Contemplating Utopia

Utopia: Another plan that looked good on paper.

More Of Everything – Contemplating Utopia – America And The 20 Hour Work-Week – 1958 – Past Daily Weekend Gallimaufry

Another plan that looked good on paper.
Utopia: Another plan that looked good on paper.

CBS Radio – The Hidden Revolution: The 20 hour Work Week with Edward R. Murrow – Dec. 17, 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

It seems that every generation has its goodly share of people who long for the days they are not currently in. Something about the future being a terrifying unknown. The present being a dismal repetition of days, just like every other day especially lately when uncertainty was high on everyone’s list. So, there’s often that desire to relive days of some distant formative past, where we look back with loving fondness, usually at events that never actually occurred. In the 1950s, many people were moaning about the bucolic 1890s, wishing they were back – morals and all. The gist of the story is; people are rarely happy where they are now – somehow sinking into the past is preferable, and the future is always frightening, as it invariably includes death at some point.

In 1959, as part of the weekly CBS Radio program The Hidden Revolution, Edward R. Murrow narrated a documentary on what many felt was the downfall of the 20-hour work week and the perceived Utopia just around the corner.

All that leisure time, a gift of new technology and time saving devices. Automation and how science was making it possible for us to not only live longer, but live infinitely happier.

Oddly, that didn’t set well with a lot of people. Many, citing the 1890s as their model for “the last good years”felt, as a nation we were getting soft and disengaged and it would only lead to problems down the road. We needed to be a nation always a little hungry and always a little struggling. Usually espoused by people who were, and still are, neither

Of course, in the 1950s it was only fitting to look back on life 50 years earlier with a certain dewey-eyed nostalgia. We didn’t have The Bomb to worry about back then. We were pretty much an isolated nation. New technology consisted of the telephone, the light bulb and the automobile. And I am certain, people in the 1890s were no doubt moaning for the bucolic days of the 1850s, before the Civil War, before the Industrial Revolution, before minimum wage laws and clean food.

Human nature, I suppose.

But regardless, in 1959 the Brave New World was upon us, filled with promise and ease – and it was being feared and resisted.

So in this half-hour documentary, Edward R. Murrow surveys what’s going on and why people found the possibilities of Utopia so troubling.

As always, some things just never change.

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