by Baloney Bill
My personal, burgeoning vision of utopia.
| In the city of Bliss, houses are small and painted in vivid but tasteful colors. There are swings and chairs on the open front porches where the villagers relax and chat in the evenings and on the weekends. The lawns and gardens are small but meticulously kept. Folks consider their lawns the welcome mats to their homes. The children play in the nearby parks; there are so many parks in Bliss that one of them is within walking distance of every one of the many children in the city.
The streets are narrow and the sidewalks wide, and in between a variety of fruit trees provide a line of parasols shading everyone from the sun. Park benches are placed intermittently under the trees as well as tables and chairs where young and old play checkers, chess, backgammon, board games, and a vast variety of card games. Cards are also played at the Community Centers on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Saturday is music day with the Old Times Band playing in the gazebo in the afternoons and Mellow Mel's Big Band playing dance music in the evenings. There are also large clubs each providing different varieties of music: jazz, rock, blues, indie, country, folk, and anything else popular at the time. Bands popular with the younger people alternate weekly performing at the high school auditorium. Everyone between twelve and eighteen years of age are welcome, and the band plays from eight to twelve pm.
There are ball fields, basketball courts, soccer pitches, and tennis courts throughout the town, and people of all ages participate but do not really compete. Competition is discouraged since it seems antithetical to the cooperative spirit of the town. The purpose of the games is to provide an outlet for energy, a chance for fresh air and exercise, and an opportunity to meet with friends and neighbors. Everyone is welcome to play, but there are no leagues, teams, uniforms, standings or fans. Every game is an impromptu pick-up game and new players are welcome to join in anytime there is a break in the game. Rotations of players in and out of the games are frequent and voluntary and players join and leave the games as it suits them. Every game is very flexible; it is all just for fun.
The community center provides art supplies in a large studio and everyone from the child novice to the most talented adults work in harmony. The library doors in the community center are always open to the public and materials are borrowed and returned on an honor system. Three meals a day are provided to whoever wishes to eat with the group instead of at home. The only requirement is the diner must have signed on for the meal at least 24 hours before it happens so there is enough food for everyone.
The library is the focal point of the community, and it is so much more than a place to borrow books. It is a large complex dedicated to the arts -- in addition to the expansive library itself, there is a stage theater, a movie theater, a concert hall, a music instruction wing, three art galleries, an art studio, and a hands-on children's' studio with musical instruments to try and art supplies in abundance.
Events at the theaters and concert hall are planned every weekend and almost all are well attended. Instead of fixed-price tickets, patrons put in sealed bids for attendance. They write the amount they are willing to pay for a ticket and those with the highest bids receive tickets. Specific seats are given not based on the amount the patron paid but on a lottery basis. No one knows who paid what based on where they are sitting. The whole idea of elitism is shunned. To be sure you get to see an event you really want to see, you must bid high enough to assure yourself a seat. If you are kind of interested or curious, you might bid low. Expenses for the performance are almost always covered because the seats are almost always full. The idea of having art go unseen or seen only by the wealthy is abhorrent here. Art is for everyone, not just a privileged few.
Politics is another idea scorned and ridiculed in Bliss. Everyone runs the government. Each of the nine seats on the city council are filled on a rotating two-year term by residents aged fifteen and older. After a person serves their term they are excluded from serving again. The agenda is set by petitions sent in by letter, telephone call or computer contact during the week or at personal appearances by residents at the council meetings which are very well attended and held in the large public meeting hall. Presentations are limited to five minutes, and a resident may only make a presentation once a month. Simple matters are decided on the spot by a vote of the council or tabled until the next meeting to provide aides time to study and research the issue. More complicated, important, or controversial matters are placed on the people's vote site and on the first of every month everyone fifteen or older is able and encouraged to vote on the issues of importance to them. The average percentage of the population voting on each issue is currently 78%.
Everyone is provided with a basic living space which are single-family dwellings similar in style and structure, and residents are encouraged to make additions or improvements as they like and to decorate their homes as they wish. Basic needs of heat, water, electricity, and internet are provided to everyone. Based on family size, credits are given for both consumable and durable goods. Each family or individual is credited at the beginning of each month in their accounts. enough to cover average food, clothing, durable goods, consumable goods, home maintenance and improvement, transportation, and entertainment. It is up to each family unit to apportion their credits appropriately to last each month.
