The Flight From Reality: 5. The Utopian Vision

Hardly a reform proposal has been made in the twentieth cen­tury which did not have anteced­ents in the utopian literature of the nineteenth century or earlier.

The connection between visions of utopia and reformers may not be apparent to everyone. Utopians are often thought of as quaint characters who lived and wrote sometime in the past, somewhat impractical but harmless fellows. If they were literary figures in their own right, or if they had a pleasing style, excerpts from their works crop up in anthologies of literature, and whole books are sometimes reprinted. But they are not generally credited with having had much to do with what has happened. The matter is quite otherwise, in fact.

Hardly a reform proposal has been made in the twentieth cen­tury which did not have anteced­ents in the utopian literature of the nineteenth century or earlier. As one writer points out, in the ear­lier period "utopists were antici­pating the ‘welfare state,’ the na­tionalization of industries, ‘so­cialized’ medicine and health pro­grams, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and numerous other such proposals…." 

More specifically, one historian points out that Robert Owen, an early nineteenth-century utopian, had a considerable impact upon historical development. "Owen… was influential in bringing to pass the first labor legislation, the Brit­ish Factory Acts in 1819…. The co-operative buying societies a­mong the poorer folk… are also the direct outgrowth of Owen’s experiments of New Lanark.Utopians are articulated visions of a perfect society. He was one of the pioneers of the trade union movement, and laid down the first plans for labor bureaus on the national scale." This writer goes on to give similar examples for many other utopians.

Utopias are articulated visions of a perfect society. They are prod­ucts of the imagination of their authors, neither existing any­where at the time they are de­scribed nor ever having existed anywhere. They are futuristic in orientation, though there is often an admixture of a return to felici­ty which man once enjoyed before corruption. Even so, their realiza­tion is to come at some future time, or at least that is the im­plication and hope. Even so, the "role of utopias in social thought… is not analogous to that of blueprint to house. Such a mis­conception makes them of little importance, for as such they have hardly entered the stream of human history at all. Instead, utopias more nearly play the part of the idealized picture of the completed house which precedes the drawing of the blueprint. Utopias are the best societies which their authors can imagine, distant goals toward which their creators would have us move, unhampered in their con­ception by gross obstacles and dif­ficulties."

The Vision and the Means

The construction of a utopia, then, is an elemental flight from reality. The author who does so must, by the nature of his task, withdraw from concrete reality, must envision something which does not exist. Insofar as he ne­glects to take into account the nature of man and the universe, as most modern utopians have, he is engaged in a full-fledged flight from reality. The role of utopian thought in the development of meliorist reform is this: Utopians provided the vision of the perfect society toward which meliorist re­form is supposed to move. Quite often, they also described the means which might be used to achieve utopia and ways of doing things in the perfect society. Uto­pia is the end; meliorist reform is the means. Utopias have served as the visionary and imaginary flight which has preceded the actual flight.

The fact that twentieth-century reformers have usually disavowed any particular utopian hopes must not be permitted to obscure the actual connection. The vagueness of the goals of contemporary re­formers is not even to be pitted against any particularized version of utopia. This would tend to disci­pline reformers to some limited extent, though this may not be the reason for the avoidance of embracing a utopia. Nonetheless, a vague generalized vision of utopia does impel reformers to their exertions.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, this vision is a utopia that "is altogether pleasant and enticing. It is a place and time where suffering and privation have been banished, where the inhabitants are secure from the ravages of disease and unemployment, where all men have enough of the good things of life…, where education and environment have banished the baser things and men have willingly and gladly turned to the finer things of life, where one may speed in a carefree manner down the highway of life with no fear of a collision along the way." 5

Sir Thomas More and Company

The content for a vision which has become progressively more vague was provided in luxuriant detail by nineteenth-century utopians.

Before utopian thought could enter the life stream of that social thought which is believed to have relevance to actuality, a trans­formation had to take place. Such a transformation had taken place for many of those in intellectual circles by the early nineteenth century. It has already been de­scribed as the cutting loose from reality. Uninhibited rationalism became abstract rationalism; the imagination was cut loose from the fetters of reason; men turned their eyes away from the nature of things, from an enduring real­ity, from metaphysical or eternal realms, to focus their attention on change and development. In these circumstances, they could not only envision utopias with the utmost freedom but also actually begin to believe in them as pos­sibilities.

