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YOU-TOPIA

So here's my idea for a reality show. You take nine strangers, four gals and and as many dudes (these are the show's regulars) and one of alternating sex who you rotate in and out for "flava." You put these nine together in a house, MTV Real World style, with as many bedrooms as there are couples, plus one for the odd person out, so five rooms in all. You pick the stars based on a detailed questionnaire that ensures compatibility, mutual appeal, and an assortment of skills and personality traits, for complementarity and diversity of course. You can even do DNA testing, since these people are gonna be breeders - and they'll do it on the show. Are you beginning to see it's appeal?

Here's the rule: each night you can sleep with whomever you choose, as long as they are different from the person you shared the bed with the night before and the one who will share your bed the night after. In other words, there's no going steady on my show. Now, the couples need not have sex. If they want to talk all night, read to each other, mud wrestle, enjoy the moonlight, binge on TV - although these probably won't be the type to binge on anything, since they'd be culled from the crème de la crème. Or even just go to sleep.

Now, since there are an odd number of people, one person will spend every ninth night alone. Just to get back in touch with him or herself. This new household is entirely self sufficient - within reason. If the sink breaks and nobody knows how to fix it, they can call a plumber. But someone probably will, since our people are a diverse bunch. They can cook, another likes to grocery shop, they rotate through chores like cleaning and gardening. You can even have a "breadwinner" type, although this duty may also be passed around - unless a particular character enjoys going to the office each day, in which case, more power to ya, babe! There will not be too much work to do, so a lot of the time can be spent enjoying each other's company, on artistic pursuits and altruistic projects, or if all else fails, they can just stare off into space. Whatever turns you on.

But absolutely no husbands and wives, and as all the ladies who want to can have babies, and each hottie can theoretically sleep with every guy in the house around her fertile period, a given gal won't know exactly who the daddy is. This is key, since every man will act as father to all the babes, and every woman a mom to the bunch. And hell, one lucky girl, by sleeping with different guys on consecutive nights, may even give birth to both their children, as twins.

It happens. Not often - about once every 13,000 paternity cases involves a woman bearing twins by separate fathers - but it does happen.


What I'm trying to do with my little social experiment-slash-money-making venture is to break through traditional male/female roles, and skirt some of the pitfalls of monogamy, such as jealousy and monotony and mutual boredom and resentment - while expanding the family unit to include fellow members of the human race, chumming around together as friends. After all, we all share the same DNA.

So I searched around to see if this idea had been done before. Despite what Netflix and their binge-able shows would have you believe, reality TV is still popular. There's a show where strangers get married (Married at First Sight), another show where couples go on a date naked (aptly dubbed Dating Naked), and there are couples rehabs type shows featuring stars who take their spouses to live with other stars under the watchful eye of viewers at home - and an on-site therapist. I think I saw an episode with the dude from Naughty By Nature.

Anyhow, would you know that my idea has already been done before - 2,500 years ago!

It seems the Greek philosopher Plato had this idea, which he developed in his book The Republic. Plato's plan was to develop a kind of Utopia, or ideal society. And communal living was seen as key. The members of the commune were called guardians. They were to be the best of the best, culled from years of training and selection. Philosophers, really.


Plato's belief was that paradise had never come to Earth because of greed and luxury. That humans are not content with a simple life, being acquisitive, ambitious, competitive and jealous by nature, tired of what they have and desiring what they lack, especially if it belongs to others. Which is why the average person would not find this communal lifestyle appealing. But if, to paraphrase Will Durant's Story of Philosophy, you were among those whose delight was in meditation, who yearned not for goods but for knowledge; who left the marketplace to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded thought; whose will was a light rather than a fire, whose haven was not power but truth - in short if you were a person of wisdom, then this life was for you. So it's kind of an IQ test. If you're into being chosen for our show, you're already among the elect.

Sadly, in Plato's day, as in the present age, this particular sort, the guardian, stood aside unused by the world. Now I understand why Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on a planet far far away!

