Monday, November 24, 2014

ferguson

Ferguson. What can I say about it? Not much, really. I don't live there, and nothing I say will change the situation. I'm just some dude in Portland reacting to the news. That said, two thoughts immediately come to mind. One is, I'm tired of police officers getting away with murder, particularly the murder of unarmed people of colour, the homeless, and the mentally ill. It happens way too often, and no one is ever held accountable.

The second is, I love all the middle-class white people who don't have to worry about cops shooting them to death for simply walking down the street criticizing the people who live with this terrorism ever day, and who get justifiably upset when cop after cop gets little more than a paid slap on the wrist for shooting an unarmed person to death in their community. If you were in their position, you'd be a little pissed off, too. Don't let your relative privilege blind you to the oppression and suffering of others. The whole thing brings to mind something MLK Jr. said in 1968:

[A] riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear 3 of 8 that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

serve the people

I haven't been inspired to write much about politics lately, but I thought this Jacobin article was rather interesting in that it helps to illustrate the underlying moral foundation of capitalism, one making the last, first, and the first, last. With all of our technological innovations and productive capabilities, the question arises, Why don't we live in a world of material security for all? What's stopping us?

The obstacle, in my opinion, is an increasingly outdated mode of production and the ideology underlying it. Our productive capacities are such that we no longer have a material necessity for capitalist wage-labour and artificial scarcity, but the demand for profit creates an economic system that consistently depresses our productive capabilities and produces artificial scarcity, limiting the production and consumption of commodities to only that which can realize profit.

Just looking around at the world today and all the thing we've accomplished, I think it's fairly obvious that we've reached an epoch of potential material abundance via the technological advancements and innovations of the past. Nevertheless, the old masters are refusing to let go of their death grip on wealth and power, their ownership of the means of production, finance, etc., stalling our transition to a post-capitalist society. And in many ways, we, too, are stalling that transition by buying into the dominate ideology of the ruling class.

I think the growth of this ideology partially has its roots in the early days of capitalism, being influenced by a combination of factors including the emergence of the 'Protestant work ethic' in conjunction with the enclosure of English commons, anti-idleness and poverty legislation, poorhouses, and the transition of people (often forced) from serfdom into wage-labour. In this process, the idea of making money, and especially the idea of capital accumulation, took on a moral framework in which being idle (i.e., not making money) was seen as something immoral and sinful. In essence, wage-labour became something almost sacred. And this attitude wasn't just limited to the growth of capitalism in Europe, but made its way to the New World as well. For example, the ethics of hard work and accumulation can be found in the writings of Benjamin Franklin, who coined the phrase "time is money":

Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides. [...] Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.


But it's not just the ruling elite who turn a blind eye to poverty and deprivation, nor isn't only the ruling class who thinks of the poor, the homeless, and the least among us as parasites infesting our society. As Marx writes in The Germany Ideology, "the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas," meaning that "[t]he class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it." Hence, a society's culture, religion, and political institutions will be heavily influenced by the ideas of those who "regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age."

For example, I think that Jane Devin's 2012 article, "Walmart Greeter Buys 6-Pack of Beer & Is Condemned" (which, for some reason, has disappeared)," does a decent job of illustrating a common double standard in regard to how today's self-identified 'middle class' judges both the rich and poor, a pseudo-moral judgmentalism that I think ultimately stems from an ideology dominated by wealthy, ruling-class elites. The growing trend to, in her words, "flog the poor for their perceived failings and abuses, while at the same time [ignoring] the capricious excesses of the rich" is evidence of this; and I think the self-made myth and the meritocracy myth are two examples of ideas that originate with the ruling class and, due to their ideological dominance, influence the rest of society.