The literary genera which we refer to as utopias were not new to the nineteenth century, of course. The name itself adorned a work of Sir Thomas More, a book which was published in the early sixteenth century. But More’s book was modeled upon one of much more ancient vintage, Plato’s

Republic. It should be noted, though, that Plato’s good society differed significantly from most modern utopias. Plato did not envision the transformation of hu­man nature; he took men as they are and proposed to build a good society for them. This would in­volve, as he saw, a rather rigorous regimentation, and he did not shrink from these implications. Hence, the meaning of Plato’s Re­public for those who prefer liberty (whether he could be numbered among them or not) is clear; it is a cautionary tale, showing the consequences of trying to institute the good society. There were other utopias written in the classical period, but the genera disappeared for the Middle Ages and did not reappear until More’s work.

Following More, there were a good many utopian writers from the sixteenth into the eighteenth centuries—what historians are likely to call the early modern period. They include Francis Ba­con’s New Atlantis, Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun, James Harrington’s Oceana, Fene­lon’s Telemachus, Andrae Valenti’s Christianopolis, and Robert Fil­mer’s Patriarcha. These utopias have mainly an academic interest. That is, they constitute an histori­cal background for the utopianism which came to inform meliorist re­form but they entered into the stream of social thought at the time, little, if at all. They did con­tain many of the ideas which went into later utopias.

Indeed, More’s work contained what can now be recognized as most of the staple ingredients of utopian literature. Utopias almost invariably have two sorts of ma­terials: a critique of conditions contemporary with the work being written, and a vision of the per­fect society. More’s book has both. Moreover, the good society is pic­tured as a communistic one. Pri­vate property is an evil to be rooted out, a theme which runs the gamut of utopian literature from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. More said,

I am persuaded, 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.

The great change that will be wrought by the abolition of prop­erty is described:

In all places it is visible, that while people talk of a common­wealth, every man seeks his own wealth; but there, where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public: and, in­deed, it is no wonder to see men act so differently; for in other common­wealths every man knows that un­less he provides for himself, how flourishing so ever the common­wealth may be, he must die of hun­ger; so that he sees the necessity of preferring his own concerns to the public; but in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full, no private man can want anything; for among them there is no unequal distribu­tion, so that no man is poor, none in necessity; and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties….

The chances are good that More was engaging in superb irony throughout much of this work, that at most it is only an exercise of the fancy. In any event, later writers have presented such fancies with deadly, and deaden­ing, seriousness.

Most of the utopian ideas ap­pear to have been suggested dur­ing this early period, but we had best not stop to explore them. A considerable change had come over utopian literature by the nine­teenth century. Indeed, this cen­tury was the century of utopians, par excellence. Many intellectuals turned their attention to describing perfect societies and offering programs for realizing them. There were utopian socialists, communitarians, anarchists, "sci­entific" socialists, syndicalists, and perfectionists. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for utopian projects, and men began actually to try to put them into effect.

Utopian Communities

The first considerable effort along this line was the communi­tarian movement. In general, the idea in founding communities was for a group to separate itself from the corrupting influence of the "world" and arrive at perfection in isolation from contaminating influences. There were a great many such communities at­tempted. Some were religious in orientation, for there was a great deal of religious enthusiasm in the first half of the nineteenth cen­tury. Others were secular in origin and aims. But whether religious or secular they were usually com­munistic, that is, they proposed to labor for the common good and share equally, or at least accord­ing to need, in the goods produced. America was a popular place to locate such experiments since they needed physical isolation and considerable tolerance from politi­cal authorities. Some of the more famous of the American communi­ties were Brook Farm, New Harmony, North American Phalanx, Amana, Oneida, Nashoba, Fruit-lands, Icaria, and the religious communities of the Shakers and Rappites.

