The Degeneracy of Modern Man Part IV
The Degeneration of Mind and Character
We shall now be concerned with degeneration in a more narrow sense, that is to say, with that form of it which is confined more or less to one people, and what we propose to discuss, therefore, is the national degeneration of Englishmen in accordance with the definition already given.
Truth to tell, there is no such thing as national degeneration, or degeneration of a particular nation's mind and character, independent of racial degeneration or the degeneration of men's bodies from a standardized norm. If man is, as we believe, a psycho-physical whole, degeneration cannot display itself in his constitution and his functions, without also manifesting itself in his way of thinking, judging and feeling. In order, however, to pursue a method to which, though quite fashionable and unscientific, we have in Chapters VI and VII already committed ourselves, we shall now continue the examina-
The convenience of the distinction "mind" and "body" is readily admitted, not only for practical purposes, but also because of its deep hold upon modern thought. I should, however, like to emphasize my profound objection to the scientific validity of this accepted dichotomy, while pursuing the present investigation as if it were a reality. Nevertheless, the method will be seen to break down that is to say, the frequency with which we shall be compelled to speak of psychological degeneracy in terms of the physical, will become sufficiently evident as the chapter advances, and I hope in the end to be able to show that any remedial measures I may recommend, must give equal attention to the body and psyche of man, and thus be directed at a psycho-physical entity.
I propose to deal with the degeneration of the modern Englishman's character and mind under the following aspects: (1) His attitude to religion, (2) his attitude to politics, (3) his attitude to art, (4) his attitude to sex, (5) his attitude to woman, and (6) his attitude to the child.
(l) The attitude of the modern Englishman to religion is the outcome of two influences, both of which are more or less recent. They are: (a) The decline of his positive self-feeling (to use an expression of Professor McDougall's), which is displayed by a diminished feeling of inner riches and an actual diminution in the depth and plenitude of his self-confidence, resulting from an impoverished physique; and (b) the tendency to reduce all religious questions to ethical or moral considerations. We shall consider these two influences together.
But the dark mystery behind himself and that life of which he is a part, challenges him to be its interpreter. Why?
Obviously because, to interpret it is to obtain a working hypothesis concerning his relation to it. And it is of the utmost importance for his orientation to obtain as correct an interpretation as possible. The Power behind life obviously must have a trend, an invisible trend that must be divined felt. Falsely to interpret this Power, therefore, or not to interpret it at all, might be like spitting against the wind. One's contempt might simply get flung back in one's face.
He feels like a creature in mid-air, flying on the bosom of the clouds. About him there is an invisible force
Having, with that portion of the mysterious power which he, as a living being, necessarily possesses, interpreted it and begun to understand it, he will, if he is sufficiently profound, feel the most solemn reverence for it. And, the more his experience confirms his first tentative interpretation, the more will his faith and his reverence increase. He will thus come to feel a personal relationship towards the invisible and mysterious power. If he has interpreted it correctly and experienced the help which it gives when it is properly understood, he will regard it as his secret ally, his strongest ally, his patron nay, if he completely understands it, he will regard it, just as the daisy would regard it, as an indispensable associate in every act of life.
This is the root of true religious feeling. And to the extent to which such a man shares his interpretation with a group of his fellows, he belongs to a religion. He can hold his interpretation individually, or rather, he may think he holds it individually; but he becomes the member of a religion the moment many join him in reverencing the same invisible power, or, better still, the same invisible power as defined, or interpreted, by himself.
The profound man, the cultivated healthy man of to-day, still sees religion in this light. To him it is an attitude of mind which involves the reverence, worship, solicitation by prayer and thanking, of an invisible almighty power.
But and this is the most important thing of all it is only the profound man, with vigorous religious equipment, who can feel sufficiently vehemently, sufficiently dynamically, to move this invisible power, to set
Confirmatory religious experience, therefore, can only be the privilege of the few in times of low physical tone, because the necessary dynamic force behind successful worship and prayer in such times is-generally lacking.
