The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Years

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:18 am


The other day I was turning out the drawers of a bureau, and I came upon a little collection of printed cards and papers, the agenda and minutes of a dinner- discussion club of which I was a member far back in the days of good King Edward, when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was raising the banner of Tariff Reform. It was a small club of thirteen, and I was the least in it; never a government then or since that has not contained a member or so of it; and the aim of all our talks was to sharpen our ideas about the Empire to which we belonged and to come to some sort of agreement, if we could, about what we wanted to do with it and how we had to serve it. We never came to any agreement; Tariff Reform cleft us from the beginning, but I doubt if any one of us failed to give something or to learn much in these agreeable encounters.

I sat recalling these old discussions and linking them with writings of mine that preceded and followed them. I have been writing and thinking and talking about the Empire for thirty years. My ideas have changed and expanded; my knowledge has grown, I have moved with the times. Except that I have put more of it on record and so checked my steps more exactly, my thoughts and feelings about the Empire have probably been very like the thoughts and feelings of thousands of mediocre liberal Englishmen, It is interesting to recall some of the chief phases of the story.

I have had a phase of disillusionment about the Empire since 1919 so intense that I have come near to a complete antagonism to "Imperialism." But as I sit over these papers and think not merely of my own reactions, but of some of the "Empire builders" and Empire rulers I have known — Sir Harry Johnston, Sir Hugh Clifford, Lord Olivier, for example — I find myself still reluctant to turn against all the dreams of that liberal Imperialism of twenty years ago. For twenty years ago I was a firm believer in the great importance of the British Empire to mankind, and as hostile as I am to-day to the Nationalisms that set themselves up against it.

I am still — I am even more — anti-nationalist to-day. I see no good at all in people getting together into groups to exaggerate and overvalue their own peculiarities and run down, exclude, and injure the rest of mankind, I find nothing charming in the faked-up national costumes — ^which are all alike all over Europe, women in muslin caps and bits of red and black stuff, and men in pearl buttons — national arts — thumby bits of wood carving, pottery and lace that are even more the same thing everywhere — national dialects, national literatures, and national symbols, which pretend to discursiveness but really aim to pickle a dismal uniformity of petty localism, conceit, narrow-mindedness and customary tyranny, throughout the continent I am all for Cosmopolis and the high-road, and when I find nationalism rising to intricate interferences with trade and money, the free movement of men and goods about this none too large a planet, boastings, hostilities, armies, and the strangulation of the general welfare in the interests of the gangs exploiting patriotic instincts, my lack of enthusiasm deepens to positive hatred.

I think I was born cosmopolitan. I could never sympathise completely, though I realised the reality of their peculiar grievances, with the preference of the southern Irish to be lords upon their own dunghills rather than partners of the Ulstermen, the English, Scotch, and Welsh in the world adventure of the Empire, and, though I had qualms about the aims and methods of Cecil Rhodes and Dr. Jameson, I thought it was better to keep South Africa united and part of a great world system than to permit two illiberal republics to monopolise the Kaffir vitality and mineral wealth of a great region that should benefit all humanity. I have never found Nationalism even a plausible excuse for the sterilisation of some great area of potential wealth because a backward people happened to live upon it. The whole earth is for the whole race.

But even in those dinner club discussions of twenty years ago very marked divergencies of opinion and spirit became manifest. Our opening discussion was upon the possibility of an Imperial Zollverein, and that question, we found, went to the very root of our ideas. Did we want to unite the Empire, economically, financially, politically, militarily, against the rest of the world or not? Was it to be a closed fist in imitation of the Teutonic Zollverein, or an open hand to all the world?

I recall with satisfaction that it was I who appealed to geography and introduced the figure of the open hand. Our British fingers, I argued, spread over the whole keyboard of the world. We could never sound a uniform note. Canada, India, New Zealand, were incurably divergent, except in the idea of a common peace, and that uniformity in diversity was our asset. We had the confidence of foreign states in our tropical and other "raw product" possessions, because we stood — in those days — not for monopolisation, but the open door. The less assertive we were, the more possible it would be for other kindred powers to work with us and work out forms of co-operation with us in our task of coalescing and evolving into a world-wide civilisation.

That sort of idea about the empire was very prevalent in those days of twenty years ago. Kipling went about calling upon Americans and Germans, and indeed all Europe, to take up the "White Man’s Burthen" — and at the time of its first issue that memorable burden was intended to be something quite other than a mere bundle of loot. The Rhodes scholarships are another fossil good intention which remains to us from that age of potential incorporation. Americans and Germans at least were to be made like-minded with the British at Oxford! The idea of the eventual amalgamation of the Empire with other Powers in some comprehensive world control was, indeed, constantly cropping up. This involved no more thought of overcoming or conquering other competitors than did the big series of bank and industrial amalgamations that have occurred in Great Britain since the war. It was a pool we had in mind. The Empire was seen as the pacific precursor of a practical world State, Our "raw material" possessions were seen as part of the common estate of the human race, our share in a trusteeship; our Navy as a world police that might be at last as denationalised as the Knights Templars. These expansive possibilities were what attracted me to that club, and that, if I may name him, was what attracted Mr. Bertrand Russell, v/ho was also one of our thirteen.

But against us we found from the outset a group of Empire patriots, who were all for the Empire of the clenched fist. They were fierce fellows who believed that life was a violent struggle and that what one had in the world had to be held savagely against all comers. They did not want to unite the world, they wanted to subdue it to their conception of what was British. Whatever was British was right — things, Lords and Commons, our remarkable orthography, Ascot and the Derby, cricket and the Boat Race, the faithful Sikh and Simla, and the Navy. The outer world had to admire us, serve our purposes, and carry itself humbly towards us. They were, in fact, glorified Nationalists; their Imperialism was merely Nationalism distended, arrogant, intolerant of rivalry. Our fiercest member at every feast prepared our minds for war with Germany. He saw things quite simply: we had the best place in the world, and Germany wanted to take it, and we had to prepare for a fight. Education, efficiency of production, these Imperialists of the clenched fist saw only as necessary evils forced upon us by German competition. Their attitude to the Empire was what one might call the United Services attitude, a pose of unquestioning devotion. It is the exact parallel of the devotion that surrounded the German Kaiser in his glorious days. "The Empire right or wrong,” they said, "whatever it was, whatever it became, whatever it did.”

Naturally and logically they wanted a tariff wall and indeed every sort of wall about this divine reserve of earth, great armies and an overwhelming fleet, and outside it nations as poor, divided, and incapable of disturbing it as possible. That was the Nationalist-Imperialist idea as distinct from the Cosmopolitan-Imperialist idea that Russell and I embodied.

One evening when I was absent and the attendance was exceptionally low, there was a great dispute between Russell and four of the Nationalist-Imperialists. They were ready, they said, to die for the Empire, or commit any informality to serve it. Russell said there were quite a number of things on which he put a higher value than the Empire, and that if it came to a choice on these cases he would be against the Empire. This opinion I share. But that night the talk grew heated, and Russell, without waiting for the next meeting and reinforcements, resigned, and we saw him no more. Which was a pity, because one great charm of those discussions was the depth of the crevasses we found between us, and Russell was certainly the centre of the deepest crevasse system of all.

This incident, however, did pose for me quite plainly what is after all the essential question for all of us so far as our political lives go, whether the political system we live in is to be regarded as an end in itself, a divine unquestionable thing, or whether it is to be considered merely a transitory means to a greater end, to be judged on its merits, to be used, altered, and in the end gradually or completely replaced by something better. The Roman citizen was compelled to worship the Empire like a god, the Empire indivisible and eternal. Many people in Europe and America would impose the same uncritical abjection towards the American Constitution or the British Empire. You must salute, you must stand, stiff and stupid. Behind this personal abjection lurks moral corruption, a sort of collective scoundrelism. You must not trade fair and square, you must favour "Empire" goods. You must not publish scientific truth, but make whatever you discover an "Empire" secret. You may spy, you may lie for the "Empire’s" sake. Such "loyalty" I repudiate as an insult to humanity. I refuse my pinch of incense on that altar.

And I will go on to say that a British Empire which does not seem to me to be realising the wide and generous dreams of the liberal imperialism with which the century began is of no use to me, and I do not believe the Universe will suffer it to continue. For ten years I have seen the Empire going heavily and dully about its business; I have seen it made an excuse for much meanness and clumsy violence. It suffers in credit and direction by the hard "loyalty" of stupid adherents and stupid representatives who do not understand how gracious and mighty a civilising organisation it could be. They control it and they cripple it. It carries a vast crowd of parasites who snatch monopolies and profits in its name. It has lost moral prestige in Ireland, in India, in China, and before all the world. Enormously. Perhaps even fatally. To-day, what is it doing? Officially, I mean. Is it showing any intelligent sympathy for the efforts of the more progressive Chinese to found a modern State amid the ruins of the antiquated Manchu system, or is it just bullying and blustering in the confusion? Is it displaying the slightest generosity to the struggles of its fallen and shattered ally and helper, Russia, to reconstruct its economic life? Is it building up a free and friendly modern India? In the past it did great things for Japan, and it gave unity and freedom to and won the fellowship of Canada and South Africa, Is it doing anything to compare with these former feats to-day? Why is it engaging in a childish wrangle with the equally reprehensible Government of the United States about which is to have the biggest navy? For what on earth are these navies wanted now? It is improving its tanks, I gather; is it improving its educational machinery? What is it doing with its manhood? What chance has a boy of distinguished gifts born son of a miner under the shadow of the Duke of Northumberland?

How much of its tremendous resources is at the disposal of scientific research? In the measure of the available wealth and man-power, which is doing the most for scientific work to-day — Moscow or London? Has the British Empire made, indeed, one fine, great and ennobling gesture towards the future unity of mankind for the past ten years? Wembley! Rodeos and military tattoos! Immeasurable things could be done with the vast opportunity of the British Empire, but are they being even attempted?

I put these questions to myself, and I put them to the reader.

It would be all too easy to fly off into an attitude of anti-imperialism, and say with the Communists, "These Imperialisms are evil things; let us destroy them.” But they are not inherently evil things. To destroy Imperial systems with nothing to replace them is simply to leap backward because one is not going forward fast enough. The British Empire is not a thing to destroy; it is a thing to rescue. But the time for rescue is now — and the need is urgent. It has to be rescued from the arrogant flag-worshipping class and from the tariff monopoly adventurers who at present are in control. It has to be saved from its "patriots" and its "patriot" Government. We have seen the great civilised States of Central Europe humiliated and brought to disaster by just that same combination of exasperating militarism with industrial nationalism that now imperils Great Britain. Are we in our turn to tread that path? We want the Empire of the open hand. We want an Empire which is not an end but a means.

18 September, 1927  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:25 am


In this world of great and irregular change, in this Western civilisation which is gradually becoming world-wide, men and women are living longer, more healthily and more abundantly than they have ever done before. But in many respects they seem to be living much less abundantly than they could do. One of the most remarkable facts in our present astonishing spectacle of life is the now quite considerable accumulation of life-enlarging inventions that, so far as the generality goes, are being put to no use at all or to extremely limited and unsatisfactory uses.

These things wait. Or, like the excessive birthday presents of a spoilt child, some are partially unpacked and put aside for future consideration. And some have been broken. Science and invention have given these things to that spoilt child, the ordinary man of to-day. He has still to learn the full benefit of them.

The most striking of these ill-appreciated gifts is flying. For the last ten years at least safe, swift, delightful air travel round about this entrancingly bright and various planet of ours has been available for mankind at considerably less than the cost of ordinary first-class rail or steamship travel. When I write "available for mankind,” I do not mean that it is available for the reader or myself. I mean that if mankind had been able to take it up, it would have been available for us and all other individuals willing to pay the charges, charges so low that almost any well-paid worker would have had a reasonable use of this means of transport at his command. And when I say safe, I mean safer than ordinary travel by rail or ship; and by swift I mean travelling at some- thing like a hundred miles an hour, and by delightful — smooth, beautiful and in the sweetest air. I have flown fairly often. I know what I am writing about, I know the happiness and wonder of flying, and I know that its present rarity, danger, and unattractiveness are not due to any defects in the aeroplane or airship itself — physical science and mechanical invention have failed at no point in the matter — but mainly, almost entirely, to the financial, administrative, and political difficulties of aviation.

The business and administrative side is not up to the mechanical side; it is so plainly and unenterprisingly behind that I, for example, am beginning to despair altogether of my once confident hope of flying very agreeably round the world before I die. I have a nostalgia for the coloured gorges of South Algeria, for the Great Wall of China, for the scorched jungles of India and the palaces of Ambar, and if I had my rights as a civilised man I should be able to fly down over them all in a handful of days. Never shall I set eyes on them.

I have flown fairly often but I fly no longer. I find it too uncomfortable, irregular, and stupidly dangerous. In the old days flying was a novel experience; one flew for the fun of the thing, and there was no objection whatever to an element of danger in the affair. In the experimental days one had no more right to complain of danger in an airplane than in big-game hunting. And it was fair to make one wait for a favourable day and a good machine. But those sporting days are past. It is one thing to get killed in a hopeful and daring experiment on the edge of things known, and quite another to be drowned or smashed or roasted to death on an omnibus route because a certain number of able but restricted gentlemen in control of the business have — with all sorts of excellent excuses for doing so — sent one off in an overworked, perfunctorily inspected, or over-loaded machine. I have seen enough of European flying services not to wish to see any more of them until the whole thing is under " entirely new management.”

Nearly every one of the series of horrible accidents that have so powerfully retarded the expansion of European passenger air travel was a foretellable disaster. Sooner or later these tragedies were inevitable under current conditions. I have crossed the Channel at about two thousand feet with both engines popping away dismally, and got to Lympne by a miracle, and the only thing that astonished me when at last one of these things flopped into the water was that no one was drowned. Hardly more than half of the passenger flights I have made got through according to schedule, and I suppose I have spent almost as many hours at Le Bourget and Lympne and Amsterdam and Prague — and Heaven knows which is the least attractive promenade! — waiting about for machines that did not turn up or could not be put right, as I have in the air. I do not complain of delays due to bad weather. What has most wasted my time and endangered my life, in my attempts to be an up-to-date traveller, has been that there were not enough machines and pilots to run the service properly and safely.

Never in any case of forced landing have I known a fresh machine appear to take on the passengers — only last month I saw that twelve dismal passengers were landed in the wilderness of Puckeridge, in Kent, to get to London by train at God knows what hour of the evening — and only at Prague have I ever observed a number of reserve machines having a reasonable rest and overhaul.

Now I am not reflecting here on the personal capacity and honesty of any of the people concerned with the European air services. I live quite outside the feuds and competitions, ambitions and disappointments of that queer world. Whenever I state such facts as these, plain and simple and easily verifiable, about the European air services, the air press becomes extremely heated and defensively rude about it — but the facts remain facts. For ten years Europe has been pottering, dangerously and ineffectively, with this glorious possibility of air transport about the globe, and it seems no nearer to its realisation to-day than it was in 1919. And the reason for this, I submit, is because the old world cannot produce a financial and administrative organisation of a sufficient largeness, power, and scope to handle the thing effectively.  