It may seem like there's no alternative, that we've reached the 'end of history' and the final phase of our socio-cultural evolution; but I honestly believe we have the capacity to create a world characterized by equality and material abundance in which things like distinctions of rich and poor and oppression truly become superfluous—one that no longer caters to one class of owners, but to the needs of all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

explaining my political cynicism, where jesus and marxism meet

Talking about voting yesterday, I realized that the simplest ways of explaining my apathy towards our two-party electoral system is as follows: Liberals idealize the state as much as conservatives idealize the market, neither seeing how each is co-dependent and exploitative under capitalism. Instead of being a people-centered system, we live within a profit-centered system. And under that system, liberals think things like poverty and other social ills can be fixed by the state, while conservatives think the magic is in market, both ideas equally as wrong due to the inherent contradictions within capitalism. Voting for one of the two major parties, you're essentially voting for different sides of the same coin. And voting for a third party is effective as a statement, but certainly nothing revolutionary. That's not to say our votes don't count because they can at least steer the direction of policy; but we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that that direction isn't severely limited by the structure of the system itself. The logic of any institution is first and foremost to preserve itself. You can't vote away poverty et al. in capitalism anymore than you can vote away money; and the majority of the most meaningful change in society comes about through our interactions with one another at the local level, individually and as a community. Checking a box every year or two isn't half as important as how you treat your neighbor and vice versa.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

pah bah

Today, thanks to the generosity of two acquaintances, Paddy and Colin, I went to the Pacific Hermitage Pah Bah ceremony in White Salmon, WA.

Pah bah means 'forest cloth' in Thai; and the festival comes out of the ancient tradition of leaving cloth in the forest for monks to find for them to make their robes after the end of the three-month rains retreat. It's a time for the lay-community to 'draw close' and offer the monastic community gifts of cloth and other supplies they'll need for the coming year as they rely totally on the generosity of the lay-community.

This year's event was rather special in that both Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno were there. Both were students of Ajahn Chah, and both were at one time co-abbots of Abhayagiri until Ajahn Amaro was asked to take over Amaravati in England. It was a very auspicious reunion, and I'm glad that I had to opportunity to be there.

The day began with the afternoon meal, which was first offered to the monks, and then shared by everyone. Next was some traditional paritta (blessing) chanting followed by the actual alms giving and a Dhamma talk, which was split up. Ajahn Pasanno gave a short talk first, followed by Ajahn Amaro. The place was decorated in traditional Thai style, with saffron-coloured towel gibbons strategically placed all over as if in a forest.

One of the overarching themes was anumodana, which means 'rejoicing together' in goodness and generosity and/or offering encouragement. Gathering together and giving our time and support to one another produces a field of merit or goodness that brings happiness to everyone, those who give as well as those who receive.

Just as charity plays a big role in Christianity, the Buddha placed a lot of importance on dana or generosity as well. Generosity arises out of wholesome mental states, and gives rise to numerous benefits on its own. In addition, generosity is considered a requisite for spiritual development. I've always found it interesting that the Buddha begins most of his discourses on the gradual training with teachings on generosity.

After the ceremony, a group of us drove the short distance to the hermitage for a tour. The main building, a small house, has a kitchen, an office area, and a shrine where the monks gather for chanting and meals. Then there's a guest house, for the abbot or visiting monks, and a couple of small dwellings for the monks to sleep and meditate.

I felt bad that I missed mass in order to go to the Pah Bah, but I'm glad I went. It was a beautiful event. And in many ways, it felt kind of the same.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

the world must be crazy

I've become rather cynical as of late when it comes to politics and religion.

I see, for example, the problems that we're facing as a society, problems that stem in large part from the way our society is currently structured, and I instinctively want to fix them. But the solutions that I see are rejected by most as being too radical, utopian etc., and I can't seem to convince anyone to see things any differently, as if the status quo hasn't been consistently creating the conditions for systematic inequality and catastrophic global climate change for centuries. Whatever I do or say, I feel like Sisyphus, rolling a boulder up a hill just to watch it roll back down again.

The majority of people seem to be politically apathetic; and the majority of those who aren't seem to be satisfied with lesser evilism. And don't get me started on the sectarian triumphalism of political parties that, in my opinion, sell a lot of snake oil to the faithful, but fail to do much of anything that's truly efficacious and for the good of all, dividing people more than uniting them in common cause. And much like in the realm of political parties, I think the sectarian triumphalism of religious institutions is guilty of the same when it comes to spirituality.