But, in the absence of confirmatory experience, the shallow man abandons religion hence the decline of religion in all decadent periods.
It is not everybody who can pray. And those who think they can but cannot, begin to doubt the existence of the invisible power. N'est pas vigoureux qui veut therefore, n'est pas religieux qui veut.
The truly religious man conceives the performance of religion first of all as worship and then as prayer. And since experience constantly confirms him in his interpretation of the invisible power, he continues worshipping and praying all his days. Conduct, though important, is a secondary consideration in his religious outlook. It is felt as derivate and subsidiary. It has merely the relation to religion which steering has to direction. The more important element is obviously the knowledge of the direction.
Thus the advent of a new religion cannot multiply the number of people who can enjoy religious experiences. It does not necessarily swell the ranks of those who
1 As this paragraph is most important for the understanding of what follows, and of religion in general, the reader is invited to look at it again if it gives him any difficulty.
Thus, Christianity, by influencing the world dysgenically, and thereby multiplying the number of the physiologically botched, has done more to kill true religious feeling than to foster it. And modern disbelief, modern atheism, and modern religious indifference, which is not even found among savages, is really the result of the degeneration which the dysgenic values of Christianity, with its contempt for the body, have created.
We have said that religion is chiefly worship and prayer worship and prayer performed with the conviction that there is such a thing as a personal relationship to the invisible power. Conduct is secondary.
Now what do we see about us in England to-day? Not only millions who are quite irreligious, or who feel no impulse to religion, but by their side millions of professing religionists, who nevertheless regard conduct as the chief consideration of the religious man. 1
Leaving aside the millions who are irreligious, and dismissing them with this conviction in our minds, that they are irreligious because they have not the physical stamina to be anything else, and certainly not the dynamic power to experience successful worship or prayer, let us now concentrate upon the so-called religious.
These, in this country, apart from 1,930,000 Catholics, 2
1 Nietzsche, who came from a long line of Protestant parsons, also believed, as an atheist, that conduct was the most important consideration of all.
2 I exclude the Catholics, because there does not appear to be the same tendency among them to let the religious life degenerate into a mere concern about conduct. The number of Catholics given is taken from the Statesman's Year-Book for 1925, but the Authorized Catholic Directory estimates the number at 2,042,630, a difference of about 100,000 to the good for the Holy Catholic Church.
Let it be remembered that, not being a Christian myself, I cannot be suspected of being a partisan in discussing religious sects, and therefore beg the reader to believe that I speak quite objectively.
In the Church of England alone, I believe, has it been possible for certain congregations to have clamoured for, and to have been given "brighter services" by brighter, meaning more entertaining, more snappy, more time-killing; and in the Church of England alone has interpretation of the invisible power fallen into a state of such chaos, owing to the wide disagreement of bishops and theologians, that really the only certain ground left is that dealing with morality or conduct.
It is possibly through the competition or influence of Nonconformity that the idea of the "bright service" has taken such a hold upon the Church of England one hears of it not only in London but in almost every rural village and the frequency with which one hears of churches filling when the singing is good and the vicar or rector is an interesting preacher, and of churches emptying when the service is dull and the preaching is tedious, points to the conclusion that true religious feeling, as I have defined it above, must fast be dying out. For, if the need to worship and to pray formed the mainspring of the attitude of these congregations, we should
In the Nonconformist communities, of course, things are even worse. There, in many cases the congregation cannot even endure set prayers as if the form matters when the heart is full! 1 but prefer the excitement of listening while their spiritual leader performs ever greater feats of extempore supplication each Sunday. In Nonconformist communities, moreover, congregational singing and the sermon loom even more largely in the service than in the Church of England, and one frequently hears people expressing a preference for the Nonconformist service because of its excellent last item the sermon. In particular churches and temples in the country, matters have progressed so far, that well-known people have been invited to speak from the pulpit in order, presumably, "to draw people to church"; and there has even been mention of dramatic and cinema performances.
