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News from Nowhere, or, an Epoch of Rest : being some chapters from a utopian romance Kindle Edition
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Yet certain features of Morris' post-Revolution Britain have become reality. People live longer, reaching the century achieved by some of his characters; as a result of the NHS and better nutrition, the standard of health of the people has improved; the drab clothes of our Victorian ancestors have given way to more colourful outfits not too far away from those depicted in Morris' romance. And the environmental awareness of the last thirty years is cleaning up the worst of the pollution: salmon can once again be caught in the Thames.
Despite current concerns about terrorism, unemployment and public debt, we live in a society that makes progress, however uncertainly at times, as scientific discoveries help to improve the quality of life. The problem with Morris' anarchist Utopia is that it is a static paradise, with no new discoveries, no challenges, no innovations, and a general lack of interest in education, where people observe the beauties of nature rather than read books. To some extent, we are not too far away from H G Wells' world of the Eloi, though fortunately lacking the predatory Morlocks, but like that world it lives for the present, caught in a seemingly endless summer.
It has reverted not so much to medieval times - and some have remarked - but to a Britain on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, essentially rural, but without a squirearchy and landed gentry.Read more ›
Morris himself came from a privileged capitalist background - his father had made a fortune by wise (or lucky) investment - and his experience of the evils of industrialisation was that of an observer, not a victim. He had a highly romanticised sensibility and felt that, if his ideas could only be widely put into action, the world would become a paradise of fairness and beauty. His practical attempts, though today we cherish the results in the shape of the beautiful objects and designs created, had little impact on 19th century industrialism. His craftman-made objects were eye-wateringly expensive, accessible only to well-heeled idealists like himself. Meanwhile, the benefits of modern technology became available to ordinary people because of, not despite, the increased efficiency of factory production.
The astute reader will see that the way of doing things described in "News from Nowhere" could not, in practice, bring the benefits of science, research and modern medicine to an egalitarian citizenry in the way he hoped.Read more ›