It needs only common knowledge and a few grains of commonsense to realise that the exploitation of the air, as a means of safe, happy and generally available travel, is hopeless without the expenditure of capital on the scale of, say, fifty million pounds, plus secure wayleaves over Europe and most of Asia and Africa. On that scale it would be the most obviously easy and profitable of undertakings. On that scale a number of main routes could be prepared and lit between all the chief cities from Dublin, Lisbon, and Stockholm to Vladivostok and Capetown, and a sufficient supply of machines and a sufficiently big organisation could be developed to ensure that, except during very unfavourable phases of the weather, a machine, a pilot, and an assistant in perfect condition would be ready to start as passengers accumulated during certain hours of departure specified for each aerodrome, with still plentiful machines in reserve. Then the travelling public would know what to expect.

One could put together one’s valise in the morning in London, and dine and hear some music in Munich, spend a second pleasant evening in the Crimea after a day above the Danube, and so over the Taurus to Bagdad, and into the sunshine of India by the fourth or fifth evening. Once people were sure of the services they would begin to flow steadily along the established routes. Their numbers and the seasons of their coming would become more and more calculable; with that the fares would fall and the passengers multiply. Air services can be far more elastic things than train services. It is a most intricate thing to rearrange trans-continental expresses, but an air service can turn over its machines from one air route to another as occasion requires with an ease impossible to any other form of transport. If it have enough; if it is on that scale. In a few years the international air service would represent not millions, but thousands of millions, of capital value, and would be sustaining a vast industry beside which the motor-car industry of the world would seem a small affair. But the business cannot get started unless it starts with assurance and security. And that means an initial effort quite beyond the futile pottering of to-day. All the world at present cannot get together into one united effort enough capital to give aviation that start.

So it doesn’t start. It doesn’t get on. It seems highly probable that twenty years hence we shall be muckering about with air travel very much as we are doing to-day. It will be as fitful, unpunctual, and uncertain. The tale of needless air tragedies will have lengthened. A great majority of air passengers will still be in the air as a rather daring "experience" for the first and last time.

Let me repeat that I am not criticising the galaxy of brilliant, energetic, and enterprising people who are the magnates of the air world to-day. I do not suggest that any one could, under these conditions, do better than they are doing. In what may prove, I fear, a vain effort to propitiate the air press, I am prepared to concede that they are all without invidious exceptions quite marvellous people. What I am saying here reflects upon their peerlessness hardly at all. I am calling attention to the net in which their great abilities seem to be caught, and the barriers set to their benefactions. If a shadow of blame creeps into my comments, it is that with a modest gallantry they make what they can out of a necessarily cramped business, and do not complain loudly and vehemently enough against these things that prevent them year after year from opening up those world airways that would lead to a more united and happier life for mankind.

The crux of the business lies in the comparative under- development of the financial and business and political worlds in respect to the vast expansion of mechanical and economic possibility. We talk a lot of nonsense nowadays about Big Business. There is really no Big Business in the world to-day. No business big enough. There are a number of banking and industrial combinations in existence much larger than any that preceded them, and the fact that they are larger than their predecessors blinds us to the fact that they are not large enough for their jobs. Shipping, the world trade in many staple products, cry aloud for unification also — but for the present let us stick to this simple case of the air. Business is entangled with finance, finance with politics, and when we begin to look into this riddle of why that fifty million pounds trust does not appear, secure its concessions and its wayleaves, and get to work upon a real world air service, we discover, as a first effectual barrier, national boundaries. We find every single country of the European patchwork messing about dwarfishly with its own " national aviation and placing every possible impediment in the way of "foreign" air development.

Now effective air travel has to be internationalised from the start. The aeroplane makes leaps of three or four hundred miles, and there is hardly any sense in going up in a machine — in Europe, at least — unless you mean to come down in another country. It is as sensible to hope for an air transport system developed on national lines as it would be to hope for aninteroceanic railway system through the coalescence of mile and half-mile of bits of line built, each at its own sweet will, to its own design and gauge, by every village and township en route. Here I will not rouse the deep and passionate emotions of patriotism in the reader by any general condemnation of national partisanship, but from the point of view of air development merely and solely, nationalism is an unmitigated nuisance.

At present the only areas of the world’s surface capable of being brought under one control for air exploitation are firstly the European and Asiatic areas under Soviet government, alliance, or influence; secondly, the United States of America and their continent; and, thirdly, the territories, protectorates, allies, and dependents of the British Empire east and south of Palestine — as far as Malaya, Australia, and the Cape. The development of Soviet flying is retarded by comparative poverty and the under-development of the huge regions concerned; the United States is a railway-made unity, with admirably organised rail transport and powerful railway influences for air services to fight, and with none of the separating channels, inland seas, and so forth that make flying so desirable in the western part of the Old World; while, as for the third great flying area, the steamship- created British Empire, it is, aerially speaking, decapitated. You cannot fly from the British Isles to the vast dominions round and about the Indian Ocean without infringing foreign territory. I see no hope that any one of these three areas, so handicapped, will be able to initiate practicable air services for general use, and still less can I see any hope of our existing sovereign powers going so far as to coalesce for air development with their neighbours. That would involve a reversal of the entire drift of nationalist feeling.

But, given such a miracle, given for example a pooling of German and Russian and Chinese air interests, backbone lines could be created from the North Sea to the Pacific and to Peking and Anatolia,, to which every other air line in the Old World would be compelled to articulate. But even if one supposes a sufficient liberality of the principals to make such an enterprise practicable, it is difficult to imagine the Foreign Offices and the War Offices of the rest of the "Powers" permitting such a Germano-Russian-Chinese system to develop without a great war. For if they did not make a great war of it they would presently have to go out of business.

These are my reasons for doubting if men will be able to use the gift and glory of flying, fully and abundantly, for very many years to come. We shall crawl because we are old-fashioned patriots instead of flying as some day good cosmopolitans will. But the reaction of our time-honoured and beloved political institutions upon flying is not merely negative. We do not just go without this beautiful thing. Our patriotic passions demand something more positive than that. Our flags demand, not only abstinences, but blood and burnt offerings. If, on the one hand, the custodians of our national distinctness block the development of safe flying, they do, on the other hand, work with considerable vigour to develop dangerous flying. However much air transport may limp and lag, there is no cessation of research, within the limits of the military intelligence, into the possibilities of war aviation.

In the year 1926, a year of profound peace, technically speaking, the English R.A.F. killed eighty-three young men. The numbers killed show a considerable advance upon 1925. France, Italy, America show comparable losses. Germany, lucky land, does not appear in this massacre. She is forbidden to kill her young aviators in spite of all patriotic cravings to do so; she is devoting them therefore to an air transport service, that in spite of many handicaps, is already the best in Europe. Since the Great Peace, while you and I have been going about our various little concerns, some thousands of young men, not common young men, but picked human beings, exceptionally courageous and well bred and well made, have been dashed to pieces and burnt alive, to the end that when presently the nations have sufficiently forgotten the last war to be guided into the next, flying shall not fail in its contribution to the spectacle. These splendid young men have been killed, just as the carefully chosen youths of the Aztec nation were killed, to propitiate the national gods. Even in peace-time these sacred monsters had to be kept alive by the blood of the young. These gallant youngsters have been learning to fly in hazardous ways, or they have been practising the throwing of explosive bombs and poison bombs at the imaginary homes and refuges of offending foreigners below, and they have paid the penalty. Very great advances, we are assured, are being made every year in the destructiveness, deadliness, and general disgustingness of the air offensive at the price of these deaths.

There is no need to elaborate this monstrous contrast further. What has been said is sufficient to establish the thesis that for a century, human affairs have been developing at an unequal pace, that while our economic and political ideas and methods have made only sluggish and insecure advances, mechanical science has so progressed as entirely to outscale them. This instance of the air is only one vivid instance of what is happening to most of the economic and industrial affairs of mankind. Governments are not helping, not fostering, the huge and desirable reorganisations that are possible. Politicians live by keeping alive feuds and hatreds. Governments subsist upon old sentiments and traditions; there is no such thing as a progressive creative Government in the world any- where, to accept and use in a full and proper fashion the gifts science and invention now hold out to us. The chief recognition of progress by Governments everywhere takes the form of attempts to turn the gifts of progress into weapons to kill progress. And the chief riddle before mankind on its way to that world peace, that larger, happier, nobler, and fuller life which certainly awaits it, is the riddle of how to introduce into its methods of government that idea of progress, which has given us the key to these vast treasures, and so convert the nationalist parochialisms of to-day, stage by stage and surely and conclusively, into the world commonweal, which is the essential condition of their exploitation.

20 February, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:58 am


I HAVE never abused the Senate of the United States.

No sign of gratitude have I ever had from any of these ninety-six gentlemen for this extraordinary treatment. Extraordinary it is. Everybody except myself abuses the Senate. It turned down American participation in the League of Nations, to the edification of all mankind. It prevents the United States tangling itself up in treaties, understandings, and complications of the balance of power description. It makes the United States "different" in the world of international affairs. America’s representatives abroad never represent her. What the President signs to-day the Senate revokes to-morrow. The New World would not be half such a fresh world if it were not for the Senate.

Lately the scolding of the Senate has broken out with revived bitterness. At Geneva somebody from America agreed to a treaty against the use of poison gas in warfare, a very silly and mischievous treaty from any points of view. The Senate cast it out. Embittered idealists declare that this is due to "lobbying" by the American chemical industries. Why the American chemical industries should not lobby upon a question of this sort passes my comprehension. They know about it. Why should all the arrangements for the warfare of the future be left to the gold-laced gentlemen who pose as naval and military experts? The Senate has saved poison gas for warfare. I hope the Senate will continue to stand for every sort of disagreeable novelty in warfare. I hope the Senate will save disease germs for warfare and make a stand about poisoning the water supply. Let war be war and not merely a tedious cruel game under rules. The more various, open, perplexing and unpleasant the available methods of warfare are to professional soldiers, the less likely the world is to get another large and deliberate war.

Let us consider how fresh wars are most likely to arise, and what classes of people lean most heavily towards war. There can be little dispute that the enormous majority of human beings nowadays hates and dreads the idea of war; that most financial interests have become chary of using its possibility as a threat in the game of wealth acquisition; and that industrialism and trade contemplate an extensive outbreak as unalloyed disaster. Little bullying punitive wars against small and uncivilised peoples may still appeal to powerful groups exploiting natural resources, but even these minor affairs seem to evoke a greater distaste than they used to do. The war-makers who are trying to force Britain into hostilities with China and the United States into a Mexican adventure are meeting with an extremely stiff opposition. Half a century ago, both adventures would have gone with a click.

The minority which favours war is very largely the professionally belligerent class officers, their women-kind, and every sort of person who upon occasion wears uniform and a sword and is entitled to a salute. Salutes are ten times more intoxicating than absolute alcohol. They reassure the arrogant; they allay all doubts. This salutable minority is very strongly entrenched in the political traditions and misconceptions of mankind. It has an air of being in the scheme of things. Its heads are highly placed. And it is picturesque. It photographs easily and is, by that alone, assured of a steady newspaper publicity. It commands a great supply of bands. It is the custodian of the flag. The facts that it may be dangerous and useless weigh but lightly in the common mind against such attractions.

One may doubt if the generality of adorned and salutable soldiers in the world really want war. They want the possibility of war, of course, the world parcelled up into competing nations, and so forth, because otherwise they could have no professional careers, no inferiors to salute them, and might at any time be retrenched out of existence. They have to "defend" us against the soldiers next door, and the soldiers next door have to "defend" the other fellows against our team, and there you are. That is primary. But war itself one may doubt their hunger for, and quite evidently war to the utmost is not to the professional soldier’s taste. It is part of the general absurdity with which human affairs are at present conducted that when we want a discussion of disarmament or the mitigation and prevention of war we consult "naval and military experts," existing by and for professional war, and quite naturally they advise us on strictly professional lines. They set their faces against all disturbing novelties that would oblige them to learn their trade anew or against any proposals that might abolish their profession, and they do their best to make warfare honourable, comfortable, and dignified for military gentlemen. This, as people say, is only human nature. They want nice wars. They will provide the spectacle, they will face the more sportsmanlike toils and dangers of the entertainment, and the taxpayers, the civilians and the common herd, the "men,” will bear the less agreeable part of the burthen and stand the racket of the subsequent clearing-up.

These charges are sustained by the proceedings of the experts who have been discussing "disarmament" at Geneva under the auspices of the League — as one might call it — for the Preservation of Distinct Nations and Established Boundaries for Ever. The whole tenor of their activities is to retain war as a standing institution, by restricting its expensiveness and keeping its horrors within the bounds of human endurance. Aeroplanes are to be defined as war aeroplanes (to be used) and peace aeroplanes (not to be used). Navies are to be restricted to so many battleships a side. Unsportsmanlike tools and particularly submarines are to be forbidden. Professional soldiers found killed by poker blows or poisoned food or other illegitimate means are to be restored to life by the League of Nations umpires. Nations found playing more soldiers than are allowed by the rules will be disqualified. Such, at least, is the spirit of these entertaining researches, though the complete scheme has still to be produced. So protected, there is no reason why the professional soldier, dressed in full uniform, from spurs to feathers, and the professional sea-dog in blue and gold lace should not strut about the world, "defending" us all, to the very end of time.

The virtuous proposals of President Coolidge for further naval agreement are open to precisely the same objection as these Geneva schemes. They would bar invention. They would professionalise and trade unionise war. Except as paymaster and victim they would eliminate the civilian.

My friend, Mr, J, B. S, Haldane, has called this disposition of the military authorities to give a pleasant and honourable quality to war, "Bayardism,” because the Chevalier Bayard, that peerless knight, felt such a funk and detestation of gunpowder that he put every musketeer who fell into his hands to death. Donne, on the other hand, says Brigadier- General Hartley — who is really not such a soldier as that sounds, seeing that he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a distinguished chemist — preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621, thanked God for artillery because it brought wars to a quicker end, Mr. Haldane has written one of the most instructive and well-informed books about Chemical Warfare that exist; he knows about ten times as much in this field as most of the worthy gentlemen in gold lace, tabs, badges, labels, swords, belts, and suchlike adornments who would in practice have to mismanage it, and his brains are certainly ten times as good. Consequently his book, which gives away every point of importance concerning gas warfare, is treated as light literature, and the real professional soldiers will torture and kill scores of thousands of conscripts before they learn, horribly and slowly, what he so charmingly tells them in his little volume.

Just as in the Great War — when in 1914 the French and British soldiers were a quarter of a century behind- hand with trench warfare, and not a military expert in Europe would attempt the tank until 1916, although its use and necessity as a solution of the trench blockade had been quite lucidly discussed and set forth by civilians as early as 1903. Brigadier-General Hartley still returns at times to read papers about gas warfare to the Army folk he supplemented so effectively during the war, though no one supposes they want to take him seriously now. He has made it clear that a country in which everybody, man, woman, and child, has a specially efficient gas-mask handy may face the next great war with a certain qualified equanimity, and his anxiety about the gas discipline of troops trained since 1918 is only too manifest in all he says and does in this connection. Meanwhile at the Royal College of Science in London, young engineers and chemists are beguiled away from their studies in order to learn saluting and flourishing about with swords, bayonets, and battle axes in a Cadet corps.

