Utopia's Relationship with Patriotism Emma benfield

Critical Argument

The earliest utopian literature is over 4,000 years old, despite the term not being coined until More’s Utopia (Sargent 4). Since then there have been a myriad of utopian ideas and literature from different countries, time periods, and authors. A popular theme in utopian literature is patriotism. “Its [the patriot's] key elements are a special affection for or love of the patria, a sense of pride in its achievements, an identification with the patria as one’s own…a disposition to make personal sacrifices on its behalf, and, finally, a sense of loyalty to one’s compatriots” (Archard 102). In Huxley’s Island, we see a community that has found a way to successfully combine religion and science, have a multi-familial trading system, control their population density, and appease it’s citizens.

There is a lot of strife in the real world due to people disagreeing on the way the government or facilities should go about achieving their goals to better society. In utopias, however, there is very commonly already a system that everyone loves, supports, and strives to maintain. The citizens of any given utopia also seem to believe that their civilization is vastly superior to the outside world and that they have figured out the secret to forming a society with as little negativity as possible. For example, in Island, when Will is talking to Dr. Robert about how they were so economically independent and how their economics worked, Dr. Robert said, “[We have} None of those bloodsucking usurers that you find all over the Indian countryside. And no commercial banks in your Western style…we’ve managed to resist the temptation that the West has now succumbed to—the temptation to over consume” (Huxley 177). In the genre of utopian literature, there are a vast amount of settings, stories, characters, and plots; however, all of these rely on the fact that the members of the utopian society love and support their society over any alternatives, this is what makes it a utopia for them.


Researched Close Reading

Chapter 6

From a psychological standpoint, there are many reasons that patriotism exists besides being taught to love your country from a young age. In-group bias, social identity, and self-serving bias all lead to people feeling more connected and more positively towards their country and their fellow citizens (Verkuyten & Yildiz). However, many utopians take patriotism to an extreme level with government officials and citizens of the utopia thinking that the outside world is immoral with flawed methodology for dealing with the majority of common problems in society. In Island, when William was talking to Ranga about the slums in India, Ranga says, “‘God has nothing to do with it,’ Ranga retorted, ‘and the joke isn’t cosmic, it’s strictly man-made. These things aren’t like gravity or the second law of thermodynamics; they don’t have to happen. They happen only if people are stupid enough to let them happen. Here in Pala we haven’t allowed them to happen, so the joke hasn’t been played on us. We’ve had good sanitation for the best part of a century—and still we’re not overcrowded, we’re not miserable, we’re not under a dictatorship. And the reason is very simple: we chose to behave in a sliceable and realistic way’” (Huxley 95). While this is true of Pala, it also had better technology than any other countries from the start, it also had only been ruled by three men, all of whom were good rulers that had Pala’s best interest in mind. It is a very patriotic and quite naive to assume that Pala doesn’t have slums because their leadership was much better than India’s as opposed to the fact that India has a very long history with lots of war, colonies, and opportunities for things to go wrong. However, the inhabitants of Pala are extremely proud of this fact, and to them, it makes Pala a utopia that they work to continue to uphold.

Another common theme in utopian societies is that the citizens of that country or world are extremely happy and thriving. In Island, Rahda comments on the healthcare in Pala, stating that in the outside world doctors get paid for curing people while in Pala they get paid for keeping people well (77-78). She also goes on to address their mental health, saying, “Your neurosis rate is about one in five or even four. Ours is about one in twenty. The one that breaks down gets treatment, on all fronts, and the nineteen who don’t break down have had prevention on all the fronts” (Huxley 79). The fact that the citizens on Pala thrive so much is actually part of why they are so patriotic, and part of what makes it a utopia. “Flourishing is essential to humans, and if one’s country has principles that are conductive to human flourishing, then one has a special moral duty to be patriotic toward it” (Ikuenobe 301). Citizens in utopian societies not only have a deep love for their homes, but also have a sense of unity and understanding of the principles that their utopia lays down for them. Parker proposes the idea that “True patriots are those who are both devoted to American political values and possess a critical understanding of them” (97).


