They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation.... They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.
For while under the present system a very large number of people can lead lives of a certain amount of freedom and expression and happiness, under an industrial-barrack system, or a system of economic tyranny, nobody would be able to have any such freedom at all. It is to be regretted that a portion of our community should be practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem by enslaving the entire community is childish.
He may be a great poet, or a great man of science; or a young student at a University, or one who watches sheep upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realises the perfection of the soul that is within him.
We get an amusing glimpse of Wilde's idea of the future in his passage about public ownership of machinery:
Machinery must work for us in coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker of steamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, and do anything that is tedious or distressing. At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man.
In all this socialist rhetoric Wilde is dismissive of the poor classes he seeks to liberate. They are ignorant amd unexceptional, incapable of self-expression and terrified of those great individuals who resist conformity. The public in general demand bland and obvious art. They are all poisoned by their acceptance of authority.
The fact is, that the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.
Second, his descriptions of Victorian poverty seem weirdly out of date. This is how he imagined his Utopia:
If a frost comes we shall not have a hundred thousand men out of work, tramping about the streets in a state of disgusting misery, or whining to their neighbours for alms, or crowding round the doors of loathsome shelters to try and secure a hunch of bread and a night’s unclean lodging.
Wilde complained that 'Man will kill himself by overwork in order to secure property', but the products of that overwork are today the technologies that keep us from the excesses of poverty he so loathed.
Perhaps this has important implications for modern debates. Oscar Wilde was a Utopianist, admitting that 'A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at', and he thought only radical social change could solve the social problems of the day. History proves him wrong. Since Wilde's time most developed countries did develop layers of social welfare so that the loss of a job does not lead to immediate starvation, but these changes have been gradual, not radical. These changes also happened under the same old flawed democracy that he derided as 'the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people'. Today's Utopian dreamers should take heed: evolution, not revolution, is the better path.