william morris - news form nowhere - 1908
an epoch of rest being some chapters from a utopian romance
CHAPTER I: DISCUSSION AND BED
took his way home by himself to a western suburb, using the means of travelling which civilisation has forced upon us like a habit. As he sat in that vapour-bath of hurried and discontented humanity, a carriage of the underground railway, he, like others, stewed discontentedly (...)Our friend says that from that sleep he awoke once more, and afterwards went through such surprising adventures that he thinks that they should be told to our comrades, and indeed the public in general, and therefore proposes to tell them now (...)
CHAPTER II: A MORNING BATH
(waking up in the utopia)
(...) it was winter when I went to bed the last night, and now, by witness of the river-side trees, it was summer, a beautiful bright morning seemingly of early June (...) He nodded to me, and bade me good-morning as if he expected me, so I jumped in without any words, and he paddled away quietly as I peeled for my swim.
As we went, I looked down on the water, and couldn’t help saying—“How clear the water is this morning!” (...)
He was a handsome young fellow, with a peculiarly pleasant and friendly look about his eyes,—an expression which was quite new to me then, though I soon became familiar with it (...) In short, he seemed to be like some specially manly and refined young gentleman, playing waterman for a spree, and I concluded that this was the case.
(...) but of course they are not always in use; we don’t want salmon every day of the season (...)
(...) how all was changed from last night! The soap-works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone; the engineer’s works gone; the lead-works gone; and no sound of rivetting and hammering came down the west wind from Thorneycroft’s (...)
(...) So I put my hand into my waistcoat-pocket, and said, “How much?” though still with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps I was offering money to a gentleman (...) He still seemed puzzled, but not at all offended; and he looked at the coins with some curiosity (...) "And you see this ferrying and giving people casts about the water is my business, which I would do for anybody; so to take gifts in connection with it would look very queer. Besides, if one person gave me something, then another might, and another, and so on; and I hope you won’t think me rude if I say that I shouldn’t know where to stow away so many mementos of friendship"
(...) “O,” he said, “don’t trouble about that, because it will give me an opportunity of doing a good turn to a friend of mine, who wants to take my work here. He is a weaver from Yorkshire, who has rather overdone himself between his weaving and his mathematics, both indoor work, you see; and being a great friend of mine, he naturally came to me to get him some outdoor work. If you think you can put up with me, pray take me as your guide.” (...)
CHAPTER III: THE GUEST HOUSE AND BREAKFAST THEREIN
(...) There were no windows on the side opposite to the river, but arches below leading into chambers, one of which showed a glimpse of a garden beyond, and above them a long space of wall gaily painted (...) one felt in it that exhilarating sense of space and freedom which satisfactory architecture always gives to an unanxious man who is in the habit of using his eyes (...)
[nice curious people, no hierachy, no relationship between looks and roles]
CHAPTER IV: A MARKET BY THE WAY
(...) They were all pretty in design, and as solid as might be, but countryfied in appearance, like yeomen’s dwellings; some of them of red brick like those by the river, but more of timber and plaster, which were by the necessity of their construction so like mediæval houses of the same materials that I fairly felt as if I were alive in the fourteenth century (...) Some faces I saw that were thoughtful, and in these I noticed great nobility of expression, but none that had a glimmer of unhappiness, and the greater part (we came upon a good many people) were frankly and openly joyous (...) and I was silent a little. At last I said: “What I mean is, that I haven’t seen any poor people about—not one (...) "I don’t know of any one sick at present. Why should you expect to see poorly people on the road?” “No, no,” I said; “I don’t mean sick people. I mean poor people, you know; rough people" “No,” said he, smiling merrily, “I really do not know"
CHAPTER V: CHILDREN ON THE ROAD
(...) “these children do not all come from the near houses, the woodland houses, but from the country-side generally. They often make up parties, and come to play in the woods for weeks together in summer-time, living in tents, as you see. We rather encourage them to it; they learn to do things for themselves, and get to notice the wild creatures; and, you see, the less they stew inside houses the better for them" (...) (...) “Well, education means a system of teaching young people.” “Why not old people also?” said he with a twinkle in his eye. “But,” he went on, “I can assure you our children learn, whether they go through a ‘system of teaching’ or not (...)
“Well,” said I, “what else do they learn? I suppose they don’t all learn history?” “No, no,” said he; “some don’t care about it; in fact, I don’t think many do. I have heard my great-grandfather say that it is mostly in periods of turmoil and strife and confusion that people care much about history; and you know,” said my friend, with an amiable smile, “we are not like that now. No; many people study facts about the make of things and the matters of cause and effect, so that knowledge increases on us, if that be good; and some, as you heard about friend Bob yonder, will spend time over mathematics. ’Tis no use forcing people’s tastes.” (...)
