Typos — p. 7: Mariage [= Marriage]; p. 8: who. [= who:]

How the blind lead the blind

Anthony M. Ludovici

The South African Observer 1.5, 1955, pp. 7–8

- p. 7 -
Most English people to-day will unhesitatingly embark on a comparison of Aristocracy and Democracy as if there were no more to it than discussing the relative merits of Association and Rugby Football. And, strange to say, the undertaking has acquired this wholly spurious simplicity chiefly owing to the false guidance they obtain from men they are taught to look up to.

Common man's idea of Aristocracy

        To such people, Aristocracy means the House of Lords and its personnel of eminently successful brewers, industrial magnates, soldiers, sailors, lawyers, journalists, political-party benefactors, some two score prelates, and a few hereditary peers, not many of whose titles are older than 1830.
        And when such people think of these titled "legislators", whose influence has deservedly been steadily and drastically reduced almost to zero ever since 1911, it is never without a certain benevolent contempt in which the inveterate snobbery of the multitude plays a considerable part.
        Extremely rarely, therefore, is Aristocracy thought of as the Rule of the Best. More rarely still is it felt to be a state of society in which the degree of power wielded by the dominant class is always commensurate with their quality, and in which any increase in their power is always contingent on an increase in their quality. And never is it conceived as the only wise and prudent form of Government if a nation's power, prestige, prosperity and very survival, are not to be imperilled.
        But how, indeed, could the average common man be expected to hold these enlightened views of Aristocracy when the only so-called Aristocracy he knows is one that has recently been so rigorously demoted that its share in the nation's administrative life — i.e., its life apart from Sport, Pageantry, the Theatre and Good Fare — is minimal?
        Could a schoolboy respect a Master who, under his very eyes, had yesterday been allotted the task of merely looking decorative at school parades? Besides, when has the average common man been told the correct, just views about Aristocracy?

Pseudo-Aristocrat justly demoted

        This is not to suggest that the demotion of the Aristocrat which has occurred in comparatively recent times has been unmerited or over-harsh. Any candid memoir-writer, biographer or autobiographer, any accurate historian, taken at random during the period 1700 to 1900, will be found to give a picture of England's High Life, which abundantly demonstrates the habits of hollow hedonism, self-seeking greed and short-sighted plunder that ultimately undermined the very ability of the English ruling caste and the confidence they once inspired in the masses.
        Even as late as the twenty years between 1890 and 1910, the futile self-indulgence and frivolity of their existence, already noticed by Mill, Spencer and Carlyle in the 'sixties of last century, is hardly credible, and one has to read a book like THE DIARIES OF DAISY PRINCESS OF PLESS, for instance, in order to believe it possible.
        Nor is there the slightest scrap of evidence to show that the ennobled and the noble by inheritance have ever paid the slightest attention to the task of maintaining their quality, whether by marriage, discipline, or the strenuous cultivation of their powers.
        Mariage for money — Yes! Discipline for Sport — also Yes! And the conscientious cultivation of all those resources that minister to comfort — emphatically Yes! But nothing else.

Fancy-dress peers and peeresses

        But, whether we study their private lives, their injudicious marriages, or their performance as legislators, no matter how black their record may be, it justifies no one in condemning, if not actually damning Aristocracy out of hand, as if the men and women who have been masquerading as aristocrats for generations in England, were really noble and well-bred beneath their make-up.
        Indeed, to frown upon Aristocracy, as the majority now do, because these fancy-dress peers and peeresses have been everything on earth except the Best, is about as rational as to condemn Art and Science on the score of the scrawls of an infant and the alchemic charlatanry of a Cagliostro.
        So deeply rooted, however, is the modern habit, even among the educated, of using the words "Aristocrat" and "aristocratic" in a sense which is true only of the pseudo-aristocrats of recent history, that we cannot be surprised if now the uneducated, without inquiry, dismiss the very idea of Aristocracy us if it were not worth a moment's consideration.

