The Day They Banned "Before"
by Anne Lemhöfer

The Framing Story
1. Many Small Catastrophes And a Big One
2. How Everything Began

The End Of Before and Everything After: The Legend Of U-Town
Day One
Day Twenty-Seven
Day Thirty-One
Day One Hundred and Seven
Day Two Hundred and Seventy-Four
The State
Work and Development
Living Together

Preface - The Case for Utopia

Back to Utopitopia. Back to Bozo.

Horae Beatae Mariae
Virginis ad usum
Ecclesiae Gallicanae,
cum Calendario
[Hours of the Blessed
Virgin Mary According
to the Use of the
Gallican Church,
with Calendar]

Franco-Flemish, late 15th century

NYPL, Spencer Collection



1. Many Small Catastrophes And a Big One

Well, maybe I should start saying that it is not quite true that there actually was one day on which "before" was banned. That´s one of the myths our "town", which is not actually a town either, is built upon. It is probably true that it was forbidden to mention the word "before" when this place, some say: This world, was founded. That was because "before" must have been really horrible. "Before", that is, before our town, U-Town, came about. "Before", that means: Before the catastrophe happened.

What it was exactly that had happened to make everything that had existed before to fall into pieces, nobody knows. "The Catastrophe", as people call the end of "before" up to today, has also become a myth no one knows anything specific about. Even the people who survived what had happened couldn´t remember. So it must have been truly horrible. At least, that´s what I think. Sometimes it happens that something is so bad people actually forget about it. Well, nothing like that has ever happened to me so far. But I´m only gonna be twelve next month, so maybe I´m a bit too young. But I read about it in books. So I also know that it is not quite possible to really forget about things. And, of course, some of what had happened occurred to the people, who survived it, in nightmares - but it was never a complete picture of the ghastly event, that arose out of the many mosaics of what had happened to make a whole world crumble, which people saw in front of them when they woke up in the middle of the night, sheer insanity in their eyes. Well, at least that´s how I imagine it to be, waking from a nightmare like that.

But I want to talk about the book I´ve just started to read. This book explains how U-Town became to be U-Town. It´s a very huge book and very old. But I don´t care. I like reading books. In fact, that´s what I like to do most of all things. My brother calls me smart-arse all the time because of it, but I don´t care. He hates books and has probably never read one in his entire life. But that´s ok. No one is forced to do things here. He´s building tree houses all the time since he´s old enough to hold a hammer. I don´t know what for, but he likes to sit in a tree and smoke his cigarettes which don´t smell at all like the cigarettes my mum is smoking. They smell in fact quite different, but that´s ok. My brother likes them. Once he built a tree house only for me, and that´s where I sit and read all the time. That was quite nice of him, so he´s allowed to call me smart-arse. Maybe he´s right, but the thing is that I just want to know about things. And now I want to know how everything started.

But, as I said before, the story in the book, which is called "The End of Before and Everything After" is a myth, a legend. That means, that it is probably not true. Or only half of it, maybe. Nobody knows. Because, when the people founded U-Town, which was maybe a thousand years ago or more, they didn´t, of course, have the equipment to print books. They just told the story over and over again, many people wrote it down in many different ways. It´s, well, a myth. And a long myth it is. The book is more than 2000 pages long, so there might at least be some things in it that are true. Wellt, that´s what I think. But maybe it´s not important anyway. What is more important than how U-Town became U-Town is, I think, why U-Town is as it is. The book is, in fact, not only a myth, but also the base for our constitution - which is still valid today.

Les arbres du Soleil et de la Lune

Chroniques d'Alexandre

Bruges, 1448-1449
Jean Wauquelin

Paris, BNF

Réalisées à la demande du duc de Bourgogne Philippe le Bon et somptueusement enluminées, les Chroniques d'Alexandre offrent une représentation de la célèbre scène de la rencontre du roi avec les arbres du Soleil et de la Lune, lors de ses fabuleuses aventures indiennes. Doués du pouvoir de lui révéler l'avenir, les arbres annoncent au conquérant sa fin prochaine. Si, à l'intérieur du récit, la scène s'inscrit dans la volonté souveraine de domination de l'espace et du temps, elle relève
également, de façon plus générale, du genre littéraire foisonnant des merveilles de l'Orient, dont le charme était de révéler à l'Occident un univers onirique.

The people who survived what had happened, wanted to create something completely new (well, they didn´t have a choice anyway, as there there was nothing left from the old world…) and not make the same mistakes again, that had led to the catastrophe. So it was, as is claimed in the book, even forbidden to mention the word "before". That seems quite plausible to me. Maybe I should mention that this was the only thing which was ever forbidden in U-Town. But only for a short while: Because soon the people realized, that it might actually be very dangerous to not talk about how it had been (or rather, about the very few, but probably important things they remembered from those days). Maybe, and that seems also quite plausible, you are more inclined to make mistakes when you don´t know about them - or rather about how things had turned out when people had made certain mistakes in the past. So they decided to build a museum.

