‘neither voice nor authority in the commonwealth” (Wrightson 36). So what may appear to be higher up on the authority chain wasn’t actually that great. A yeoman had to pay taxes to his lord (the man whose land he worked and rented), abide by his rules, and also live by the monarchy’s laws and social norms. But not all hope was lost. A working man could raise his status. Wrightson gives the statistics that 963 gentry families were elevated. Of course, sixty-four were removed from the country as well (Wirghtson 26). So a man could break the order? That doesn't sound right.
But what if a rebellion was started? In the “Unrest in the Midlands” reading, we saw a lot of scared nobles and servants try to deal with uprisings and rebels. In Utopia, however, you were exiled or made a slave: in other words, brought very low on the hierarchy scale.
Let’s now turn to Utopia and it’s hierarchy, which actually does not differ in some ways from England’s, but is perhaps more misogynistic in others. The Utopian’s religion does not play a part in their hierarchy nor does misogynism as they have female priests as well, unlike Europe. The Utopians elect their leaders as we see in “Of Their Magistrates” every year to avoid him enslaving anyone. Though these magistrates don’t seem to have a hand in forcing the people to do work or live a certain way (because the Utopians are only too happy to do so) we do see them dol out harsh punishment for anyone who is rebellious, which we see when we now turn to how the church of England interacts with the people and how that affects the hierarchy of command when someone dares disturb the order. They are also elected from anyone who wants to try out for the job. It’s good that any man could rule, but is raising someone so above the others “equal”? No, but it is “order”. But they’re supposed to go hand in hand.
The second rung of hierarchy is the Church. Unlike England, the Utopians had many religions. Some praised the moon, the sun and others planets (More 127). The hypocrisy comes in where More writes, “There be that give worship to a man that was one of excellent virtue” but this goes against what was mentioned earlier in the book about not worshiping any man above another. Also, when discussing dress, More says that all Utopians wear a grey cloak and no one is to be adorned better than anyone else (More 78). But the book states clearly that the priests are of “exceeding holiness”, are not punished for their crimes, cannot be touched by other men, and have robes adorned in feathers (More 136-37). This goes against everything the Utopians believe about equality and not putting one man before another. But More describes it over and over in each section as being necessary. Of course, we cannot agree more that there must be laws to follow to have some kind of order. But how can such people live? More takes care of that by saying in several sections how each Utopian is happy to abide by all of these laws. The church for the Utopians is there to grant such things as confessions (More 138) and ceremonies. It was not like the church of England that was controlled by the monarchy but was just as revered and respected. Probably out of fear though.
Probably most of what the English church preached was written by someone from the monarchy or government. Things like “The Book of Common Prayer” and the “Book of Homilies” were what the editors called “authorized” sermons and prayers. These were written to be read at frequent occasions such as weddings and Sunday services. These “authorized readings”, I find, were most likely written to shape and mold the people to a spiritual way of thinking so as to be easily controlled. Orlin said the bible was often cited in political arguments to invoke the “divine right” of the monarch to make the people do as he pleased with the threat of God’s wrath hovering over a disobedient person (Orlin 140). Further down the page the hypocrisy is shown when she says, “the church became the monarchy's most effective instrument for spreading political propaganda” (Orlin 140). And since the ignorant people of England were not all literate, the best way to get out the monarchy’s dictatorial rules was through “state-authorized sermons” (Orilin 140) as mentioned above. What these statements bring to light is that since the monarchy viewed the church as a tool, we may be able to assume that they didn’t believe in it at all. A good example is King Henry’s break with the church so that he could divorce his wife and marry another. The rules of the game changed depending on what the monarch needed from his or her subjects. Obviously, there are differences in the Utopian church and the English church, but hypocrisy is evident in both.        
On the third rung of hierarchy, we have the family. As pointed out in my introduction, the man, no matter his station in the grand hierarchy, is always the head of the house. In Utopia there is no such thought. However, I will point out later how base they think their wives any way.
The commonwealth way in Utopia is that everyone works. In the section “Of Their Cities” we see that all of the towns are set up so that everything is equal and every man has a claim to anything anywhere in the city: “there is nothing within the houses that is private or any man’s own” and that is so that if you have seen one then you “knoweth them all” (More 65, 67). This way of working is what we today would call a socialist community.
England at the time suffered from great social inequality much like America today. Class was everything in those days and it was hard to elevate oneself above what he was born into. Wrightson says “the gap which separated them from their social inferiors was in some respects greater than that which removed them from their immediate superiors” (Wrightson 37). Husbandmen were too lowly to  have a political voice, labourers and craftsmen were also hardly admitted to participate in village administration as well (Wrightson 36). Of the lower levels, he says that only “wealthier craftsmen” were used for legal things such as being a witness for a will. In Utopia, you could not move up the social ladder. Though you may be a magistrate but that’s under special circumstances. Everyone was supposed to be equal. In England though, if a man was fortunate enough, he could move up in rank by acquiring that which the Utopians despise: wealth, fame, or acts of bravery and servitude to ones king (Wrightson). However, in the home weather that man was rich, middle, or lower class, he was the head. Even in perfect Utopia this is true because each household had a wife and two “bondmen” (More 63).