Two examples of such communi­ties will suffice. One of the most famous was the one located on the banks of the Wabash river in Indiana; it was called New Har­mony. New Harmony was the brainchild, and purse child, of Robert Owen, a wealthy Scottish manufacturer. Owen’s idea was to found self-sufficient villages. As one writer describes his utopia:

He saw the world made up of vil­lages, rid of the capitalist and free from that private property which was completely incompatible with social well-being, producing solely for the collective good…. Briefly stated, he recommended… that colonies of workers should be formed on the co-operative principle. These colonies or villages of co-operation with a population varying from 500 to 2000 souls… were to be engaged in both agriculture and manufactur­ing; they were to be housed in great quadrangles located in the midst of each colony, containing the common dormitories, common kitchen, and dining rooms, common schools, li­brary, reading rooms, guest rooms, etc…. All were to work at suitable tasks according to their ability….

These villages were to be joined together in a great federation which would replace the old world of the "capitalistic system with its poverty and misery, its injus­tice and inequality, its falsehood and deception; and all were to be united in brotherly co-operative effort." 

In Owen’s most ambitious at­tempt to put his ideas into effect, the community of New Harmony, he was confronted by continual difficulties for the short time that he continued the effort. Splinter groups of dissenters were continu­ally forming and moving off else­where. There were complaints about those who ate but did not work. Since decisions were to be made democratically, all work and other activity was frequently stopped for discussions and votes. Some complained that Owen was profiteering from the sale of land, though he sold the land on credit or gave leases for ten thousand years. "Money had been officially abolished but in every lane and alley the Harmonists privately traded and bargained and bickered over cash."9 "There was trouble over liquor. Prohibition was de­creed, but everywhere people were drunk, supplied by sly bootlegging members."¹º In short, before its hasty demise New Harmony had witnessed some of the classic ills accompanying efforts to make over men.

The Oneida Community, found­ed and watched over for many years by John Humphrey Noyes, carried communal sharing to what most would probably consider its logical extreme. To be specific, in this community they practiced what was called complex marriage. That is, each adult who was a full-fledged member of the community might be considered married to every other such adult of the op­posite sex. Noyes was a religious leader, and the strange beliefs of the community were a part of the religion he taught. He believed in the possibility of perfection here and now, and those who had ar­rived at perfection no longer lived under the old dispensation. In anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven—which was the name bestowed upon the first establish­ment begun by Noyes—he wrote:

When the will of God is done.. there will be no marriage. The mar­riage supper of the lamb is a feast at which every dish is free to every guest. Exclusiveness, jealousy, quar­reling, have no place there, for the same reason as that which forbids the guests at a thanksgiving dinner to claim each his separate dish, and quarrel with the rest for his rights. In a holy community, there is no more reason why sexual intercourse should be restrained by law, than why eating and drinking should be….

Though the community lasted for a longer period than most such undertakings, it did eventual­ly break up. One writer points out that young people went away to college and came more and more "to desire the marriage customs of the world where people were al­lowed to fall in love and not re­quired to cultivate a specious en­joyment at seeing their loved ones bandied through a wide circle of holy hands." 

Utopian Socialism

A second, and related, development in utopian thought in the first half of the nineteenth cen­tury was the setting forth of what has been called utopian socialism. The theory of modern socialism was developed in this period by those whom Marx scornfully dubbed utopians. They were most­ly French and included Morelly, Babeuf, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Ca-bet, and Blanc.

Fourier and Cabet developed theories and attempted to apply them in communities. Fourier’s dream may serve as an example of these, though they differed con­siderably one from another. "In brief, Fourier proposed to elimi­nate wasteful competition, and oppressive government, by orga­nizing self-sufficient and mainly agricultural units of production." These units he called Phalanstéres. They would, he thought, solve the problems of production, and each person would be guaranteed a basic standard of living. "Along with this expand­ing production, will go an educa­tional revolution…. It will raise mankind to perfection in body and mind…. Our present teachers—slaves to abstractions—know how to produce Neros; we know how to turn potential Neros into men like Gods."

Mankind was made for perfec­tion and harmony, according to Fourier, not discord and competi­tion. His system would achieve the true end of man. "This economic and educational revolution, by housing the population in self-supporting, autonomous and self-conducted luxury hotels, in which all the occupants would work and play in industrious harmony, would solve the problems of pov­erty, war, and wickedness."15 All that he needed to get this plan un­derway, he believed, was to find a wealthy patron who would fi­nance it, and he waited expectantly through his later years for such a benefactor.