In this place they put all the items they had brought with them (out of whatever reason) and combined them with explanations of concepts from "before" they believed to be in some way or another responsible for how everything turned out in the end. I have been there once and I must say that most of the things shown don´t make much sense to me. I have, for example, no idea what these weird round and flat things made of iron are for, it says "money" on the sign next to it. Sounds quite stupid. I didn´t understand either what the words "property", "nation" and "war" mean. Maybe I didn´t listen properly when it was explained to me. Anyway, we don´t have these words in our language, so it is really not easy to figure out what they mean. That´s the funny thing with language: Things which don´t have words don´t really exist - at least, you can never be sure about it.

However, the strangest thing they have in this museum is a little round clock on a shelf in a corner which is called "alarmclock". It has some bell-device, and when you put one of the arms of the clock to the current hour, it makes the most awful noise I have heard in my entire life. On the sign next to it it says that the people in the old world were unable to wake up in the morning by themselves and needed to be forced by this thing to leave their bed. Well, that´s really scary! How completely and entirely unfree and unhappy they must have been. Here, in U-Town, alarm bells ring when some catastrophe has happened, when a fire breaks out or something like that. But for the people who had lived "before", every single day of their lives apparently began with a small catastrophe. They really must have hated their lives.

No wonder the big catastrophe happened one day.

La Cité de Dieu

Saint Augustin

Vallée du Rhône ou Languedoc,
1er quart du XIIe siècle

Paris, BNF

Les manuscrits latins de la Cité de Dieu ne présentent en général aucune décoration figurée. Le manuscrit latin 2060 fait exception à cette règle, encore que la cité de Dieu qui en orne le frontispice soit réduite aux seuls éléments architecturaux tels qu'arcs et colonnes. Pour autant, le jeu subtil des couleurs, l'ampleur de la construction à pleine page, l'élégance du titre en capitales enclavées inscrites en réserve sur un fond violacé en font un chef-d'?uvre, dont la simplicité conceptuelle évoque d'autant mieux le génie de la pensée de saint Augustin et la gloire de cette cité fondée sur l'amour de Dieu.

2. How Everything Began

Well, I must say I quite like to live in U-Town and I don´t need awful noises in the morning to tell me that my sad life is not yet finished and instead another ghastly day of drudgery awaits me when I leave bed. I quite like to wake up when I see the light outside my window. Especially today. I sit in my tree house, I smell my brother`s cigarettes from the oak tree behind me, the birds are singing and the sun is rising. One of our two moons is still visible on the horizon, and just now I see a cloud that looks like a penguin. My brother sees these sorts of things all the time.

I got up so early because I am quite curious about the book. The first chapter is called "How everything began". It´s quite scary. At least, that´s what I think. The book is told by a woman called Vanja, but maybe she was invented afterwards. You never know. Anyway, it starts when she wakes from a long unconsciousness on some meadow precisely where the museum with the money and the alarmclock is situated today. That's where U-Town was founded. Well, it´s just a myth, but...

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

De Civitate Dei (The City of God)

Florence, ca. 1470

NYPL, Spencer Collection

The End Of Before and Everything After
- The Legend Of U-Town -


Darkness. I don´t know how I came here. Darkness all around me. I have no clothes on my body. I don´t know if I had been walking. If I had been running. If I had been crawling. If I had been flying. If I had been swimming. I just know that I´m here now. Here in the darkness. Lying on the grass. Unburnt grass. I don´t know if it´s green. It´s so dark all around me. Where am I? Do they have green grass here? That is the first thought that crosses my mind. The human mind is a strange thing. Grass. Darkness. It´s so dark. Maybe I have turned blind. No! There is a moon in the sky. No! Two moons. Two? Doesn´t matter. I have experienced far worse things than suddenly seeing two moons in the sky. They can light three if they want to. Four. I don´t care. At least I´m not blind. That´s for sure. I don´t know how long I´ve been lying here. It´s so dark. There was so much light where I came from. There was so much light people got insane from looking into it. Everyone was screaming. I closed my eyes. It has been dark since then.



Thomas More

Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deq[ue] nova Insula Utopia

Louvain, Belgium: Arte Theodorici Martini, 1516


Day One

Thank God they have only one sun. One of the moons is still visible. My eyes are hurting. My new world is, well, blurry. But the grass is green. That´s for sure. At least. And yes, there are trees. Well, it looks like it. A small lake. I blink. A surface like a mirror. Not so good. My body looks horrible: Bruises, scars. Thank god I´m alone and no one sees me right now. But what´s that? My body dissolves, the water is moving. Something…comes swimming towards me….some-one, in fact. I scream. He screams. I move backwards. Suddenly the air is full of screaming voices. I am definitely not alone anymore. Now I realize: The meadow is full of people, no one looking any better than I am.

Well, that´s at least something. A group has gathered below a huge oak tree. I try to walk there. The swimmer is crawling out of the water, he´s burnt all over and rolling towards me. I drag him to the tree. His face is swollen and not recognizable anymore. People are talking. Trying to talk. Someone has lit a fire. Someone is smoking a cigarette. Strange, what can remain in peoples´ pockets after a whole world is torn into pieces. A girl stares at an old alarmclock she´s holding in her right hand. "Before" had ended twelve minutes past eight.

What was it that had happened? The guy with the cigarette seems to read my face. "Don´t ask, no one of us has any idea what has been going on. No one knows how any of us got here. But we´re here now. We´re alive. We need to do something." Sounds good. How many are we? A hundred, two hundred? Three hundred?
We need to do something. That´s right.

