Typos p. 26: mateur [= amateur]; p. 36: anp [= and]
Anthony M. Ludovici
The First or St. James's Kin of the English Mistery
- p. 5 -
It will be incumbent on the English Mistery to assume a definite attitude in this conflict, and for this reason it is important that it should even now be aware of the principles that will be involved; for many of you here to-day will still be young enough, when the time comes, not merely to control the thought and action of your fellows, but also by your own convictions and strength possibly to decide the result of the struggle.
I therefore propose to suggest to you certain lines of thought and basic considerations which may help you to decide this result in the only desirable and dignified way.
What do I mean when I speak of a coming conflict of unprecedented gravity and magnitude? I mean the conflict which sooner or later will be inevitable between the forces of Creation and Recreation, and which the learned Chancellor and I may perhaps not live to see.
I will try to outline the nature of this momentous struggle.
But first of all let me give you a word of warning about all present day thought and the expedients adopted by modern men to meet the various difficulties and problems of their lives. It is particularly necessary to do this in order that you may know that there is
* As read to the First or St. James's Kin, 8th Oct., 1934.
By means of an examination of the various pleadings on both sides in almost any important modern controversy, I believe it would be possible to prove to you conclusively that all are equally shallow, flippant and romantic, and that they betray not merely inadequate information, but also and above all inadequate concentration and thought.
As an instance, observe the controversy now engaged between the pacificists and the belligerists. Read Beverley Nichol's Cry Havoc on the one hand and Yeats Brown's Dogs of War on the other. Read also the learned and popular comments on each of these books. Then, in all humility, I invite you to turn to my own Violence, Sacrifice and War, and from a perusal of that to form your own judgment concerning the two former works. If you do not conclude that the leading, the well-known, the widely read and the Press-acclaimed representatives of either camp in this momentous discussion have miserably failed to touch the essentials of their problem, I shall be very much astonished.
Now there is hardly an important controversy to-day which is not being handled in the same shallow, frivolous and ill-informed manner.
In regard to the momentous controversy which I prophesy will sooner or later be raging between the Creationists and the Recreationists, I say confidently that you will find exactly the same state of affairs. You will be so bewildered by the sheer volume of stupidity on both sides, and so baffled by the barrage of cultured oratory and vehemence developed by each camp that you will hardly be able to pick your own plain and simple way to the truth.
The controversy between the Creationists and the Recreationists is, as a matter of fact, already in full swing. But it is typical of the kind of mental alertness
Let me now show what this issue is.
You are gradually reaching a stage in World History when over-production of commodities, side by side with unemployment, and the increasing glutting of markets, side by side with steadily extending out-of-work benefits, are beginning to perplex economists, sociologists and politicians alike.
And, as you might expect in these democratic and free-thinking days, every kind of intellectual eunuch is naturally springing up to give his opinion about the problem.
Let me quote the summing-up and forecast of an investigator who is very far indeed from being what I have called an intellectual eunuch. He says:
"Most of us in a vague way realise, as we put it, that machinery is displacing labour, but few of us, who are not specially engaged in research into the matter, realise to what extent this is true. One of my friends has calculated that without any marked improvement of process, but merely proceeding along our present lines, we should by 1940 [i.e., only six years hence] have over 8,000,000 unemployed in this country, for the same output; and as, at the present time there are under 17,000,000 in the employable population, that will mean that more than half of the employable
And he makes this additional important remark: "Personally I have no doubt that this is an underestimate. . . . I have no reason to doubt that in ten years time the necessary work of the world could be carried on easily by about a tenth of the available labour." 2
I shall not weary you with other estimates. I shall assume for the purposes of this argument that the above computation is more or less accurate. It seems not unreasonable, and, in any case past events can leave but little doubt that, whether it is accurate or not, the extended use of labour-saving machines, or, in other words the increasing application of steam, electricity, or some other power, to mechanisms designed for producing commodities or otherwise meeting human needs, must sooner or later bring about the results it describes. It is only a question of time whether we have half, three-quarters, or nine-tenths of our population out of work.
Very well then, we are faced in the comparatively near future with the curious situation of having not only half of our own population, but half the world, standing idle.
It is not a situation that should cause surprise, because it was actually foreseen both by the unread and untutored masses themselves and some economists of the last century. Sismondi, for instance, writing over a hundred years ago in reply to Ricardo's convinced progressivism, said of the unlimited application of machinery to industry: "In very truth then, it only remains for us to wish for the day when the King of England, left alone in his island, should, by con-
1 Major C. H. Douglas: The New English Weekly (11th May, 1933, p. 80).
Thus a hundred and fifteen years ago, Sismondi saw that the only logical conclusion of the intensive application of machinery to supplying the material needs of humanity was ultimately that one man in the whole kingdom could produce all that was required. Needless to say that John Stuart Mill dismisses him in a line as hardly worthy of attention, 2 although another and wiser Englishman, who was not an economist, writing only a little later than Sismondi, had also condemned the machine as "an injury to the mass of the people," however much "traffic it may occasion with other states." 3 Cobbett regarded it as an injury for just the same reason as Sismondi and ultimately Ruskin regarded it as such namely, because it created idleness.