Individually, there are a lot of good people and groups out there doing a lot of good things in the world; but collectively, on the macro level, I don't see quite the same—I see conflict, division, and shortsightedness where it really counts. It's especially apparent to me after spending time at a monastery; when I come back to the 'worldly life,' the ways we live, the things we think are important, etc., seem so crazy in contrast. It's like as a society, we're ill; but we don't think we're ill, and we childishly fight against most of the things that can potentially make us healthier. The sanest and happiest people I know seem to be the ones who have renounced the world.

I don't know. I think I'm at least understanding the inner motives of hermits.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

noble friendship, part deux

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend my third retreat at Wat Atam, and the second led by Sakula, the spiritual director of Portland Friends of the Dhamma. The theme of the retreat was based around the threefold practice of virtue, concentration, and discernment, and how they're all integral to a successful practice.

The first night, when everyone attending was encouraged to observe the eight precepts while at the retreat, she talked about importance of virtue, which on the negative end consists of things we should refrain from doing, i.e., not harming living beings, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not lying or using harsh speech, and not indulging in intoxicating drinks and drugs that lead to carelessness. But on the positive side, they encourage us to be kind and compassionate towards living beings, to be generous, to have safe and healthy relationships, to be honest and thoughtful in our speech, and to live in a clear and mindful way.

Besides helping to protect ourselves and others from the results of our unskillful actions, virtue is important because it acts as the foundation for our practice. For one, it helps to provide the meditator with a mind that's free from remorse and regret; and a mind that's free from remorse and regret is better able to develop deep states of concentration, which are difficult to develop when the mind is consistently worried or agitated (AN 11.2). And one thing Sakula had us do was to think of something skillful we did and delight in how good it made us feel.

(Believe me, a mind that's happier and lighter is a lot easier to observe and train. I know from experience. It's hard to meditate when you've done a lot of things you regret; they're the first things that pop up when the mind starts to get quiet.)

For most of the second day, the focus shifted to concentration. Often, living according to our desires, we develop habits that aren't necessarily good for us. We instinctually grasp for what's pleasant and push away what's not, rarely being fully aware of our intentions or what even we're doing. The problem is, in doing so, we suffer when that changes and we're separated with what's pleasant or come face-to-face with what isn't (SN 56.11). We may also do something because it gives us a short-term pleasure, only to end up suffering a great deal later on because of it. And this happens because our minds are untrained in restraint, mindfulness, and wisdom. To strengthen these tools, we need to first develop our virtue and then develop our powers concentration.

Just like a body that isn't used to exercise finds relatively intense physical activity difficult, if not impossible, a mind that isn't 'exercised' has difficulty turning inwards and being aware of the subtle mental activities and habits that give rise to suffering. We tend to take it for granted that what we're doing or thinking is the 'right' thing, but oftentimes what we're really doing is feeding our suffering. As Sakula mentioned, unpleasant thoughts and feelings will arise, but they'll also soon cease, unless of course we feed and sustain them, not being mindful of how feeding them can actually cause more problems than the initial thoughts and feelings themselves. We simply can't let them go.

We spent most of the day alternating between walking and sitting meditation, trying to focus on the breath or the soles of our feet while also trying to be aware of how our minds were reacting to thoughts and feelings and sensations, and when possible, letting them arise without pouncing on them and turning our attention away from our object. I had a lot of trouble with that, though, and found myself easily distracted.

At the end of the second day, as well as the last, she touched on wisdom. Wisdom is what can ultimately cut the roots of greed, hatred, and delusion. It's the aspect of our mental faculty that's capable of judging which of our intentions are skillful and unskillful, and more importantly, of abandoning what's unskillful. It dives through our desires and the narratives that we create, allowing us to see the deep and subtle way the mid works and giving us the ability to to really go against the flow of our craving. With wisdom, we can enjoy the pleasant without indulging in it and getting carried away by it; and we can endure the unpleasant without having to become overwhelmed by it.