Well, it goes on and on like that for many more pages, but I decided to skip them. Maybe I´ll read the rest later.



Thomas More

Libellus vere aureus nec
minus salutaris quam
festivus de optimo
reip[ublicae] statu,
deq[ue] nova Insula

Louvain, Belgium: Arte Theodorici Martini, 1516

Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature


Day Twenty-Seven

The world as we know it has been stamped out of existence. It`s gone. We are starting to come to terms with that. It will take some time. We still don´t know what happened. It had to do with lots of light. We agreed on that. We are 382. Women, men, children. We have survived the first bad rain, we have shared what has been left of our clothes, we have built shelters, we have plucked mushrooms and berries, we have grilled insects on the fire, found very ugly looking animals in the shallow water at the lakeside and eaten them. "We have to build a new world", someone says. Sounds good. "We have to make it better than before", adds the guy who finished his packet of cigarettes long ago. Better than….before? How was "before"? No one really remembers, but we agree that something must have gone seriously wrong, so we have to do everything differently. Well, there´s definitely a point to that.

But, we have a very serious problem: It has turned out that most of us don´t really like each other. Nevertheless, it seems that we will have to live together for a very long time to come. That´s for sure. And maybe it´s not the worst pre-condition ever to built up a completely new society if the others are not exactly your best friends.

Well, in fact, that´s the normal thing.

This is going too slowly. At least, that´s what I think. I´m gonna skip twenty more pages.



Tract de Mai 68

Les utopies des années 60 se dessinent à travers les tracts de mai 68 conservés à la Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Day Thirty-One

No one exactly thought that our task was gonna be an easy one, but I for myself didn´t expect it to be that complicated. It all began with the guy who had been in a bad mood ever since he had smoked his last cigarette. "When I look at all you people I am starting to think that one world is not really enough. We are so different, and I personally don´t want to share it with most of you. Why not do it properly from the very beginning and design many `perfect worlds` so that all of us are happy?" He got lots of applause, standing ovations in fact. But I was not so sure about it. "The Perfect Society" (we had agreed before that nothing less than that was our goal) - doesn´t that mean, that it should be possible for all of us to be happy there? Isn´t that the real challenge?

We didn´t settle this issue for the time being. But we agreed to do it like that: We would form 20 discussion forums with about twenty of us in each group to debate important issues for the constitution of our future society, or, societies. Each group would have to present arguments, and than we were going to decide. Soon we had one group A, one group B, one group C and so on until group T. They gathered in different shelters round the lake, the whole process was supposed to last no longer than 30 days. But, of course, it took much, much longer. After all, we wanted to create The Perfect World. Things like that take time. We agreed to focus on five main issues: "The State", "Property", "Education", "Work and Development" and "Living Together". After 62 days the first group, F, declared to have its concept ready for presentation. The last group finished its debate two weeks later.

The next part of the book is the longest one. Lots of blabla for more than 1300 pages. I will skip through the details of the group discussions to the big debate at the end - which finishes with the constitution of U-Town as it still exists today.



W. Alexis

"Je veux être libre! ...
C'est mon droit et je me défends"

[I Want to Be Free! ...
It is My Right, and I Defend Myself]

Paris: Duclaux, 1871[?]


Miriam and Ira D. Wallach
Division of Art, Prints and Photographs,
Print Collection


Day One Hundred and Seven

One perfect world or many perfect ones? Perfect it has to be, we had agreed on that earlier. We had also somewhat agreed on what that basically means: Each and everyone should have everything he or she needed, no one should be forced to live a live he or she did not want to live, everyone should be free and happy. Quite blurry, I agree, but better than nothing. It was especially group R who fervently argued for the Many-Worlds-Framework to realize an overall "Perfect Society". They were strongly against any state that dictated how people had to live, against a state that artificially produced equality by taking from those who have a lot in favour of those who, out of whatever reason, are poor. "I want the state to leave me alone, to let me keep what´s mine and not to force me to live together with people whose values I don`t share", said the guy, who now tried to grow and dry some herbs to make cigarettes out of them, over and over again. "We are different", he repeated and his group-colleagues applauded him whenever he opened his mouth. "The only thing a state should be doing is to protect peoples´ property", he said. Standing ovations by his fans.

Group B, G and S had been silent so far, but now started to present their argument concerning the matter. "Well, to start with", one young girl began, "we have to decide if we are going to have a thing as private property, and whether these `Many Worlds` you want don´t resemble our old nations too much to endanger our new society to be fighting wars once again some time in the future".

This statement caused some unrest among the 382 members-to-be of the new world. Words like "nations" and "wars" called back terrible memories in many of them. At first we had decided to not talk about anything that had existed before, our first unofficial law was to make it illegal to even mention the word "before", to ban it out of our collective memory.

This day, the day on which we banned "before", is an important one in our short history - because, to my mind, it illustrates the seriousness which we were prepared to invest to make everything better, perfect. Although we changed our strategy soon: "We have to talk about the bad things to never let them happen again", someone said, and that sounded plausible to all of us. And we agreed to never have nations again which could fight each other in wars. So instead of banning the word "before" and our feeble memory of how it was (anyway, no law ever can be so strong to ban memories), we tried to ban certain concepts from the old world we swore never to apply again.