Now it must be quite obvious that the spirit behind this development in our religious bodies is utterly irreligious, it is utterly foreign to religion as defined above. But it is only one of the many signs of the times, which point to the decay of religious feeling.
One more point must be mentioned about the Nonconformists, however, and that is the lack of reverence which characterizes their attitude to the invisible power, and which in itself is a conclusive proof of one of two things: either that they have not a true interpretation, or else that they are not sufficiently profound to understand it after having obtained it. This irreverence is shown in the pressing and vulgar familiarity of most Nonconformists towards their deity. They hobnob with him. They rub shoulders with him. They make one feel
1 An example of this is the conventional "good morning" which can be uttered every day with complete fullness of heart by a loving child to its mother and vice versâ.
Jesus as messenger, as a darling bearer of private domestic communications. 1
The most convincing sign, however, of the decay of religious feeling is certainly the tendency on the part of the great majority to understand by religion a system of ethics. And the Ethical Society, whose services most of us know, is but an extreme development of this tendency.
The best proof we can get of the prevalence of this misunderstanding, and therefore absence, of religion, is to ask the average so called religious Englishman what he understands by religion. He will immediately begin to recite a list of rules concerning one's duty to one's neighbour, to one's children, to one's charwoman, and to one's tradespeople, 2 and probably conclude with the tag: "If one does one's best to act fairly to all men that is the best religion."
One may acknowledge the nobility of the sentiment, without, however, committing the error of regarding a catalogue of such sentiments, however long and noble, as an adequate equipment for a truly religious mind. And yet, if you examine the average adult, even of the cultured class, in this country, on the nature of religion, this is the sort of thing you will be certain to hear. 3
1 See also the Positive Methodist Hymnal, no. 39; The Methodist Hymn Book, no. 166; The Methodist Free Church Hymns, no. 359. Also A Complete Compendium of Revival Hymns, no. 91 and Salvation Army Music, nos. 5 and 25.
2 An excellent demonstration of this occurred not long ago when the Daily Express invited a number of English celebrities to contribute articles about their religion. More than three-quarters of the contributors were almost wholly concerned with moral precepts.
3 For instance, most readers will recall Matthew Arnold's well-known lines in Chapter I, Part I, of Literature and Dogma: "And so, when we are asked, what is the object of religion? let us reply: Conduct. And
But the chief cause of this degeneration of religious feeling into Church entertainment on the one hand, and ethical preoccupations on the other, must be sought in the physical decline which preceded and accompanied it. For degenerate people, not having the dynamic force to experience contact with the invisible power either in worship or prayer, must in the end become either unbelievers and abandon religion altogether, or else display that misunderstanding of religion which makes them gravitate towards quasi religious observances in the sense of ethics, entertainment, comfort, or a means of safety. Some of the more shallow of the anti-Bolshevists of to-day even conceive Christianity as merely a useful weapon against anarchy. 2
The decline of religion in England, therefore, must not be measured only by the number of those who now profess no religious beliefs whatsoever, and by the prevalence of that attitude towards the Church service which is common both among the Church of England
when we are asked further, what is conduct? let us answer: Three-fourths of life." There are few Nonconformist or even Church of England divines who would take exception to this statement, while to the majority of laymen it seems to be the most profound wisdom.
1 See on this point my Defence of Aristocracy, Chapter V.
2 I say "the more shallow of the anti-Bolshevists" advisedly, because Bolshevism is the outcome of Christian values, the true descendant of Christian tradition in Europe. For a demonstration of this contention see my False Assumptions of Democracy, and also the next section on politics in this chapter.