One of the similes she gave that I really liked was of a person walking on some train tracks who's completely distracted by all the sights and sounds around them, unmindful of the train coming up behind them. The person is our mind, the sights and sounds are all the pleasant things we instinctually grasp, and the train represents both the unpleasant things in life and the changing nature of phenomena that tends to barrel us over. Concentration is what helps us turn around and see the train coming; wisdom is our ability to step off the track and watch it pass by rather than let it barrel us over unawares or to try and stop it in its tracks.

The last day was a special treat for me since it was not only Thai Vegan Day, with Wat Atam's community of lay-followers providing a feast of vegetarian Thai food for everyone to share, but one of my old teachers, Ajahn Prasert from Wat Buddhanusorn, was visiting to help raise a fund for sick and injured monks in the US.

Admittedly, I had a hard time meditating or really cultivating any wisdom this weekend. I did gain a deeper appreciation of virtue, however, especially that of others, and felt a lot of gratitude the whole time for all the kindness and generosity that made this retreat even possible for me, from Ajahn Ritthi for hosting it and Sakula for leading it, to Greg and Alistair for lagging behind and braving the I-5 rush-hour traffic so I could carpool with them and Phil and Marie at work who gave me an extra hand so I could get out of work on time and actually catch my ride.

There was a lot more to the retreat, but those are a few things that stuck with me the most. It was disheartening to realize how much I've slacked on my meditation practice and how I was luck if I could be truly mindful of three breaths the entire weekend, but it was equally as heartening being surrounded by such encouraging and supportive people.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

utpoia

Just finished reading Thomas More's Utopia, a fictional account of More's encounters with a traveller and philosopher named Raphael Hythlodaeus that explores a wide range of moral, philosophical, and political topics. Overall, I found it to be a quick, enjoyable read, not unlike many of Plato's dialogues. And considering More's background and history, I initially found much in Utopia surprising, particularly the relative level of religious tolerance that's advocated for "preserving the public peace" and "the interest of religion itself" since More actively persecuted Protestants in his role as Chancellor.

The subject matter of the text itself is fairly radical in the kinds of ideals and social structures it advocates. One of the first things that initially stuck out for me was More/Raphael's forceful argument against wealth inequality stemming from private property, unequal social relations, the displacement and disenfranchisement of workers, and unemployment, foreshadowing (and likely influencing) similar arguments offered by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine.

In criticizing the death penalty for theft, for example, Raphael argues that the material social relations of the time predispose people to turn towards theft to make a living, and that it's better to "make such good provisions by which ever man might be put in a method how to live" than to impose harsh penalties for criminals that society itself produces: injured veterans who can't farm or find other work; dispossessed farmers pushed off the land by wealthy, idle landowners more interested in raising sheep (needing more land but less workers); scarcity and expensiveness of food created by the switch to sheep farming and enclosure of common land, as well as via market manipulation by the few, extremely rich landowners, etc. (10-4).

Without addressing these issue, Raphael quips, "it is a vain thing to boast of your severity in punishing theft ... for if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this but that you first make thieves and then punish them?" (14). (I think a similar argument can be made today in regard to our prison system and the high rates of incarceration for drug offences, robbery, etc.)

Another thing that caught my attention was its radical promotion of Republic-like, pre-industrial communism, which, although characterized by a rather rigid social structure, offers a lot of interesting (and in my opinion contemporarily relevant) arguments for a communal economic social structure, such as limits on capital accumulation and the abolition of money as the standard of all things (the abolition of wage labour?) for the good of the many since, as Raphael argues, the institution of private property leads to the best falling to the share of the worst (greedy rich/capital) and all things being divided among the few (wealthy/capitalist class), leaving the rest of the labouring population to misery and privation (27-8). (A 16th century version of the 1% vs. the 99%, I suppose.)

He further argues that, "till property is taken away, there can be no equitable or just distribution of things, nor can the world be happily governed; for as long as that is maintained, the greatest and the far best part of mankind, will be still oppressed with a load of cares and anxieties" (28). Laws and regulations can mitigate the disease of inequality caused by a socio-economic system based on private property "as good diet and care might have on a sick man whose recovery is desperate," but the disease itself "could never be quite healed, nor the body politic be brought again to a good habit as long as property remains; and it will fall out, as in a complication of diseases, that by applying a remedy to one sore you will provoke another, and that which removes the one ill symptom produces others, while the strengthening one part of the body weakens the rest” (28).