Not one of these men, wise as they were, however, saw in this very idleness created by the machine the force that was ultimately, as I hope to show, to wreck machinery much more effectively and finally than the ill-fated Luddites had done.
The middle classes, on the other hand, led by their romantic Liberal thinkers, meanwhile prated foolishly about the Eden, the era of eternal indolence and plenty, that the machine would bring, and completely ignored the warnings of Sismondi, Cobbett and their like. Even at the present day, a century after both Sismondi and Cobbett, the only perplexing problem agitating the middle classes and their so-called leaders is how to deal with the army of people who are turned
1 Nouveaux Principes d'Economie Politique ou de la Richesse dans ses rapports avec la Population. (Paris, 1819, Vol. II., Book III., Chapter VII., p. 354).
2 Principles of Political Economy. Book III., Chapter XIV., of Excess of Supply.
3 Rural Rides, Wednesday, 30th April, 1826.
Now it is on this problem that I wish to concentrate, and I ask you, is it one that should cause alarm, or is it, on the contrary, one which all you young men can face with calm and confidence? Have you thought of how to solve the difficulties the situation will present? For I warn you now that it is about this very situation that the great controversy between the Creationists and the Recreationists will rage.
Let me run briefly through a few of the solutions already adumbrated, or actually outlined at present.
1. First, there is the solution suggested by the system at present established in this country. This consists in accepting the existing trend of affairs, including the further intensive application of machinery to industry, as inevitable, and extorting from those in work, from those who have been in work, and from those drawing profits from the workers, a certain percentage of their incomes, in order to redistribute the money thus collected, free from all reciprocal duties, among those who are not in work. This system has two results. It enables the so-called "out-of-work" to produce nothing and yet to be in no danger of starving, and it also enables them to fill their otherwise unoccupied lives with every kind of cheap amusement, from playing and watching games, attending race meetings, visiting cinemas during the threepenny hours, witnessing parades, listening to police-court and law-court cases, and even fornicating at unusual hours, i.e., when their brothers and sisters are at work. It also enables them, if they choose, to spend more time than their working brethren in reading newspapers, magazines, and volumes borrowed from the free libraries. Incidentally, it also enables the more
So far this system has worked more or less without protest, except from those whose incomes are curtailed to provide for these enforced idlers.
2. Secondly, there is the solution suggested by solemn wiseacres like Professor Jacks, which is as follows:
The status quo, with its tendency to increase and further to develop the use of machinery, with its concomitant tendency to increase idleness, doles and out-of work benefits, is cheerfully and unquestioningly accepted; but as it is believed that this state of affairs may and does lead to degenerative changes in those who remain idle for a long time, it is proposed to take steps to combat the degenerative process.
(Here it should be pointed out at once that the middle class bias behind this solution becomes immediately obvious when its genesis is called clearly to consciousness , for the idea of degenerative processes becoming a necessary sequel to prolonged idleness, seems first to have occurred to those responsible for this solution, only since masses of the working classes have become pensioners of the State. It appears never to have occurred to them so long as the only permanent idlers in existence were those belonging to the higher strata of society.)
The means proposed for combating the degenerative processes supposed to follow prolonged idleness are the founding and organising (presumably at the public expense) of vast "Schools of Play" or "Colleges of Leisure-Craft," the object of which, I take it, will be to train the unemployed to be idle in an innocent and decorous manner, or, at any rate, in a manner calculated to neutralise the degenerative processes already mentioned.
3. Thirdly, there is the solution envisaged, but not actually carried out by the Bolsheviks, which is based on the Communist principle: "From each according to his powers; to each according to his needs." This solution also accepts the status quo with all that it means in progressively mechanised industry, intensive production and increasing idleness. But, as it is based on egalitarianism, it aims, at least on paper, at making every member of the State work at something for at least some hours during each day, so that all may be more idle, or, as the phrase goes, have more leisure. As far as one can judge, this system has not shaken itself free of any of the most romantic ideals of nineteenth century English Liberalism. It still believes in the unmixed blessings of machinery, in the desirability of intensive production, and in the ideal of increasing leisure for all. It has questioned nothing not even the assumed biological superiority of the proletariat.
Thus it leaves the problem of leisure, as such, completely unsolved. It is even doubtful whether it regards leisure, as a mass phenomenon, as a problem at all.