The girl went on in her speech: "We are different, but not that different", she said in the direction of group R, "look at us: No one owns anything so far, we are all equal and I think it´s not asking to much to say it should stay that way. We all might prefer different food, different clothes or hairstyles, but to start with, we all need the same things: A warm house, clothes, food and a society that permits us to endulge in the things we like - as long as they are not hurting others. So why not take up the challenge to create ONE society that both supports everyone with what he or she needs and lets them lead their private lives as individually as possible?" That sort of settled the matter. "Let´s take up this challenge!" a guy who looked a bit stupid and was always a bit too loud shouted, but this time many voices joined him. Even group R grudgingly agreed. In fact, we all were too much dependent on each other to risk any serious quarrels.

The result of the following referendum settled the matter for good: 382 votes for the One-World-Concept. So instead of having an A-Town, a B-Town, a C-Town and, last but not least a T-Town to built up their own societies, everyone agreed to built one single U - TOWN instead, in order to combine concepts about all the six issues that were debated in the 19 groups - to have the twentieth letter of the alphabet as a summary of the 19 previous ones. Not very creative, I agree, but I think we were all still too traumatised and tired to be creative.

We agreed on calling our world "U-Town" - instead of "U-Land" or something like that - (although it was obvious that it was going to develop into many towns and regions in the future), to make a clear, verbal distinction to the old concept of countries and nations who fought each other: We were only going to have one "town", one world, and as it was going to be the only one we had, we had to be careful with it and protect anyone living in it - and not sell it down the river again to "settle" any matters on behalf of one nation or another.

Ok, that was important, but what follows is a bit boring. I`ll skip pages to the final constitution.




Le Livre de la Cité des dames

Christine de Pisan

Paris 1405

Paris, BnF

Célèbre, Christine de Pisan (ou Pizan) l'est avant tout parce qu'elle fut la première femme à vivre de sa plume en Occident. Christine fut en quelque sorte l'éditeur de ses ouvres, travaillant en liaison étroite avec un enlumineur parisien de renom auquel on a précisément donné le nom de "maître de la Cité des dames" car quatre exemplaires de ce texte sortis simultanément de son atelier nous sont parvenus, dont deux offerts aux ducs de Berry et de Bourgogne. La double image qui introduit ici le manuscrit, s'avère une traduction quasi littérale des débuts de l'ouvrage. Désolée à la lecture de tant de médisances tenues à propos des femmes par "les hommes clercs et autres", Christine voit lui apparaître "trois dames couronnées de très haute dignité" : Dame Raison, munie d'un miroir où chacun peut se voir "en son âme et conscience" ; Droiture, pourvue de "la droite règle départageant le bien du mal et le juste de l'injuste" ; enfin Justice, qui tient à la main droite "une coupe d'or fin qui ressemble à une mesure de bonne taille", destinée à "rendre à chacun son dû". Elles invitent l'auteur à édifier "une citadelle hautement fortifiée", afin que désormais les femmes méritantes puissent avoir une "place forte où se retirer et se défendre". Avec l'aide de Raison qui lui fournit "un mortier résistant et incorruptible", Christine entreprend de jeter les fondations de sa ville métaphorique faite de "grands murs hauts et épais, avec leurs hautes tours larges et grandes". L'invention du monde passe ici par la parole et la main des femmes.

Day Two Hundred and Seventy-Four

Yes, it takes time to built the Perfect Society. But on day two hundred and seventy-four (thank god we had this practical guy with us who scratched a sign into a tree every day after The Catastrophe, as we had started to call the brutal end of our old world, had brought us to this place) the constitution for our new world was finally completed. It had taken us countless nights without sleep, countless battles, fervent verbal fights, several people becoming enemies to each other probably till the end of their lives - but, finally, everything was over and done with: The constitution of U-Town was complete, U-Town had finally come into existence. After that, we all slept for three days, than we celebrated for three weeks. The birthday of U-Town: A day to remember, hopefully for generations to come.

Yes: The 274th day of our year, which starts in the middle of spring, the time the first people arrived on the place that was to become U-Town, is our greatest day of celebration. People don´t celebrate for three weeks, as they do in the legend, but the feast usually lasts for several days.

To make it short, I will start now with declaring how our final positions on the various issues turned out to be. I will start with describing how our state is going to look like, than go on with the issues of property, work and development, education and how people are going to live together.

Well, I am certainly only going to read some of it, because it is an awful lot of text, several hundred pages in fact, but the most important things are mentioned at the beginning of each chapter, so I´ll skip the rest.



Tahiti, l'île de l'amour

Vuë de la Nouvelle Cÿthère découverte par M. de Bougainville commandant la
fregate du Roy La Boudeuse et la flute L'Etoille en 1768.