Maeterlinck's slander of Aristocracy

        It is not so very long ago, for instance, when Maeterlinck's exceedingly stupid play, THE BLUE BIRD, was attracting crowded houses in London's West End.

- p. 8 -
In this play, the typical "aristocrat" was represented nightly as a crapulous, bloated sot, who amid loud applause staggered on to the stage as if any moment he might stretch his length on its boards.
        The night I witnessed this play, I was the only member of the audience who stood up in the stalls, hissed and promptly left the theatre when this travesty of an aristocrat appeared. Yet, here was an educated playwright, appealing to an educated audience — for the high-falutin' and pretentious mysticism of the play was hardly calculated to stir the more robust and healthier emotions of the uneducated classes, and these were in no way responsible for its huge success.

A Tory's slander of Aristocracy

        But whilst we might at a pinch excuse a venal and ambitious playwright, seeking popularity, for confirming the corrupt notion of Aristocracy now prevalent in Europe, what are we to think of a Conservative M.P. who, for no reason whatsoever, except perhaps his wish gracefully to toe the democratic line, declares that "Aristocracies have naturally used their position for the advantage of their class"?
        Such a statement with its key-word "naturally", is so complete a misrepresentation of what Aristocracies should do if they are to be so called at all, that it is almost nonsensical. It sounds like sense only because it accords with the now prevalent and popular view of what Aristocracy means.
        And yet this statement hails from Mr. Pierse Loftus, the experienced M.P. for the Lowestoft division of Suffolk, who represented the "Conservative" Cause in the House of Commons from 1934 to 1945. (See his CREED OF A TORY, Part III, Sect. IV). Innumerable similar examples could be given.
        Can one wonder that most English people to-day unhesitatingly compare Aristocracy and Democracy and confidently give the palm to the latter, when their intelligentsia make it all so simple for them as that?

How people deceived about Aristocracy

        Even in promptly giving the palm to Democracy, however, they follow no guides more intelligent than I have just quoted. Take, for instance Dr. Spitz, who, in PATTERNS OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT, tells his readers quite solemnly that the fundamental advantage of Democracy is the chance it gives the People of dismissing unsatisfactory and electing satisfactory governments.
        Thus here we have a learned political philosopher addressing a multitude much less learned who will naturally be commensurately impressed. His statement certainly reads so plausibly and, at first glance, sounds so irrefutable, that few would be alert enough to question it.
        And yet, scrutinized more narrowly, we immediately perceive its fundamental falsity. For it takes for granted two essential conditions of which Dr. Spitz neither attempts to prove the existence, nor even once mentions.
        To be true, the statement would have to refer to a people who.
        (1) Had the necessary reliable criteria, discrimination, and knowledge of men, always to choose the best when they were confronted with it — a condition, which, if we are to judge from the kind of men and women who get into Parliament, has never yet been demonstrated; and,
        (2) Besides possessing the ability and knowledge always to select the Best in a Parliamentary Election, also live in a world where a pool, or reserve, of superior men exists from whom representatives can be chosen who are better than those that have been dismissed.

The false assumptions of Democracy

        To assume that both of these conditions exist in England is, of course, a pure pretence. For, not only are the vast majority of the electorate utterly destitute of the means of judging their fellows correctly — a difficult task even to those trained in psychology, human morphology and physiognomy — but even if they were fully equipped for the task, they could still not overcome the present-day appalling problem of finding the better political personnel with which to replace those who have been dismissed.
        Who could legitimately claim that to-day the dismissal even of an unsatisfactory servant enables us to choose a better one? How, therefore, can Dr. Spitz so confidently assume that Democracy gives the people the chance of dismissing unsatisfactory and electing satisfactory governments?
        But with such sophisms as we have examined, whether about Aristocracy or Democracy, being bandied from oar to car and circulated largely by the educated men of the Age, how can we wonder if the average common man finds it childishly easy to debate the relative merits of those opposing forms of government and always to hand the palm to Democracy?