The city park sits high on a hill. Every morning some folks gather for coffee just before sunrise and give thanks for and welcome to the new day. Similarly, in the evening some folks gather as sunset approaches to share the news and details of their day, to laugh and joke, and to enjoy the beauty of the setting sun.
Swimming is very big in Bliss. The lake is fine for fishing and swimming and the beach is raked every morning before swimmers arrive. No petroleum-fueled motorboats are allowed in the lake, but electric-motored boats, sailboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, windsurfers and paddleboat abound. Some people own their own, but most people use the ones available for rent for just a few credits per hour.
In Bliss, there are no pets allowed in the residential areas of town. The idea of living with an animal in your home is considered barbaric. Instead of home pets, people own and keep their pets at Pet Paradise which is an enormous, fully equipped facility with dozens of fenced outside plots of various sizes where people can play with their pets individually or with other pet owners in the larger dog parks. Inside, there are also many living rooms available where people can play with their pets indoors. On staff are veterinarians, groomers, scoopers, and maintenance people to care for all the pets when the owners are not on site. Pet owners have all the joy of owning a pet without the cleanup, feeding, grooming and veterinary expenses. All dogs are trained by staff, and owners are welcome to participate in the training or not. There are also communal pets available to anyone so someone who doesn’t own a pet can enjoy petting a kitty or throwing balls for a dog whenever they wish without any commitment. Additionally, with no pets within the city limits, people can walk, run, bike, work, and play without being chased or barked at by dogs or wondering whether they will step in droppings. There is not continual and annoying barking while people are enjoying quiet time. Children’s sandboxes are not communal litter boxes for loose cats.
Quiet is precious in Bliss. Thought, meditation, and self-reflection are key to a fulfilling life and quiet is an essential setting for these pursuits and escapes. Most machines including cars, trollies, buses, and lawn mowers are electrically powered. The internal combustion engines used in Bliss are painstakingly muffled. There are no loud cars or motorcycles — to have a noisy vehicle would be considered a great affront to a peaceful society. Similarly, music volumes are kept extremely low, and headphones are used in abundance. Shouting, cursing, and arguing are taboo. It is considered quite rude to use a telephone in a public place except for the private booths provided for that purpose throughout the city.
Aside from the recreational and non-competitive sports games mentioned before, there are no sports teams, no leagues, no standings, no fans, no playoffs, no champions, no winners, no losers. The whole idea of competition is considered ridiculous and inhuman. Athletic activity is widespread but solely for the purposes of fun, health, and camaraderie, not to strive to be the best, to win, or to beat somebody. The very words “beat somebody” should make clear how unhealthy competition is. The idea is that for every winner there must be many losers, and why would anyone want their friends and neighbors to feel bad about themselves because of the results of an activity designed to be healthy and fun? It would defy logic.
Streets are narrow in Bliss, and vehicle parking on the streets is not allowed. Almost all the streets are one-way in this town. Buses are always in operation from 6 AM to 10 PM daily, and no fare is required. Very few people own personal vehicles. Bicycles are a favorite form of transportation.
In Bliss, most people love to garden. Front yards have neatly maintained lawns edged with flower gardens, and in the back yards, most everyone keeps a vegetable garden. As mentioned before, along the streets on either side fruit trees grow — apple, cherry, pear, plum, and peach, and others. Festivals are held each Spring when the trees blossom and again in the Autumn to celebrate harvest time. People love to share ideas about gardening as well as bulbs, spinners, cuttings, and seeds with their neighbors. At harvest times throughout the summer and fall, the bounty of the garden is shared. There are also community facilities to preserve by canning and freezing any excess produce. As with everything else in Bliss, the attitude is one of cooperation. Helping one another not only helps the neighbor but improves the neighborhood and the town.
In Bliss, the wonders of nature are celebrated. When there is a breeze, kites fill the air. When snow is on the ground, kids and adults bring out their sleds, many of which are very sophisticated with steering and braking capabilities. Ponds are used for ice skating and several other low-lying areas are flooded to form ice skating rinks. In the summers, swimming, boating, and fishing are popular. Spring is a busy time for gardeners.
People frequent restaurants, but a popular pastime in Bliss are small luncheons and dinner parties. In contrast to the stilted events these words imply, these are casual and good-natured, fun affairs with families taking turns providing the meals or for larger groups potlucks. Usually, during these events, someone is providing music on a piano, guitar, violin, or sometimes other various instruments.
In Bliss, every day is a celebration day regardless of the weather. People revel in the sun and are grateful for the rain and view snow as a refreshment for the soul.