Later, in detailing the nation of Utopia, More via Raphael seems to foreshadow similar (albeit less sophisticated) arguments made today by communist blogger Jehu and anthropologist David Graber regarding the desirability of a reduction of hours of labour (in this case, six hours a day) and the elimination wage labour, as well as the weeding out of 'vain and superfluous' (or what Graeber calls 'bullshit') jobs. To help facilitate this, he argues, much like Plato, for the education of women and their inclusion in workforce and even the priesthood (38-40). Unfortunately, however, women still hold a subservient role in More's fictional society (ultimately being subservient to their fathers and then to their husbands), and the society itself is characterized by a form of slavery and a rather strict Protestant work ethic (the latter of which I think modern technological innovations have made superfluous).

Switching gears somewhat, I found that the section delving into the Utopians' lifestyle, religion, philosophy, etc. has a number of parallels with Epicurean and Buddhist ideas, particular in their approach to pleasure. For starters, I see a lot of similarities between the middle way of Buddhism (i.e., the middle way between the two extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence) and the hedonism of Epicurus. Epicurus' philosophy, for example, was aimed at attaining ataraxia, peace of mind and freedom from fear, and aponia, the absence of pain, via a system of ethics, rational thinking, contemplation, and a secluded, moderate lifestyle. His hedonism wasn't so much unlimited indulgence in sensual pleasures as it was about balance.

Epicurus himself held that the absence of pain was the highest pleasure (compare that to the idea of nibbana being the highest bliss a la Dhp 202-04), and he favoured static pleasure over dynamic pleasure. The difference is explained by Bertrand Russell in A History of Western Philosophy using hunger as an example:

Dynamic pleasures consist in the attainment of a desired end, the previous desire having been accompanied by pain. Static pleasures consist in a state of equilibrium, which results from the existence of the kind of state of affairs that would be desired if it were absent. I think one may say that the satisfying of hunger, while it is in progress, is a a dynamic pleasure while, but the state of quiescence which supervenes when hunger is completely satisfied is a static pleasure. Of these two kinds, Epicurus holds it more prudent to pursue the second, since it is unalloyed, and does not depend upon the existence of pain as a stimulus to desire. When the body is in a state of equilibrium, there is no pain; we should, therefore, aim at equilibrium and the quiet pleasures rather than the more violent joys. Epicurus, it seems, would wish, if it were possible, to be always in the state of having eaten moderately, never in that of voracious desire to eat.


This doesn't mean, of course, that you constantly stuff your face, but that you eat moderately, just enough to keep the body from experiencing the pain of hunger but not so much that it experiences the pain of overeating. In fact, Epicurus himself, contrary to popular belief, bordered on asceticism, renouncing sex and living off of little more than bread and cheese. The Buddha had a similar attitude towards food (among other things), as well. For example, from AN 4.37:

And how does a monk know moderation in eating? There is the case where a monk, considering it appropriately, takes his food not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on bulk, nor for beautification, but simply for the survival & continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the holy life, thinking, 'I will destroy old feelings [of hunger] & not create new feelings [from overeating]. Thus I will maintain myself, be blameless, & live in comfort.' This is how a monk knows moderation in eating.


This, in my opinion, is in many ways similar to the Utopians' view of pleasure; and both the Utopians and Epicurus seem to think that the absence of pain is the highest pleasure, at least as far as bodily pleasure is concerned. For them, the pleasure of eating is truly pleasurable insofar as it drives away the pain of hunger and recovers the body's health:

