Describing Utopia

I posted this a while back on Facebook, but I want to have it up here too, so:

W. H. Auden included the following questionnaire in his book of essays, The Dyer’s Hand. It’s meant to make potential critics think about what sort of Eden (his term) they envision; I prefer “Utopia,” but the point is the same. So: describe the following characteristics of your Utopia:


A very steep mountainous region sloping downward through a wide plain, leading to the ocean. Marshes on one side of the plain, forest of Redwoods on the other. Plenty of streams and rocky bits throughout. The ocean region should have one pristine beach and one very deep harbor, otherwise cliffs and crags.


2 Months of winter (Dec/Jan), including at least 1 heavy snowstorm that makes everyone have to stay home and drink cocoa. 3 months of summer, including at least 1 blazingly hot day that makes everyone have to snooze and drink lemonade. Spring and Fall should be pleasant, something like the Mid-Atlantic US or southern Europe. The occasional roaring thunderstorm.

>>>Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants

As varied as possible, including the search for new genetic material in outer space.


All local languages are encouraged, but everyone must also learn a lingua franca (Spanish). Wandering mendicants (see: “economic activities”) will also collect new words to be added to the lingua franca.

>>>Weights and Measures



Anything that does not involve proselytizing or the killing of non-believers. Anything that does not threaten the system of government. Religions that encourage communal feasting.

>>>Size of Capital

15,000, that is, 3 local community units of 5,000 people each.

>>>Form of Government

Economically: Socialist. Homes and private possessions allowed, everything else comunally owned. Culturally: Direct-Democratic, with a dash of Anarchy. Government officials chosen by lot, all seats have 2 year terms.

>>>Sources of Power

Geothermal, floating solar platforms, body heat.

>>>Economic Activities

Exchange of local currencies (each community of 5,000 people will have their own currency), indexed bartering. Every citizen is required to spend at least 1 year as a wandering mendicant.

>>>Means of Transport

Horse and wagon, bicycles, dirigibles, those jet tubes from “The Jetsons.” No gas powered vehicles; instead of NASCAR, have Segway races.


Classical Byzantine for public buildings, Traditional Japanese for homes.

>>>Domestic Furniture and Equipment

Art Deco, Roycroft, yearly furniture making expos (see “public entertainment”). No microwave ovens.

>>>Formal Dress

Tuxedos with top hat and tails, Directoire/Regency/Empire gowns, London swinging 60’s styles. Everyone should attend at least one costume party during the year.

>>>Sources of Public Information

Graffiti, public declamation, local community newspapers (print and digital). All government offices are open, that is, no locks on doors or computer encryption.

>>>Public Statues and Monuments

Small “statuettes” can be requisitioned to commemorate acts of kindness. Sculptures can be commissioned at any time, but all plans must be approved by local communities beforehand.

>>>Public Entertainments

Each month every local community is responsible for some live performance or expo: a play, dance, concert, reading, plans for statues or monuments, handmade furniture, clothing, cakes etc. These can be filmed and distributed as movies. No centralized control of any form of entertainment, audiences vote at the end of performances, the best pieces are shown during a month-long festival at the end of the year. No television, all viewings of filmed pieces are communal.

CDs: 538) The Flaming Lips: At War With the Mystics; 539)Joe Jackson: Look Sharp; 540) The Stranglers: The Hit Men; 541) The Commodores: Anthology; 542) TV On The Radio: desperate youth, bloodthirsty babes.