Reading articles about the “war on Christmas,” – a belief among conservatives that atheists, secularists, and multi-culturalists are actively working to scrub all reference to Christianity from the public domain during the holiday season (I happen to share this belief for the most part) – tempted me to adopt the topic. It also reminded me of other efforts to supplant organic cultural institutions with contrived acts of “rationality” and logic. Trying to keep my spirits light at this time of the year, I thought to share with you one of the funnier attempts.
Thomas Stedman Whitwell was an English architect and friend of Robert Owens. Owens is perhaps the most prominent social utopian of the American nineteenth century. He is famous for founding the New Harmony utopian settlement. He rejected the society and culture that have organically grown and penned a “Declaration of Mental Independence” that declared obsolete marriage, private property, fidelity and the family. The sexual license of Owens might make a modern pop star blush.
Whitwell, a full socialist and eager partner in using reason to remake the world, designed perfect communities. In addition he felt that the names of America’s towns and villages was nonsensical. The place names that paid homage to distant homelands, borrowed names from displaced natives, or towns with names that honored heroes and pioneers, were sneered at by Whitwell.
He solution was as logical as it was ridiculous.
Whitwell thought that authorities should replace all place names with new terms devised by applying letters to the latitude and longitude of a place as per the below table. This was his attempt to ignore history and all reality.
Proof of the asininity of the concept is that Owens ignored this suggestion and gave his settlement the name New Harmony, not Feiba Pafili.