Dessin à la plume aquarellé

Paris, BNF, Cartes et Plans

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville aborde à Tahiti le 6 avril 1768. Le lendemain, dans son journal de navigation (f. 149), il s'extasie devant "la douceur du climat, la beauté du paysage, la fertilité du sol partout arrosé de rivières et de cascades, la pureté de l'air." Tout, selon lui, "inspire
la volupté". Et de baptiser cette terre paradisiaque "Nouvelle Cythère", du nom de cette île grecque (Cérigo, consacrée à Aphrodite) qui passait pour le pays idyllique de l'amour et du plaisir.

The State

The State in which we are going to govern U-Town is supposed to represent all the people who are living in it. All the people, that means: All women, all men and all children. Everybody in U-Town is equal, all inhabitants have equal rights to lead their lives as they wish to and carry equal political responsibility. That sounds quite obvious, but we all agreed that it has to be mentioned here. It´s the most important issue of our constitution which we hope is going to lead the lives of all generations of U-Towners to come. So there should be no confusion about it.

Up to now it´s easy: We are 384 people (two children have been born last month), so we decide on all matters in one big assembly. This is going to be difficult in the future, so there has to be some representative system. As soon as children reach the age of ten, they are included in all decision processes. There are going to be many cities and regions in the future, so we will need a large number of councils in addition to the main senate. To make sure that it´s not just people who out of whatever reason like the idea of power and decide to run for a political office because of that (and might misuse their power), politics should be open for each and every U-Towner older than nine years of age. We believe that common sense is the most important pre-condition of being able to govern, and we are so optimistic to believe that in our society people grow up to acquire it very soon. We don´t believe that there are people who are more apt to this task than others due to their intelligence or rhetoric skills. We believe that this system comes closest to our ideal of everyone deciding upon any issue, which we are able to practise so far.

After many, many discussions on the issue we decided to have a sort of lottery system, combined with a rotation system. Every three years 300 U-Towners (the number might vary in the future due to population growth) are going to be chosen by chance to take up the honourable task (we strongly believe that it´s an honourable one!) to decide upon matters concerning our people in the senate.

Today it´s 1720, I know that because my brother used to be one of them. He was very proud of his "political task" and got on everybodys nerves - for three years…

The same system is to be applied for the regional councils, whose representatives (also chosen by chance) meet every month to discuss regional matters with members of the senate. The politically active people (who are only allowed to be a member of a parliament once in their lives) are to be chosen according to a representative system: All ages, men, women and children are to be represented in an equal way, to make sure that all implications of all decisions are thoroughly discussed. This constitution is to be the base of all new decisions, everything that is to be decided from now on will be put in amendments.

What follows is a very long and complicated description of how the lottery system is supposed to work practically, what they do if a chosen person is ill or dies during his or her three years of office, but I´ll skip that. It goes too much into detail for now.

The same system is going to be applied for our courts of justice. So far there have been no crimes happening here, but we all think it is an illusion to assume that it is going to stay like that in the future. We believe that common sense is the best judge, that our constitution is a good base even for our judges. The only difference between the people being chosen to be judges and those being active in politics is that the judges keep their office for five years - as it takes much longer to get into the matter, we believe. There are courts in every city in addition to a main one for whole U-Town, in which the more serious issues are going to be dealt with.

Well, this goes on a bit over several pages…

We believe that this is the fairest way to deal with the question of the state. We had a very heated debate at the beginning whether to have a state at all or not. We finally decided to have one - but there should always be the possibility to abolish it one day, if U-Town should prove to function without it. In fact, that´s the long-term goal. After all, the main reason we think we need one is for administrative reasons, to plan the demand for certain economical goods and so on.


Projet d'assemblée locale

Jean-Jacques Lequeu

Élévation principale du Monument. Intérieur du lieu des Assemblées

Dessin aquarellé (plume et lavis), [1793]

Paris, BNF, Estampes

Jean-Jacques Lequeu, architecte visionnaire, marginal excentrique, homme de son temps par sa foi dans la science et son éclectisme religieux sans en être représentatif, marque peu son époque. Il a en effet conçu divers projets d'inspiration révolutionnaire pour une ère nouvelle, mais n'en a réalisé aucun!









Projet d'assemblée locale

Jean-Jacques Lequeu

Monument destiné à l'exercice de la Souveraineté du Peuple en Assemblées primaires

Dessin aquarellé (plume et lavis), 24 juin 1793

Paris, BNF, Estampes


We believe that there is not much to say on the issue of property in U-Town. U-Town belongs to all the people living in it at present just as well as to the generations who are going to live there in the future. Private property of land or houses or companies simply does not exist. It also means that no generation has the right to exploit our natural resources and consume more of them than necessary. For the economy that means: Permanence is important, no generation is allowed to use natural resources excessively so that there is nothing left for the future population, who, so the idea, already owns the ground we stand on now.

We had debated the issue of private property for a very, very long time, but concluded that its existence leads to the existence of inequality, it would probably mean that we were going to have poverty and a hierarchy between people who own and people who work for them. EVERYONE IN U-TOWN IS EQUAL, no one is supposed to possess more goods or more rights than anyone else. This is important to remember in this respect.
There is absolutely no reason why some people should possess more than others. This seemed quite obvious for most of us, as we all came to U-Town with nothing. Some people acquiring extra things on the behalf of others would involve theft and not go together with our very first law about equality. Everyone needs to eat, everyone needs a place to stay, everyone needs clothes and some individual stuff for his or her free time in order to realize him or herself as a "species being" (someone suddenly brought up this word, and we all liked it so much that we agreed to include it in the constitution , because individuality and a lot of free time are going to become important features of the life in U-Town).

