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Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia

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"In philanthropy, too, we have created nothing new. We have merely systematized the old facilities, centralized them properly. Hospitals, infirmaries, orphan asylums, vacation camps, public kitchens-in short, all the types of benevolent institutions with which you were familiar have been merged here and placed under a unified administration. We are thus able to care for every sick and needy applicant. There are fewer demands on public charity here because conditions-I have the right to say so-are better on the whole. But there are poor among us, because we have not been able to change human nature. Here, too, people are brought low by their own vices or lack of responsibility or misfortune-deserved or undeserved. We give medical aid to the sick, and find work for the well...As I said before, we have discovered no new devices in philanthropy. Merely used and developed what already existed. You must have been familiar with the old institutions for aiding people through work and with employment exchanges. Here, everyone has the right to work and therefore to bread. This also implies the duty to work. Beggary is not tolerated. Healthy persons caught begging are sentenced to hard labor. The needy sick have only to apply to the public charities. No one is turned away: The various hospitals are connected with the charity headquarters by telephone. By taking thought in due season, we obviate any lack of beds. We should be ashamed to send a patient from one hospital to the other as used to be done in the old days. If one hospital is full, an ambulance in its courtyard will at once take an applicant to another where beds are available."

"But all that must be very expensive," remarked Friedrich.

"No. You must keep in mind the fact that systematic planning makes everything more economical. The old society was rich enough at the beginning of this century, but it suffered from ineffable confusion. It was like a crowded treasure-house where you could not find a spoon when you needed one. Those people were no worse and no more stupid than we. Or, if you like, we are neither better nor cleverer than they. Our success in social experiment is due to another cause. We established our Society without inherited drawbacks. We did indeed bind ourselves to the past, as we were bound to do-there was the old soil, the ancient people; but we rejuvenated the institutions. Nations with unbroken histories have to carry burdens assumed by their ancestors. Not we. The administration of any state you may have been familiar with will be an example of what I mean. Interest and amortization charges on very old debts were an enormous item. There were but two alternatives: either to go into dishonorable bankruptcy or to drag along with the heavy old burdens. The New Society was better off to begin with. I shall prove this to you in detail later on.

"For the moment, I wish merely to answer your question about the cost of our public charities. Even though they are adequate to all the demands for efficient service to the sick and the needy, our institutions are far cheaper than those of the old order. Buildings and equipment are paid for, now as then, out of public funds-in so far as synagogue offerings and bequests do not suffice. Personnel is provided for through a system of membership service. All members of the New Society, men and women alike, are obligated to give two years to the service of the community. The usual thing is to give the two years between eighteen and twenty-after completing their studies. (I want to add, by the way, that education is free to the children of our members from the kindergarten through the university.) In this two-year-service period we have an exhaustless reservoir of assistants for those institutions whose social usefulness is generally acknowledged. Such institutions are directed by paid officials."

"I understand," said Friedrich. "Your army consists of professional officers and volunteers."

"I accept the analogy," replied David, "but it is merely an analogy. There is no army in the New Society."

"Woe's me!" jeered Kingscourt.

David smiled. "What would you have, Mr. Kingscourt? Nothing on earth is perfect, not even our New Society. We have no state, like the Europeans of your time. We are merely a society of citizens seeking to enjoy life through work and culture. We content ourselves with making our young people physically fit. We develop their bodies as well as their minds. We find athletic and rifle clubs sufficient for this purpose, even as they were thought sufficient in Switzerland. We also have competitive games -cricket, football, rowing-like the English. We took tried and tested things, and tested them allover again. Jewish children used to be pale, weak, timid. Now look at them! The explanation of this miracle is the simplest in the world. We took our children out of damp cellars and hovels, and brought them into the sunlight. Plants cannot thrive without sun. No more can human beings. Plants can be saved by transplantation into congenial soil. Human beings as well. That is how it happened!"

"When I listen to you," remarked Friedrich meditatively -"and what we have already seen and expect to see confirms what you say-I might be ready to believe this thing real, and not a Utopia. And yet there's something missing.

"I begin to grasp the meaning and scope of your New Society," he continued. "That does not puzzle me. It is something else. I admit that what you have shown us ought not to seem strange, since we saw all these things in Europe-even though in sporadic and unharmonious forms. But though I see, hear and touch your social order, I still cannot understand how it came into being...How shall I put it? I understand the new order perfectly as far as I am acquainted with it. But I do not understand how it was born. The transition from the old order to the new is what escapes me. Had I been born into the world today, I should have accepted it just as I accepted the world I was actually born into. Granted that even then I should have thought much of it wonderful if I had suddenly looked at it with the eyes of a twenty years' absentee. Had we, for instance, been away from the world from 1880 to 1900, electric light, the telephone, transmission of electric power by wire would have been even more overwhelming. You show us nothing new in the technical sense, and yet I seem to be dreaming. The point of transition is lacking."

"I shall show you that as well," replied David. "I shall tell you my own story, in which you yourself played so large a role. But not now. You must be tired from the trip. First of all you must rest, and this evening, should you be so inclined, we shall go to the opera. Or to the theater to the German, English, French, Italian or Spanish theater."

"Schwerenot!" shouted Kingscourt. "Is all that here? Just as it was in America in my time. They used to have theatrical companies from everywhere. But that you should have it here..."

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