Competition year: 2004
About Thomas Bell
INTRODUCTION: Heaven on Earth?
The word itself conjures a multitude of images, images which are rarely consistent from person to person. For some, the word means some futuristic city where technology meets all humanity's needs. For others, "utopia" is the simplest life possible, a life supported by nothing more than Mother Earth's bountiful resources and one's own hard work. Authors, philosophers, and even politicians entice our imaginations with wishful visions of some perfect existence. Unfortunately, most of those visions remain wishful, beyond the bounds of reality.
But history shows us that some have taken their ideas of utopia a step further. Attempting to escape dissatisfaction with the world around them, they combined with like-minded persons and attempted to transform fantastic abstractions into a tangible reality. They were inspired by religion, philosophy, and even commerce. But more importantly, they were spurred on by hope, hope that a perfect society can indeed be formed on a planet so marred by dissatisfaction.
These dreamers faced innumerable challenges in their quest for utopia,. For millennia, the entire world was divided by kings and emperors, resources hoarded by aristocrats and entrepreneurs, and basic freedoms not yet even realized, much less protected. Many were too concerned with surviving an imperfect world to even dream of a perfect one. Those with ambitions beyond the established world found themselves without time, resources, or even a geographical location for their quest.
That is, until 1776
While the American continent was under foreign rule, itâs existence had relatively little impact on the quest for utopia. But once the original thirteen British colonies changed the world forever by winning their independence, many who desired "heaven on earth" found an ideal location for their experiments in perfection. From millenarian Christians to secular Marxists and beyond, people united by a variety of causes and ideals now had not only ideas about utopia, but the land and resources to realize those dreams.
Unfortunately, every most attempt ended in failure. Poor management caused resources to be wasted and lost; ideological quarrels led to splits and fallouts; societal rejection and government intervention stifled the efforts of even the strongest utopian groups. Some even fell apart because the date they set for the Second Coming or the Apocalypse came and passed.
But despite their eventual failures, every group had its strong points. Some used religion or a uniform moral code to promote a strong sense of community. Others took advantage of American free enterprise to raise substantial capital.
When we set out to design our own utopian community, we did so under this principal: why dream of utopia, when we can create utopia? We looked to the past, to the successes and failures of those who embodied this principal. We dug through the very fabrics of these communities, snipped and saved the good ideas, and threw away the mistakes. What resulted was a "patchwork quilt" of utopian idea, which we now present for your consideration.