CHAPTER V: A LITTLE SHOPPING
(...) it is such very easy work that anybody can do it. It is said that in the early days of our epoch there were a good many people who were hereditarily afflicted with a disease called Idleness, because they were the direct descendants of those who in the bad times used to force other people to work for them—the people, you know, who are called slave-holders or employers of labour in the history books (...)
(...) “And do you know, neighbours, that once on a time people were still anxious about that disease of Idleness: at one time we gave ourselves a great deal of trouble in trying to cure people of it. Have you not read any of the medical books on the subject?" (...)
CHAPTER VII: TRAFALGAR SQUARE
(...) "Man alive! how can you ask such a question? Have I not told you that we know what a prison means by the undoubted evidence of really trustworthy books, helped out by our own imaginations? And haven’t you specially called me to notice that the people about the roads and streets look happy? and how could they look happy if they knew that their neighbours were shut up in prison, while they bore such things quietly?" (...)
(...) “Well, I don’t know; it is a pretty thing, and since nobody need make such things unless they like, I don’t see why they shouldn’t make them, if they like. Of course, if carvers were scarce they would all be busy on the architecture, as you call it, and then these ‘toys’ (a good word) would not be made; but since there are plenty of people who can carve—in fact, almost everybody, and as work is somewhat scarce, or we are afraid it may be, folk do not discourage this kind of petty work” (...)
“it seems to be a factory.” “Yes,” he said, “I think I know what you mean, and that’s what it is; but we don’t call them factories now, but Banded-workshops: that is, places where people collect who want to work together
(...) “It’s a nice place inside, though as plain as you see outside. As to the crafts, throwing the clay must be jolly work: the glass-blowing is rather a sweltering job; but some folk like it very much indeed; and I don’t much wonder: there is such a sense of power, when you have got deft in it, in dealing with the hot metal. It makes a lot of pleasant work,” said he, smiling, “for however much care you take of such goods, break they will, one day or another, so there is always plenty to do" (...)
CHAPTER VIII: AN OLD FRIEND
CHAPTER XIX: CONCERNING LOVE
[no property, therefore, no divorce] (...) “You must understand once for all that we have changed these matters; or rather, that our way of looking at them has changed, as we have changed within the last two hundred years. We do not deceive ourselves, indeed, or believe that we can get rid of all the trouble that besets the dealings between the sexes. We know that we must face the unhappiness that comes of man and woman confusing the relations between natural passion, and sentiment, and the friendship which, when things go well, softens the awakening from passing illusions: but we are not so mad as to pile up degradation on that unhappiness by engaging in sordid squabbles about livelihood and position, and the power of tyrannising over the children who have been the results of love or lust.” (...)
(...) So it is a point of honour with us not to be self-centred; not to suppose that the world must cease because one man is sorry; therefore we should think it foolish, or if you will, criminal, to exaggerate these matters of sentiment and sensibility: we are no more inclined to eke out our sentimental sorrows than to cherish our bodily pains; and we recognise that there are other pleasures besides love-making (...)
(...) there is no unvarying conventional set of rules by which people are judged; no bed of Procrustes to stretch or cramp their minds and lives; no hypocritical excommunication which people are forced to pronounce, either by unconsidered habit, or by the unexpressed threat of the lesser interdict if they are lax in their hypocrisy (...)
(...) The men have no longer any opportunity of tyrannising over the women, or the women over the men; both of which things took place in those old times. The women do what they can do best, and what they like best, and the men are neither jealous of it or injured by it. This is such a commonplace that I am almost ashamed to state it (...)
(...) “perhaps you think housekeeping an unimportant occupation, not deserving of respect. I believe that was the opinion of the ‘advanced’ women of the nineteenth century, and their male backers" (...)
(...) “Excuse me,” said he, after a while; “I am not laughing at anything you could be thinking of; but at that silly nineteenth-century fashion, current amongst rich so-called cultivated people, of ignoring all the steps by which their daily dinner was reached, as matters too low for their lofty intelligence. Useless idiots! Come, now, I am a ‘literary man,’ as we queer animals used to be called, yet I am a pretty good cook myself.” (...)
CHAPTER X: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
(...) you expected to see children thrust into schools when they had reached an age conventionally supposed to be the due age, whatever their varying faculties and dispositions might be, and when there, with like disregard to facts to be subjected to a certain conventional course of ‘learning.’ My friend, can’t you see that such a proceeding means ignoring the fact of growth, bodily and mental? No one could come out of such a mill uninjured; and those only would avoid being crushed by it who would have the spirit of rebellion strong in them (...)
(...) Though perhaps you do not know that in the nineteenth century Oxford and its less interesting sister Cambridge became definitely commercial. They (and especially Oxford) were the breeding places of a peculiar class of parasites, who called themselves cultivated people; they were indeed cynical enough, as the so-called educated classes of the day generally were; but they affected an exaggeration of cynicism in order that they might be thought knowing and worldly-wise (...)