Several important changes in utopian literature occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth cen­tury. For one thing, there was ap­parently a great increase in the number of such works produced. One book lists the better-known ones, mainly in English or Eng­lish translation, for the period 1850-1950. This indicates a great concentration of production of such literature from about 1883 to 1912. Only six works are listed from 1850 to 1883; whereas, there are seventy-four works from 1883 to 1912, seven for 1894 alone."16

The Shift from Local Groups to a Worldwide Organization

Another development was the shift from the conception of utopian communities to dreams of a world-wide organization. As one account has it, "it was to become rapidly and increasingly apparent that the utopian community was so unrealistic that it could provide no more than a setting for fantasy or satire. Modern utopia must be a state, and indeed it was already beginning to be evident that mod­ern utopia must be the world." By some kind of metamorphosis, "the economic ideal of utopia, through a kind of economic necessity, be­comes the ideal of the world."17

A third development was the organization of movements to act not in isolated communities but within societies at large, the at­tempt to make utopia scientific (as in Comte and Marx), and the development of programs and plans for the realization of the good society, no longer cast in the guise of utopia. In short, men were preparing to achieve utopia in society at large. Steps were be­ing taken to translate utopian visions into reformist measures in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The Ingredients of Utopia

It may be well, at this point, to sum up, and indicate the main strains which went into utopian thought. Utopia was concocted out of a compound of some of man’s deepest longings, longings for felicity, harmony, order, peace, security, and repose. Utopian vi­sions have had appeal because they embraced remnants of myth­ology, relics of religious hopes (quite often transposed), immem­orial prejudices, along with no­tions borrowed from scientific theories. Some of the ingredients of this compound are worth dwel­ling upon.

The "Golden Age" Myth

One of the strains that have frequently been woven into the fabric of utopia, or at least evoked by it, is the myth of the Golden Age. This myth appears to have had virtually universal appeal, and even extensive and intensive in­doctrination in progressivism in contemporary society does not ap­pear to have completely succeeded in exorcising it. The Golden Age myth locates the time of felicity and harmony in the past. The variations on the particular locale range from the recent past to the Garden of Eden.

At its deepest, the Golden Age myth is of a time before man had lost harmony with nature, or with God. In theological terms, it could refer to the time before man be­came a moral being, a time before all the travail, tension, and un­palatable choices entailed in being moral. In pagan terms, it could re­fer to the time when man was simply an animal, guided and liv­ing by instinct rather than thought. There have, of course, been many efforts to account for the appeal of the Golden Age myth. Some see it simply as a result of the tendency to romanti­cize that which lives only in mem­ory, others as the effort to return to the womb, and so forth.

At any rate, elements from the Golden Age myth crop up in much of utopian literature. Utopias quite often have strenuous criti­cisms of recent social and economic trends, criticisms of everything from the enclosure movement of an earlier time to industrialism in the nineteenth century. It is easy to see that the communi­tarian ideas owe much to a ro­manticizing of the medieval manor. Robert Owen even wanted to abolish the plow and return to the spade. "The spade," he said, "wherever there is sufficient soil, opens it to a depth that allows the water to pass freely below the bed of the seed or plant…." Whereas the plow is a "mere sur­face implement and extremely de­fective in principle." 18 Utopians quite often want to be rid of money—the source of the hated cash nexus—and return to primi­tive barter and exchange. The appeal of many of their plans is the appeal of the return to prim­eval simplicity and felicity.

Heaven on Earth

The second ingredient in utopia, quite often sublimated and trans­posed in it is millennialism. Chris­tian eschatology places the Golden Age at the end of time rather than at the beginning (or in addition to placing it at the beginning).For some of them, the Kingdom of God became a kingdom to be made here on earth.  Whether this Golden Age is to be for eternity in a transcendental Heaven or for a thousand years upon a transformed earth (or that both shall be) has long been a mat­ter for controversy. Of course, utopians have used only the con­ception of a heaven on earth. For some of them, the Kingdom of God became a kingdom to be made here on earth.

