The hospitals of Utopia
More’s Utopia is concerned with the theory of the creation of a supreme new country in which there is an ideal solution to all the problems existing in More’s lifetime. While the text is concerned with describing the ideal new world that has been seen by Raphael Hythloday it is attempting to avoid is the descriptions of how the island was created violently, and colonised for Utopos’ ideological position to be developed and put into practice.
Although the narrative in the text fails to directly name colonisation as the process of how Utopia was formed (referring to it only as Utopos conquering Sansculottia), what it does do is attempt to provide justifications as to why it was created and why it should have been developed. The main justification that can be extensively seen throughout the text is of how the Utopian society is more advanced and superior to the colonised society, and therefore it is ‘natural’ that this society should remain while others are purged.
The advancement and superiority of the Utopian society appears in a variety of different forms, ranging from the scientific to the ideological. One of the first justifications that More makes for Utopos colonising Utopia is that he conquered Sansculottia and ‘was alone responsible for transforming a pack of ignorant savages into what is now, perhaps, the most civilised nation in the world. ‘ This is a justification as it is saying that without Utopos and the colonising of it there would be no advanced and civilised society in place to develop and create all the ideological and technological advances it has.
This justification is an example of how More considers it alright to colonise a society as long as they are supreme and going to advance and progress that society more so than what would naturally have occurred if the indigenous population had been allowed to remain as they were. Another aspect of the Utopian superiority is in relation to their religious beliefs and the acceptance of many different philosophical positions in regards to these different religions. The Utopians do not have any set religion to follow and adhere to, as Utopos did not believe in stating which was the correct religion to believe in and pursue.
Utopos was instead open to having multiple religions on the island for his people to choose from and follow, as he believed that this approach was in the ‘best interests of religion itself. ‘ Utopos came up with this approach to religion as a result of hearing how the indigenous people used to have ‘constant quarrels’ about religion, and recognising that one of the reasons he was able to conquer the land was due to their disharmony and quarrelling over religious matters. Although Utopos willing made this concession about religion what he did do was ‘Strictly and solemnly forbade his people to believe anything so incompatible
with human dignity as the doctrine that the soul dies with the body’ This means that while Utopos was willing to concede on the issue of forcing his religion on his people what he was unwilling to do was completely let them have there own religious beliefs, he was still enforcing his beliefs upon them. The religious superiority of Utopians was not only in the fact that they allowed many different religions, unlike many other countries which have been colonised, but that they were also willing to accept that other had different religions and they were tolerant and respective of those differences as opposed to fighting over them.
In describing this society were religious tolerance is the precedent More is, through his writing, giving a justification for colonisation as he is describing a society religiously and morally supreme to his own where there was persecution for following alternative religions to the king. As well as giving religious justifications for the colonisation of Utopia, the text also gives intellectual justifications as to why the Utopians should be in power and control. The Utopian society is an advanced culture in regards to its medicine and the intelligence of its people and way of life.
Utopian people have access to a medical profession whereby the people of Utopia would rather be ‘ill in hospital than at home. ‘ The hospitals of Utopia are described as being ‘so well run, and so well supplied with all types of medical equipment’ which gives the impression that they are more advanced than other countries hospitals and therefore their culture more scientifically advanced to the extent that they should be in place even if it is through colonisation.
The medical staff are also described as being supreme to other countries nurses and doctors, ‘the nurses are so sympathetic and conscientious, and there are so many experienced doctors constantly available’, even though the Utopian people are ‘very active, full of energy and stronger than their height would suggest’ which implies that they regard physical fitness so much that they try never to be ill if they can help it.
If this is the philosophy that Utopians adopt then it is even more of an advancement that they have developed these medically superior hospitals, as there is little need for them, ‘nobody in the world needs medicine less than they do’. This advancement and superiority of medical awareness and technology is given as a justification for the colonisation of the land as the impression given is one whereby with out the Utopians the indigenous population would not be as advanced and many would be dead through disease and ill health.
The Utopian people are described throughout the text as being of ‘outstanding intelligence’ and Raphael Hythloday realises this fact when he teaches them Greek and describes the utopians he teaches as ‘hard-working pupils. ‘ The intelligence of the Utopians can be seen in a variety of different areas, for example they have invented several medical machines that help them in the hospitals and attend lectures everyday to further their own advancement of knowledge and understanding about a variety of topics.
The intelligence of the Utopians can be seen clearly by their creation of paper successfully when they had previously never seen it, ‘From the moment we showed them some books that Aldus had printed, and talked a bit about printing and papermaking – we couldn’t explain them properly, as none of us knew much about either process – they immediately made a shrewd guess how things were done. ‘