(...) Of course, this invasion of the country was awkward to deal with, and would have created much misery, if the folk had still been under the bondage of class monopoly. But as it was, things soon righted themselves. People found out what they were fit for, and gave up attempting to push themselves into occupations in which they must needs fail (...)
CHAPTER XI: CONCERNING GOVERNMENT
(...) And now that all this is changed, and the “rights of property,” which mean the clenching the fist on a piece of goods and crying out to the neighbours, You shan’t have this!—now that all this has disappeared so utterly that it is no longer possible even to jest upon its absurdity, is such a Government possible? (...)
(...) "But for what other purpose than the protection of the rich from the poor, the strong from the weak, did this Government exist?" "I have heard that it was said that their office was to defend their own citizens against attack from other countries" "It was said; but was anyone expected to believe this? For instance, did the English Government defend the English citizen against the French?" (...)
(...) I do not remember to have heard that the rich needed defence; because it is said that even when two nations were at war, the rich men of each nation gambled with each other pretty much as usual, and even sold each other weapons wherewith to kill their own countrymen (...)
CHAPTER XII: CONCERNING THE ARRANJEMENT OF LIFE
(...) As I said before, the civil law-courts were upheld for the defence of private property; for nobody ever pretended that it was possible to make people act fairly to each other by means of brute force. Well, private property being abolished, all the laws and all the legal ‘crimes’ which it had manufactured of course came to an end (...)
(...) Again, many violent acts came from the artificial perversion of the sexual passions, which caused overweening jealousy and the like miseries. Now, when you look carefully into these, you will find that what lay at the bottom of them was mostly the idea (a law-made idea) of the woman being the property of the man, whether he were husband, father, brother, or what not. That idea has of course vanished with private property, as well as certain follies about the ‘ruin’ of women for following their natural desires in an illegal way, which of course was a convention caused by the laws of private property (...)
(...) “Another cognate cause of crimes of violence was the family tyranny, which was the subject of so many novels and stories of the past, and which once more was the result of private property. Of course that is all ended, since families are held together by no bond of coercion, legal or social, but by mutual liking and affection, and everybody is free to come or go as he or she pleases" (...)
CHAPTER XIII: CONCERNING POLITICS
CHAPTER XIV: HOW MATTERS ARE MANAGED
[fuck the notion of Nation] “Nonsense,” he said, somewhat snappishly. “Cross the water and see. You will find plenty of variety: the landscape, the building, the diet, the amusements, all various. The men and women varying in looks as well as in habits of thought; the costume far more various than in the commercial period. How should it add to the variety or dispel the dulness, to coerce certain families or tribes, often heterogeneous and jarring with one another, into certain artificial and mechanical groups, and call them nations, and stimulate their patriotism—i.e., their foolish and envious prejudices?”
[on politics] “I take, you, neighbour; they only pretended to this serious difference of opinion; for if it had existed they could not have dealt together in the ordinary business of life; couldn’t have eaten together, bought and sold together, gambled together, cheated other people together, but must have fought whenever they met: which would not have suited them at all"
CHAPTER XV: ON THE LACK OF INCENTIVE TO LABOUR IN A COMMUNIST SOCIETY
“No reward of labour?” said Hammond, gravely. “The reward of labour is life. Is that not enough?"
"This, that all work is now pleasurable; either because of the hope of gain in honour and wealth with which the work is done, which causes pleasurable excitement, even when the actual work is not pleasant; or else because it has grown into a pleasurable habit, as in the case with what you may call mechanical work; and lastly (and most of our work is of this kind) because there is conscious sensuous pleasure in the work itself; it is done, that is, by artists.”
"What is the object of Revolution? Surely to make people happy (...) And happiness without happy daily work is impossible”
“Briefly,” said he, “by the absence of artificial coercion, and the freedom for every man to do what he can do best, joined to the knowledge of what productions of labour we really wanted. I must admit that this knowledge we reached slowly and painfully.”
[and now a bit about the past]
- They had reached a wonderful facility of production, and in order to make the most of that facility they had gradually created (or allowed to grow, rather) a most elaborate system of buying and selling, which has been called the World-Market; and that World-Market, once set a-going, forced them to go on making more and more of these wares, whether they needed them or not.
- So that while (of course) they could not free themselves from the toil of making real necessaries, they created in a never-ending series sham or artificial necessaries, which became, under the iron rule of the aforesaid World-Market, of equal importance to them with the real necessaries which supported life. By all this they burdened themselves with a prodigious mass of work merely for the sake of keeping their wretched system going.
