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(HOST) Recently, commentator Edith Hunter found herself contemplating the future from a vantage point in the past – through the pages of a book.

(HUNTER) It seems unbelievable that women have only had the vote since the year after I was born. It is equally difficult to believe that slavery was accepted in the United States into the 1860s. And although former slaves were soon guaranteed the right to vote, it was only forty years ago, 1965, that the Voting Rights Act put some teeth into that guarantee.

We are still debating the merits of granting all civil rights to gays and lesbians, securing federally funded, universal health care, and legislation allowing “death with dignity” or doctor assisted death.

Sometimes I wonder what practices that we take for granted today will be illegal one hundred years from now.

Three stand out in my mind: war as a way of solving international problems; prisons as the solution for antisocial behavior; and the obscene gulf between the rich and poor.

War is an immoral and ineffective way of solving international problems. Either we will outlaw war, or we will destroy any social fabric that remains, and destroy our livable natural world as well.

We have in the United States more than two million people in jails. A large number are there because of drug or alcohol addiction. A prison is not the best place in which to help people change their behavior patterns.

And finally, I think it is immoral that some people are allowed to amass huge amounts of money while people who work and have families earn less than enough to make ends meet.

I have been rereading William Morris’s utopia, News From Nowhere, written in 1891 in England. Morris – writer, artist and artisan, socialist and social reformer – lived from 1834 to 1896. His book is written as a discourse between a resident of London in the latter part of the 19th century, and residents in about the year 2091. The story takes place in the 2091 utopian dream world.

Morris’s utopia envisioned a society without money, private property, laws, government, or schools. The people were handsome and happy. When the 19th century Englishman went into a 21st century store to buy something and tried to pay for it, he discovered that money was not the means of exchange. Rather, it was “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He needed tobacco and a pipe. He was given them.

The effect of Morris’s ideas on this reader was – “how refreshing and sensible.” We need our thinking to be shaken up. Reading William Morris’s utopia did this for me.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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