There is not going to be money in U-Town. We agreed that we were not going to need it. There must be a more simple way to produce goods for everyone and divide them equally. If nobody owns more than everyone else does, the existence of money, which can be accumulated on a bank account, doesn´t make sense. So far that´s of course no problem at all, as we are still a very small community. But we are optimistic and hope that people in the future will keep this principle and find a way to realize it even if U-Town grows to consist of many cities and regions.

Well, I suppose we succeeded quite well in this respect. We don´t have "money" (outside the museum). Frankly, I still don´t quite get what had been the point of it in the past. In U-Town everything works fine the way it is. At least, that´s what I think.



Anonymous artist

"U.G.T. 3er. Congres
de la U.G.T. a Catalunya
13, 14, 15, 16 Novembre 1937 Barcelona"

Sponsor: Comissio D'Agitacio I Propaganda.

Imprint: Barcelona, Arts Grafiques Thomas, Industria Collectivitzada.


Brandeis University Libraries.
Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department

Work and Development

Too much work is bad for you: That was one of the things we agreed on much quicker than on any issue we had discussed before. People should have as much free time as possible to develop their individuality and simply to enjoy that they´re alive, to be with their children, to dance, to make love or just to lie on the grass watching butterflies and clouds in the sky. We believe that having as much time as possible to do these sorts of things is the key to a peaceful society. Somehow it seems to us that maybe if people would have spent more time simply enjoying their lives and appreciating their surroundings before, everything might have turned out quite differently. Maybe "The Catastrophe" could have been avoided, if people would not have been so stressed and frustrated all the time.

Working a few hours in the morning, maybe plucking flowers or catching fish in the afternoon and writing a novel or just watching the telly in the evening (well, if there is going to be something like television in U-Town one day) - this could be how a typical day for a U-Towner in the future might look like.

Telly? What´s that supposed to be? Never heard of it.

Technological development, most of us agreed on that, was going to be a minor issue in U-Town out of the reasons mentioned above. We believe that there are very few things people actually need, and we also believe that the companies, where these things are produced, should be commonly owned - as well as that there should be some economic plan to figure out how much of everything we are going to need. Just imagine we accidentally work too much and have an overproduction.

It also seems important to us that people, in the few hours they work each day, should be able to identify with what they are doing and not just stupidly press some button or turn some screw the whole time. This alienates people from their work, which is even worse than someone accidentally working too much.

As people are creative, the technology to produce necessary goods like food, clothes, bricks to build houses etc. is probably going to be quite advanced one day, so that the U-Towners have to work less and less in the future. In fact, this is supposed to be the long term goal of any technological development. Just inventing and producing technologies with nothing more in mind than to find out what is theoretically possible will hopefully be unknown of. Having as much free time as possible - nothing more and nothing less - is the goal we strive for.

Everybody is supposed to work a few hours a day for the common good (in a profession he or she chooses), the rest of the time is, as I said before, reserved for individual pleasures.
We believe that this is a much easier way of securing everybody´s happiness (and nothing less should be the goal of our society) than developing more and more complicated technologies (well, of course we are going to try to develop sophisticated technologies for the sector of medicine for instance) to create a demand for luxuries which had not been there before and which involves cutting down the free time of people to produce more for the enjoyment of which there would be less and less time.



Cités du futur

Iakov Tchernikov

Arkhitekturniye fantazii
[Fantaisies d'architecture]

Leningrad, 1933

Collection Martin-Malburet

Les théories futuristes, suprématistes et constructivistes russes sont bien présentes dans l'oeuvre du très prolifique architecte Iakov Tchernikhov, qui, avec quelque 17 000 dessins, lui evalu le surnom de "Piranèse russe". Ses trois publications les plus importantes ont paru quelques années après le plein essor de ces mouvements : Osnovy sovremennoï arkhitektury en 1930 [Les Bases de l'architecture contemporaine], Konstruktsii arkhitekturnykh i machinnykh form en 1931 [La Construction de formes pour l'architecture et les machines] et Arkhitekturniye fantazii [Fantaisies d'architecture] en 1933. Travaillant à partir des formes géométriques de base que sont le carré, le cercle et le rectangle, il projette, dans son Arkhitekturniye fantazii, toute une série de constructions à la fois typiques et idéales comme des gratte-ciel, des usines ou bien des villes. La forte emprise de la machine - Tchernikhov voyait en elle le symbole du dynamisme du XXe siècle - se ressent non seulement dans le mouvement que suggè rent ses dessins, mais surtout dans les modèles types qu'il cherche à identifier.