4. Fourthly, there is the solution of the Douglasites, who to all intents and purposes argue as follows:
(a) That machinery is a boon; but that if hitherto its blessings have been largely withheld from the masses, this has been due, not to any vice inherent m a mechanised civilization, but to the manifest flaws in the present system of wealth distribution.
(c) That to advance the supposed undesirable moral consequences of idleness as an argument against Major Douglas's new scheme for distributing purchasing power in a manner more proportionate to our actual production of wealth is about as futile as was the early Victorian attempt to advance moral and religious objections to the use of anæsthetics.
(d) That a wise and scientific distribution of purchasing power, compatible with the national wealth, among the masses is a possible achievement, if only the control of the national finances be wrested from the powers who at present preside over them, and who are, according to Major Douglas, an independent body bearing no organic relation either to the nation itself, or to its wealth-producing industries.
(e) That the fact that a sound distribution of purchasing power along national lines, and in organic relation to the wealth actually produced by the nation, would have the result of increasing leisure, and, by means of dividends for all, lead to an era of national leisure, need not disturb us in the least. Man was made for leisure.
Major Douglas's point of view may be further elucidated as follows:
Seeing that to-day unemployment has two aspects, according to whether it is viewed from a block of expensive flats in Mayfair or from a tenement house in Stepney, it is superficial and snobbish to conclude too hastily that unemployment among the working masses is necessarily deplorable. Obviously it is in that case two things at once. It is the supposed privilege of an envied few, and the supposed curse and
The Douglasites therefore say that, before you can do anything you must decide what you want. Do you want more leisure for all, or more employment for all? According to your decision, so you must frame your different policies.
If you want more employment for all, break up your machinery and set the whole population to work along lines similar to those prevailing in the Middle Ages.
If you want more leisure for all and this is the ideal envisaged by Major Douglas continue along your present path of intensive production by means of mechanised industry, which can still be made very much more efficient, and pay dividends to every
I cannot enter here into the economic aspects of the Douglas proposals. I have neither the necessary technical knowledge, nor the specialized skill to do so. I merely mention them as constituting one of the solutions of the problems ahead, because they are based on a searching criticism of existing conditions and lead to a definite standpoint, different from that of Jacks, regarding the question of work and its desirability. Moreover, as you will soon perceive, I am really concerned about something else than the practicability of these proposals. What I wish to discuss with you is the deeper psychological foundation on which any wise solution will have to be based, and I challenge those who proffer their solutions to-day, without considering this deeper psychological foundation, to show that they are not reckoning without their host, and are not, therefore, busy constructing fanciful Utopias.
As a first step towards proving that there is this serious omission in their calculations, let us now examine whence we derive our existing notions of Work and Leisure.
I suggest that it is highly probable that our notions of Work and Leisure, like our notions of most other things to-day, are to a great extent corrupt that is to say, tainted by false and inhuman assumptions accepted as right over a century ago. I suggest that they are derived too exclusively from the spectacle of the industrial and urban wage earner on the one hand, and of the Mayfair loafer on the other.
It will be useful to examine these two types more narrowly.
The industrial and urban wage-earner, except when he is a highly skilled mechanic like a fitter, a patternmaker, a cabinet maker, a master tailor, carpenter,
(a) It allows him no opportunity of expressing his higher impulses. In the majority of cases it wears him out and leaves him listless and exhausted, without ever once allowing him such an opportunity.
(b) It is frequently a small part only of a process of manufacture, to which the accursed principle of the division of labour, so fulsomely exalted by our nineteenth century forebears, has been ruthlessly applied. Thus it is infinitely repetitive, merely contributory and incapable of being a source either of self-esteem, self congratulation, or even of local prestige, except as regards its purely cash value. It is divested of all personality, it is lost anonymously in the finished product as hopelessly as the beat of a wave is lost on the shingle of the sea-shore, and the finished product can never be felt and is often not even seen as a personal achievement.
(c) It may be and often is worse even than that. It may be accomplished wholly by a machine, towards which the wage-earner acts the part merely of a feeder, animator, attendant, or mid-wife. This work may be so dreary and humiliating as to induce inferiority feelings even in the breast of a moron.
(d) It may be and often is even worse still. It may be not merely impersonal, repetitive, fragmentary, or auxiliary to a machine, but in addition it may be actually unhealthy, i.e., performed in a foul atmosphere, with poisonous or injurious materials such as lead, phosphorus, metal dust, tar, etc.; or it may be unsavoury and filthy work, like drain inspection, certain processes of tanning, stoking, etc.