At present the British Army, which is perhaps the liveliest, most industrious technically, and, according to its lights, the most nearly up-to-date of all the old armies now surviving in the world, is working out methods of fighting that are not much more than twenty years behind the level of contemporary thought and intelligence. Having resisted the tank for twelve years, having muffed the tank outrageously in the war, the British Army is now evidently quite enslaved by the tank. It plays with tanks all day and dreams of them at nights. It exhibits them with childish pride to Colonial Premiers and Indian princes. It has dinky one-man tanks now and great big land battleships and transport tanks and shock tanks. Cavalry is at last at a discount, and the Air Force practises deadly stunts and does musical drill at pageants very prettily. Perhaps a new generation of military men, accustomed in their younger days to driving motor-cars to the public danger, is responsible for this change of heart, this sudden glorification of the once-hated tank. But it is to be hoped for the sake of England and all the world that these exercises will never get beyond the gravity of an expensive amusement for the British military authorities.

Because, quite apart from the aeroplane gas attack, which is the really modern mode of warfare, if warfare we must have, there are a score of ways of countering a tank rush. This tank rush of which the British Army seems to be dreaming now is as out of date as those vast cavalry charges the German Emperor loved to rehearse before 1914. There are pitfalls, there are trailing land torpedoes, gas-poisoned belts, and zones of sudden flame that would make tanks mere cooking-pots, A committee of half a dozen alert and intelligent specialists of the type of Mr. Haldane and General Hartley, men who have given their minds to biology, chemistry, mechanics and suchlike sensible pursuits instead of mere soldiering, could work out twenty schemes to make tanks impossible in a month or so. The tank may have been all very well in 1907 or thereabouts; 1914 was the time for it. It was the winning card in the days when Lord Kitchener turned it down as a "mechanical toy.” Now the only excuse for thinking of it at all is that the professional soldiers against whom the British professionals will be pitted will probably be even more backward and unintelligent than they are. Given a war on the basis of "Back to 1903,”and all may be well with England.

There is nowadays, however, much more danger than there ever was before that some strange new outcast country, Soviet Russia, for example, with German science to help her — or even with her own sedulously stimulated science — will refuse to play the recognised soldiers’ game according to the rules, and resort directly to chemists, biologists, and engineers for some entirely unchivalrous way of destroying a military force. Suppose this eccentric outcast to concentrate on that. It would need to have a good supply of aviators and aeroplanes, but no man has ever yet discovered how to prevent the instantaneous conversion of a civil aeroplane into a military one; and also it would have to have access to great chemical works. But given these things, and men to operate them, that enemy need not have ten thousand soldiers in uniform. It could hold up the huge tank rush by a few simple expedients of the type I have glanced at above, and it could set about locating, chasing, and annihilating every sort of general headquarters and political and directive centre of the orthodox military people — with gas and germs.

The idea would be to tarnish, suffocate, blister, and bum the gentlemen in gold lace, and their political associates behind them, to the pitch of entire disorganisation. There would be no necessity to pester the general enemy population except in regions of chemical industrialism. That eminent air-archaeologist, Mr. O. G. S. Crawford, can teach any ground soldier who cares to learn how difficult, how almost impossible it would be, to conceal the lay-out of vital military centres from an acute air observer. Still less easy would it be to conceal plant for the accumulation and distribution of munitions. In a little while the front-line trenches would be telephoning to deaf ears, and the tanks of the great offensive, until their petrol was all used up, would be wandering back like sheep without a shepherd.

That sort of thing, a defensive trench and tank-trap system, and an air and gas offensive against vital spots, is the really contemporary form of war — if we must have war. That is the best way of achieving disaster for the other side. It is, from first to last, a job for technicians and artisans. There is no more use for drilled troops in it than there is for the Greek phalanx. The military experts as a class loathe and detest the new methods, and will do everything they can to set up a flimsy barrier of treaties against their use, for the simple reason that they abolish the military class. The whole world owes a debt of gratitude to the American Senate for thwarting their endeavours.

It may seem paradoxical at first, but it is not nearly as paradoxical as it sounds, to say that the evolution of war is abolishing the soldier altogether. Suppose we drop considering whether war is out of date or whether it pays, and assume that it is still a current concern. It does not follow in the least that we still want soldiers to wage it. I am inclined to think that on most scores we do not. If we were not so profoundly obsessed by tradition and romance, I think we should come to see that now, even for the direct purposes of war, for the defence of a state from intruders, for the destruction of peoples and institutions that have aroused our animosity to the murder pitch, and for the imposition of some national or imperial will on recalcitrant populations, all these handsome individuals running about or galloping about in tabs and buttons and gold lace are of no earthly use at all. We keep them because we are creatures of habit and wont. We endure them because we have still to realise how unnecessary they are. But the soldier in uniform is as out of date to-day as the man in armour was in 1600.

Drill, uniform, salutes, and the segregation of soldiers from most human interests and all mental stimuli in barracks and camps have always been so deeply impressed upon our minds as the proper way of war, that it is only nowadays that this question becomes debatable. Few of us realise how much of the old soldiering is already superseded. Flags have long since disappeared from the modern battlefield. To-day they wave chiefly for public occasions, at political meetings, and in the advertisements of goods not otherwise attractive. Military bands leave their instruments at home, or take them only as far as the base, and the common soldier is deprived of all his conspicuous regimental characters and clapped into a severely practical outfit directly fighting begins. But we still think that the disciplines and recognisable uniforms demanded by the mass fighting of departed conditions are somehow imperative if war is to continue. We have not yet made full allowance for the fact that while victory in the past was generally conceded to rigidity, obstinacy, and a blind obedience, it is now more and more the reward of flexibility, knowledge, invention, and a witty use of modern resources. It is the country that has the courage to scrap its army most completely which may come nearest winning in the next great war — if human foolishness does contrive another great war and a final delirium.

But while the abandonment of an army as the instrument of warfare and the handing over the business of defensive and offensive killing as a special problem to chemists, biologists, and engineers would probably increase the military efficiency of a country very greatly, it would also greatly diminish its disposition for war. The man of science and organising ability would be much more likely to regard war as a tiresome distraction than as a great and glorious opportunity. The needs and ambitions of the uniform-wearing classes would cease to be a power in the land because they would cease to be in the land. They would have dropped out altogether in favour of the Haldanes and Hartleys and practical people of that kind, who would probably prefer to work in laboratory overalls.

To me it seems almost certain that neither the war of 1870 nor the Great War would have occurred if France and Germany had remained republics after 1848, France succumbed to Napoleon III, who was nothing if not Napoleonic. Germany after 1870 set out to be a great modern state, and she found herself fatally entangled with a dynasty whose chief interest in life was to exhibit itself in belligerent costumes and attitudes. Each of the countries, when it reverted to monarchy, broke out into a vivid rash of uniforms, and after that the disease had to run its course. German militarism was not a necessity to an expanding Germany; it was a reversion that wrecked an expanding Germany. Germany to-day is much more likely to take a great place in a united Europe than she ever was before, because of the wholesome surgery that has been done upon her. She has had her Hohenzollerns removed. Her state of health will be displayed and judged by the disappearance of uniforms from her complexion.

Several European countries, in spite of the monstrous futile victories and ineffective defeats of the Great War, are still gravely infected by these antiquated armies and their traditions and sentimentalities. But in view of what has been advanced in this article, it is quite possible that the free advancement of belligerent science may be the true way to achieve the peace of mankind. The improvement of war may be synonymous with the ending of war.

6 March, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:06 am


Let us assume that a great number of people in the world want peace, permanent world peace. We have to assume this because there is no way of proving it, and it is open to very considerable doubt. But it is a prevalent habit to assert as much. If it is true, then there is amazingly little effort to realise this aspiration. Those people who want permanent world peace carry inaggressiveness too far. Nowhere in the world do I find any evidence of a real, strenuous effort to establish the peace of the world on sure foundations. Nowhere do I find really clear-headed, resolute efforts on a scale commensurate to the task to restrain the processes that will inevitably develop into warfare in the not very remote future.

Many readers will no doubt rebel against this statement. They will point to the League of Nations, League of Nations Unions and Societies, innumerable declarations by prominent people, "No More War" organisations, and so forth and so on. I admit a prevalent sentimentality in the matter. I can even believe that if the peace of the world could be secured for ever by a show of hands, there would be a considerable majority in its favour. I am convinced, too, that wars in the future, even at the outset, will not be undertaken with the gusto with which we all set about the Great War. But if a man has an idiot incendiary in his house, it is no good for him to go about saying, "No more fire,” unless he has the matches locked up, the fires guarded, and the idiot watched. Since 1914, in spite of vast volumes of pious intention, hardly anything of practical value has been done to prevent future wars.

Peace talk bores many people. And it is interesting to note that it bores them. Among the hundreds of thousands who will glance over this article there are thousands, especially among the younger contingent, who will probably be killed or maimed in war. The present reader has a fairly good chance of having some of his face blown out at the back of his head, or his hips smashed to splinters, or his viscera dispersed rather painfully, or some such surprising experience — it always seems to surprise them — by one of the missiles that will be flying about in great abundance when the next fighting is under way. It is a touching manifestation of the careless bravery of our race that this probability does not seem to move them to any appreciable effort to avert such a culmination of their careers. Until it happens they seem rather to enjoy the prospect, and after it has happened their opinion loses any weight in the matter.

Still more of my readers will be maimed or impoverished and wasted by the coming war, but they never seem to think they will draw bad numbers until they get them, and after they have got them, like the fox that lost its tail, the common reaction seems to be a more or less conscious desire to see the experience spread to those still intact. And for most women and girls war is as good as a richly sentimental film that moves them to tears and pity. While it converts great multitudes of men into a muddy mixture of rags of flesh and uniform, it greatly enhances the economic importance of women and their value as nurses, war-wives, and the inspirers of heroic sacrifices. The feminine disapproval of war is an outward and visible gentleness that is entirely compatible with a very considerable readiness to face it bravely and to discourage effective efforts to prevent it. This widespread objection to war of which we hear so much does not go very deep into people’s hearts; it certainly does not stir them as religious hatred or unfamiliar customs can stir them, and it is a complete delusion to regard it as in itself an operative cause preventing war.

One real test of pacifist sincerity is to be found in the pose towards national independence. To any one who will sit down for five minutes and face the facts squarely it must be evident that the organisation of world peace, so that wars will be impossible and disarmament secure, involves some sort of federal authority in the world’s affairs. At some point there must be the certainty of a decision upon all disputes of races and peoples and nations that would otherwise necessitate war. And this authority must clearly have the power to enforce its decisions. Whatever navies and armies survive, other than police forces for local and definite ends, must be under the control of this central authority. It may be a committee of national representatives or what you will, but central authority there must be. Pax Mundi, like the Pax Romana or the Pax Britannica, must be the only sovereign power within its realm. If you are not prepared to see your own country and your own flag so far subordinated to collective control, whatever protestations of peaceful intentions you make are either made unintelligently or else in bad faith. Your country cannot be both independent and restricted. Either you are for Cosmopolis or you are for war.

It is interesting to note how many excellent people boggle at this obvious alternative. They declare they are for peace, first, last, and all the time; they belong to this or that association for universal arbitration or for propaganda on behalf of the League of Nations, they advocate disarmament, and all the while they shirk the plain logical consequences of these pretensions, which are, in one word, disloyalty to their own government. The idea of loyalty is unquestioning obedience, complete devotion; "our country, right or wrong.” We abandon easy and natural poses and stiffen up to a mechanical salute at the first note of the national anthem. By that we indicate that, before all other things, and even to the sacrifice of our lives, we are prepared to serve, support, and sustain the free and separate existence, alleged collective prosperity, natural destiny, necessary expansion, honour, and glory of our own sovereign government, its Empire and its subjects, against right, reason, justice, the knavish tricks of foreigners (and practically that is all foreigners are supposed to do), the stars in their courses, or the welfare of mankind. We put our nationality first in our hearts and souls and lives. We regard our country as something primary and eternal. We must never think of it subordinated nor imagine that its separateness can end. It is to go on for all time just as it is, only more so The rest of the world may go to the devil. If patriotism is not all that, then what is patriotism?

Now, I maintain that in this matter you cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. You cannot be an advocate of organised world peace and a full and complete patriot also. A great number of worthy people are trying to achieve this impossibility. If we subtract them from the total of those who are "working for world peace," I doubt if any large number of people remain. The patriotic attitude seems to be a much more natural and satisfactory one than the cosmopolitan. It is much easier to adhere to a government that exists than to get at cross- purposes with all the honour and procedure of your own country in order to work for one that does not and never may exist. Patriotism is rich with associations; it is romantic and poetic. It is always nice and strengthening to hate and despise something, and patriotism gives you the whole outer world for that sustaining use. Its chief drawback is that it takes you along roads that end sooner or later in war, and that, in spite of the professional soldiers, war becomes more frightful, disgusting, destructive, and futile every year. And another drawback is that it restricts your movements to your own dear country, and that on the rest of this small planet you must travel about as a latent enemy and a potential spy.

Nor do the logical consequences of a desire for world peace end with the sacrifice of complete national freedom in the matter of disarmament and in diplomatic action. These concern merely the material and forms of war. The underlying cause of most recent wars seems to be the treatment of each sovereign community as a separate economic system in hostile competition with all the rest, and the consequent struggle to secure priority in markets and exclusive or privileged access to supplies of raw material. Arrangements for disarmament and arbitration may delay conflicts and render warfare clumsier and more sluggish, exhausting, and painful, but they will do little or nothing to prevent the ultimate resort to war, so long as we are living under the assumption that there is a struggle for existence, an unavoidable competition for vital material, between sovereign states. Unless people are prepared to accept the idea that the economic life of the world can be regarded and controlled as one system to the general advantage of the race, their aspirations for a universal peace will remain the most unreal of all possible aspirations. Separate economic systems must compete, jostle, must forestall, and must drive, for all their virtuous protestations, towards a tussle.

No doubt the reorganisation of the world’s affairs and the world’s ideas to the form of an economic unity is a gigantic task. But it is not a bit of good preparing palm branches and hosannahs for the final pacification of mankind unless we believe and intend that that gigantic task will and shall be done.

When some central body determines the distribution of raw material and staple commodities throughout the world, when these movements are lubricated by transactions in a common currency, then, and only then, is a stable world peace a reasonable proposition.

And it is not only trade and business that have to be brought to the scale of world affairs, but the movements of population demand a similar unified control. We have to remember that the idea of world peace runs counter to the general processes of nature. Nature’s way with species seems always to have been multiplication up to the limits of subsistence and a consequent struggle to survive. This has not always produced happy or dignified results; the hyena, the wart-hog, thousands of species of parasites that seem very cruel, hideous, and vile to us, have been brought to their present state of survival efficiency by this struggle. War, both internecine and external, is nature’s way. But we are told by the moving spirits of what is called the birth control movement that mankind need be driven no longer by population pressure. If they are right in saying that, then world peace is possible. If they are wrong it is not. If they are wrong, then the Italians and Japanese are justified in breeding like rabbits, clamouring to grab land from more restrained populations, and threatening war. If they are wrong, there is an excuse for the Italian threats against the French, and for the Japanese claims to a foothold in Australia and California. But if their increase is a preventable increase due to the sinful ignorance fostered by a repressive Government, then those "expansion"-seeking people cease to appear as heroic aggressors and become instead merely philoprogenitive nuisances in the commonweal of mankind. Apparently birth-rates fall as knowledge increases; the lower the standard of life, the greater the breeding. It is clear that unless there is a common protection of knowledge and information throughout the world, this biological suffocation of peace possibilities must continue. Civilisation will remain restricted by the militant protective necessities imposed upon it by such slum-breeding regions as Fascist Italy, Japan and Bengal. The space-consuming communities must arm against them. So here again we see a clear incompatibility between any hope of world peace and the sovereign freedom of individual states.