A counterpart to the loss of religious feeling is probably the equally widespread insistence upon "humour" in everything and in everybody. The characteristics of the religious not the sanctimonious man are, as I have said, that he is profound and dynamic. He takes life and himself seriously. Serious things are not the constant occasion for humorous allusions with him. He feels that while humour destroys the seriousness of a problem or a situation, it also defeats those who would earnestly try to face it. All great men have been serious in this way, and have taken themselves seriously. Had a modern English humorist been at Napoleon's, or Cæsar's, or Luther's elbow, all through the days of these men's hardest struggles, I have no doubt that he would have urged them not to take life or themselves "so seriously"; and by so doing he would, probably without knowing it, have tried to destroy their power. For to-day, the great crime, whether in society or in thought, is precisely to "take things and one's self too seriously." This plea for humour, which is on every one's lips, however, and is simply a confession of weakness, and of the conscious incapacity to do any good, no matter how seriously one may face the problem, is the antithesis of profundity and dynamic power. For humour masters a situation by turning it off into a laugh that is to say, by leaving it alone and cracking a joke about it; whereas serious profundity does not leave a situation alone until it has mastered it. The combination in modern English life, of overmuch humour humour everywhere and over-much muddle and lack of mastery everywhere, is sig-
Not only he who insists on humour in serious things, but he also who is always humorous about serious things, is strongly to be suspected. For the man who comes forward with intricate and pressing problems and jokes about them, is at heart a coward, a man devoid of passion and passionate interests, who fears to be laughed at, if he reveal the seriousness say of a John the Baptist or a Savonarola, and therefore forestalls hilarity deliberately. There is not a joke in the whole of the New Testament. But Christ was a passionate and earnest thinker, and took his problem seriously.
Whether there is the relation which I suspect, between the loss of religious feeling and this ridiculous insistence upon humour on all occasions in modern England, it is not possible to decide; but very passionate people certainly take themselves and life very seriously, and probably the popularity of humour may be due as much to the loss of passion as to the loss of religion. At all events, the loss of religious feeling, whatever may be its associations, is in itself a sufficiently grave matter from the point of view of the future. For no people ever did very great things, who was not religious, and no very great things have ever been possible without religion.
(2) The attitude of the modern Englishman to politics is the outcome of various influences: (a) A decline in the national character, through which it appears to be losing its traditional spirit of self-reliance and independence; (b) A decline in culture, by which Englishmen are losing confidence in the desirability of their self-assertion; (c) The spread of Bolshevistic or levelling ideas, based upon values which have been wrenched from Christian doctrine, and thereby divorced from their associated ideas in that religion; (d) The subordination of the intellectual to the emotional appeal; and (e) The decline of liberty through the inevitable des-
We will discuss the influences separately.
(a) The decline in the national character is probably due, in the first place, to the general decline in health and vitality. The robust ancestor of the modern Englishman, who was feared all over the Continent as a bowman, a pioneer, and a statesman, was bred in an atmosphere which Henri de Tourville has termed "particularist," by which he meant that individual, as distinct from corporate, enterprise was the rule. 2 This spirit of individual enterprise, which was necessarily also a spirit of self-reliance, led to the system of independent estates, and is traceable still in the small self-contained houses, with their small patches of private garden, that can be seen all over England. It is also traceable in many of the traits of the modern English, particularly their readiness to retort "Mind your own business," if you invade their private sphere either with sympathy or with meddlesomeness. It is a spirit which made every one able and anxious to manage his own affairs, and led to the development of robust and self-helping natures. Under its influence, personal liberty was associated with the minimum amount of dependence on and interference with one's neighbour.
It is this spirit of "particularism," or self-reliance, which made the first members of Parliament reluctant to assemble, and caused the constituencies of many districts to display marked apathy or hostility towards the notion of sending a member to the House. To speak of England as the "Mother of Parliaments" is to be guilty of the grossest injustice towards the true spirit of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. The idea of a Parliament was essentially a foreign one, introduced
1 The degeneration which is the inevitable outcome of democratic institutions I have dealt with in great detail in my Defence of Aristocracy.
2 For a searching analysis of the origin of this spirit among the early English, see the excellent book The Mastery of Life, by Dr. G. T. Wrench.