(e) If it is absolutely clean work, it may be wholly unproductive, except of profit to the employer, and wholly sterile, like book-keeping, serving across a
But what characterizes all this work is that it is uncreative. No higher impulse can be enlisted, because either nothing at all is produced, or nothing is produced in its entirety. Nor is there any possible contact with the ultimate beneficiary of the work. Even when it is devoted and conscientious, therefore, it is like firing into infinite space. There is no echo, no impact, no result whatsoever. But this means that the man employed in such work is deprived of the natural rewards of labour, as apart from its remuneration.
Now, since the great majority are at present working in this way, it is surely a matter for small surprise that Work should have come to mean something intensely disagreeable. In short, it is no wonder that it has come to mean something to which very few men or women turn either willingly or cheerfully. Hence the general blind craving for "Freedom."
This desire for freedom, as I have shown elsewhere, 1 does not and cannot mean a longing for a vague and abstract state of being unconditioned having no ties, no duties, no obligations, no binding tastes which everyone knows is impossible even in a state of idyllic savagery. If it is articulate at all, it means merely the aching hunger for the chance to exchange a bondage now wholly divorced from higher human impulses, for a bondage compatible with these.
It is not a reasoned or always conscious striving for a well-defined state. It is, rather, an indirect and mute expedient among the illiterate for condemning the ideal of Work created by industrialism and commercialism. And it is curious to note in this connexion that the celebrated etymologist Kluge with what justification
1 See my False Assumptions of Democracy, the Chapter on Freedom.
Turning now to the modern word "Leisure" and the ideas it suggests, whence do we derive its current meaning?
Just as we derive our notion of Work from the bread-winning occupations of the masses during the last century and a half, so do we derive our notion of Leisure from the pastimes of the majority of those who are above Work a notion that was well established long before any sort of out-of-work benefit was dreamt of.
Who are these unoccupied people, who have given us our modern notion regarding Leisure, and what do they do?
For the most part they are people of ample means, enjoying positions of complete independence, and probably more free than any wealthy class has ever been of onerous civic duties or obligations. The few of these which they have can easily be discharged by a cash payment. As a class, therefore, they are to a great extent people who have had that chance of choosing a bondage compatible with their higher impulses, which is denied their less fortunate brethren. Only the fewest among them, however, a handful of successful playwrights, novelists, artists, architects, engineers, etc. have ever won their independence by creating anything. If, therefore, the majority ever had any higher impulses to express, these were certainly not expressed in the means by which their independence was acquired.
Nor from the manner in which they occupy their days, does it appear as if their ever-present chance to enter a bondage compatible with their higher impulses was being seized for this purpose. We are consequently
A third possibility is this: they may be people who suffer under the boredom and sterility of their lives; they may long to express their higher impulses in some form of creative activity. But, as in the majority of them this longing, if gratified, would probably direct them to work which is now considered menial, because it is usually performed by the wage-slave, they refrain out of snobbery from doing anything at all.
For their lives of leisure are characterized chiefly by these two features that they do not for one minute of the day do anything that constitutes the Work of the wage-earning class, and that, as a rule, they do not instinctively turn to any form of creation.
If their activities exhibit any general character at all, it is that peculiar to Recreation rather than to Creation. They are the kind of activities that constitute the recuperation of people usually engaged in creation, or of people who, by force of circumstances, are daily engaged in harassing uncreative Work and who, wearied and besotted by the latter, turn to these activities for a change, for exercise in the open air, and for oblivion. Such activities are, for instance, playing or watching games; pursuing or watching the pursuit of various sports; attending parties, exhibitions, commercial entertainments or race-meetings; travelling or climbing; reading for distraction; dancing; promiscuous fornication, etc.
These activities, however, are all stamped with the sterility associated with the recreations of the creator. But, in the case of the privileged classes, nothing has, as a rule, been previously created. They recuperate themselves from the first to the seventh day, not because
We have thus come to connect Leisure, which is the peculiar possession of the privileged class, not with creative impulses or with creation, or with recuperation following the latter, but with recreation pursued as a vocation. And we have come to do this chiefly because this privileged class is jealous of its distinctions from the wage-earning class; because Work has in the last century and a half acquired an unhappy meaning, and probably too because the privileged class consists to a great extent of people recruited from generations of middle or middling men who have stood with sterile but successful material results between producer and consumer.
But the probability that the members of this privileged class are not normal human beings, is suggested, I believe, by the following significant facts:
(1) The frequently frantic and neurotic nature of their pastimes their love of speed, for instance, as an end in itself.
(2) The common occurrence of neuroses, or signs of neurasthenia among them. The practice of psychiatrists, and certainly of psychoanalysts is, to a disproportionate extent, confined to them.
(3) Their incurable restlessness, which is always an unconscious indication of profound discontent.
(4) Their generally low physical condition. A large proportion of them constitute the principal support of nursing homes and the latters' expensive medical attendants, despite the fact that this class has all day and every day to attend intelligently to its normal physical needs.