I suppose that this article is what amiable supporters of the dear League of Nations at Geneva will call a "pessimistic" article. It is not in the least pessimistic, but it does attempt to indicate something of the scale and quality of the task if peace is indeed to be established for ever in the world. The Anglo-Saxon community in particular suffers from a delusion that afternoon meetings (with tea), small regular subscriptions to societies with noble intentions, the circulation of nicely printed reports, and a polite and deferential attitude towards all that is respected and influential in life, may be considered not merely as progressive activities, but as all that is required in the way of progressive activities. This job calls for something much rougher and more fundamental. I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that the search for world peace, since it is a project to subordinate our sovereign government to something larger, comes near to or passes the legal definition of treason. Moreover, the necessary conditions for world peace bring us into sharp conflict not simply with the ordinary patriot but with much that is regarded by large sections of people as current morality. And, as a further obstacle, such views must necessarily antagonise big interests entrenched behind tariff walls and currency advantages. A real world peace movement must be a revolutionary movement in politics, finance, industrialism, and the daily life alike. It is not a proposed change in certain formal aspects of life; it is a proposal to change the whole of life. People are allowed to go about talking of world peace now, not because their views are regarded as acceptable, but because they are supposed to be incoherent and ineffective. As the conditions of world peace are made plainer and as the movement for world peace becomes more distinctly practicable, that present tolerance is unlikely to continue. The first phase when any creative movement passes from the realm of mere talk towards realisation is resistance and persecution. The first sign that an attack is approaching its objective is that shots and shell take effect, amateurism vanishes, men fall, and the strain and effort mount steeply to the climax. My impression is that at present the movement for world peace is still at a considerable distance from its objective. One may doubt, indeed, whether any of these various League of Nations Unions and "No More War" societies that play about in the sun of popular approval can be regarded as even a preliminary assembly for the main attack. Great revolutions in human affairs need time to incubate, and the price of the peace of the world means an effort whose duration will have to be measured by lifetimes. I believe that such an effort will be made, but I believe it is a delusion to say that it has even begun.

12 June, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:16 am


Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy is one of the most vivid and provocative members of the House of Commons. He qualifies great abilities by a certain tactlessness which has won him an unpopularity altogether beyond his merits. The other day, for example, when he was in America he confided to an interviewer, who quoted some trivial comment I had made upon the Labour Party, that I had "gone gaga." In that manner he made reverence to my seniority of twenty years. He now asks me to say something for his forthcoming book, "Will Civilisation Crash?" It is, I assume, a respite from the gaga sentence; and gladly do I halt on the road to Dr. Voronoff or the crematorium to salute the still-unmellowed vigour of my friend's intelligence.

He has done a very useful, very competent, very stimulating book. I am happy to recommend it. I do not think it would be easy to better his summary of the complex of forces that make for war in the world today. He has a good clear sense of fact, and of the size of a fact and the weight of a fact; and if, in his culminating chapter "The Only Road" he does a little seem to fade, it is only where we all fade. Because, although the omens of another great war are as plain now as they were in 1907, the forces to which one can turn to stem the drift seem relatively even more confused and feeble than they were in the days when King Edward the Peacemaker flitted amiably about the Continent. David Lubin made his treaties for economic controls with every country upon earth, the League of Nations Society met thinly ever and again to hear the discreet counsels of Sir Willoughby Dickinson and Mr. Aneurin Williams, and Sir Charles Walston preached a federal constitution for Europe.

In those days one relied very much on the common sense of mankind. I will confess I was taken by surprise by the Great War. Yet I saw long ahead how it could happen, and wove fantastic stories about it, I let my imagination play about it, but at the bottom of my heart I did not feel and believe it would really be let happen. I did not suspect that Lord Grey, the German Emperor, and the rest of them were incompetent to that pitch. And when at last it did happen, and that profession of ruthless insensitive mediocrities, the military profession, was given power for four years of stupid, clumsy, and inconclusive massacre and destruction, I still clung to a delusion that at the end the commonsense of mankind would say quite definitely, "Never again,” to any such experience, and would be prepared to revise its ideas of nationality, empire loyalty, race competition, and propagation, soundly and effectively as soon as it could for a moment struggle out of the mud and blood and reek in which it was entangled. Whether the phrase "the war to end war” was my contribution to the world or not, I cannot now remember. My mistake was in attributing any commonsense to mankind.

To-day the huge majority of people in the world think no more about the prevention of war than a warren of rabbits thinks about the suppression of shotguns and ferrets. They just don’t want to be bothered about it. It is amazing how they accept the things that will presently slaughter them.

The other day my wife and I were sitting on the lawn of a pleasant seaside hotel. Charming young people in pretty wraps raced down to the water to bathe: others came chatting from the tennis courts. The sea front below was populous with a happy crowd; the sands gay with children. The faint sounds of a distant band on the pier were punctuated rather quaintly by practice gunfire from a distant fort. About us, in chairs of the most comfortable sort, sat the mature and prosperous, smiling pleasantly at the three military aeroplanes that manoeuvred overhead. "Wonderful!" they said.

Of the hundreds of people in sight then, many scores will certainly be killed in horrible ways if war comes in the next twenty years, they will be suffocated by lethal gases, tom to ribbons by explosives, sent limping and crying for help with frightful mortal mutilations, buried and smashed and left to die under collapsed buildings. Many more will be crippled; most perhaps impoverished. But they weren’t worrying. They weren’t taking life as seriously as that. Across the trim turf came a group of military officers, discussing some oafish "idea "of a landing, of "operations," and so forth, and casting no shadow at all upon the smiling people about them. Just the same fine sort of fellows they were, agreeably dull-witted, as sent hundreds of thousands of Englishmen to cruel and useless deaths in France.

They passed, and we heard a note of anxiety from an adjacent bathchair. So after all there was some one who saw it as well as ourselves! We listened, but it was only an old gentleman worried by the morning’s newspaper, vexed at the last reprieve of Sacco and Vanzetti and troubled by another fall in the British birth-rate. He was expostulating about it to his stout and elderly wife, who assented as by habit and seemed chiefly preoccupied with her knitting.

He did not know what the world was coming to, he said. Lucky old boy! He never may.

I doubt if there was a human being in sight who was ever likely to read Commander Kenworthy’s admirable chapter on the application of Science in Battle or his other on War in the Air, and learn the pleasures awaiting those whose share in the next war may include a whiff of diphenyl chloroarsine. Perhaps they will know everything that is practically important about this delicious substance long before they know its name. They may even try to call it by some quite wrong name before they choke. It is very conveniently administered by air bomb in the form of an intensely irritating smoke which can penetrate most gas masks yet devised. Says the "1926 Manual of Chemical Warfare" quoted by Commander Kenworthy: —

"In man slight and transitory nasal irritation is appreciable after an exposure of five minutes to as little as one part of diphenyl chloroarsine in two hundred million parts of air, and as the concentration is in- creased the irritation shows itself sooner and in rapidly increasing severity. Marked symptoms are produced by exposure to one part of diphenyl chloroarsine in fifty million parts of air, and it may be stated in general that this concentration forms the limit of tolerance of ordinary individuals for an exposure lasting five minutes. A concentration of one part in ten million will probably incapacitate a man within a minute from the pain and distress, and nausea and vomitting accompany an exposure of from two to three minutes of this concentration. . , , These substances are generally used to cause such sensory irritation that the victim is unable to tolerate a respirator."

Then the victim tears it off, and the other gas with which the region has been soaked, the killing gas, gets him.

When the lieutenant-commander raised the question of teaching the use of gas masks to children in the infant schools during the debate on the Air Estimates in the House of Commons in 1927, he was greeted with laughter by the members present. Nothing could better illustrate the happy carelessness with which we move towards the next catastrophe. The air manoeuvres over London this past summer have demonstrated clearly that it will be almost impossible to prevent the copious gassing of that great warren within a few hours of the opening of any new European conflict of first-class rank.

The gravest chapters in this book are not so much the recital of the novel and enhanced horror, for civilians quite as much as for soldiers, of the next war, as the excellent and disturbing study of the gathering rivalry of the United States and Britain in naval affairs, and the discussion of the possibility of a war between these two halves of the English-speaking world. The stupid professionalism of the experts is largely to blame, and the still more stupid readiness of the present governments in both Britain and America to follow the lead of these obsessed gentlemen. Whether a war between the United States and Great Britain is to be regarded as a tolerable possibility does not enter into the philosophy of the naval monomaniacs on either side of the water. Their business is to make Britain "safe" from the United States and the United States "safe" from Britain, and they are quite capable of calculating on Japan as an ally in such a war. The wholesome brotherly jealousy of our two peoples is to be fostered and inflamed in the cause of armament and preparedness to the fighting pitch. The rivalries of industrialists and oil manipulators are to be dragged into the elaborating quarrel.

The reader must turn to Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy’s book to realise how far this obscene foolery with human welfare has gone already and how easily it may go further. He shows how step by step the trouble may be worked up until the two great masses of English-speaking people find themselves upon different sides in the alliances of a new war that will outdo all the destructions and miseries of 1914, as that outdid the Napoleonic wars.

Very good and convincing, too, is the summary of the activities of the League of Nations, and the very complete demonstration that that ill-planned and ill-supported assembly has fallen back even from the poor courage of its earlier enterprises. As a means of settlement for minor international difficulties, which the states concerned want settled, it has a considerable usefulness, but as a guarantee against graver quarrels it is beneath contempt.

It is more than useless because it is dangerous; a great number of people in Europe and America are persuaded that it is a sort of war preventative, and that when they have paid their subscription to a local branch of the League of Nations Union and been to a lecture or a garden-party once a year under its auspices, they have done all that they can be reasonably required to do to secure world peace for ever. Upon many such excellent people the existence of the League of Nations acts as a mischievous opiate. They would be far more actively and intelligently at work against the war-makers, if it did not exist to lull them into a false security.

But when I reach Chapter the Nineteenth, which is to tell us what is to be done, I find, as I have remarked already, a certain fading in the tones of our author’s voice. He is for an alliance to suppress war; and he points out very clearly that the United States, Great Britain, Holland, and Switzerland could prohibit war to all the rest of the world to-morrow — if they chose. Between them they

"control the finance of the whole world. No nations breaking the peace could hope for any financial help against their combined boycott. England, America, and Holland between them control the greater part of the world’s supplies of petroleum, Russia being the only large scale producer of oil in an independent position. England and Holland between them control the world’s supplies of rubber. England and America between them control the greater part of the world’s supplies of cotton and copper, Russia again producing comparatively small quantities of cotton and copper independently. England and France and Belgium, if she adhered, as is highly probable, control the greater part of the tropically produced edible fats. Most of the wool and jute is controlled by the British Empire.

"Without money, oil, cotton, wool, rubber, copper, zinc, jute, tin, or edible fats no war on the modern scale could be waged for very long, A very large proportion of the meat and wheat of the world would also be controlled by this group of peace-keepers. Do not let us involve ourselves in complications about aggressive Powers or who is to blame in any war. To do so would simply be to cloud the issue.”

Let us, in short, simply put our collective foot down and say, "Stop that war!" and it will stop.

That is an excellent passage. It should be given out as a dictation lesson in every school in the English-speaking world. We, just ourselves, can stop war almost completely.

But who are "we"?

America, Britain, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland, with France and Germany in accord, will be the reply. But in what form are they to do it! There the lieutenant-commander boggles and remains vague. Because you see there is no way of getting these powers together except by getting them together, and that means a federal merger of so much of their independent sovereignty as concerns their foreign relations. Before we can have peace these powers must form a league to enforce peace. That means no tinpot debating society of every state, big or little, barbaric or civilised, strong or feeble, at Geneva, with no powers worth speaking about, but a real permanent league and alliance of these, the only really war-potent states, and a sincere surrender of independent action on the part of all of them for the general good. Well, not one of the communities named is even slightly prepared for such a step. It would shock them more than any declaration of war could possibly do. And until the common sense of these communities can be raised to the level of realising this, they will continue to drift as they are drifting — to another shattering war catastrophe.

I suspect that the author of this book before me knows that as well as I do. But there is Hull to consider. What would happen to the lieutenant-commander’s majority if he advocated plainly and simply putting the Empire under a greater League? I quite realise he cannot afford to take so grave a risk of extinction and frustration.

A phrase, now popular in America, seized upon him in the ensuing hesitation, and was for the moment "The Only Road.” Yet it is not a road out or anything like a road. It is just another piece of empty fruit- less American "idealism” utterly worthless to the world at large. War is to be "outlawed.” A wonderful word! Senator Borah finds the phrase suit his voice, and I gather it has the approval of that champion international visitor and retriever of foreign orders and honorary degrees. President Nicholas Murray Butler. Between these gentlemen and Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy I note much friendliness and intimacy exists. He has been in windy, unsubstantial company, where phrases and good feeling count for more than effective action. You are to "outlaw" war. You are just to make a treaty between the powers concerned saying as much — and there you are! You leave those powers completely untrammelled by their declaration. Indeed, you leave everything as it was before. But you say it.

Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy gives a treaty projected by Mr. Houghton, "speaking in his private capacity as a citizen"— and only so far in earnest — which is probably the most vacuous treaty ever proposed. At present, peace, for an indefinite period, exists legally between all these great powers; nevertheless "a hundred years’ peace agreement between the United States and Great Britain and, perhaps, other Powers" is to be signed with much fuss and ceremony — "in the most solemn manner.” I can see the impressive gatherings that could be imposed upon the affair, the parties, the megaphoned and broadcast speeches, the grip of hand and hand, the noble, rich, respectable emotions. Royalty would have to be present, and Washington — it would surely be Washington — would be as full of silk hats and uniforms as a Buckingham Palace garden-party. No intimations of any method of settling all possible issues conclusively without war are made in this resonant phantom of a proposal. To do that would be to limit sovereignty.

I am sorry I cannot share Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy’s faith in this magic word "Outlawry "and its stately solemnisation. I accept all his premonitions of another great war; they are only too convincing; but I believe that the ending of war is a far more complex, laborious, and difficult task than such mere gesticulations as this imply. A great change is needed in the teaching of history and the training of the young citizen, a substitution of a biological for a merely economic and political conception of human life, before we can begin to hope for the secure establishment of these world controls upon which alone an enduring world peace can be sustained.

In the meantime the most effective resistance to the approach of another great war lies in the expressed determination now of as many people as possible that they will have nothing to do with it, that they will not fight in it, work for it, nor pay taxes when it comes — whatever sort of war it is.

