austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Some seven men form an Association

So you live in a utopia. That's nothing to be ashamed of, and I can't think why you would be. Maybe it was just someone who looked like you. It would help if you wore name tags or had distinctive ribbons or something. And yet nobody living in a utopia can expect to get away entirely from responsibilities. At any moment roughly one-eighth of the population is busily introducing the place to some hapless outsider.

Sometimes these outsiders are people who lived before the utopia and who were trapped in a cave-in and put into suspended animation by the rare gasses -- strangely, they'd never gone into a cave -- or they were put in suspended animation while waiting for medical science to find a cure for stained-glass windows. Maybe they're from an alternate history where Belgian pioneer Paul Otlet and his visionary ``electric telescopes'' failed to bring the Mundaneum to the world in 1934. Perhaps they're aliens, so you can be their aliens, and you can be complementary to one another. Maybe they figure they're dreaming and there's no sense your waking them up just because they happen to be real.

In any case there's a lot of visitors, and every utopia citizen will have to help them get their bearings and fill them with shame for their home world making such a mess of their affairs. It's a big responsibility even with the nano-quantum-hypno-flower things teaching them the universal language over a few nights' sleep. But there are compensations to this job, since whenever you get too tired of explaining the world you can start making stuff up; how will they know?

Any visitor to utopia has expectations. The major one is that they'll get a tour. Doing this on foot is usually best, since then they can marvel at the size of a large, brick-faced building, and you can go on about how this is the administrative district's main production facility for those handsome wooden fence posts for old-style farms or for self-motivated electric gelatin or something. Toss in a bundle of numbers in obscure units (``modulates over 228.6 centipoise per hectosievert-millikatal!'') and you've sold it. Some folks want to see moving sidewalks; these can be found at most airports and a few train stations.

A history lesson's probably expected too, whether they want it or not. You can explain surprisingly much of utopia by pointing to anything -- a statue, a patch of land without a statue, a tree, a parking garage -- and saying that when they consider that and study the kitchen spoons of utopia they will understand all. Insist they have to work out the unexplained bits on their own.

Some visitors are looking for social satire, by which they mean seeing that their ideological enemies were fools and their heroes were visionaries. This is a tough one since it's hard to guess what they hoped to find. My suggestion: talk about how gold or silver is used to make the pillows more ideally pillow-ish and useful outside of bed or sofa contexts. This doesn't commit you to much, but people can make of it what they want. Make sure the pillows aren't obviously sapphire or diamonds as that could give the whole thing away.

Sometimes you'll get a visitor who wants to prove the utopia is actually a dystopia, and they're the sole person who sees it, and they must destroy the fabric of society, which is somehow supposed to help. It's useful to have contacts with a local theater group, as they should have costumes and a few people who can improvise into looking like an Underground Movement, with a couple toy bubble wands or something you can say are futuristic pacification weapons as we don't want anyone unnecessarily hurt.

Feed them a story about how the entire organizing impulse for society comes from, oh, that closed brick factory nobody ever got around to demolishing, and let them attack it. After the visitor's successful ``raid'' you'll probably have to go on for a while blathering about how they've opened everyone's eyes to how much better life can be, but whoever said utopia was perfect?

Trivia: The first telephone exchange in Chicago opened in June 1878. Source: Telephone: The First Hundred Years, John Brooks.

Currently Reading: Challenge To Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945 - 1974, Asif A Siddiqi.


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