Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

that only the very smallest percentage of our adults had any knowledge that enabled Imperial language to mean anything to those who used it, or that they held opinions of the least value on world affairs, whilst the organs of popular opinion gave almost exclusive attention to things that did not matter lest they should drop their circulation by dealing with important topics. Had his visit taken place during the past few years, he would have found us setting up the most admirable standards of rectitude, and judging other peoples by them whilst declining to apply them to ourselves. (He would have found this in all peoples and not merely in us.) Would he examine closely into the more immediate events of the day he would find on our lips the fine sentiments and aspirations which moved the crowds during the opening of the war and made men flock to our battle standards, whilst our hands and brains were busy oblivious to the utterances of our lips. In the two great concerns of life—what should be the aim and spirit of the individual and what motives keep Society together—this inquirer would find the replies of the mouth and the conduct in violent variance. In all the discussions on whether there is such a-thing as progress, this conclusion emerges. In moral perception and in intellectual equipment the difference between civilization and what preceded it is either very slight or non-existent. There may be new discoveries which increase knowledge and which light in greater flames moral truth, but in the main they affect outward things, and often, by giving greater opportunities to subordinate man, confine progress to superficials—substitute a mattress for a board in his prison cell bed. The power of

knowledge, of science and of invention may subdue nature to man but, when used for the special advantage of sections of Society, recaptures man to a servitude to things; and the systems of relationship which are then established, instead of being progressive from a human point of view, are systems of continued subjection. Savage man was subject to nature; civilized man is subject to the powers which he himself has o

| Interests are set up that divide Society into classes like capital and labour, and into competing groups as nations so often are, and the power of knowledge, like the power of money, is perverted from social ends and contributes only to personal and to class ones. This division is one for material advantage only, but it becomes an accepted order and all accepted orders produce their own justifications. Whatever is, tends to become right by producing its own habits, and a society composed of owners and workers, of rich and poor, is assimilated by habit just as a new house on a hill side in time becomes part of its surroundings. Thus, in modern Society we have the habit of the crowded, overworked and under-nurtured town area, and of the wealthy, luxurious and leisured West End; the habits of the expensive public school and the riotous, noisy, mechanical elementary school; the habits of one going into the counting-house, and the others going into the factory; the habits of profit makers and wage earners. These produce different class psychologies based on the fact that the system is a going concern. The system creates its own ambitions, its own standards of success, and above all, its own myths for its justification. The wealthy who have “arrived,” love to become titled and pay heavily for it; the poor, who are rising, find happiness in living as the section above them does. Each class has its imitators, classes that look up to it and model themselves upon it. For instance, when one thinks of the middle-class mind, one has to search for it not only in the actual middle class itself, but also in considerable sections of the working class. In this way, a divided Society obscures its divisions and protects itself against the reformer. The evils of division persist because they hide themselves behind attractive screens. To whomsoever looks at reality, the fact remains that the moral dicta by which men individually and in community should be ruled, have become ineffective, and are mere Sabbath texts, for whilst these dicta assume the unity of the family of man and the divine nature of human qualities with all the rights that these imply, that unity does not exist and that divinity is not recognized. Not in these dicta is the real treasure and therefore not in them is the heart. Thus, progress is thwarted, and the advances made in human knowledge and skill are diverted on to material planes, and do not fructify in personal excellence of mind and character, nor in social gain and happiness. Society to-day is occupied with the pursuit and possession of things, and its ideals are the false distinctions which materialism must always offer as substitutes for human qualities.

THE CHALLENGE OF REASON

Nevertheless such a condition of things cannot

exist without challenge, however feeble the challeng

ing voice may seem to be. The moral imperatives

can never be inactive, nor kept in silent bondage

so long as men are born. They will always trouble an alien order and be conspirators in its midst. However limited progress may be as yet, this generation knows more of it, and is seeking after it more than the last. Better nurture, truer education, more stimulating surroundings, a higher average of knowledge especially in matters relating to history and economics, are moving the hearts of the people to go out upon new pilgrimages in search of better things, and are bringing reason more frequently to challenge settled habit. Amongst the guides being selected for these pilgrimages the most favoured is that which points the way to communal organization. At a time when the influence of the Churches has sunk to a very low level, the influence of the Christian spirit steadily extends. And it has become a social regenerating force as well as an individual saving one. It is being applied as a law to which our system of social relationships should conform. It is being consulted as an adviser rival to the materialist councillors who have hitherto led us. It is making us examine our whole social fabric from top to bottom, both in its design and in the materials of which it is constructed. Thus timorous people say we live in a revolutionary age, and in fear fall back upon authority, habit and violence. Materialism's last defence against reason is repression. The war, not only by smashing up old things but by teaching men many truths which they would not have believed had Moses returned from the dead to preach them, has not only made very drastic change possible, but has produced frames of mind that tolerate with angry impatience the injustices of the existing order of class and property domination. The state in which Europe is to-day is ominous. Society has been rent and civilization has been riven. A settled order of politics, of governments, of production and international exchange has been absolutely destroyed, and the peoples have returned to the social and mental chaos of pre-mediaeval times. In the midst of these earthquake upheavals both in States and in the minds of men, the peoples of the more favoured countries take too little warning by the cracks and the crashes. They are surrounded by a great collapse and hardly know it. The distress, famine and bankruptcy may so weightily overwhelm people that they will be crushed and emerge broken, spiritless, enslaved; these calamities, on the other hand, may rouse a mad wrath which will burst into revolution and hurl order into a deeper night. Whichever happens it will be evil, and against the spread of that evil every intelligent being and every disciple of progress must strive. Obedient to a blind fear, there are signs that the classes in authority may resort to repression and to police government. There lies calamity and disgrace. Were this country to resort to that, it would only degrade itself without protecting itself. It would return to methods which it has adopted of old, but of which we read with no pleasure and with neither gratitude to, nor respect for, those who were responsible for them. The reform movement, barred from its natural road of advance and deprived of its liberty of thought, expression and action, would become a destructive force within Society, blasting the outlets it requires, and in due time it would win. The incidents of the struggle, however, would make but a sorry chapter in the history of the nation. Freedom, with all its threatenings, is the only

« ForrigeFortsett »