"We don´t need no education…" one guy started to sing when we discussed the issue after a great meal of fish someone had managed to catch in the lake. The tune sounded somehow familiar to me, strange, when memories suddenly start to creep back into the mind…
Were we going to need any formal institution to educate our children? We talked a lot about it, but watching the kids who had been born since we arrived here, convinced us that this was probably not necessary: One little girl is four now and already knows how to light a fire (well, her first try almost ended in half our village going up in flames…). Life is one great learning experience. So why force kids to learn certain things we believe they should learn and thus creating an unwillingness to acquire knowledge, which they otherwise had a natural inclination to do voluntarily? It´s much more exciting and challenging to learn if you are allowed to do it on a voluntary basis, in your own speed. That´s what we believe. After all, introducing schools would probably mean to introduce alarm clocks again and make children hate to get out of their beds in the mornings for the rest of their lives.
But any kid should at least have the opportunity to learn things like reading, writing and dealing with numbers, so we agreed that voluntary "learning centers" would be a good idea. We think it would be good if all grown-ups in society felt responsible for rearing the next generation, which should also include being responsible for teaching: Everybody is good at doing different things, so every adult could teach the things he or she is best at to the children in the neighbourhood and work in the "learning center" for a few hours a week.

Well, I must say that I think this is a very good idea. Voluntary learning centers still exist in U-Town today, and I sometimes like to go there. I don´t like to deal with numbers much, but I like writing and especially reading. I have hardly done anything else since I have been learning the alphabet. They have lots of books in the center, and the public library is just next door. Maybe I am going to write books when I´m older, or teach children how to read. My brother is quite different. As I mentioned before, he hates reading , but he´s good with numbers. But most of all things he likes to build tree houses, which our next-door-neighbour taught him many years ago. He knows a lot about which branches of a tree are able to carry his houses, how heavy the logs must be and so on. He wants to build real houses when he gets older. I think he´s going to be good at it. But he should smoke a little less of his cigarettes then…

We all agreed that this was the best way to show our children what an exciting and enjoyable place the world around them is, and to encourage them in their natural curiosity to know about how everything works. Just let them try to find out for themselves! This certainly helps them to also feel responsible for their surroundings, to be self-confident and proud about the things they are good at - no matter what it is.



Commune members Laura and Paul Foster's wedding at the Hog Farm's summer solstice celebration

Aspen Meadows, New Mexico, 1968

Photograph by Lisa Law

National Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution







New Buffalo Commune

Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, 1967

Photograph by Lisa Law

National Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution

Living Together

We had decided to discuss "Living Together" as one of the issues for our future society, although it is quite clear that no inhabitant of U-Town is ever going to be forced to live a life he or she does not want to live. We just thought it might be important to talk about it, as it was, especially in the first weeks and months after our "arrival", the biggest issue for us.
."Before" it was, as many of us remembered, the usual thing to live together in families - mother, father, children. No one liked to think and talk about it very much, as most of us had lost their families during "The Catastrophe". Nevertheless, some people also remembered that it had been quite complicated at times. So, for the time being, we decided to live together in larger groups of people which we decided to call "households" after a while - although none of our dwellings had much in common with a house. However, we started to like it that way, sharing our daily lives with sometimes up to 10 or 15 men and women, with children and old people - it seemed to be a good and inspiring thing for most of us to have a mixed bunch of people around us, especially for the children.

Of course, after some time of sharing the experience of building up U-Town with each other, sex started to become important again for most of us. Some changed their partners quite often, others fell more deeply in love and started to build shelters for two. But most of the couples did not mind to live in larger communities with other couples and Singles, some of whom had children , while others were satisfied with having other peoples´ kids around. Anybody, also children, were, of course, allowed to leave households if they wished to.
We don´t know if these "households" are going to be more than a practical "transition solution" for U-Town, but we hope that future generations are going to be inspired by our positive experiences.

Well, there are still many "households" today, in fact, it´s the most common way to live together with lots of other people in big houses with big gardens, which is great fun. At least, that´s what I think. I also know some kids who live only with their parents, but that´s also ok. They don´t mind. One of our neighbours lives all by himself, but he likes it that way. Everyone in U-Town is allowed to live as he or she likes. I think that´s fair. The good thing with households is, that, when I get fed up with my parents (which happens quite often), there are lots of other people around me. Once I got so fed up that I decided to move to my best friends household. That is theoretically ok, also for children, as long as the other household agrees to take up the responsibility. Children are quite free here, I like that. Well, I moved there, but soon I realized that the people there weren´t that much different from my parents - I had to do the dishes and stuff like that just like at home, so I decided to move back again. My parents were quite happy. Well, they are not so bad after all…

We believe that just as the care of children should be a common responsibility in U-Town, everyone should feel responsible for old or disabled people. No one should live on their own unvoluntarily. Apart from that, the freedom to choose is to be the highest priority when it comes to the issue of living together in present and future U-Town.

I´m tired now. The penguin cloud has dissolved long ago and the moons are getting brighter and brighter in the sky. I think I know enough for today. I am going to spent the night in my tree house. My parents are getting on my nerves again and other grown-ups are no better. Maybe I will read the rest of the book tomorrow. Maybe not. My brother has joined me, smoking his last cigarette before going to sleep. I like the smell. It is quite nice to live in U-Town. At least, that´s what I think.



Psychedelic Lady

Photograph by Gene Anthony


Preface - The Case For Utopia

What´s the point? Pushing a stone up a hill while having fairly good reasons to suggest that it will roll down again as soon as it reaches the top, because it has done so every single time before, seems to be a seriously pointless task. However, that didn´t stop Sisyphus from trying to push the stone up to the top again and again each time it reached the bottom of the hill - instead of just leaving it there and going home. Maybe he decided to do it because life seems even more pointless without a stone and without a hill and without the hope that the stone will one day, against all previous experiences, stay at the hilltop for good.