In utopian thought, however, millennialism was divorced large­ly from its religious content, hu­manized, and the vision of heaven quite often became the vision of a materialistic earthly paradise. The dictatorship of the proletariat of Marx and Engels does not ap­pear to share much in common with the Kingdom which John saw descending to earth in his vision recorded in the Book of Revelations, but Marx turned more than Hegel upside down (or right-side up, as he claimed), and his is indeed an apocalyptic vision of the ushering in of the Golden Age.

In short, millennialism was quite often subsumed into utopian thought, placing the Gold­en Age in the future, and subtly appealing to deep religious hopes.

Progressivism

By the latter part of the nine­teenth century, however, millen­nialism was being domesticated and secularized as progressivism. Progressivism was the third ingredient of utopianism. This state­ment needs modifying; progres­sivism was a late comer to the scene. Earlier utopias could not have used it. Thus, its major func­tion became a mode for the achievement of utopia. Progres­sivism, as it is relevant to utopian­ism, was born out of technological progress by historical inevitabil­ity, evolution being the midwife. The flight from reality owes much of its believability both to evolu­tionary theories and technological progress. These, in turn, made the realization of utopia appear pos­sible. It is not strange that any­one viewing the course of inven­tion and industrial development in the modern era should be struck by the great possibilities of hu­man ingenuity.

At any rate, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels described a state of earthly bliss and devised a theory to make its coming histori­cally inevitable. The tools they worked with were technological change, the theory of evolution, and a theory of historical change. By so doing, they associated prog­ress with the realization of utopia, and, for those who have sought utopia by way of reform, unwit­tingly associated progress with re­form—a wholly gratuitous con­nection, one might add. Reformers in the twentieth century have got maximum mileage out of the sup­posed connection between reform and progress.

The Static Society

The fourth strain in utopianism is the implied vision of life with­out tension. To put it another way, though not the way a utopian would describe it, utopia is a land where stasis or absolute stability has been achieved. In the real world development, even progress, are the products of tension.This does not appear to be compatible with pro­gressivism, any more than pro­gressivism is compatible with a Golden Age in the past. But these are logical objections to nonlogical flights of fancy. Consistency is a requirement of dialectical reason, and it must be remembered that Kant had already cut the ground from under such reason.

In the real world, one may be­lieve that change, development, even progress, are the products of tension. But in utopia one can have the products of capital without capitalism, the products of inven­tion without the incentives to the invention, the advantages of free­dom without the corollary dis­advantages of responsibility, and so on. Why raise difficult questions about the mode of progress with­out tensions, without frustrations, without incentives? At any rate, utopia will be a land without ten­sions, without that which produces crime, war, and other disorders. There will be no jealousy, no selfishness, no competition, and no abrasiveness in relationships.

Perhaps this is an overstate­ment of the case. Some utopians did envisage the continued pres­ence of some dissidents. Let us take a look at what one utopian—Chauncey Thomas in The Crystal Button—proposed to do with such people. They are to be kept in hos­pitals, of course. Why hospitals? Because they are morally deranged. The explanation contin­ues:

"Morally deranged?"

"Yes, I believe you used to apply the term ‘prison’ to the institution used for the confinement of moral patients."

"They are convicts, then? But why are these associated with your hospi­tals?"

"Why not? They constitute a part, though happily a small part of the patients that come under the same management and treatment. We simply treat them as persons who are morally deformed or ailing."

Judging by this insight into what utopia will be like, we may be nearer to it than some have thought!

Environmentalism and Anarchism

The fifth ingredient of utopia has usually been environmentalism.

This has provided utopia an explanation of sorts for the imperfections which they readily ob­served and vigorously denounced. If man is perfect or perfectible if there is no ingrained obstacle within him that would prevent the perfect society, why, one might ask, does perfection not prevail? One historian explains the utopian view, particularly the utopian so­cialist view, in the following man­ner:

One and all believed that with proper environment man would be actually perfect. He was naturally good, but the existing environment with its overwhelming imperfections and maladjustments destined him to evil and woe."

The correction of the environ­ment and the education of men would remove these obstacles to perfection. The Rubicon for such explanations, of course, is how to make an account of why things have not always been perfect.

