Hence my August Letter from the Editor which featured quotes from the late 19th century Irish dandy, Oscar Wilde. I took sometime this month to review an essay he wrote which we all may be familiar with from our high school history, English, or psychology classes. I read over “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” an essay eloquently expressing Wilde’s Utopian viewpoint of society that heralds principals of “true, beautiful, healthy individualism” suggesting that strong creative personal expression should be the modi operandi of civilization as opposed to oppressive and “demoralizing” modes of authority (i.e. property/government) man place upon other men, which in effect, hinder the attainment of true happiness among man in life.
A late writer for Britain’s “The Observer”, George Orwell summarized The Soul of Man Under Socialism as Wilde’s vision of a society where machines/mechanization will free human effort from the burden of necessity where “in effect, the world will be populated by artists, each striving after perfection in the way that seems best to him,” [source].
“It will be a marvelous thing – the true personality of man – when we see it. It will grow naturally and simply, flowerlike, or as a tree grows. It will not be at discord. It will never argue or dispute. It will not prove things. It will know everything. And yet it will not busy itself about knowledge. It will have wisdom. Its value will not be measured by material things. It will have nothing. And yet it will have everything, and whatever one takes from it, it will still have, so rich will it be. It will not be always meddling with others, or asking them to be like itself. It will love them because they will be different. And yet while it will not meddle with others, it will help all, as a beautiful thing helps us, by being what it is. The personality of man will be very wonderful. It will be as wonderful as the personality of a child.” ~ Excerpted from The Soul of Man Under Socialism
The Soul of Man Under Socialism really speaks to the appreciation of art, fashion, and creative expression as an individual in our modern industrialized and economically collective society. It offers notions of thought that we can incorporate to our lifestyles that will bring a greater value of life to those who feel they can offer their own ray of light in this human experience. Orwell suggested that, “Wilde’s version of Socialism could only be realized in a world not only far richer but also technically far more advanced than the present one,” but more than 60 years after Orwell’s views were published in “The Observer”, it can be argued that civilization has made many leaps and bounds in technology which I am sure Orwell himself could not fathom in the 1940’s. Who’s to say that along with the realization of greater technologies that we cannot adjust our conventional wisdom to match the Utopian vision Wilde postulated in 1891, 60 years prior to Orwell’s review.