Historical/Cultural Context

Island came out in 1962, only a year before Huxley’s death and in the midst of Huxley’s LSD habit. Island is very much about accessing your inner self and realizing exactly who you are. Moksha-medicine is how the inhabitants of Pala achieve this. Will’s description of how he feels after taking moksha is described as, “William Asquith Farnaby—ultimately and essentially there was no such person. Ultimately and essentially there was only a luminous bliss, only a knowledgeless understanding, only union with unity in a limitless, undifferentiated awareness. This, self-evidently, was the mind’s natural state” (Huxley 326). Seeing as how moksha is a psychedelic drug, it causes hallucinations, very similarly to LSD. “Will Farnaby’s ingestion of moksha-medicine, closely modeled upon Huxley’s experiments with mescaline and LSD fills chapter fifteen” (Meckier 44).

In the years leading up to the release of the book, there was a huge population increase due to the end of World War II. In addition to this, the Space Race and Cold War were going on (History.com). It was obvious that this affected Island seeing as population control and economic efficiency were important to the citizens of Pala. “Now it [the population] had started to rise. In fifty or sixty years, Dr. Andrew foresaw, Pala would be transformed into the kind of festering slum that Rendang is today” (Huxley 89) and wasting money on wars, “ And finally, we don’t spend a quarter of the gross national product preparing for World War III or even World War’s baby brother, Local War MMMCCCXXXIII” (Huxley 177). The citizens of Pala are very proud of the fact of the way they prioritize any of their citizens over one another, ensuring that fairness and equality was what the island kept salient. This fact reinforces the idea that the love for one’s country is present in Huxley’s Island.


Though there are many utopian works of art, all of them rely on the fact that their citizens agree with the governmental entities, leaders, and regulations. There is also a need for citizens to get along with each other and all have the same values and moral reasoning. They also must want to see them continued through to the next generation, otherwise it wouldn’t be a true utopia. A true utopia must satisfy the needs of all it’s citizens and be a fully functional society with the inhabitants being happy to live there. In this way, all citizens of a utopia must be patriots. A patriot is someone who supports his or her country and it interests. Citizens of a utopia most certainly fall under this definition because without their wishes to sustain their society and its values as it is, they would not consider where they were living a utopia, making their society non-utopian by default. Therefore, patriotism and utopia have a relationship where a utopia cannot exist without its citizens being patriotic.


Works Cited

Archard, David. “Three Ways to Be a Good Patriot.” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2, 1995, pp. 101–113., www.jstor.org/stable/40435908.

Debnath, Sukanto. “Monks.” Flickr, 1 Jan 2008, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sukanto_debnath/2496354570/.

History.com Staff. “The 1950s.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, http://www.history.com/topics/1950s.

Huxley, Aldous. Island. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, New York, 1962-2009.

Matuska. “book paper printed book” Pixabay, 2016, https://pixabay.com/en/book-paper-printed-book-old-1814123/.

Meckier, Jerome. “CONRADIAN REMINDERS IN ALDOUS HUXLEY'S ‘ISLAND’: WILL FARNABY'S ‘MOKSHA’-MEDICINE EXPERIENCE AND ‘THE ESSENTIAL HORROR.’” Studies in the Novel, vol. 35, no. 1, 2003, pp. 44–67., www.jstor.org/stable/29533548.

Parker, Christopher S. “Symbolic versus Blind Patriotism: Distinction without Difference?” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 63, no. 1, 2010, pp. 97–114., www.jstor.org/stable/27759889.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

Silva, Marinelson. “Brasil Tropical.” Flickr, 16 Mar 2017, https://www.flickr.com/photos/marinelson/33556785570/.

Skeeze. “vials science liquids.” Pixabay, 29 Aug 2011, https://pixabay.com/en/vials-science-liquids-ionic-1781316/.

Stevebidmead. “hornbill bird tropical.” Pixabay, 13 Mar 2007, https://pixabay.com/en/hornbill-bird-tropical-zoo-bill-356655/.

Verkuyten, Maykel and Borja Martinovic. “Immigrants’ National Identification: Meanings, Determinants, and Consequences.” Social Issues and Policy Review, vol. 6, no. 1, Mar. 2012, pp. 82-112. EBSCOhost, doi:10.111/j.1751-2409.2011.01036.x.



Created with images by Marinelson Almeida Silva - "Brasil Tropical" • Stevebidmead - "hornbill bird tropical" • skeeze - "vials science liquids" • Sukanto Debnath - "Monks" • matuska - "book paper printed book"

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