Just as Sisyphus needs his stone to be able to exist, the existence of Utopia - somewhere in the minds of those thinking about how to make the world a more pleasant place to live in - seems to be the necessary precondition for any political theory. What´s the point in even starting to think about how society could be better than it is without having an idea of Utopia that would, should it become true, settle the matter of a perfect world for good? Without wanting it to stay at the hilltop there would be no point in moving the stone at all. And without having at least an idea of the Perfect World, improving society within the framework of reality would be a rather uninspiring task.
But does that settle the case of Utopia in favour of it? What about all the Utopias parts of which were creeping out of the realm of Philosophy into reality and transferring societies from bad to worse? Is it actually the problem of Utopia as such if reality fails to meet up with it? Can ideas be made responsible for turning into something else when put into practice? Is there a problem with the Platonic idea of the circle if a real-existing circle drawn with a pencil on a piece of paper looks more like an egg? Does that mean a perfect circle does not exist at all?
Just as Sisyphus can never know for sure if his stone might not actually stay at the top of the hill one day, it is probably not possible to say that the perfect world is just an illusion - well, if it is, then it´s an illusion without which political philosphy would become entirely redundant. But there is apparently a huge discrepancy between Utopia and reality - and obviously there is another problem connected to it: The problem of being stuck somewhere halfway between the two and thus creating a society that is much worse instead of better than the one before, a society that differs much more from the utopian idea than the original one ever did. It is as if the stone finally reaches the top of the hill, but, from there, starts to roll down another hill, crushing everything on its way to the bottom.
The danger of getting stuck somewhere halfway on the road to Utopia certainly creates a very strong case for democracy - a Utopia of compromise. In this sense, democracy is always the second best alternative for any society - nothing more, but also nothing less. A second best alternative which would maybe not even be thinkable without the blueprint for The Perfect Society - or rather, without people trying very hard to figure out what it should look like. No matter if the stone up to now kept rolling down the hill again whenever it had reached the top.

The people of U-Town, whose story I am going to tell in this paper, tried to figure out what such a society should look like, just as many people before them had done. The only difference and maybe the advantage of the U-Towners was: They were able, (or rather: most brutally forced) to start from scratch. The problem of getting stuck somewhere in between on the road from a still existing to a future society did not occur for them. So they, unlike we today, could create the blueprint without any hindering pre-conditions - and what´s more: with a more than brutal warning in mind of how seriously wrong things went when they were done differently once.
These are the reasons why I decided to tell their story in order to create "my" Utopia. Many people have thought about the matter of Utopia before: Plato, Thomas More, Karl Marx, Edward Bellamy, Robert Nozick, Shulamith Firestone and Ernst-Friedrich Schumacher for instance have, at different times, in different places, presented their vision of The Perfect World. They came up with many different ideas, presented many different concepts, discussed many issues central for the functioning of a state and a society. Their ideas are the theoretical background of the story of the people of U-Town. They appear in their process of creating their society as well as in their constitution, but the authors are not directly quoted in the tale itself (had the first inhabitants of U-Town known about Nozick, Marx or Firestone, they certainly wouldn´t remember after their world had been torn into pieces). To explain a bit more thoroughly where and why their concepts appear in certain stages of the creation of U-Town, I have added a theoretical discussion to my tale.

I am aware of the fact that any Utopia can be torn into pieces by bringing up the matter of "Human Nature". If there actually is such a thing as a "human nature" unconnected to the society which people live in, if crime, rivalry between human beings and nations and the need for patriotism were somehow rooted in the genes of people, it would be entirely useless to even think about Utopia. But if, as I am convinced of, there is no such thing as a "good" or "bad" human nature and that it is society that shapes people (and not, on the contrary, that it´s the people who get the society they deserve), then there is a very strong need to closely consider the matter of Utopia. Maybe I am an hopeless optimist in this sense, but so were the people who founded U-Town. They just had to be optimistic to take up the challenge of creating a new, better society, as close to perfect as possible. And, in many respect, their optimism proved to be not the worst pre-condition ever to built up a society from scratch.

Asked whether they think they live in a "perfect" world, the people of U-Town would probably not be able to tell. Apart from some blurry vision of a world before that had been rubbed out of existence by its own inhabitants, they don´t have any different world to compare their own to. So it´s up to anyone reading their story to decide how close (or not) their society comes to being "perfect". Anyway, it certainly could be worse…


"Audition du Journal"
[Listening to the Newspaper]

Visions de l'an 2000,1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie




"Chantier de construction électrique"
[Electric Construction Site]

Visions de l'an 2000, 1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie




"A l'Ecole"
[At School]

Visions de l'an 2000, 1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie





Visions de l'an 2000, 1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie




"Dictant son courrier"
[Dictating His Mail]

Visions de l'an 2000, 1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie




"Une Curiosité"
[A Curiosity]

Visions de l'an 2000, 1910

BNF, Département des Estampes
et de la Photographie