But, of all pleasures, they esteem those to be most valuable that lie in the mind, the chief of which arise out of true virtue and the witness of a good conscience. They account health the chief pleasure that belongs to the body; for they think that the pleasure of eating and drinking, and all the other delights of sense, are only so far desirable as they give or maintain health; but they are not pleasant in themselves otherwise than as they resist those impressions that our natural infirmities are still making upon us. For as a wise man desires rather to avoid diseases than to take physic, and to be freed from pain rather than to find ease by remedies, so it is more desirable not to need this sort of pleasure than to be obliged to indulge it. If any man imagines that there is a real happiness in these enjoyments, he must then confess that he would be the happiest of all men if he were to lead his life in perpetual hunger, thirst, and itching, and, by consequence, in perpetual eating, drinking, and scratching himself; which any one may easily see would be not only a base, but a miserable, state of a life. These are, indeed, the lowest of pleasures, and the least pure, for we can never relish them but when they are mixed with the contrary pains. The pain of hunger must give us the pleasure of eating, and here the pain out-balances the pleasure. And as the pain is more vehement, so it lasts much longer; for as it begins before the pleasure, so it does not cease but with the pleasure that extinguishes it, and both expire together.


The Buddha, too, I think, would agree that eating in order to drive away the pain of hunger and to recover our health is a more ideal pleasure than, say, eating for the sake of pleasant tastes, especially if one is seeking to realize an even higher pleasure—nibbana. From the Buddhist point of view, sense pleasures are ultimately ephemeral, void of lasting satisfaction, and not worth clinging to (MN 37). After all, the body is inherently susceptible to aging, illness, and death. Moreover, I find the ideas suggested in the last four sentences above about the nature of sense pleasures and health evocative of the Buddha's discourse in MN 75 when taken to their logical conclusion, although I think the Buddha would take issue with the Utopian's praise of the appetites planted in us by the Author of Nature later on since they're characterized by pain as much as pleasure.

Another fairly radical idea found in a text written by a devout Catholic who'd later go on to persecute Protestants is that of euthanasia, which the Utopians find honourable (and advisable) in the case of incurably ill citizens who are given the blessings of their priests to end their own life through self-starvation or the use of opium, but no one is forced to end their life. Those who choose not to are still taken care, while those who do are given all the honours of a proper burial. Those who decide to end their own lives "without the approbation of the priests and the senate," however, are denied the same honours, and instead, thrown into a ditch (64).

Utopia is full of such contradictions, mixing conservative values with radical ideas and vice versa. Women are given more status and freedom, yet are still put into a subservient social position. Euthanasia is allowed, but those who do so without the proper authority are cast into ditches. The island is communal and governed by a minimum of easily-understood laws, and yet certain things which seem to us as trivial are dealt with quite severely (although less severely than was the norm in Europe during that time). Divorce is allowed if there are sufficiently good reasons, but pre-marital sex is severely punished and offenders aren't allowed to marry (and must remain celibate) unless granted a special permit by the prince. (Interestingly enough, the reason for the latter is because the Utopians believe if this wasn't punished so harshly, few would be willing to "engage in a state in which they venture the quiet of their whole lives, by being confined to one person, and are obliged to endure all the inconveniences with which it is accompanied" (65).)

And what of its author? More was a lawyer, yet in his Utopia, there are no lawyers, the law being easy to understand and judge. More was a devout Catholic who'd later go out to persecute Protestants, but in his Utopia, one of the most ancient laws is that "no man ought to be punished for his religion" (80). For the time, the idea of religious freedom was fairly radical (it wasn't until Vatican II's 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom that the Catholic Church formally expressed its support for the protection of religious freedom), but the man behind the idea was quite reactionary, which makes me wonder whether Utopia is more satirical than 'utopian.' Is More's Utopia really his version of an ideal society combined with contemporary social criticism? Or is it a parody of utopian literature poking fun at the notion of such an ideal society by suggesting it's nonsensical?

In the end, it's hard to say. Despite his actions in life, More via Raphael makes some good arguments for the Utopian's radical ideals and social structures, echoing much of Socrates' discourses in Plato's Republic. But one has to wonder if More wanted those ideas to be taken seriously considering the names he gives to the people and places in Utopia: Utopia = 'Noplace,' Hythlodaeus = 'dispenser of nonsense,' Achora = 'Nolandia,' Polyleritae = 'Muchnonsense,' etc. Perhaps More was satirizing the very idea of such a rational society in a violent and sinful world.