(5) The evidence we have that, among the best of those who are deprived by their station in life of the
Thus I submit that to-day our notions of both Work and Leisure are corrupt, and that it is essential before discussing unemployment, mechanised industry, and the problems which they hold out for the future, to rid our minds of these corrupt notions; otherwise our solution of these problems cannot possibly be wiser or more profound than that of any other modern thinker, sociologist, or politician.
I suggest that the first prerequisite for a satisfactory approach to the whole question of unemployment and the prospect of an unprecedented increase of unemployment in the near future, is to appreciate that a healthy human being has no natural bent for perpetual recreation, but a native and irrepressible inclination to be constantly creative. I suggest that the higher impulses of such a creature are never and can never be expressed except in some form of creation no matter how humble, and that sterile recreation, as a permanent activity, cannot be the natural pastime of mankind as a whole. Only in the form of a recurrent interruption does recreation take a normal place in human life, and then it constitutes the respite, the recuperation, of people engaged in some form of creative activity according to their capacities.
This does not mean, however, that the normal human being of whom I am speaking feels any impulse to Work in the corrupt sense in which this activity is now understood; and it is important to keep the idea suggested by Work distinct from that suggested by creative activity.
These higher impulses are the heritage which has come down to us through our difference from the animals, through our having for thousands of years developed the habit of productive labour.
We turn to creative activities not merely instinctively as a bird adopts a form of nest-building. We turn to them as a gregarious act which gives us our raison-d'être, our status, and our justification in the herd. They follow from a conscious effort to produce an extension of our personalities resulting in a plus not only to our individual selves but to society as a whole, for which society grants us our reward, our rank, our prestige if you will, but certainly our right to self esteem.
Our advance from the bestial state is the history of this creative impulse, which is not the possession of only a percentage of men. Every sane, healthy man possesses a more or less generous endowment of it, though its expression in each may be different. In some it is expressed in great, in others in small things. In the majority it turns to utilitarian, in the minority to æsthetic ends. But even in the last-named it would be possible to discover a utilitarian result.
It is possible to stifle, repress, or dwarf these higher impulses in the individual. They cannot be killed in the majority of the species. It is arguable that the discontent of the working classes in all countries, as I have hinted, where it has not proceeded from gross oppression, has really been due to the long divorce which they have suffered from their higher impulses. The stubborn belief in the middle classes, particularly of England, that this discontent can be wholly allayed by improving the material conditions of their economic inferiors, may be a deliberate attempt to draw a red herring across the path of enquiry into real causes;
It is further arguable, as I have also already hinted, that the restlessness, neurotic pursuits, and sickness of the privileged classes, is due to their divorce, through a misunderstanding of what is at stake, from their higher impulses. But again, their inability to perceive, or to seek for, other than material factors, makes them incapable of diagnosing their own condition.
"We have all we want. We don't need to work. Ergo, we should be all right." Or, as the modern person prefers to say "quite all right!" And enquiries regarding the origins of any malaise cease on the medical specialist's doorstep.
But if all this is true, and it is hardly possible to deny its truth, we must take the existence of these higher impulses into account in facing the whole problem of unemployment, and the increased application of mechanised energy to human industry.
Is there any further evidence of the existence of these higher impulses in Man?
There is abundant further evidence.
(1) It is notorious that no sane healthy man is really lazy. Find him the task that appeals to him and stimulates his particular endowments, and he will be active.
(2) It is a well known fact among modern psychologists and physiologists, that intellectual power is a development of muscular sense and that the connexion between hand and brain in man may be regarded as the source of a large proportion of what we know as the higher mental faculties. The arms with their terminals, the hands and the fingers, are the oldest thoroughfare of thought and of the higher cerebral
(3) It is a fact, suggested first poetically by Nietzsche, and then scientifically established by Alfred Adler, that the universal spring of human action is the Will to Power. Consequently it is clear that a conscious extention of individuality through productivity of some kind is one of the most profoundly satisfying activities of the human species.
(4) It is a matter of common experience that every sane and healthy man who happens to be engaged in some non-productive activity, or an activity depriving him of the natural spiritual rewards of his industry, always tries, if he has not been wholly besotted by the modern system, to redeem his self-esteem and to indulge his higher impulses by pursuing some productive or creative hobby at home. It may be gardening, carpentry, wood-carving, modelling, ceramic work, or merely photography; but it is certain he will do something of the kind. On the other hand, among those whose life-work gives them the opportunity every day of producing or creating something, we do not find this same eagerness for hobbies or productive pastimes in leisure hours. Neither my grandfather nor my father, both of whom were artists, had any hobbies. As far as I know and I knew both men well neither Rodin nor Whistler had any hobbies. No artist I have ever known, and I was brought up among painters, gravers and sculptors, ever had a productive pastime apart from his daily artistic activity.