Pacificism is very ineffective, and has an unpleasant flavour if it is adopted after war has arrived; the time for active pacificism is while peace still rules. People who have made no effort to avert war cannot very well resist and grumble when through their tacit invitation war takes hold of them. The last war was a war to end war, and the politicians and statesmen have not made good. So now is the time for a great pacificist effort. Now is the time for people who want to delay and avert a catastrophe before the more deliberate organisation of a world peace can be achieved, to make it clear that the war-makers will have to reckon with immense defections. That is the really practicable anti-war measure to attempt now, but it is much more likely to lead to jail than to impressive ceremonial junketings at the White House.

2 October, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:26 am


When I think of the way in which mankind in general takes the gifts of science, gifts actual and gifts conditional, there comes back to my mind my own, perhaps earliest encounter with these gifts. It took the form of a box entitled, if I remember rightly, "The Young Chemist,” an inexpensive box with ungrammatical and badly printed instructions for eliciting wonders of science to "the delight of all beholders" who could be induced to behold. We evoked a "lead tree,” which in practice proved to be a mere seedling that damped off, and some sluggish gunpowder, and several very gratifying stinks and smells, and we wound up by mixing everything and preparing for a stupendous crash that never occurred. And another very early gift was a telephone made of two pill-boxes and a tightly-stretched length of cotton between.

I still recall the sense of wonder, of passing beyond common experience during those pioneer experiments with this great modern convenience. My elder brother and I were to communicate secretly and marvellously by this instrument. I had no doubt, and he had no doubt, that things would vibrate along that stretched cotton, altogether lovelier and livelier than the common speech and whispers of every day. He went to an upper window, from which he shouted directions to me through the vulgar air, and I stood down in the back-yard. The apparatus was adjusted, and I prepared to hear such things as I had never heard before. My brother up above was seen to whisper. "Can’t hear anything,” I called back. "You haven’t got it tight enough,” said my brother, and tried again. Still no elfin voices. "Tighter!" yelled my brother with that familiar note of fraternal threatening in his voice. I made a desperate effort. And the bottom came out of the pill-box! My brother’s head disappeared from the window, and I inferred he was coming downstairs.

Then, as now, I hated controversy. I was the nearer to the front door. I went off at once for a nice long solitary walk.

Since those early days science has showered its gifts upon my world and me. Science assisted by invention and stimulated by commercial enterprise. I realised that the "Young Chemist" and the pill-box telephone came only indirectly from the sublimated common sense of mankind. Science may illuminate and reveal and state and develop and suggest, but something is needed in the recipient, before even a half-crown box of "chemicals" can be made to yield its best results. To the incurably puerile like Messrs. Amery and Winston Churchill chemistry will never be more than a search for stinks of offence, and a chemical industry that can produce the loveliest colours, exquisite and subtly useful substances, and the most enriching fertilisers, will be merely a necessary source of explosives and poison gas. And to the world at large, the possibility of radiating and receiving electromagnetic waves means almost exactly what the promise of that pill-box telephone conveyed to my childish imagination. The hope of an undefined wonder, followed by disillusionment.

It must be almost half a century since the wireless transmission of electric phases was understood to be possible, and only within the present century that wireless telegraphy has been a practical reality. The wireless telephone and all the broadcasting business is a post-war outbreak. It came, with Mile. Suzanne Lenglen, to distract the democratic mind from the far too difficult problems of organising a world peace. We dropped that fatiguing and contentious subject for until after the next war, and went outside to fix our aerial between the chimney and the old fir tree.

And when it was fixed we were just going to sit down and listen and listen. We should hear the best music whenever we wished. Chaliapin and Melba would sing to us; President Coolidge and Mr. Baldwin would talk to us, simply, earnestly, directly; the most august in the world would wish us good evening and pass a friendly word; should a fire or a shipwreck happen we were to get the roar of the flames and the cries for help; Anita Loos and Charlie Chaplin (hitherto so silent) would tickle our humour, and A. A. Milne and Sir James Barrie join with us to delight the little ones when the children’s hour came round. Were we earnest, Einstein would adapt himself to the available powers of transmission, or President Nicholas Murray Butler, the authentic voice of America, grand commander of all existing orders, honorary doctor of every attainable university in the world, would remind us of the broad fundamentals of wisdom and nobility. There would be debates, and in a compact ten minutes Julian Huxley, for example, and Bernard Shaw would settle about Darwinism for ever. And then finally to religion, and we should hear masses of preachers as we chose, Dean Inge in his pulpit or Palestrina given from St. Peter’s itself. All the sporting results before we went to bed would be included, a weather forecast, advice about our gardens, treatment for influenza, and the exact time. One would live in a new world and ask in all the neighbours. Such was the dream of thousands of men, panting perilously on their ladders, and rather irritated and impatient to get that aerial fixed correctly.

It didn’t turn out like that. Instead of first rate came tenth rate; the music was by the Little Winklebeach Pier band; mysterious unknowns, Uncle Bray and Aunt Twaddle, usurped our hour with the children, the one precious hour when parents and children came together mentally; we were told short stories and read out scientific articles of a quality any magazine would reject; Mr. Shaw, when he tried to speak to us, was censored by the authorities, such as they were, and Professor Julian Huxley was interrupted; President Nicholas Murray Butler, it was found, could only speak in large print on superfine paper; the dog began barking untimely, and the news was drowned by the "oscillations" of an excited neighbour. Across it all dear old Mother Nature cast her net of "atmospherics" with a humour all her. own. We began to ask ourselves for the first time what in particular the broadcasting was giving us that we could not get far better in some other fashion.

Music one can have at home now, very perfectly and beautifully rendered by the gramophone. Some of the newer records are marvellously true. There, in- deed, one can get the very best performers and the music of one’s choice. One can summon the music when one thinks fit, by day or night, repeat it, control it, finish it as one wills. Even for jazz and dance music broadcasting has but one very slight advantage — that once it is started it goes on without any change of record. But the dance music only goes on for a small part of the evening, and at any moment it may give way to Doctor Flatulent being thoughtful and kindly in a non-sectarian way.

Religious services are also more perfectly available as gramophone records. News and time signals and so forth could be sent into a house far more conveniently if there were a silent recording apparatus such as the ticker. Broadcasting shouts out its information once and cannot be recalled. If you miss a word, that word is missed for good; names and figures are easily missed. If you do not hear the news at the time, you do not even know that it has been given. It is absurd to suppose that science and invention could not furnish us with a silent recording set as cheap and controllable as the listening set, if this side of the wireless enterprises was turned over to ordinary ticker transmission.

The much- discussed "talks" and debates and so on are, we discover, merely spoken magazine matter; they can be far more effectively studied in the magazine itself, where diagrams and illustrations can be used in conjunction with them. The number of people who have never learnt to read or who are too lazy to read and yet intellectually active enough to be interested by "serious" topics when they are vocalised, must be very small indeed. I doubt if such people really follow what they are hearing. The book is the only adequate vehicle for modern thought and discussion and for the conveyance of exact knowledge. Between its pages there is no censorship and no interrupting boy official. Litera scripta manet.

As a medium for advertisement again, broadcasting suffers from the disadvantage that every one turns off the noise as soon as the advertisement begins. The bawling of loud speakers, as I have heard it in the streets of some French towns, is so obviously disconcerting to traffic that it is bound to be suppressed by legislation.

In all these matters broadcasting is an inferior substitute for better systems of transmitting news and evoking sound. Upon what is known technically as "humorous entertainment" I will be gently silent. "Radio drama" in which you cannot see the faces nor the gestures of the actors nor the scene in which they play is a new and useful art, if only because it teaches us what life must be for the blind. The listening for cuckoos which may perchance be cuckooing, or to lions who may oblige by roaring near the listening microphone, or suchlike noises of nature must be difficult to arrange and unattractive as a frequent amusement. There remain only certain possible uses of broadcasting for blind, lonely, and suffering people. To those I will return.

Most of us have been drawn sooner or later into the possession of some form of receiving apparatus, and it would be interesting to know just how many of these sets of apparatus sold are still in use. In Great Britain, where broadcasting has been centrally organised and where there is one national licensing system, it should not be difficult presently to determine the average life of the broadcast listener. I am inclined to suspect that a very large proportion of the sets sent out since the beginning must be already broken up or out of order. And that the life of the ordinary listener is so brief that there may soon be a grave dearth of listeners. But that may be because I cannot imagine myself a patient listener even for one day, and I am still more at a loss to imagine any sort of person becoming addicted to listening-in as a frequent entertainment. Other people may be less restless. I quite understand the stage of inauguration and eagerness, the initial delight of the new toy. And afterwards there may be a kind of struggle to keep on with a thing that began with so much hope and has given so much trouble. But sooner or later boredom and disappointment with these poor torrents of insignificant sounds must ensue. Are there indeed any indefatigable listeners who have stuck to this amusement since the beginning? If so, I think they are probably very sedentary persons, living in badly lit houses or otherwise unable to read, who have never realised the possibilities of the gramophone and the pianola, and who have no capacity nor opportunity for thought or conversation.

The rest of the available population is, I should imagine, passing rapidly through the listener stage from surprise to disillusionment. When they have flowed past, then I suggest that the whole broadcasting industry will begin to dry up. The British government has created an important salaried official body to preside over the broadcasting programmes, and it relies upon this service in times of crisis for the distribution of tendential official information. In the end that admirable committee may find itself arranging schemes of entertainment for a phantom army of expiring licences, the last living listeners having dispersed and gone to other things. The ether will pulsate unheard with the bedtime talks of uncles who have lost their nephews and nieces, and "comics" all unaware of the emptiness of their reception, and the ultimate artfulness of official misinformation will throb in a void of inattention, as if it were the last of the dinosaurs calling for its mate.

And there will be about half a dozen convenient sinecures more for the Prime Minister to distribute.

The recent public discussions in the Press about broadcasting programmes are very significant symptoms. They reveal a widespread discontent among the present users of receiving sets. The disillusioned take little part in these debates. The waiters are still holding on and listening and complaining. Each one suggests a different "ideal programme." These ideal programmes recall the first bright stages of hope. There is still the fancy that busy and eminent people may be induced to spend half a day preparing and timing and saying over a measured piece — that any broadcasting official may burke if he dislikes. There is still the conception of some vast orchestra playing music to suit every mind and taste simultaneously. There is still the craving for unsectarian religiosity, for faith in things in general, combined with faith in nothing in particular. Upon one thing only do they agree. Every one wants something in vivid contrast to what is provided.

The transmitting authorities, still unwilling to face the plain intimations of destiny, are trying all sorts of novelties, nervously and absurdly. The most delightful of all the recent attempts has been the thought-transmission experiments from the London centre. This was really radio-drama reduced to its simplest expression; even the words and sounds were omitted. It was pure blank listening. Sir Oliver Lodge cleared his throat and announced the crucial moment- Cloistered individuals sat and glared at objects and thought about them like anything- Listeners listened with straining ear-drums and painfully focussed minds. The poor ether, if it has feelings, must have felt like a cat harnessed to a cart — a most uncongenial job to put upon the theoretical vehicle of material vibrations. A hush fell upon the British Isles until Sir Oliver said "Ahem!" and permitted them to relax. Then we were to write in what we had thought or seen. The only really pleasing result of this widely diffused mind strain was that a lady in Torquay guessed object No, 5 very nearly, when object No. 3 was in the glare of the transmitting souls. The first recorded case of anticipatory wireless telepathy and clear evidence of the relativity of time. . . .

But to radio mental nothings in this way was, perhaps, too delicate a task for the broadcasting, at least as a beginning. Something a little more material might conceivably have had a better chance of getting through. Transmitters sitting before steaming plates or other appetising objects might more easily have conveyed impressions to fasting listeners. Perhaps this will be tried later as this restful custom of listening-in to nothing audible whatever, extends.

Under the spell of the radio idea I have been doing my utmost to write impartial, impersonal, unsectarian, non-tendential, non-controversial, unprejudiced, kindly things about it, like the stuff its authorities invite us to transmit. Nevertheless, I am afraid that my own opinion peeps through, my opinion that the future of broadcasting is like the future of crossword puzzles and Oxford trousers, a very trivial future indeed. It will end as a Government job. There is a future for the wireless news ticker; that is a different proposition altogether. Yet my discouraging forecast is mingled with regret. There could be one very fine use made of broadcasting, though I cannot imagine how it could be put upon a commercially paying footing. It would give the poorest chance for any Government jobbing; there would be no scope in it for pushful young men. There are in the world a sad minority of lonely people, isolated people, endangered helpless people, sleepless people, suffering people who must lie on their backs, and who cannot handle books — and there are the blind. Convenient, portable, and not too noisy listening instruments now exist, and for this band of exceptional folk I wish there could be a transmission, day and night — and the slack hours of the night for them are often more dreadful than the day — of fine, lovely, and heartening music, beautiful chanting and the reciting of a sort of heroic anthology. The sturdy will of the race, the courage in the world, could speak to its faltering sons and daughters. There can be a great hunger for the human voice. How good for many a tormented spirit to hear in the darkness; "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid!"

3 April, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:36 am


I HAVE recently seen the silliest film. I do not believe it would be possible to make one sillier. And as this film sets out to display the way the world is going, I think "The Way the World Is Going" may very well concern itself with this film. It is called "Metropolis"; it comes from the great Ufa studios in Germany, and the public is given to understand that it has been produced at enormous cost. It gives in one eddying concentration almost every possible foolishness, cliche, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general, served up with a sauce of sentimentality that is all its own.

It is a German film and there have been some amazingly good German films. Before they began to cultivate bad work under cover of a protective quota. And this film has been adapted to the Anglo-Saxon taste, and quite possibly it has suffered in the process, but even when every allowance has been made for that, there remains enough to convince the intelligent observer that most of its silliness must be fundamental. Possibly I dislike this soupy whirlpool none the less because I find decaying fragments of my own juvenile work of thirty years ago, "The Sleeper Awakes," floating about in it. Capek’s Robots have been lifted without apology, and that soulless mechanical monster of Mary Shelley's, who has fathered so many German inventions, breeds once more in this confusion. Originality there is none. Independent thought, none. Where nobody has imagined for them the authors have simply fallen back on contemporary things. The aeroplanes that wander about above the great city show no advance on contemporary types, though all that stuff could have been livened up immensely with a few helicopters and vertical and unexpected movements. The motor cars are 1926 models or earlier. I do not think there is a single new idea, a single instance of artistic creation or even of intelligent anticipation, from first to last in the whole pretentious stew; I may have missed some point of novelty, but I doubt it; and this, though it must bore the intelligent man in the audience, makes the film all the more convenient as a gauge of the circle of ideas, the mentality, from which it has proceeded.

The word "Metropolis,” says the advertisement in English, "is in itself symbolical of greatness"— which only shows us how wise it is to consult a dictionary before making assertions about the meaning of words. Probably it was the adapter who made that shot. The German "Neubabelsburg" was better, and could have been rendered "New Babel.” It is a city, we are told, of "about one hundred years hence.” It is represented as being enormously high; and all the air and happiness are above and the workers live, as the servile toilers in the blue uniform in "The Sleeper Awakes" lived, down, down, down below.