- Why, then, since they had forced themselves to stagger along under this horrible burden of unnecessary production, it became impossible for them to look upon labour and its results from any other point of view than one (...) this ‘cheapening of production’, as it was called, everything was sacrificed: the happiness of the workman at his work, nay, his most elementary comfort and bare health, his food, his clothes, his dwelling, his leisure, his amusement, his education—his life, in short—did not weigh a grain of sand in the balance against this dire necessity of ‘cheap production’ of things, a great part of which were not worth producing at all.
- What’s that you are saying? the labour-saving machines? Yes, they were made to ‘save labour’ (or, to speak more plainly, the lives of men) on one piece of work in order that it might be expended—I will say wasted—on another, probably useless, piece of work. Friend, all their devices for cheapening labour simply resulted in increasing the burden of labour.
- when the civilised World-Market coveted a country not yet in its clutches, some transparent pretext was found—the suppression of a slavery different from and not so cruel as that of commerce; the pushing of a religion no longer believed in by its promoters; the ‘rescue’ of some desperado or homicidal madman whose misdeeds had got him into trouble amongst the natives of the ‘barbarous’ country—any stick, in short, which would beat the dog at all.
- Then some bold, unprincipled, ignorant adventurer was found (no difficult task in the days of competition), and he was bribed to ‘create a market’ by breaking up whatever traditional society there might be in the doomed country, and by destroying whatever leisure or pleasure he found there. He forced wares on the natives which they did not want, and took their natural products in ‘exchange,’ as this form of robbery was called, and thereby he ‘created new wants,’ to supply which (that is, to be allowed to live by their new masters) the hapless, helpless people had to sell themselves into the slavery of hopeless toil so that they might have something wherewith to purchase the nullities of ‘civilisation.’
- there was one class of goods which they did make thoroughly well, and that was the class of machines which were used for making things. These were usually quite perfect pieces of workmanship, admirably adapted to the end in view. So that it may be fairly said that the great achievement of the nineteenth century was the making of machines which were wonders of invention, skill, and patience, and which were used for the production of measureless quantities of worthless make-shifts
(...) “And then the overturn,” said the old man, smiling, “and the nineteenth century saw itself as a man who has lost his clothes whilst bathing, and has to walk naked through the town (...)
The wares which we make are made because they are needed: men make for their neighbours use as if they were making for themselves, not for a vague market of which they know nothing, and over which they have no control: as there is no buying and selling, it would be mere insanity to make goods on the chance of their being wanted; for there is no longer anyone who can be compelled to buy them.
CHAPTER XVI: DINNER IN THE HALL OF THE BLOOMSBURY MARKET
“How is it that though we are so interested with our life for the most part, yet when people take to writing poems or painting pictures they seldom deal with our modern life, or if they do, take good care to make their poems or pictures unlike that life? Are we not good enough to paint ourselves? How is it that we find the dreadful times of the past so interesting to us—in pictures and poetry?"
CHAPTER XVII: HOW THE CHANGE CAME
“Well, these men, though conscious of this feeling, had no faith in it, as a means of bringing about the change. Nor was that wonderful: for looking around them they saw the huge mass of the oppressed classes too much burdened with the misery of their lives, and too much overwhelmed by the selfishness of misery, to be able to form a conception of any escape from it except by the ordinary way prescribed by the system of slavery under which they lived; which was nothing more than a remote chance of climbing out of the oppressed into the oppressing class"
"Therefore, though they knew that the only reasonable aim for those who would better the world was a condition of equality; in their impatience and despair they managed to convince themselves that if they could by hook or by crook get the machinery of production and the management of property so altered that the ‘lower classes’ (so the horrible word ran) might have their slavery somewhat ameliorated, they would be ready to fit into this machinery, and would use it for bettering their condition still more and still more, until at last the result would be a practical equality (they were very fond of using the word ‘practical’), because ‘the rich’ would be forced to pay so much for keeping ‘the poor’ in a tolerable condition that the condition of riches would become no longer valuable and would gradually die out. Do you follow me?”
“Well, since you follow me, you will see that as a theory this was not altogether unreasonable; but ‘practically,’ it turned out a failure.”
[the machinery held by people that didn't know what to do with them; when this would involve people less touched by the drive of freedom and improvement, only part of them would go up the ladder of wellbeing while many other would be kept in terrible slavery - the need for a war. Not knowing how to be free, but knowing that things ought to be different]
(...) “The other exception was a paper thought to be one of the most violent opponents of democracy, and so it was; but the editor of it found his manhood, and spoke for himself and not for his paper. In a few simple, indignant words he asked people to consider what a society was worth which had to be defended by the massacre of unarmed citizens, and called on the Government to withdraw their state of siege and put the general and his officers who fired on the people on their trial for murder" (...) THE REDEMPTION OF THE MEDIA!