The wives in England, according to “The Debate About Women” and the authorized wedding ceremony in the “Book of Common Prayer” were to be married so that they could preserve their virtue and serve their husbands. One theory I had about why women were treated so lowly back in these days is because thoughts like in “The Debate About Women” were floating around: “woman [was] the channel through which evil, pain, and laborious work entered the world” and when not bound to a man she was “as attractive snares and sources of temptation” (Debate 7). Yes, it was a woman’s fault if I man could not help his lust in her presence. It was as if women were base creatures; certainly not on an equal level with her man despite the belief that marriage was supposed to be a partnership. At least in England, the wife had some authority of the servants or slaves and the children. In perfect Utopia, however, the women are not quite as equal as the syphogrants would have you believe.
First spoken on page 73, More says that “all women, which be the half of the number, or, else if the women be somewhere occupied, there most commonly in their stead the men be idle”. At first this confused me, but the notes in book says that in Utopia, work is considered things like farming “which allows [More] to dismiss the domestic labor virtually all women did” (Notes 224). So there we have it! The one place a woman had authority does not count. Another modern matter is that of the woman’s physique. The Utopians assume all of their women are virtuous and thus the man gets to decide to marry her based on her physical appearance. Meaning, no matter how virtuous or good she is, if she’s not pleasing to the eye then she’s not for him incase “anything in her body afterward should chance to offend and mislike them” (More 108). I suppose this desire for a perfect woman could match the English ideal of the “superiority of virginity” mentioned in “The Debate of Women”. In the same way, the Utopian husbands are allowed to “put her away” later in their marriage if some “bodily mishap” happens to her (More 109).
At first I thought the slaves were treated well enough in Utopia but really, the Utopians treat their slaves very unfavorably. Where do they get these salves? From neighboring countries, from wars where they’d rather take prisoners alive for slavery than kill them (124), and from offenders living in Utopia. Oddly, there are a lot of ways to be an offender in this perfect haven, but that’s not for this theory. I saw a connection between the wives the slaves though. First, we’re shown how the Utopians don’t understand how man can enjoy the sport of hunting. They think it base and not glorious as the English do. So when they feast, the meat they eat is “washed by the hands of their bondmen, for they permit not their free citizens to accustom themselves to the killing of beasts” (More 78). The job is so dirty that they make their slaves do it. But later when we’re at the table of the Utopians enjoying a feast the women are charged with the “office of cookery... and dressing the meat and ordering all things thereto belonging” (More 80). Look at “all things thereto belonging”. They must be there when the animal is slaughtered and oversee the cleaning of the meat; the defeathering, the skinning, the removal of organs--all to do with “all things thereto belonging” of the preparing of meat. The amount of hypocrisy here is astounding! Are the women so low in this society that they must do the work with the slaves and work that is not permitted for other citizens to do? After the women work with the slaves in this base activity, “all the old men (whose places be marked with a special token to be known) are first served their meat” (More 81). What about the older women? Are they not of equal age and wisdom? Apparently not. In a land where all is supposed to be equal, the women are still put low; even as low as slaves at certain times, who, as we know, are the last rung on any hierarchical ladder.
The last rung: the slaves. In Utopia, you don’t become a slave unless you are taken during war in which you are snatched from your homeland and made to work. A little like in England, but slavery wasn’t a big issue at this time. What was a problem was the workers revolting and rebeling. In Utopia, you were most likely to be killed if you rebelled. In England, they stomped on you until your spirit was broken. What was so bad about people trying to be free and treated fairly? Simple: it broke the “natural order” of things. As well as the monarch being chosen by divine right, if you were born into a certain class, you should know that it was God who put you there and you were to obey according to your status.
Thus I conclude my reasoning for why order is not possible without abounding hypocrisy. For order there must be a hierarchy because there must be someone to tell the rest of us what to do, and there must be slaves (workers). Order must be unequal. Or as many a tyrant has said, “People must be ruled”. So what’s the answer? Anarchy? Maybe, but even then, isn't there order in disorder? 
Sorry that was long and disorderly ;) But these theories take forever to hammer out. Now, to get back to homework. Thank you and good day!


  1. As humans, I think we are incapable of forming a society that functions in a moral, orderly way while avoiding the hypocrisy you wrote about. Anarchy and mob rule can't be answers either, because again we are humans and, just as we end up abusing any kind of system we have, we would also just end up abusing the lack of a system. Too much narrow focus on equality can veer towards socialistic ideas...humans are broken and anything we try to do will be broken. My point is, I think you're right and the same basic concept can be applied to almost any earthly attempt at a functioning society.

  2. Yeah, the basic idea of this discourse was to show that the final summation for arguing over or trying to create a near "perfect" society or order is that there is no final summation. I know it's a little lame and a waste of time to point out something so useless, but I felt that it needed to be said. With communistic rule there will never be order because someone will always challenge the system; with anarchy there is NO order but STILL someone will challenge the lack of system.
    So yeah, being human and living with humans makes it so there is no answer. :) But that's what Paradise for later, right?