PERSPECTIVErnUtopias Unlimitedrnby Thomas FlemingrnThe future has been all the rage for the past two centuries.rnModernism, as an ideology, might almost be defined asrnthe cult of the future, whether in science fiction or in Utopianrnpolitical creeds like Marxism. Even in its death throes modernismrnwas able to spawn “futurology,” a pseudo-science asrnrichly comic as phrenology. An obsession with the future isrnusually taken as a sign of naive optimism, but the most influentialrnfuturist of the century, H.G. Wells, was profoundly pessimistic,rnand if his heirs—the Tofflers, for example—exhibit arncheery confidence in what the future holds, it is only becauserntheir writings are the intellectual equivalent of a lobotomy.rnOn the verge of despair, we put our faith in the future: wernbuy lottery tickets, change jobs after reading the message in arnfortune cookie, pick stocks on the basis of a lucky number orrna broker’s recommendation. Confirmed atheists on theirrndeathbed call for a priest, not necessarily because they nowrnbelieve, but because eternity is the only future left. Horace, advisingrna mistress against astrology, gave his famous advice torn”seize the day, putting as little stock as you can in tomorrow.”rnEntire societies may become infected with futurism, and sincernthe Renaissance, as our social conditions have become morernand more detached from the roots of human experience, intellectualsrnof every kind have been constructing Utopias—architecturalrnsketches for the worid tomorrow that no one will ever,rnin his worst nightmare, inhabit.rnProgressivism in any form is an indication of alienation andrndiscontent. In the so-called Middle Ages, on the other hand,rnwhich must have been as uncomfortable as any since menrnlearned how to smelt copper, most people knew the differencernbetween the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man. Therninterest that a Christian people takes in the future should bernlimited to practical and down-to-earth questions: Whomrnlihould I marry? Under what moon should I sow the rye?rnIn those days literate men looking for clues to the futurernwould perform the sortes virgiliane by opening a text of Vergil atrnrandom. The practice has not died out, entirely, and there arernpeople who leaf through Shakespeare or the King James Biblernas if they were taking the auguries. In Wilkie Collins’ ThernMoonstone, the house-steward begins his account by citing anrnappropriate passage of Robinson Crusoe, which he had comernupon by accident. “If that isn’t prophecy,” he asks, “what is?”rnThe steward had worn out seven copies of his favorite book,rnwhile I, on the other hand, have gone through any number ofrnrecordings of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, and lolanthe.rnThey have exhausted themselves keeping the promise thernQueen of the Eairies made to Strephon: “Shouldst thou be inrndoubt or danger, / Peril or perplexitee, / Call us, and we’ll comernto thee!” And over the past few months I have come to believernthat my views on equality were shaped by The Gondoliers, myrndistaste for feminism inspired by Princess Ida, and my contemptrnfor social and political idealism—and ideology—nourished byrnW.S. Gilbert’s satires on the rigors of class structure, chauvinism,rnparty loyalty, and romantic love.rnInvective and realistic social criticism, which satisfied laterrnand inferior writers like Ibsen and Shaw, were not in Gilbert’srnline. He preferred to construct Utopian fantasies and upsidedownrnworlds in which his contemporaries could see themselvesrnas in a funhouse mirror. In 1875, his play Topsyturvydom portrayedrna country where people are born old and wise but graduallyrnyouthen and forget everything. In the stage set, the chanlO/rnCHRONICLESrnrnrn