1 Munera Pulveris (London, 1899, p. 133).
Furthermore, how many of you, who are wholly intellectual workers, do not repeatedly feel impelled to gratify the proud craving to produce something with your hands? And how infinitely satisfying is such production! How different, more wholesome, and more invigorating is the secret satisfaction of such an activity than the secret satisfaction resulting from intellectual labours!
If it is difficult to deny what I have here contended, the conclusion must be that the problem of the future is not, as certain superficial thinkers, like Professor Jacks, declare, to contrive and establish Colleges of Leisurecraft and Schools of Play.
The real problem of the future will be something entirely different. It will consist in deciding whether the 8,000,000 who we are told will be unemployed in 1940, are to be forcibly prevented from adopting productive pastimes. And if it is decided that they are to be so prevented the next problem will be HOW?
Why will these be the problems?
Because, if according to his or her particular endowments every man and woman will inevitably gravitate to some productive handicraft or industry and I see no possible reason why they should not we shall very soon get infinite duplication of many of the products which our intensive mass production of goods is pouring on to the markets.
It would surely be fantastic to suppose that every individual in those 8,000,000 of people will turn to poetry, to painting, or to astronomy. There will
So that ultimately the very self-esteem of the handicraftsman will perforce drive him to contribute to the supply of useful things, or things he and his neighbour prize and need.
That is why I say that the real problem of the future will consist in deciding whether the 8,000,000 who are ear-marked to be idlers and there will be many more than 8,000,000 as time goes on are to be legally prevented from adopting productive pastimes or not.
For, remember, that if they are not, the inevitable result of their activities will be further to glut a market already tending to be increasingly glutted by those very labour saving machines which, even in the unlikely event of their not being considerably improved, are expected to lead to over half a nation being unemployed.
Suppose a percentage of these unemployed men choose to turn their attention to cobbling, just as Louis XVI. turned his to clockmaking. Suppose, moreover, that they are soon able to supply not only themselves and their families but also their neighbours with more comfortable, more hygienic, and more attractive footgear than the system of mass production can supply. Are they to be stopped by law? Are they to be deprived of the right to their chosen pastimes, just as mateur brewers and distillers are to-day forbidden
1 See Ruskin: Fors Clavigera (London, 1899, Vol. I., pp. 9394).
In short, will they be legally compelled to buy and to use none other than the mass produced article, when they have their whole day, year and lifetime to produce the home-made article?
For we must bear in mind that if one of the solutions now before the public that advanced by Major Douglas be ultimately adopted, such men, in spite of their unemployment, will have ample means to buy almost any raw material they may need for the pastime to which their tastes incline them.
It is conceivable perhaps that one or two could for a time be restrained by law from indulging their higher impulse to produce something with their hands. But is it conceivable that vast numbers could?
Furthermore, is it conceivable that the laws of their country will ever be able to induce such men to abandon their lust for productive pastimes and to devote themselves to a lifelong pursuit of games and other forms of sterile recreation just as monks devote their lives to religion?
For, again, we must not lose sight of the fact that one of the principal charms of this sterile recreation to-day is that it is set off against enforced and soulless Work, and that this charm will vanish as a contrast when the besotting drudgery with which it is compared has largely vanished too.
We cannot expect a whole people, or a whole world to be as consistently sterile as most of the middle classes have now become, with the cream amongst them content with recreation as an end in itself. We should be all the more unable to expect this seeing that even to
Snobbery alone, therefore, to-day lends a glamour to sterile recreation which the latter will lose except as regards one-tenth of the population. But it is significant that even where this snobbery is most deep-rooted we find some of these middling people, so-called ladies and gentlemen, pursuing such occupations as gardening, poker-work, carpentry, embroidery, or knitting, provided that all their friends and acquaintances are persuaded that they are not being paid for their labours.
So that a rational reply to the questions whether the future nine-tenths of available labour will ever submit to being legally forbidden productive pastimes, and whether they will submit to being compelled to pursue a lifetime of games and sterile recreation, is necessarily in the negative.
It may be possible, by means of a vicious economic or monetary system to force men to repress or neglect their higher impulses in their daily activities, particularly if want or a lack of dignity is the penalty for those who refuse soulless or impersonal labour. But, if we are to believe the economists of the Social Credit schools, even want will soon be relegated to the limbo of the barbarian past just as starvation has been.