Now far away in dear old 1897 it may have been excusable to symbolise social relations in this way, but that was thirty years ago, and a lot of thinking and some experience intervene. That vertical city of the future we know now is, to put it mildly, highly improbable. Even in New York and Chicago, where the pressure upon the central sites is exceptionally great, it is only the central office and entertainment region that soars and excavates. And the same centripetal pressure that leads to the utmost exploitation of site values at the centre leads also to the driving out of industrialism and labour from the population centre to cheaper areas, and of residential life to more open and airy surroundings. That was all discussed and written about before 1900. Somewhere about 1930 the geniuses of the Ufa studios will come up to a book of "Anticipations" which was written more than a quarter of a century ago. The British census returns of 1901 proved clearly that city populations were becoming centrifugal, and that every increase in horizontal traffic facilities produced a further distribution. This vertical social stratification is stale old stuff. So far from being "a hundred years hence,” "Metropolis,” in its forms and shapes, is already, as a possibility, a third of a century out of date.

But its form is the least part of its staleness. This great city is supposed to be evoked by a single dominating personality. The English version calls him John Masterman, so that there may be no mistake about his quality. Very unwisely he has called his son Eric, instead of sticking to good hard John, and so relaxed the strain. He works with an inventor, one Rotwang, and they make machines. There are a certain number of other rich people, and the "sons of the rich" are seen disporting themselves, with underclad ladies in a sort of joy conservatory, rather like the "winter garden" of an enterprising 1890 hotel during an orgy. The rest of the population is in a state of abject slavery, working in "shifts" of ten hours in some mysteriously divided twenty-four hours, and with no money to spend or property or freedom. The machines make wealth. How, is not stated. We are shown rows of motor cars all exactly alike; but the workers cannot own these, and no "sons of the rich" would. Even the middle classes nowadays want a car with personality, Probably Masterman makes these cars in endless series to amuse himself.

One is asked to believe that these machines are engaged quite furiously in the mass production of nothing that is ever used, and that Masterman grows richer and richer in the process. This is the essential nonsense of it all. Unless the mass of the population has spending power there is no possibility of wealth in a mechanical civilisation. A vast, penniless slave population may be necessary for wealth where there are no mass production machines, but it is preposterous with mass production machines. You find such a real proletariat in China still; it existed in the great cities of the ancient world; but you do not find it in America, which has gone furthest in the direction of mechanical industry, and there is no grain of reason for supposing it will exist in the future. Masterman’s watchword is "Efficiency,” and you are given to understand it is a very dreadful word, and the contrivers of this idiotic spectacle are so hopelessly ignorant of all the work that has been done upon industrial efficiency that they represent him as working his machine-minders to the point of exhaustion, so that they faint and machines explode and people are scalded to death. You get machine-minders in torment turning levers in response to signals — work that could be done far more effectively by automata. Much stress is laid on the fact that the workers are spiritless, hopeless drudges, working reluctantly and mechanically. But a mechanical civilisation has no use for mere drudges; the more efficient its machinery the less need there is for the quasi-mechanical minder. It is the inefficient factory that needs slaves; the ill-organised mine that kills men. The hopeless drudge stage of human labour lies behind us. With a sort of malignant stupidity this film contradicts these facts.

The current tendency of economic life is to oust the mere drudge altogether, to replace much highly skilled manual work by exquisite machinery in skilled hands, and to increase the relative proportion of semi-skilled, moderately versatile and fairly comfortable workers. It may indeed create temporary masses of unemployed, and in "The Sleeper Awakes" there was a mass of unemployed people under hatches. That was written in 1897, when the possibility of restraining the growth of large masses of population had scarcely dawned on the world. It was reasonable then to anticipate an embarrassing underworld of under-productive people. We did not know what to do with the abyss. But there is no excuse for that to-day. And what this film anticipates is not unemployment, but drudge employment, which is precisely what is passing away. Its fabricators have not even realised that the machine ousts the drudge.

"Efficiency" means large scale productions, machinery as fully developed as possible, and high wages. The British government delegation sent to study success in America has reported unanimously to that effect. The increasingly efficient industrialism of America has so little need of drudges that it has set up the severest barriers against the flooding of the United States by drudge immigration. "Ufa" knows nothing of such facts.

A young woman appears from nowhere in particular to "help" these drudges; she impinges upon Masterman’s son Eric, and they go to the "Catacombs,” which, in spite of the gas mains, steam mains, cables and drainage, have somehow contrived to get over from Rome, skeletons and all, and burrow under this city of "Metropolis.” She conducts a sort of Christian worship in these unaccountable caverns, and the drudges love and trust her. With a nice sense of fitness she lights herself about the Catacombs with a torch instead of the electric lamps that are now so common.

That reversion to torches is quite typical of the spirit of this show. Torches are Christian, we are asked to suppose; torches are human. Torches have hearts. But electric hand-lamps are wicked, mechanical, heartless things. The bad, bad inventor uses quite a big one. Mary’s services are unsectarian, rather like afternoon Sunday-school, and in her special catacomb she has not so much an altar as a kind of umbrella-stand full of crosses. The leading idea of her religion seems to be a disapproval of machinery and efficiency. She enforces the great moral lesson that the bolder and stouter human effort becomes, the more spiteful Heaven grows, by reciting the story of Babel. The story of Babel, as we know, is a lesson against "Pride.” It teaches the human soul to grovel. It inculcates the duty of incompetence. The Tower of Babel was built, it seems, by bald-headed men. I said there was no original touch in the film, but this last seems to be a real invention. You see the bald-headed men building Babel. Myriads of them. Why they are bald is inexplicable. It is not even meant to be funny, and it isn’t funny; it is just another touch of silliness. The workers in "Metropolis" are not to rebel or do anything for themselves, she teaches, because they may rely on the vindictiveness of Heaven.

But Rotwang, the inventor, is making a Robot, apparently without any licence from Capek, the original patentee. It is to look and work like a human being, but it is to have no "soul.” It is to be a substitute for drudge labour, Masterman very properly suggests that it should never have a soul, and for the life of me I cannot see why it should. The whole aim of mechanical civilisation is to eliminate the drudge and the drudge soul. But this is evidently regarded as very dreadful and impressive by the producers, who are all on the side of soul and love and suchlike. I am surprised they do not pine for souls in the alarm clocks and runabouts. Masterman, still unwilling to leave bad alone, persuades Rotwang to make this Robot in the likeness of Mary, so that it may raise an insurrection among the workers to destroy the machines by which they live, and so learn that it is necessary to work. Rather intricate that, but Masterman, you understand, is a rare devil of a man. Full of Pride and efficiency and modernity, and all those horrid things.

Then comes the crowning imbecility of the film, the conversion of the Robot into the likeness of Mary. Rotwang, you must understand, occupies a small old house, embedded in the modern city, richly adorned with pentagrams and other reminders of the antiquated German romances out of which its owner has been taken. A quaint smell of Mephistopheles is perceptible for a time. So even at Ufa, Germany can still be dear old magic-loving Germany. Perhaps Germans will never get right away from the Brocken. Walpurgis Night is the name-day of the German poetic imagination, and the national fantasy capers insecurely for ever with a broomstick between its legs. By some no doubt abominable means Rotwang has squeezed a vast and well-equipped modern laboratory into this little house. It is ever so much bigger than the house, but no doubt he has fallen back on Einstein and other modern bedevilments. Mary has to be trapped, put into a machine like a translucent cocktail shaker, and undergo all sorts of pyrotechnic treatment in order that her likeness may be transferred to the Robot. The possibility of Rotwang just simply making a Robot like her, evidently never entered the gifted producer’s head. The Robot is enveloped in wavering haloes, the premises seem to be struck by lightning repeatedly, the contents of a number of flasks and carboys are violently agitated, there are minor explosions and discharges, Rotwang conducts the operations with a manifest lack of assurance, and finally, to his evident relief, the likeness is taken and things calm down. The false Mary then winks darkly at the audience and sails off to raise the workers. And so forth and so on. There is some rather good swishing about in water, after the best film traditions, some violent and unconvincing machine-breaking and rioting and wreckage, and then, rather confusedly, one gathers that Masterman has learnt a lesson, and that workers and employers are now to be reconciled by "Love.”

Never for a moment does one believe any of this foolish story; never for a moment is there anything amusing or convincing in its dreary series of strained events. It is immensely and strangely dull. It is not even to be laughed at. There is not one good-looking nor sympathetic nor funny personality in the cast; there is, indeed, no scope at all for looking well or acting like a rational creature amid these mindless, imitative absurdities. The film’s air of having something grave and wonderful to say is transparent pretence. It has nothing to do with any social or moral issue before the world or with any that can ever conceivably arise. It is bunkum and poor and thin even as bunkum. I am astonished at the toleration shown it by quite a number of film critics on both sides of the Atlantic. And it cost, says the London "Times,” six million marks! How they spent all that upon it I cannot imagine. Most of the effects could have been got with models at no great expense.

The pity of it is that this unimaginative, incoherent, sentimentalising, and make-believe film, wastes some very fine possibilities. My belief in German enterprise has had a shock. I am dismayed by the intellectual laziness it betrays. I thought Germans even at the worst could toil. I thought they had resolved to be industriously modern. It is profoundly interesting to speculate upon the present trend of mechanical invention and of the real reactions of invention upon labour conditions. Instead of plagiarising from a book thirty years old and resuscitating the banal moralising of the early Victorian period, it would have been almost as easy, no more costly, and far more interesting to have taken some pains to gather the opinions of a few bright young research students and ambitious, modernising architects and engineers about the trend of modern invention, and develop these artistically. Any technical school would have been delighted to supply sketches and suggestions for the aviation and transport of A.D. 2027, There are now masses of literature upon the organisation of labour for efficiency that could have been boiled down at a very small cost. The question of the development of industrial control, the relation of industrial to political direction, the way all that is going, is of the liveliest current interest. Apparently the Ufa people did not know of these things and did not want to know about them. They were too dense to see how these things could be brought into touch with the life of to-day and made interesting to the man in the street. After lire worst traditions of the cinema world, monstrously self-satisfied and self-sufficient, convinced of the power of loud advertisement to put things over with the public, and with no fear of searching criticism in their minds, no consciousness of thought and knowledge beyond their ken, they set to work in their huge studio to produce furlong after furlong of this ignorant, old-fashioned balderdash, and ruin the market for any better film along these lines.

Six million marks! The waste of it!

The theatre when I visited it was crowded. All but the highest-priced seats were full, and the gaps in these filled up reluctantly but completely before the great film began. I suppose every one had come to see what the city of a hundred years hence would be like. I suppose there are multitudes of people to be "drawn" by promising to show them what the city of a hundred years hence will be like. It was, I thought, an unresponsive audience, and I heard no comments. I could not tell from their bearing whether they believed that "Metropolis" was really a possible forecast or no. I do not know whether they thought that the film was hopelessly silly or the future of mankind hopelessly silly. But it must have been one thing or the other.

17 April, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:01 am


Criticism of this series of articles is not always praise. Critics, and even friendly critics, complain that I run things down. I imagined that my real failing was an impatience to push things up. It has been complained and repeated, even by Sir Alan Cobham, who ought to know better, that I take a gloomy view of aviation, whereas I take so bright a view of its possibilities that I am driven to exasperation by the financial incompetence and narrow patriotism that restrict its practical development. And I am reported to be "pessimistic "about broadcasting, though the truth is that I have anticipated its complete disappearance — confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to "listening-in,” will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.

But these comments and certain observations arising out of that film "Metropolis,” a stray article by Mr. Mencken, and a week-end conversation, have turned my attention to the astonishing prevalence of a disposition to disregard and deny, firstly that life in general is happier than it ever was before, and secondly, that it needs but a little vigour and clear-headedness to make it much happier than it is now or ever has been.

It was pretended in that film "Metropolis,” for example, that the development of a great mechanical civilisation must reduce a large part of the population from some imaginary old-world happiness, sweet, golden, tender, and true, to machine-minding drudgery. That is a quite common assertion made without a shadow of justification in fact. And we are constantly being told that the human animal is "degenerating,” body and mind, through the malign influence of big towns; that a miasma of "vulgarity" and monotony is spreading over a once refined and rich and beautifully varied world, that something exquisite called the human "soul,” which was formerly quite all right, is now in a very bad way, and that plainly before us, unless we mend our ways and return to medieval dirt and haphazard, the open road, the wind upon the heath brother, simple piety, an unrestricted birth-rate, spade husbandry, hand-made furniture, honest, homely surgery without anaesthetics, long skirts and hair for women, a ten-hour day for workmen, and more slapping and snubbing for the young, there is nothing before us but nervous wreckage and spiritual darkness. This sort of stuff is exuded in enormous volume, and it offers an immense resistance to systematic progress. It is sustained by multitudes of people who are in a position to be better informed. The Gummidge chorus is never silent; the thoughtful headshaker moping for a return to medievalism casts his daily shadow on every patch of sunshine, on each new social enterprise and hopeful effort. Everything we have is cheapened by comparison with an entirely legendary past and with an entirely imaginary state of "natural" health and joyfulness.

Let us admit that life still displays much unhappiness and that it is overhung by the frightful dangers of modern war. Let us concede the black possibilities latent in nationalism, flag worship, educational slackening, and the class jealousy and class malignancy of the prosperous. Even so, there are the soundest reasons for maintaining that never, since life first appeared upon this planet, has there been so great a proportion of joy, happiness and contentment as there is about us now, nor so bright an outlook.

But before we can see this issue plainly, we have to clear our minds of certain popular errors based mainly on a misconceived theology. Many people believe it is their duty to assume the perfection of nature, and with them there is no arguing. They will hold the hyena lovely and the fever germ a perfect device. If, however, we dismiss such preconceptions and ask ourselves plainly what happiness there is now in the wild life of the jungle or desert or deep sea, we shall come upon a different answer. Nature is clumsy and heedlessly cruel. Life apart from man is not a happy spectacle. It is a flight and a chase, a craving, famished business, a round of assassinations. The jungle is no merry meeting place; it is a rustling ambush in which things lurk and creep. They become noisy only under the spur of an extravagant sexual desire. How cruel and tormented seems the sexual life of almost every living creature except our modern, sophisticated selves! Even over the herd browsing in the midst of plenty hangs a constant, vague apprehension, A cracking twig will start a panic. The first motives in animal life are hunger and fear. Apart from the brief capering spring-time of young creatures — and how brief it is! — there is no intimation of any happiness whatever except the fierce, bolted gratification of an intense appetite or the monstrous triumph of a "kill,” The most fortunate thing in the life of an animal is the shortness of its memory and its want of foresight. Throughout the whole realm of nature it is only among birds and mammals that we detect any indication whatever of a real delight in life. Birds sing in spring and the young of birds and mammals play through a brief phase of parental protection; mere gleams of sunshine these on the universal hard drive for bare existence.

Thoughtless people talk of "nature's remedies" and imagine that every wild animal with that instinctive pharmacopoeia must be in the pink of condition. But variations are far too infrequent and natural selection far too loose a guide to keep pace with the secular change of conditions and equip animals with an inherent cure for every ailment and an automatic counter-stroke to every danger. There is no such self-righting arrangement in the natural world. Most of nature’s handwork is loose-jointed and casual. The sick and weak and maimed are sooner destroyed and less in evidence, that is all. Wild species are just as subject to epidemics and hideous parasitism as man. Few creatures seem to have found their "perfect" food, or, having found it, are able to keep to it. Indigestion and malnutrition are as rife in the forest as the slum. Elephant-hunters say they can tell the proximity of a herd by the borborygmic noises the poor brutes emit, and Glasfurd describes a tiger’s life as an alternation of uncomfortable hunger and uncomfortable repletion. There is no reason to suppose that early man was any better off than an animal or any happier. Like the animals he was a fear-driven, hunger-driven, lust-driven creature, feeding perforce on what he could find. Some of the earliest known human bones are diseased bones.

