Virtual meanderings

Utopia Awaits!

        We wound be winding the evening down at Utopia. “We”, as in “the people I wrote about in one of my earlier posts and I”. But what about Utopia?

        As many a folk knows, Utopia was the name of a fictional island invented by Thomas More in 1516, and is commonly considered to come from the Greek words “ou” (not) and “topos” (place), hence – “Utopia =  a place that does not exist”. Eventually it acquired its modern meaning of “a perfect place” (a fact, strongly implying that no one actually read the book).

        But – and that was new to me – a third meaning should also be considered, according to Wikipedia (or rather Thomas More himself).

In English, Utopia is pronounced exactly as Eutopia (the latter word, in Greek Εὐτοπία [Eutopiā], meaning “good place,” contains the prefix εὐ- [eu-], “good”, with which the οὐ of Utopia has come to be confused in English pronunciation).This is something that More himself addresses in an addendum to his book Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely my name is Eutopie, a place of felicitie. (Quote: Wikipedia)

        But what about bar Utopia? Would it live up to its name? It was already dark and we only had a rough idea where to look for the place. We asked a couple of people and we soon found a street sign “Utopia – this way – 100 meters.” “Great,” we thought, “almost there.” We followed the sign, and 100 meters down, instead of a bar, there was another sign pointing away from the main road into a little side street – “Utopia – 50 meters.” We followed it – and to our increased amusement we arrived at another sign. This sign made no distance claims – it simply pointed into another side street.

        It took three more signs and us going deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of inner streets before we found the coveted spot. It was at such a location, that no bar seeker would bother going for if the original street sign told the truth – “Utopia – 500 meters.”

        Utopia, “a place that one begins to doubt whether it actually exists”- check!

        So when we crossed under the entrance arc and got ourselves in a hallway, we were thinking “it’d rather be worth the walking.” And it actually was. Part-open air, part covered area. Dimly lit. A relaxing music not too loud. Hammer and sickle flags. Two American or Japanese heavy motorbikes. Sand volleyball playground. Lao vegetation that would just make every place look great. Bamboo couches overlooking the Nam Khan river underneath (it was dark so the river could not be seen, but we could still hear it).

In earnest

In earnest

        The place was great – enjoyable and relaxing, or as old Thomas himself described it back in the days “a place of felicitie”. We spent a good two or three hours there – until it was midnight. And at midnight bars in Luang Prabang close, no exceptions. Because – lest we forget – in Laos the hammer & the sickle still flies proud to signify that the Party rules. Alternatively, many a visitor enchanted by Laos forever might actually want to put it like this – the Party, like, totally rulez, man!

         Let me have a word about the hammer and the sickle.

Hammer and sickle

           It was designed to symbolize the union of the workers and the peasants. Unlike the original concept of the class struggle developed by Karl Marx – which did not view the peasantry on par with the working proletariat – in early twentieth-century Russia the working class was not very big (in fact, Marx himself pointed out that the dictatorship of the proletariat would logically happen in the most advanced industrial countries with the highest number of workers) But the leaders of the revolution (Lenin et al.) adapted Marxism to the facts on the ground by assigning a revolutionary role to the peasantry and co-opting it. Hence the hammer and the sickle was born.

        In fact if you looked at other movements with Marxist roots of the time in other countries with large numbers of industrial workers, you would not find any “peasantry” symbol. For example, the Socialist Labor Party of America.

Socialist Labor Party of America logo

Socialist Labor Party of America logo

          As one can guess, bringing the peasants along to join the struggle proved indispensible not only in Russia, but later in China, Vietnam, Laos etc.

            In one of the narrow dimly-lit streets, while still searching for our Utopia, we’d passed by an Internet café through the window of which – to my quiet amusement – I took this photo.

Visiting The Buddhist Social Network?

Visiting The Buddhist Social Network?

       In case you want to find out more about Bar Utopia – or check the info on

      On a final note, I was thinking whether to make the title of this post “Utopia vs. Cheers”. But I did not.


3 responses to “Utopia Awaits!

  1. Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Marx did not like the peasants at all, since they could not reach class consciousness and remained too self-reliant and socially isolated. He calls the French peasants a sack of potatoes.

    • mastercopycat December 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm

      Indeed, and I reason he was quite right in his judgement (on European peasants). According to Marx and his theory, Russia would be the least suitable place for a proletarian revolution to take place. If I were him, I would not have written any different. That said, it would be a mistake to “transfer” European conditions onto South-East Asian soil mechanically. SE Asia in the 20es of the 20th century was nothing quite like Europe. Hense, Marxism had to be adapted – and adapted indeed it was. Hence the perfect ideology to counter the colonisers was born (would not have worked had the Soviet Union not supported it massively). To wrap it up, Marx may have been correct about Europe’s peasants, but I guess if he’d lived to see what their Vietnamese counterparts did in the 60es he would not have used the same terms.

  2. Pingback: Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng « mastercopycat

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