We are, therefore, faced with an era in which even the most impecunious will probably be able to choose between soulless employment in mechanized industry and employment at home, where their higher impulses will find expression. We are, in fact, faced with an era in which the only practical interpretation that can
But if it is going to prove impossible legally to forbid productive pastimes among those free to choose a bondage compatible with their higher impulses, and if I am right in believing that the majority of men and women will inevitably gravitate to productive pastimes, we shall then have the following extraordinary and unprecedented situation:
In a world becoming progressively better equipped for the mass-production of commodities, and therefore annually adding to its roll of unemployed; in a world in which in ten years time, as one economist of note has said, only one-tenth of the available labour will be occupied in mechanized industry, we shall have large sections of the sane and healthy population adding daily to the markets already glutted by over-production, and using their enforced leisure to make themselves independent of the machine-made product in an appreciable number of trades.
You may reply to this contention that meanwhile the population will have been decimated by an intensive use of means already being employed in excess to limit families. But such a drastic reduction of the English people, at least, is hardly a solution that will appeal to the lover of his nation. Nor is it feasible even from the standpoint of the mass-producer; for we must assume that his output will in the future be more and more dependent upon the home market.
In any case it is no reply to the contention I have made to claim that meanwhile if, say, Major Douglas's scheme be adopted purchasing power would have enormously increased. Increased purchasing power will not convert a species congenitally disposed for creation into one capable only of sterile recreation. And unless you can legally compel your people to buy
Nor is it likely when once the world at large renews its acquaintance with hand-made goods whether boots, clothes, furniture, pottery, carpets, books, clocks, textiles, etc. that it will be easily persuaded to accept goods produced by machinery through the soulless labours of that portion of the community still active in mechanised industry. And it is even less likely that the home artisans themselves, having once again tasted of the joys and triumphs of handicraft, will ever wish to relinquish it for machine minding.
So that if the supposed solution of increased purchasing power comes to be realised, it will hardly lead to the greater absorption of mass-produced goods or to almost universal sterile recreation.
Even if the system now in vogue that of supporting those unemployed in mechanized industry by the redistribution of the incomes of those still employed survives for some time longer, it is bound to collapse sooner or later as the result of large numbers of those thus maintained on redistributed incomes turning to some form of productive pastime.
The tendency will therefore be to throw out ever larger numbers of those engaged in Work, and to bring their machines to a standstill, so that very soon you will witness the inception of a wholly unprecedented necessity, or at least of a necessity wholly unprecedented as regards the vastness of the scale on which it will present itself.
What will this necessity be?
Obviously to liquidate whole classes of mechanical plants.
All over the country there will occur a gradual and steadily increasing suppression of machinery. In most
It may be pointed out that there will still be savages in the world to be deluded and defrauded by the manufacturer of the mass-produced article.
This is true. A lingering death is likely to be vouchsafed to large masses of factory equipment as long as the export of shoddy goods is continued to those peoples not yet aware of the undesirability of such products and of the form of their production. But even this respite will be brief, more particularly as all vested interests in every industrialised country will be fighting for these last remaining outlets.
We are, therefore, probably reaching a stage in history when the majority of mankind will do deliberately and with a clean conscience what the Luddites were executed for doing in 1812. Machinery in a large number of industries will be systematically scrapped, and all hope of reinstating it abandoned. There are signs even to-day that the more wise and independent of European rulers are already paving the way for this unravelment of the industrial drama. Hitler, with his Ehestands Darlehn (State Loans for Young Proletarians Wishing to Marry), has arranged that the advances of State money to prospective bridegrooms should consist
Thus the instincts of the English masses, always opposed to machinery, will at long last be confirmed, and the wisdom of rulers like Edward VI., Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I., of legislators like Manu and Plato, of thinkers like Cobbett, Ruskin and Samuel Butler, and of peoples like the Orientals will ultimately be vindicated.
Samuel Butler 1 and above all Ruskin, had dim presentiments of this stage in our evolution. Again and again, the latter in particular declared that the use of machinery could culminate in nothing more desirable than an era of universal idleness. He saw clearly that it could not bring about any increase in human happiness. But his pronouncements on this subject, although emphatic, were always a little apologetic and reserved, no doubt because in the Age in which he wrote the civilised world and especially England were still too much flushed with the material success which the machine was bringing.
Thus, speaking of the people, he says: "I believe myself that they will neither be so good nor so happy as without machines." And then he adds: "But I waive my belief in this matter for the time." 2 Again he says: "I don't believe you would be happier so, but I am willing to believe it; only, since you are already such brave machinists, show me at least one or two places where you are happier." 3
The actual idleness caused by machinery was in his time less obviously connected with mechanisation. On
1 See among other works his perfectly serious letter to the Press (Christchurch, New Zealand, 13th June, 1863).
2 Fors Clavigera, Vol. I., p. 93.
The fact was that the over-production of commodities, resulting from the comparatively ineffective mechanical plants of that day, found enormous outlets. But what is more important still, Ruskin never carried his analysis of the situation created by machinery to the point of seeing that mechanisation must ultimately lead to its own evanescence, nor did he, except in vague terms, ever conclude that mechanised industry by defeating a primitive creative impulse, which is one of the chief higher impulses in all sane men, lead to an aching discontent apart from the indignity and inferiority of such industry.