The story of the common man since the beginning of social life has been anything but a record of innocent festivals and homely happiness. With the development of agriculture he began to escape from the hunger and fear, the tramp’s life in the wilderness, of the wandering savage, but only by accepting an increasing burthen of regular toil. History and archaeology preserve only the records of the successful few; we must guess how many myriads of drudges worked the mines, pulled the galleys and hoed the fields for the greatness of the Pyramids or the pretty palaces of Cnossus. And pestilence and famine returned in every lifetime. Pestilence and famine have disappeared from the general routine of life in the last hundred years or less, and that only in the Atlantic civilisations. The social history of the Old Testament goes to the accompaniment of a prolonged groan from the common people. The Roman Empire was an administrative pyramid based on slaves, serfs, and distressed taxpayers. Its distinctive instrument of social discipline was the cross. There is no period in the past upon which a well-informed man can put his finger and say, "At this time common men had more joyful lives than they have to-day.”

There is only a very scanty account of the life of the common man through most of the historical period. It was not worth writing about. As M. Abel Chevalley points out in his admirable study of that father of the English novel, Thomas Deloney, it is suddenly in the Elizabethan period that literature stoops so low as to tell of tradespeople and their servants. Peasant life still remained in darkness. Even now we get only half-lit pictures of that earthly underworld. Mr. Liam O ’Flaherty’s glimpses of the Irish cultivator and Mr. Caradoc Evans’ sketches of the primitive folk in Wales are more convincing than pleasant. Deloney shows us a squabbling, insecure, undignified life, much pervaded by envy and malice, ill-housed, ill-clothed, and irregularly fed, without medical attention, amusement, reading, change of scene. It is much the same squalor that we find as the background of the adventures in the Roman world of Petronius. And still it was a marked advance, as Chevalley notes, on medieval life.

That squalid life remained the common life until the third or fourth decade of the nineteenth century. There seemed little hope of any improvement. There were great social changes, an increase of productivity and population in the eighteenth century, but they brought no perceptible amelioration of the common lot. The common man remained dirty and ignorant, needy, or incessantly laborious. The first clumsy machines brought trouble rather than relief; they threw multitudes out of employment; they needed drudges to prepare the way for them; they needed drudges to supplement their mechanical imperfections.

It was only after the middle of the nineteenth century that the real significance of mechanical invention and the practical applications of scientific knowledge and method became apparent. Then it began to dawn upon mankind that the age of the mere drudge was at an end. The outbreak of universal education in Western Europe was the practical recognition of this. Meanly and grudgingly planned, against the resistance of many privileged people, and much disturbed by their intense jealousy of their "social inferiors,” the establishment of compulsory elementary education marks, nevertheless, a new phase in the history of our species. It is the beginning of at least a chance for everybody. Close upon it came a fall in the birth-rate, and an even greater fall in the infantile death-rate — clear intimations that the common people no longer consented to leave their increase to the unchecked urgency of bestial instincts nor the health of their offspring to chance. Concurrently, too, there began such a shortening of the hours of work as to extend leisure, which had once been the privilege of a minority, to nearly the whole population.

The present phase of these changes shows us the old once necessary drudge population becoming in part an unemployable and unwanted abyss of people who are either natural inferiors or exceptionally unlucky individuals, and in part a much larger and increasing new mass of comparatively versatile semi-skilled workers, whose efficiency and standards of life are rising, whose security, leisure and opportunity increase. These latter are the new common people that the extension of knowledge and machine production has given the world, and their development will be the measure of civilisation in the future. Even at its present level it is an unprecedented mass of happy and hopeful life in comparison with any common life that has ever existed before, and there are many reasons for hoping — if great wars can be avoided and if it does not swamp itself by unrestrained proliferation — that it will go on to much higher levels still.

This expanding mass of new common people bulks largest in the United States of America, but it is as highly developed in the more complex British system even though proportionally it is not so great, and it exists with qualifications and differences in all industrialised Europe. It needs only a decade or so of peace and security to appear in China, and as the economic reconstruction of Russia brings that country into line and co-operation again with other European developments, we shall probably find that there also the conditions of machine production have evoked a new town population and a new agricultural worker, able to read, write, discuss and think, with much the same amount of leisure and freedom as his Western comrade. The dictatorship of the proletariat may dictate what it likes, but the machine will insist, there as everywhere, that the people who will work it and for whom it will work, must have minds quickened by education and refreshed by leisure, must be reasonably versatile and must not be overworked or embittered.

Let me note one or two other points making for happiness in our days. For the first time in history over large parts of the earth the beating of inferiors has disappeared. For the first time in history the common worker has leisure assigned to him as his right. Never have common people been so well clad or so well housed. Never have they had so much freedom of movement. There is a horror of cruelty to men and animals more widely diffused than it has ever been before. There has been an extraordinary increase in social gentleness. There has never been so small a proportion of sickness and death in the community. All these things mean happiness — more universal than it has ever been.

But this general march towards happiness is not fated and assured. There is no guarantee in progress. This much of release for the common man from disease, privation, and drudgery has come about very rapidly as a consequence of inventions and discoveries that were not made to that end, and the development of the new common people into a world of civilisation of free and happy individuals is manifestly challenged by enormous antagonistic forces. It may be impeded, delayed, or defeated. Flags and the loyalties and passions of insensate nationalism are flatly opposed to the attainment of a general human welfare. Every man in military uniform is a threat of violence; every gun and military implement is a man-trap in the path to a universal order. The false legend of the glorious past of our race is in a perpetual struggle against the hope of its future. Obscurantism and fear lie in wait for every courageous innovation in social and economic life. Indolence is their ally and false thinking their friend. Continual progress can only be assured by an incessant acutely critical vigilance. None the less, the common man to-day is happier than he has ever been, and with a clearer hope of continuing betterment. The common man in quite a little space of years may be better off than are even the fortunate few to-day.

And now call me a pessimist if you can!

1 May, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:09 am


For some time sounds of confused disputation have been coming out of Denver, and gathering the attention of the world. The story is complex in its telling but simple in its essentials. Judge Lindsey, of the well-known Juvenile Court in that city, is being subjected to processes of ousting that need not hold our attention too closely. Mighty forces have worked for his overthrow. The Ku Klux Klansmen have gathered in "Klavern" against the Judge. The Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, a Baptist Minister in his less fiery moments, seems to be in unwonted alliance with eminent Roman Catholic leaders against him. He is violently assailed and violently supported. In detail the conflict becomes squabble, but the matter upon which issue is raised is one of quite fundamental significance to any one concerned with the present drift of things. The fight rages about the institution of marriage. Judge Lindsey has been offering to improve it.

That Juvenile Court in Denver is known throughout the civilised world. It has attracted many European students and inquirers. It is as old as the century. It owes its constitution and methods very largely to Lindsey’s indefatigable zeal. Its primary function was the separation of delinquent children and juvenile first offenders from the hard atmosphere of the common police court. They were to be dealt with upon special lines, saved from the stigma of conviction, and if possible turned back from becoming members of the criminal class. This task the court has performed admirably. Its functions developed into very valuable preventive work. It became a place of reconciliation between parents and erring and recalcitrant sons and daughters, it shepherded home a multitude of runaways, and it saved great numbers of misguided and luckless girls from shame and degradation. Naturally it antagonised the saloon and the white slave trader. For twenty years it worked with the blessing of the Roman Catholic community. Father McMenamin, one of the leading clergy in Denver, described it as "a constructive force in our community, and a godsend to many a boy and girl.”

The Klansmen however were early hostile, and their first hostility was based on the good relations between the Juvenile Court and the Catholics. They denounced Judge Lindsey for sending girls, girls of Catholic antecedents, to the Catholic House of the Good Shepherd, to work for nothing, as they alleged, in the laundry and be debauched. That was their agreeable version of the methods of a well-managed Catholic Home of spotless repute. It is interesting to consider the proposals that could bring Klansmen and Catholic, in spite of this, into alliance against the judge.

Nothing could better illuminate the struggle between innovation and conservative reaction in matrimonial relations that goes on to-day all over the civilised world. It is not a struggle between good men and bad men; it is a struggle between novel and established ideas, between projected and time-honoured social usages. Father McMenamin and Judge Lindsey are well-known men in Denver; their characters have been gauged by years of public service, and there can be no question that each is a conspicuously honest, trust- worthy, disinterested leader. The Klansmen lie a little under the shadow of "Elmer Gantry,” that deadly book; there is much rant, froth, and violence upon their Denver record, and their testimonial remains in suspense, but for our present purposes we can very well restrict the issue to the two unquestionably straightforward protagonists, Judge Lindsey and Father McMenamin.

Now this is what has blown up Judge Lindsey and his Juvenile Court in Denver. After years of experience of adolescent misbehaviour he has come to the conclusion that in our modern community marriage is delayed too late, and that a long and lengthening gap has been opened between the days when school and college are left behind and the days when it seems safe and reasonable to settle down and found a family. There is a growing proportion of fretting and impatient young people in the community, and out of their undisciplined eagerness springs a tangle of furtive promiscuity, prostitution, disease, crime, and general unhappiness. Young men cannot apply themselves to sound work because of nature’s strong preoccupation, and the life of possibly even a majority of young women is a life of tormented uncertainty. Judge Lindsey, with the weight of a new immense experience upon him, and with the assertions of the advocates of birth control before him, has suggested a more orderly accommodation of social life to the new conditions.

He has proposed a type of preliminary marriage which he calls Companionate Marriage. This is to be a marriage undertaken by two people for "mutual comfort,” as the Prayer-book has it, with a full knowledge of birth control, and with the deliberate intention of not having children. So long as there are no children and with due deliberation, this companionate marriage may be dissolved by mutual consent. On the other hand, at any time the couple may turn their marriage into the permanent "family marriage" form. That is his proposal, and the State of Colorado has full power to make the experiment of such an institution. Pie wants such laws to be made. He believes that in most cases such marriages would develop naturally into permanent unions and that their establishment would clear the social atmosphere of a vast distressful system of illicit relationships, irrevocable blunders, abortions, desertions, crimes, furtive experimenting and all those dangers to honour, health, and happiness that go with furtiveness in these matters. He believes it would mean a great simplification and purification of social life and the release of much vexed and miserable energy.

Now before we consider the opposition of Father McMenamin to this project it may be well to note the fact that there is a considerable conflict of authority about this birth control. It is certainly not a sure and complete avoidance of offspring in all cases, though with due observances and with most people it works as Judge Lindsey counts upon its working. But a certain small percentage of his companionate marriages will unintentionally convert themselves into normal family marriages. Birth control does not certainly remove, it does but diminish, the probability of consequences, and it affords no such opening of "flood gates" to "unbridled licence,” and so forth, as its antagonists assume. Furtive and illicit indulgence are not relieved of anxiety by current birth control knowledge. That is one point in this question not generally made clear.

Another criticism of wilfully restrained fecundity seems to be of far less value. People of medical and quasi-scientific standing who dislike birth control talk of its disastrous effects upon the nerves and general health. They babble of "nervous wrecks.” They produce no evidence of these effects, they assert that they exist and talk copiously of their own remarkable opportunities for observation. But equally authoritative witnesses of an opposite school of thought, with equally remarkable opportunities for observation, will talk of the disastrous consequences of chastity and suppression. It is a field in which most people seem to think with individual bias and a violent disregard of fact. The truth seems to be that the human constitution is remarkably adaptable in these matters, a normal individual can establish habits of self-indulgence or habits of restraint, can pass from phases of great liveliness to phases of apathy and remain a happy and healthy organism. We can build up systems of habit either way. There is no standard sexual life.

Quite apart from the varieties of temperamental type, each type is capable of living in a variety of ways and there is practically nothing in any of these vehement asseverations for or against this or that liberty or this or that restriction. Many abstinent people and many declared birth-controllers are obviously healthy and vigorous people; the way of living of one sort is just as healthy as the way of living of the other sort; there are sturdy old rakes, equally sturdy priests and other celibates, hale grandmothers of a multitude, and brisk and happy old maids. One has but to look around one at the people one meets to make all this alarmist propaganda dissolve away.

Speaking very loosely and generally I would give it as my own matured impression that amidst the strains, provocations, challenges, incessant suggestions and reminders of modern life, it conduces to calm of mind and personal pride, it is the least troublesome and easiest way of living for most people, to lead a life of normal sexual reactions reasonably safeguarded against overwhelming offspring, and that all the specific demands of nature upon the nerves and health of even the most feminine of women are to be met by bringing one or two children into the world. Nature is much more accommodating than moral and social theories. The question of physical health has indeed very little to do with these discussions. It is a pity that each side will drag it in.

But after dismissing that much of the argument there still remains a complex tangle of perplexities about marriage. It is a tangle that it may be perhaps impossible to resolve altogether. Many modern people discuss it as though it was a simple problem for the comfortable satisfaction of physical desire. But in the human being there is no such thing as unmixed physical desire; there is always in matters sexual a stir of the imagination. Thereby even the grossest sexual indulgence is lifted to a plane above gourmandise or gluttony. And also, long before one begins to think about the way in which children affect the problem, there is a vast system of reactions between men and women over and above sexuality. There is a general magic, there are elements of admiration, vague pleasure, fear and friendship long before the development of those crowding preferences that become love. Further beyond the passion of love, resting upon that as a basis, resting upon the intimacy and association it establishes, is married love, which is the deepest and tenderest relationship on earth. It is in its fullness a slow growth; perhaps it needs youth and a struggle in common for its perfect establishment, perhaps like some sorts of fruit it needs cold and storm as well as sunshine for its ripening.

In the atmosphere created by this sure, deep-rooted married love alone can one find the happy assurance, the perfect security of help and loyal sympathy in which children will grow easily and insensibly to the loyalties, the habitual serviceableness, the necessary generosities, of modern citizenship.

I believe at the bottom of the mind of such a good man as Father McMenamin in his antagonism to Judge Lindsey, is an intense conviction that for most people married love is the highest good, and certainly that is the persuasion of all his more reputable allies. They think it is not only the highest personal good but the highest social good. And because they know it is a thing of slow growth, they want to protect people against hasty and fitful breaches, to tie them irrevocably, to bind their habits and interests into one indissoluble bundle, so that they may grow together in spite of themselves. They hate any thought of divorce. They distrust birth control because it seems to them to minimise fidelity. They will not trust people to find out for themselves in time how good and precious this thorough permanent inseparable union can be. They are afraid that Judge Lindsey’s companionate marriages will be too readily voided and that a shallow promiscuous habit of mind will be established in young people. Judge Lindsey argues, on the contrary, that his project enables them to begin a lifelong association at the very outset of their emotional lives and that the greater danger of promiscuity and the trivialisation of the sexual life lies in a delayed marriage. He thinks that the rigidities of the established system defeat its own ends. The real issue lies there.