Speaking of the early Parliaments, before the fifteenth century, Mr. Edward Jenks, says: 2 "The counties hated it, because they had to pay the wage of their members. The clergy hated it, because they did not want to acknowledge the secular authority. The boroughs hated it, because the parliamentary boroughs had a higher scale of taxation than their humbler sisters. And all hated it, because a Parliament invariably meant taxation. The members themselves disliked the odium of consenting to taxes, which their constituents would have to pay. Only by the most stringent pressure of the Crown were Parliaments maintained during the first century of their existence. . . . The notion that Parliaments were the result of a spontaneous democratic movement can be held only by one who has not studied, ever so slightly, the facts of history."
This spirit of self-reliance and particularism also accounts for the extraordinary feats of arms performed by small English armies on the Continent Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt, where the English were respectively one to four, one to six, and one to fifteen of the enemy. And the battles of the Peninsular War revealed the same characteristics in Wellington and his army hundreds of years later. It is this spirit which accounts for the ability the best Englishman of all classes have
1 Simon de Montfort, who called the first Parliament in 1265, was a Frenchman, son of Simon IV of Montfort d'Amaury (Normandy) and Alice of Montmorency.
2 A History of Politics, p. 127.
It is this spirit of particularism and individual enterprise that may be said to have made the British Empire, and although it fell into disrepute after the Industrial Revolution, owing to the brutal cruelties to which this Revolution led, 1 it still remains the noblest of manly qualities, and the attribute of the noblest of animals.
But, obviously, the essential prerequisite for the maintenance of such an independent spirit is a sound and robust constitution. A sick lion cannot feel confidently self-reliant, a debilitated lion cannot embark alone upon a perilous enterprise. And that is why although we may deeply deplore the many changes that have come over the English people of late, so that they seem from year to year to clamour for ever more and more corporate action, more and-more linking of arms, mutual assistance, mutual dependence, greater centralization, and less and less distributed and decentralized power that is why we need not altogether despair; because it is just possible that, in these changes, we are confronted only by such modifications of character as inevitably follow lowered vitality and debilitated health, and not by a permanent loss of quality resulting from a. complete metamorphosis of the Englishman's nature. At least this is a possible explanation of the unpleasant phenomena witnessed during the last fifty or more years, and one that, in any case, offers a small ray of hope for the future.
1 It should always be borne in mind that the worst aspects of the Industrial Revolution were no more essential to the spirit of self-reliance than gas warfare is essential to international strife.
It has often been said that the people who lost Rome were not the same as those who built up her greatness. Owing to the extensive mixture of Roman blood with that of Orientals and aliens of all kinds, investigators like Otto Sieck, for instance, declare that the Romans were ultimately completely transformed, no longer the same race, and that it was a rabble of mongrels who witnessed the Decline and Fall of their Great Empire. In this way they are supposed to have been punished for the enslavement of their fellow-men from all over the world, because, owing to the manumission of imported slaves, these ultimately bred extensively with the Roman people.
But to-day we have no slavery at least none of the kind that the Romans had. We have, however, open doors. And the fact that thousands of foreigners from all nations have for centuries been allowed to settle in this country and to inter-marry with its people; the fact, moreover, that through democratic influences, inter-class, inter-trade, and inter-tradition marriages occur almost habitually throughout the nation, may have, and undoubtedly has done, a great deal to modify the native character. Whether the effects of this influence are so far-reaching as to justify us in interpreting such phenomena as the unemployment dole, and the rise of socialism, as the outcome of miscegenation, may, however, be questioned; for the English people have hitherto shown a remarkable capacity for assimilation, and it is probable that even now, if health and vigour were restored to them, that their native self-reliance would recover its strength. Nevertheless, it is possible that miscegenation has played a part in their metamorphosis, and to this extent it ought to be suspected and guarded against in the future.