These guardians were to have no money. "Gold and silver we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal is within them, and they have therefore no need of that earthly dross which passes under the name of gold, and ought no to pollute the divine by earthly admixture."

They'd have no possessions. "Should they ever acquire homes or lands of their own, they will become housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians." Instead they'd be protected from want; the necessities and modest luxuries of a noble life would be theirs in regular provision, without "the searing and wrinkling care of economic-worry."

The guardians would eat together, sleep together "like soldiers sworn to simplicity." They'd have no spouses, their communism to be of mates as well as of goods, so that they would not "be narrowed to the anxious acquisitiveness of the prodded husband."

Even their children would not be specifically or distinguishably theirs, all progeny being taken from their mothers at birth and brought up in common. Of course, Plato goes on to say, community of wives did not imply indiscriminate mating; rather he suggested eugenic supervision of all reproductive relations. His argument: We breed dogs for their traits, why not humans?

"The best of either sex should be united with the best as often as possible." So maybe that's where Hitler got it from. But best doesn't have to mean blond, baby!

Plato went so far as to lay down rules for reproduction. Men may reproduce between the ages of 30 and 45; women between twenty and forty. Also, each person would perform the function for which he was best suited. So for this show of mine that will never get made but in which I'd appear if it did - I mean how fun, right? - I volunteer to do the shopping and the cooking!

Now Plato's idea seemed too idealized even in his time. We are told he underrated the force of custom accumulated in the institution of monogamy, "underestimated the possessive jealousy of males in supposing that a man would be content to have merely a part-time portion of his wife," that he "minimized the maternal instinct" and that "in abolishing family was destroying the great nurse of morals and the chief source of those cooperative and communistic habits which would have to be the psychological basis of the household." What a buzz-kill!

Even Aristotle, who came after Plato, in condemning the latter's communism forgot that it was meant only for the elite, the unselfish few. Clearly, in doing away with "the great abyss called marriage" Plato recognized that only a few are capable of the material self-denial which he proposed. Not everyone's a philosopher, bitches!

Which is why I'd subject potential contestants to a rigorous program of evaluation. This is what all shows do, right?

I know, I know. You're thinking that the word commune conjures up negative images of the Branch Davidians and mass suicides - but that's more of a cult, and let's not forget that the concept has recently taken a comic turn with the sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt starring Ellie Kemper. Who by the way I just love, and unfortunately she's married, or else I'd definitely try to get her on my show. Maybe I can ask Kristen Wiig. She's still single, right?
So think outside the box, honey child! Not every communist is Charles Manson or Karl Marx.
But if you are among the "small-minded" (Plato's term - I think) who sides with Aristotle in the argument of how couples should cohabit, take note: Aristotle advised men to defer marriage until close to 40, and then to marry a gal about half that age. His argument was the dwindling of the man's sexual potency (at 70) would coincide with his wife's menopause, so they'd be on the same metaphorical page. Otherwise "if the man is still able to beget children while the woman is unable to bear them, or vice versa, quarrels and differences will arise."

Now that's something I could get behind. At forty-ish I am where I need to be on Aristotle's schedule, and siding with Plato, if I desire children, I still have a few years' time. Any takers?

Interestingly, Plato was bold enough to seize the opportunity of realizing this ideal community when he was offered the chance. In 387 BC he received an invitation from Dionysius of Syracuse to come and turn his kingdom into Utopia. But the king balked when Plato tried to make a philosopher of him, and the result was a bitter quarrel. Plato was sold into slavery. The ingratitude! Maybe Dionysius was a jealous husband who didn't take too kindly to sharing Mrs. Dionysius.

Things may not have turned out exactly "utopic" for our Plato. But I bet we can make it work. You, me and seven other adventurous souls - oh, and a major network to produce. Our best bet will be to bring back Plato from the dead. There's gotta be an app for that.

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