This is not fundamentally a religious question. People are too inclined to think that the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to any dissolution of marriage or the family, as a part of its faith, but this is a complete mistake. The Roman Catholic Church, it is true, sets its face against divorce, but on the other hand it will annul a marriage with great facility and so reduce children who have imagined themselves to be legitimate to the status of bastards, a thing no sort of civil divorce has ever done. If such anullments are infrequent in the Roman Catholic community, that is not because of any doctrinal bar to them, but because the habits and organisation and common sense of that community are against a ready resort to such releases. It is as unfair to accuse Roman Catholicism of distinctive rigidity here as it is to charge liberal thinkers with immoral motives. Religious prejudice is as much out of place in this discussion as medical prejudice. The real issue is one of social psychology; whether one universal, binding, invariable, intolerant marriage contract does or does not conduce to the establishment in the larger number of cases of this deep, fine, full, rich, socially beneficial, child-protecting relationship of married love or whether that is a harmful delusion. Those who are with Father McMenamin are of the former opinion; those who are with Judge Lindsey, of the latter.

For my own part I must confess myself not so much on the side of Judge Lindsey as further away from Father McMenamin on the other side out beyond Judge Lindsey. I want people to have all the knowledge and freedom I can in these things as in all things. I think that compulsion defeats its own ends and that animals and human beings have an instinctive disposition to resist being forced along paths that, left to themselves, they would quite naturally follow, A vast amount of sexual misbehaviour is provoked by prohibitions and proscriptions. It does not follow that because a thing is very, very good it ought to be forced upon everybody. There are great varieties of character in the world and for many of them married love is impossible. There are many who miss a full natural development of married love and yet have a reasonable claim for respect and consideration in less complete or less enduring relationships.

People are needlessly afraid of a variety of reputable contracts and of freedom in the unions of men and women because they do not realise how natural and necessary is the habitual association of one man with one woman in the workaday world. It is a thing you can safely leave most people to discover and realise for themselves. If people were completely free to do anything they pleased in sexual matters, they would do, only more easily and happily, much the same things that we take great pains to insist they shall do and compel them to do now. As many would pair as. pair now and perhaps more, and the unfortunate and the unpairable would not be made to suffer for bad luck or singularity of temperament. People would not be constrained; there would be less shame and less persecution through it all. There would be easier readjustment after mistakes, earlier mating in most cases, and a great diminution of prostitution and the quasi-criminal sexual underworld.

On the whole I think that popular thought and will are moving steadily in the direction of rationalism, candour, and charity in sexual things and away from, emotionalism, concealment, compulsion, and repression. This dispute at Denver is certainly only one of the opening incidents in a very wide and far-reaching; movement for the courageous revision and modernisation of marriage.

26 June, 1927.  
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Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:19 am


An old friend, Mr. J. W. Dunne, has recently sent me a new book he has written, "An Experiment with Time.” I find it a fantastically interesting book. It has stirred my imagination vividly and I think most imaginative people will be stirred by the queer things he has advanced in it. I do not think it has yet been given nearly enough attention.

Years ago, in the last century, Mr. Dunne came to see me for the first time. He was then a young captain in the Army, and he had to go out to the South African war. He wanted to tell me something, an idea, that he didn’t want to have lost if, too abruptly for explanations, some Boer marksman chanced to wipe him out of existence. It was the idea of an aeroplane with V-shaped wings based on a number of experiments he had made with paper models — a perfectly sound idea, which has since been realised in a very stable but not very swift or agile machine. If Dunne had had money and opportunity for experiment, I am sure that about a.d. 1902-3 he would have constructed a practicable heavier-than-air machine, but he had to go off to his blockhouse work in the Orange River Colony, and he never got a free hand to build until other investigators had passed him by.

In those days it was extraordinarily hard to get people to show a practical interest in the air. He came to me because I had written what was considered very wild stuff about flight. I had said that we should fly before 1950! Not a dazzling hit, but better than the mighty majority opinion that we should never fly at all. This magnificent encouragement won Dunne’s gratitude and confidence; he put all he had done so far in my hands and I was to lock it up and keep it secret for him until he was either killed or could go on with his experiments again. He had to come to me, a perfect stranger, before he could find any one who would take him seriously enough to harbour what he had to deposit,

I still remember very cheerfully a funny afternoon we spent in my garden at Sandgate, while Dunne rushed about, climbing up walls and jumping on garden seats, to release little fluttering paper models which illustrated this or that aspect of his idea.

He struck me then as having one of the most patient and persistent minds I had ever encountered. None of the magnesium flare about his mind, the sort of thing that goes fizz and lights up everything — as much as it is ever going to light up everything — but wary, observing and, when at last it gets on a trail, indefatigable. He worried on with aviation for a long time, bad health and the Great War used him up and partly veiled him from me, and it is only now that I learn of another scent that he has been following to the most remarkable conclusions.

What set him going was a very common experience, the fact that dreams in an odd, erratic way seem to foreshadow events. Many of us have had the experience of an anticipatory dream, and usually we have been so vague about it that the story was hardly worth the telling. Mr. Townley Searle, the London bookseller, told the other day of an unusually lucid one. He dreamt he was among the stalls in the Caledonian Market, and found and bought a first edition of Thomas Hardy’s "Desperate Remedies,” which is worth £100 nowadays. So vivid was the impression that he got up the next morning and went straight to the market, bought an umbrella for sixpence because it was coming on to rain, and then, recognising the stall of his dream, went straight to it and got the three volumes for a shilling, a clear profit of £99 18s. 6d.

That was a rarely simple case. The ordinary dream with foreshadowing elements is more mixed than that. One of my own has stuck in my mind for years and is much more typical. In my dream I was riding a bicycle on the Neva, which was frozen over; the bicycle skidded on the ice, went faster and faster, and got more and more out of control; ahead, of me appeared a great sledge with a gaunt horse driven by a woman in white furs; I swept towards it helplessly and collided with the horse, clung to its head, and pulled it down as I awoke. The moment of clinging to the head of the horse was prolonged, and it haunted me. I had a vivid sense of the feel of the animal’s ears and long cheek. I was then actually learning to ride the bicycle and, a day or so after, I came round a corner on a little chariot-like milk-cart on the wrong side of the road. I lacked the skill to avoid this and found myself clinging to the head of the pony, which came down in exactly the mood of suspense, and with exactly the same feel as the sledge horse did in my dream. But as I am not of Dunne’s curious and persistent quality I never followed up that very striking experience. I had not told it to any one before the accident and I accepted very uncritically the current explanation of these apparently foreshadowing dreams.

Probably the reader knows that "explanation.” It is that there is lack of simultaneousness in the action of the two hemispheres of the brain so that one lags a little behind the other; there is a double impression and the second one has the effect of being a memory of some previous event. The theory is that there was no real dream at all, but only the delusion of a memory of a dream produced by the flagging impression. That accounts for the resemblances of the event to the pseudo-dream but manifestly it does not account for the differences; the lady in white furs and the Neva for example have still to be accounted for. If I never really had that dream, as a dream how did they get into my memory? Why wasn’t the dream exactly like the event?

Dunne seems to have had more than one such experience. He dreamt for example of the great volcanic outbreak in Martinique, while he was soldiering in the Orange Free State. He saw it just about to happen, fissures opening in the ground and steam jetting out. What he saw was quite unlike what probably did happen. In his dream he made violent attempts to warn the inhabitants; he was very clear about the number. He woke up shouting, "Four thousand people will be killed.” Days later came a newspaper. Headlines proclaimed the disaster and the probable loss of forty thousand, not four thou- sand, lives. The reading of these headlines was the event foreshadowed by the dream. He read them hastily, misread the figures as four thousand, and the paper passed out of his reach. Long afterwards he found that these figures, both four thousand and forty thousand, were quite erroneous. His dream, it is plain, was not of the actual event, but merely an anticipation of his mental impression when he looked at the paper.

Several occurrences of this sort put Dunne on the alert. He decided to write down all his dreams, so soon as he was awake. He kept a bedside notebook. He trained himself to watch for his dreams at the moment of awakening and acquired considerable skill at recovering his dreams as they slipped away into nothingness. He made a parallel daylight diary of his more vivid waking impressions. And he induced several other people to take up this business of dream watching. He has accumulated records. All this he tells very interestingly in this book of his. And the striking conclusion that emerges from these observations is this, that the share of future mental impressions is almost as important or quite as important in the making of dreams as mental impressions in the past, To-morrow’s happenings are just as likely to appear, clipped and disturbed, in the dream flow, as yesterday’s.

We most of us have some idea of the making of dreams. Some sound, some internal or external disturbance lifts the mental existence out of the unconscious towards waking. The mind ceases to forget, memory and attention dawn, and the drifting mental content groups itself with an assumption of reasonable connectedness about the disturbing sensation. Then we either wake and remember, or the whole stir subsides back into forgetfulness and unconsciousness. Most of us realise how the impressions of yesterday in particular, and of remote yesterdays less patently, supply forms and colour to the stir, and how desires we have thwarted and temptations we have resisted escape into this dream of life and play havoc with our suppressions. What most of us do not realise, says Dunne, is the share which little scraps of to-morrow’s impressions also contribute. That is the essence of his discovery. It is difficult at the time to sift the foreshadowings from the recollections and the distorted, escaped suppressions, so unimportant and elusive they seem to be. It is only when the premonitions are exceptionally striking that they are remembered and recognised when they turn up in actual fact, and so detected. They have to be very vivid or very peculiar. But the more closely and skilfully you watch, he insists, the more of the futurist element is evident in the dream.

Moreover, he had added to the observation of what I may call natural dreaming, the observation of states of mind when the attention is deliberately relaxed so as to leave the mental existence at a level hardly above the level of recording consciousness. He turns his back, as it were, on the mental existence, and then suddenly snatches what is there before it sails out of reach, and in these phases of mind also he finds the images of future and past impressions mingling together.

Now I think it may be possible to put these facts into a comprehensible relationship to quite a number of other facts which do not enter into Dunne’s speculation. I won’t exactly follow him in this statement that follows, which is necessarily in the space at my disposal a very sketchy statement. Partly it derives from him and partly I am adding something of my own. The point of interest is that our mind can be considered as existing in the past and in the future, as extending, so to speak, both ways beyond what we consider to be the actual moment. I hope that does not strike the reader as too crazy a proposition. Most of us have given very little thought to what we mean by the actual moment. What do we mean by "now"? How much time is it? Behind "now" stretches the past, ahead is the future, but is it itself an infinitesimal instant? Do we merely exist as a flash, as a series of flashes, so to speak, of no duration at all, between a past gone by and a future still to come, or does "now" bulge into both past and future? This will be a novel and amusing question to most people and a profoundly irritating one to certain types. They will be so accustomed to speak of past and future as though they were in actual contact at the present, that the assertion will be astonishing and difficult, and yet as they think it over it will acquire an insinuating and troublesome plausibility, that "now" is perhaps always a measurable, and may under certain circumstances be a quite considerable, piece of time. It sounds paradoxical to say that portions of the past and future both enter into "now," but actual experience gives a feeling in favour of that illogical view. To be illogical is not necessarily to be in error. Mankind may have been thinking about past and future in the wrong way.

Next I would suggest that as we become attentive to anything and excited by actual fact, "now" gathers itself together, and the more excited and attentive we are, the more "now" gathers itself together towards its central point. As we become increasingly active and "on the spot," the acuter and the narrower does the "now" under attention become. In our crises we live, as we say, only for the moment. As we relapse towards inattention, reverie, dreaminess, "now" becomes obtuse and broader and broader. In the hypnotic condition, in dreaming, and still more so in dreamless sleep, "now" may broaden down towards and below the limit of consciousness, until it spreads, it may be, to large parts, and even to all of our mental life from beginning to end. In the sleeping mind or in the dead mind nothing is past or future. As we rouse ourselves, as we become alert, as we wake up and pay attention to things, that vague "now" is drawn together towards the moment of action. But as the attention leaps to action, it trails with it faint and rapidly fading impressions of the more diffused state of mind from which it has arisen.

This queer idea that the "now" of the dreaming and inattentive mind may extend to an undefined amount into both past and future is compatible with all Dunne^s dreaming and quasi-dreaming phenomena. On any other supposition they are inexplicable. And it is consistent with the remarkable story of Mr. Townley Searle, and many other like tales of premonition. Moreover, Professor Gilbert Murray recently published some disconcerting facts, disconcerting, that is, for the sceptic, with regard to what he considered to be telepathy. One would as soon doubt his word as one would doubt that of Aristides. He is above suspicion even of careless testimony. I have not the report of his experiments by me, but they were very puzzling and perplexing indeed. They went something in this way: he would, with various friends, read or be told or agree upon some strange scene and event, and his daughter would then come into the room and open her mind, as it were, to any floating impression that offered itself, while he and his friends fixed their minds on the chosen topic. On this theory it was unnecessary so to fix the mind, but that, I believe, was what was done. Presently she would describe what came to her. Many of her guesses were amazingly good. She was then told the actual thing chosen, and no doubt she saw it very vividly as it was described to her. She would be keen to know how near she had got to the chosen subject. But that she should see the thing before it was described to her and because it was presently to be described to her, is all of a piece with Dunne seeing the Martinique explosion before the newspaper headings evoked the picture in his imagination. It would be extremely interesting if Professor Murray would try to get scenes to his daughter which would not be revealed to her later. If he failed to do that, it would be confirmatory of this supposition, that what happened was merely the foreshadowing of a strong impression, exactly on the lines of Dunne’s anticipatory dreams.

The idea that the mental "now" prolongs itself into the past and future, as the attention flattens down from its waking acuteness into a state of suspense, also brings many of the more remarkable and hitherto abnormal phenomena of hypnotism into line with the general body of interpreted fact. The feats of many of the more successful mediums in producing the names and significant incidents in the lives of people hitherto unknown to them, but whose names and circumstances they were personally to know, cease to be isolated phenomena. They are no longer in the least discordant with every day reality so soon as we clear our minds of the delusion that the practical, fleshly, substantial "now" of ordinary experience is a mathematical instant, a locus, an infinitesimal abstraction, and accept the view I am propounding here that it has duration, and that its duration in both directions, past and future, increases with the weakening of our attention and our lapse from acute contact with outer reality.

By this reasoning people must often be dreaming ahead of the winners of races, of winning numbers in lotteries, speculative opportunities and the like. They are. But dreams draw their material not only from the future but from the past, from our bodily desires and cravings, our hopes, our mental preoccupations and the interpretation and misinterpretation of noises and other impressions. Very rarely have they a convincing quality of reality. 'The dream artist in us is essentially and incurably unsystematic and maundering. We all, as our attention sinks down towards the threshold of consciousness, become false and incoherent in our associations. Every sleeping, hypnotised, anaesthetised or dreaming man is, so to speak, insane. Sanity is a waking state. Accordingly, I do not see any prospect of our keeping so sufficiently alive to what we are doing as to direct our minds to the next big race or the run of the numbers for the next hour at roulette, and at the same time letting ourselves go sufficiently to tap the mental states ahead. Things may and do happen as they happened to Mr. Townley Searle, but such dreams are gifts and cannot be forced or persuaded to come by any means now known to us. Practical life lies in the present. Dream states, like drug states, are a dangerous field of exploration for any but very specially endowed and guarded minds.

10 July, 1927.  
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