He never reached the final analysis which discloses the fundamental relationship and conflict between creation and recreation; and thus, although convinced himself, was unable to carry conviction.
The overwhelming success and prosperity of his Age, built as they were on a century of vast mechanical development, took the wind out of his sails.
Had he, however, survived to this Age and been apprised of the solemn proposals now being made by responsible thinkers to train the unemployed masses in Schools of Play and Colleges of Leisurecraft for the period of almost total national idleness which is imminent; had he seen universal over production,
1 See Essays Scientific, Political and Speculative, Vol. III., p. 376. See also p. 362 where Spencer, failing to display his usual insight, speaks of the idea "widely spread, both among rural labourers and the inhabitants of towns" that "machinery acts to their damage," as a fallacy.
At all events, it is fairly obvious now, even to the meanest intelligence, that mankind is at last beginning to wake from its spiritual slumber of about two centuries or more, and that it will soon be wondering how it could have allowed the nightmare of mechanised industry to terrify its sleep so long and so ruthlessly. And it behoves us to prepare ourselves for this conjuncture in human affairs, when the very necessities of the psycho-physical health of man not to mention the exigencies of the economic situation will drive us to the destruction of vast masses of our mechanical plants all over the civilised world.
But, before that day is reached, a series of great and bitter wars will have to be waged between the two opposing camps into which modern humanity is likely to split camps whose boundaries are even now becoming defined, though no one seems to be aware of it. And here I come to the principal purpose of this lengthy analysis.
These wars will be waged between only two belligerent types. On the one hand there will be the Creationists, and on the other the Recreationists.
Behind the Creationists you will find the best of the working masses who, refusing to continue any longer as paid idlers, and nauseated by lives of incessant recreation, will be resolved to legalise their position of
But behind the Recreationists you will find the vested interests, financial and otherwise, representing established mechanised industries, who, seeing their power menaced by the paid unemployed who insist on creation, will claim with their hands on their hearts that man was not made for work but for play, that he was not made for Creation but for Recreation, and who will, therefore, try for a long while to influence the legislature to force Recreation on the unemployed masses, just as in the past it had succeeded in forcing upon them the power of reading fifth-rate literature, the advantages of tonsilectomy, military drill, medical inspection, etc. With these representatives of the vested interests, you will find Romantics like Professor Jacks, who believe that the only thing that is wrong with idleness, and the only feature of it which introduces degenerative changes in the idle is that the masses have not yet been trained to innocent play or leisure. These people will, therefore, at the public expense, establish Schools of Play and Colleges of Leisurecraft in which, presumably, the majority of the nation will be drafted at puberty, in order to learn how to be quite idle and sterile in a decorous and innocent manner. This camp will have its strength further reinforced by those elements in the masses and middle classes who really have been totally demoralised and deteriorated by our two centuries of Industrialism and Commercialism, and who will raise a clamour on behalf of eternal and sterile recreation, because within them there will be none of those higher impulses which insist on creation as the sine qua non of human existence.
But, in the end, I have but little doubt that the Creationists will win, if only because of the fundamental absurdity of their opponents' position.
When, however, we look back on past history, and reckon how often mankind, when hesitating at the cross-roads, has taken the wrong highway, to the dire misfortune of posterity, it does not do to be too confident or sanguine. The success of the Creationists will be assured only if there is a sufficiently large body of leaders in the Creationist camp, who are convinced of the existence in all healthy and normal men of the higher impulses of which I have spoken those higher impulses, the flouting of which has led to the blind anp universal cry for Freedom throughout the civilised world. And that is why it is important that all of you here, who are young enough and vital enough to be able to hope that you will witness at least the opening engagements of this struggle for it cannot be very long delayed that is why it is important that you should understand now what the real issue is; what, divested of economic jargon and statistics, the basic human interests at stake really are, and what are the precise features of the nightmare from which we are slowly waking.
A proper grasp of these matters will enable you not merely to stand in the right camp when the hour for the conflict strikes, but also to assume even now the proper intellectual attitude towards the century-old controversy about machinery, in the history of which the few saints are but a handful of heroic working-class men who died for their faith, and a few middle-class
Remember, however, when you face your opponents, that this time it is not you, or your friends, or your teachers, who are now engaged in "putting the clock back," as the Liberal progress-maniac terms it, but that it is the Liberal and Progressivist clock itself which is putting itself back and which, if we can imagine it having a tail like a scorpion, has actually stung itself mortally and is dying a suicide's death.