Utopia: Raphael’s career options and why he doesn’t want a job
Thomas More tells Raphael, hey a smart fellow like you ought to get a job working for a king.
Back in the early 1500s, there weren’t any corporations to work for. If the conversation had taken place today, More would no doubt have said, hey a smart fellow like you ought to get a job working for a Fortune 500 corporation.
Raphael’s reasons for not wanting such a job would be equally valid today as they were 500 years ago.
1. He already has enough money to pursue his main hobby which is traveling around the world and observing other cultures. So why the heck would he want to work at a job he wouldn’t like in order to make money he doesn’t need? Utopia predates, by approximately 450 years, Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, in which was revealed that the true purpose of life is to have a self-actualizing career (and thus women back then were condemned to a miserable existence because society discouraged them from having careers).
I note that there was nothing in the book about Raphael having a wife. Certainly, with an attitude like that, the most eligible women from noble families aren’t going to be interested in him. This reminds me of Henry David Thoreau who wrote a book about living a super-frugal life at Walden Pond, but during that time he had no female companionship whatsoever. Thoreau, despite being one of the greatest American philosophers of all time, never had any women who were interested in him romantically.
2. Kings already have zillions of people who want to work for them, more than there are positions available, so the world will get along just fine if Raphael putters about as an unemployed traveler and philosopher.
3. Kings are more interested in warfare with other kingdoms than they are in good governance of the kingdom they already have, which is Raphael’s area of expertise.
One might say the same of a lot of corporate CEOs, that they are more interested in growth and acquisitions than they are in efficiently running and improving the businesses they already have.
4. As a guy working for a king, you have to be a yes-man and suck-up to the king, and then you have to be a yes-man and suck-up to everyone else who works for the king who has a higher rank than you. Raphael is an honest straight shooter who can’t deal with that kind of bullshit.
Thomas More tries to talk Raphael out of that, explaining that the benefits of having a career make it worthwhile to pretend to agree with stuff you don’t agree with, because it’s the only way to have any sort of influence.
I can only assume that the historical Thomas More had some personal doubts about his advisory role to King Henry VIII. For a while, he followed his own advice to Raphael and had a successful career and made a lot of money. But down the road he found that he couldn’t be a yes-man anymore, and King Henry VIII had him executed. The way Thomas More was depicted in The Tudors, he seemed pretty stupid for choosing death over agreeing with what Henry was going to do anyway.
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About the Paul Turner translation: Paul Turner was a college professor in England who translated this in 1965. But he’s not an important enough author/translator to merit a Wikipedia article.
Both the Kobo and Apple bookstores have the Turner translation ebooks for sale, but it’s not available at the Amazon Kindle store. Very strange. Normally, Amazon has books that the other stores don’t have.
I highly recommend the Paul Turner translation over the nearly unreadable uncopyrighted 1901 translation. If I only had the 1901 translation available, I would have given up. I guess I’m just too lazy.
There’s also another modern translation, but that’s not the one I’m reading.