(b) The decline in culture which has robbed Englishmen of the confidence they once had in the desirability of their own self-assertion, must be obvious to all. In view of the impossibility of demonstrating or upholding the proposition that all men are equal, and the need therefore of admitting that there must be varying degrees of desirability between races and peoples, it is plain that in a limited area, like the terrestrial globe, a superior race or people must have the uncontested right of spreading at the cost of an inferior race or people. This right was assumed and acted upon by the English, as by many another European people, and there is undoubtedly an enormous amount to be said in favour of it, despite all that sentimentalists and humanitarians may argue to the contrary. When the first colonies were founded, however, and even as late as Charles II, we still had a magnificent culture, a splendid character and a glorious spirit to give to the world. Men were still robust and vigorous. They still believed in themselves and were capable of profound feelings. Shakespeare had been dead hardly forty years; Charles I hardly twenty. Seers like Hobbes and Shaftesbury, and artists like Inigo Jones and Milton, had only just produced their masterpieces. The craftsmanship that we know of the period no matter in what department displays taste, conscientiousness, quality, lasting power. Charles I himself, as I have already shown, 1 foresaw the worst evils to which we were then tending, and lost his life through doing his utmost to direct the nation along another path. An Englishman could then hold his head high, and feel that in spreading his culture he was spreading something wholly worthy of acceptance.
1 See my Defence of Aristocracy.
Justified as his doubts may be to-day, however, they could not always have been so justified; for the highest warrant that men can have for wars of aggression and for schemes of Empire, is precisely the superior culture which by these means can be conferred upon peoples whose culture is still brutal or barbarian.
Now it is unquestionably the loss of this highest warrant that has robbed England of her former confidence in her right to self-assertion; and the result is seen not only in the Little Englander spirit, but also in that attitude of mind, largely socialistic and democratic,
1 Curious confirmation of this view has come to hand in the report of an address delivered by Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane to the London Clinical Society on February 18, 1926. Dealing with the question, Has Civilization Failed? Sir William said: "This is a question which always arises when one sees the disastrous effect that association with the white race has upon communities that have for hundreds of centuries had a happy, vigorous life. Can anyone feel that we have conferred the slightest physical benefit on any native race to which we have first sent our merchant seamen and later our missionaries? The former have taught them to drink to excess and have decimated them with diseases, while the latter have altered their habits, teaching them a moral code, which invariably results in their degeneration and degradation." Much more follows in a similar vein, but unfortunately it cannot all be quoted here. (See Daily Press, February 19, 1926.)
(c) The spread of Bolshevistic or levelling ideas, which is the last product of communistic and socialistic teaching, follows naturally from the tendency, in both believers and unbelievers, to regard the morality taught by Christianity as something which may be separated from the rest of the creed, and used as a weapon in a class struggle. The ideas so deeply embedded in Christian teaching the equality of all men, liberty of conscience, the desirability of "unselfishness," the undesirability of riches, the notion that there is such a thing as a universal and imminent justice, which is violated when one child is born in a slum and another in Park Lane; the idea that it is noble and virtuous to sacrifice the greater for the less, and the belief that it is our duty to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us (a credo for busybodies who wish to use violence in order to interfere with their neighbour) 1 all enable the Bolshevist, who may disbelieve utterly in Christian dogma and the rest of the teaching of the Church, to confront his fellows with lofty and moral reason for appropriating their property. He uses moral arguments, which he knows that they, through their traditional Christianity, must believe in as wholly as he does; and he would defeat them in a trice, were it not for the fact that self-interest arms them against him. As Mr. Arthur Ponsonby says, because bishops refuse to exhort their wealthy colleagues in the House of Lords to sell all they have and give to the poor, that is no reason why laymen should not be more logical. 2
1 For a refutation of these principles see my False Assumptions of Democracy.
2 See Religion and Politics, where the author identifies Socialism with Christianity.
The fact that Bolshevism, like Communism and Socialism, is essentially the offspring of Christian teaching, is surely the most obvious of truths. It is demonstrated by the history of the early Christians themselves, who, before the establishment of the Church's power, were communistic and anti-social. And the difference between the revolutionary of ancient Athens and the revolutionary of to-day is precisely this, that the former was a plain honest coveter of his neighbour's goods, whose
1 It is all very well for Christian divines to argue that the words do not warrant this extreme application; but who is to say what they really mean, when once the morality of Christianity has been divorced from the remainder of the Church's teaching? Besides are there not a few eminent Church of England divines who acknowledge the close relationship of their religion to Socialism?
