Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
"They have active and passive suffrage as a matter of course. They worked faithfully beside us during the reconstruction period. Their enthusiasm lent wings to the men's courage. It would have been the blackest ingratitude if we had relegated them to the servants' hall or to a harem."
"You told us on our way here," interrupted Friedrich, "that Reschid Bey is also a member of your Society. Your mention of harems reminds me of a question."
"Which I can guess. No one is obliged to join the New Society. And those who do join are not compelled to exercise their rights. They do as they please. In your own day you must have known men in Europe who were not interested in elections, who never took the trouble to vote, and who could not by any means have been persuaded to take office. So it is with our women and their rights. Don't imagine that our women are not devoted to their homes. My wife, for instance, never goes to meetings."
Sarah smiled. "But that's only because of Fritzchen."
Kingscourt, losing himself for a moment in a vision of the nursery, murmured absently, "I can understand that."
"Yes," continued David, "she nursed our little boy, and so forgot a bit about her inalienable rights. She used to belong to the radical opposition. That is how I met her, as an opponent. Now she opposes me only at home, as loyally as you can imagine, however."
"That's a damned good way of overcoming an opposition," boomed Kingscourt approvingly. "It simplifies politics tremendously."
David proceeded with his explanations. "I must make it clear to you, gentlemen, that our women are too sensible to let public affairs interfere with their personal well-being. It is a common human trait-not only a feminine one-not to concern ourselves with things we already possess. The way was paved for our women during the last century. In some countries women had been granted the suffrage, both active and passive, in representative local bodies and professional organizations. They showed themselves clever and able. They wasted no more time than the men, and talked no more foolishly. There was-really no point at all in letting all this valuable experience go to waste.... For the rest, politics here is neither a business nor a profession, for either men or women. We have kept ourselves unsullied by that plague. People who try to live by spouting their opinions instead of by work are soon recognized for what they are. They are despised, and get no chance to do mischief. Our courts have repeatedly ruled in slander suits that the term 'professional politician' is an insult. That fact speaks for itself."
"But how do you fill your public offices?" asked Friedrich. "Judging by the public buildings you pointed out to us, we must infer that there are officials here."
"Certainly. We have both salaried and honorary positions. But the salaried positions are allotted for skill and merit only. There is a healthy prejudice against partisans of any kind whatever. Paid officials are not allowed to take part in public discussion. But it is quite different with the honorary officials. For filling the honorary positions we have one simple principle: Those who try to push themselves are gently ignored; while, on the other hand we take great pains to discover real merit in the most obscure nooks. We thus make certain that our precious commonwealth will not become the prey of careerists. Our president, for example, is a venerable Russian oculist. He accepted office most unwillingly, because he was obliged to give up his practice."
"Was it so lucrative?" asked Kingscourt.
"Not at all. He worked mostly among the poor. He turned his practice over to his daughter, who is also a prominent physician. She now heads their great eye clinic. A fine woman, who has never married, and devotes her skill to the sick poor. She is a good example of how a sensible society uses the old maids, the single women who used to be sneered at or looked upon as a burden. Here they find their own salvation and that of others. Our whole department of public charities is conducted by ladies of that type.
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