A heady strain in much of nine­teenth century utopian thought, particularly that of socialists, was anarchism. Marx proclaimed that the state would wither away. Marx was in a line extending from Godwin and Proudhon through Kropotkin and Sorel. Those utopian socialists who abominated the state and governments apparently arrived at their position through some such rea­soning, or unreasoning, as this: Private property is the root of all social evil, and its existence the cause of man’s "fall." (Rousseau thought as much.) Private prop­erty, it has been claimed, sets one man against another, leads men to pursue their own interest to the harm of others, promotes self­ishness, and so on. The state, as they saw it, was the prime bul­wark of property. The vast para­phernalia of government—the courts, the police, the bulk of laws—had to do with the protection of property. Abolish property, and government would lose its reason for being. Or, as revolutionary anarchists were apt to believe, abolish government and things would revert to their natural, and perfect, condition. As one writer says:

A strong line of thinking thus became absolutely hostile to the State; it considered this most im­portant of all political phenomena either as infinitely elastic and com­pressible ( J. S. Mill), altogether dispensable (Marx and Engels), or the supreme obstacle to total happi­ness.

The flight from political reality has had horrible consequences in our century. Anarchists did not succeed in abolishing the state, but they did turn thought away from the very practical problems of how to contain the state. Eventu­ally, most socialists reconciled themselves to the state, used it to their ends, but it tended to be­come the uninhibited state of to­talitarianism. It is worth pointing out that some contemporary lib­ertarians have similar views toward government to those of nineteenth-century utopians. So­cialists saw the state as the bul­wark of property; these libertar­ians witness the state as a violator of liberty and property at the hands of social reformers. Both fail to realize that government is an instrument, not a cause, of men’s behavior and beliefs.

There were many other strains in utopian thought. Equality and distributive justice were prom­inent in many utopias. However, in the nineteenth century, some thinkers expected utopias to be controlled by scientific elites. Such arrangements have been called technocracies. Scientism crops up quite often in these visions of the future. Rationalism and education were linked by thinkers as as­sumption and method for arriving at utopia. The above comprise the major assumptions and beliefs of utopians.

The Urge to Reform

Utopia, then, contained the vi­sion of earthly bliss which has drawn us into the crucible of melioristic reform.

It must be made clear, though, that there is a great gulf between Robert Owen’s utopian vision of a world without poverty and Presi­dent Johnson’s War on Poverty. To most of his contemporaries, even as for us, Owen was an im­practical visionary, one to be taken advantage of by cynical joiners of his communities or to be avoided by more upstanding people. Presi­dent Johnson, on the other hand, would certainly be reckoned to be a "practical" politician. But the difference between Owen and Johnson is not in the vision they hold forth; it is in the means to be employed. The gulf has been bridged. What was once clearly visionary is now being pursued with all the instruments of power of centralized states, is even the stock in trade of the most corrupt politicians. We are no nearer to utopia in our day, I think, but we are cheek by jowl with a whole panorama of compulsive devices that are billed as instruments for ushering in utopia (though the word itself is not employed).

Most of the remainder of this story will have to do with how the gulf was bridged. It was a tre­mendous undertaking. It must be kept in mind that thus far we have pursued mainly the develop­ment of some ideas among some intellectuals. Though utopian novels were becoming more popu­lar in the late nineteenth century, as indicated by sales, utopian thought had even then hardly en­tered the mainstream of political thought. Apparently, it was as clear to most of our ancestors as it may be to some of us that utopian visions are flights from reality. Intellectuals had not yet come into the circle of power, cer­tainly not utopistic intellectuals. The position of these people, and their kind, in the nineteenth cen­tury, is described by one writer:

These people belonged to no great disciplined order; they are backed by no European authority…. When they rebel, they become outcasts and refugees, as were Marx and Lenin, appealing away from the bourgeoisie to which they belong to the masses without.

In short, such people were largely loners and outcasts. We must trace them in their move to the seats of power. Such a movement has been made, and it is rather clear that such intellec­tuals would be in line for a Free­dom Medal from some President today.

It is not practical, however, to follow the movement from utopia to reform, from visionary to a presi­dential adviser, from lonely dream­er to practical politician, on an in­ternational scale. The perspective will now be shifted to the national scale, to the United States, so that the story can be told of how one nation was drawn into the web of those engaged in a flight from reality.