2 I Corinthians i. 27, 28.
In this sense Bolshevisim is Christianity carried into politics, and we have only to read the history of early uprisings, like that organized by John Ball, the famous English priest of the fourteenth century, who led the great peasant insurrection and preached equality on Christian grounds, in order to see the connection. 1
Thus, in combination with the loss of self-reliance, the influence of Christian morality gives us Bolshevism, and leads to the desire to live corporately, or by "unselfish" mutual support and dependence, instead of by the old virile qualities of self-help and individual enterprise.
Coupled with Christian teaching as a whole, I do not deny that the morality of Christianity, even with its exaltation of "unselfishness," may be maintained in a subordinate and orderly position. But when once it becomes divorced, as it has done, either through the work of non-professing Christians, or fanatics, from the dogma and the Church discipline, it merely supplies dangerous devices for revolutionary banners, and is the more difficult to confront because those who oppose it are already believers in its truth.
Again here, therefore, we find that the loss of true religion, and the fastening of attention upon the morality
1 It was John Ball who composed the couplet:
When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?
The tenets of Communism and Socialism, like much of the morality of Christianity, are easily refuted, and their foolishness is almost transparent. 1 As long, however, as the masses consist of people whose general intelligence has been lowered through generations of besotting drudgery, it is not likely that they will be able to detect the gross errors in the socialistic proposals of reform, particularly as these happen to appeal to their acquisitiveness, their indolence, and their earliest notions concerning divine morality.
What makes matters worse is that we no longer possess a body of men in the nation, who are sufficiently profound and intellectual to present a programme of ideas and reform, which can hope for long to resist the school of thought in which the masses are now reared. The Conservative Party, in fact, is as bankrupt in the matter of ideas as the Royalist Party was in France in 1793. The men constituting this party have suffered almost as much as the masses from the evil conditions of the last two centuries. For whereas they may have escaped some of the more besotting occupations of the proletariat, their long specialization in routine pursuits, their ill-health, their Puritanism, and their exclusive devotion to sport and unintellectual exercises, have so lowered their stamina and intelligence, that England now looks round her Empire in vain for the great leader, the great ruler-genius, who will give her vast organization a new mission, a new unity.
I shall deal later with the influences that have operated more especially in reducing the intelligence of the
1 See my refutation of them in various of my works, but particularly in The False Assumptions of Democracy.
(d) The subordination of the intellectual to the emotional appeal arises from two causes the effeminacy of men, and their increasing besotment. The most impartial observers of human nature, hitherto, and even thinkers as friendly to women as Thomas Henry Buckle, 2 and Herbert Spencer, 3 have expressed the view that the emotional reaction in women is more potent in determining their judgment than the exercise of the intellect that is to say, that the subconscious or conscious wish colours the judgment of women, very much more than
1 One acute and thoroughly expert thinker on this question, Disraeli, knew what was at the root of the decline of the governing classes. In Sybil, or The Two Nations (Longmans, Green & Co., 1889), p. 123, he says: "There is no longer, in fact, an aristocracy in England, for the superiority of the animal man is an essential quality of aristocracy." See also p. 32732.
2 See his Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge.
3 See his Principles of Psychology, 3rd Edition, Vol. II, para. 493, pp. 5356.
It would, however, no longer be correct to say that this trait was now confined to women; for to anyone with any experience of male audiences and male debaters, it must be quite obvious that men have become just as emotional in their judgments as women were held to be sixty years ago. Select any phrase or sentence which, while it has no very precise meaning, nevertheless makes a strong emotional appeal, and shout it loudly enough before a male audience to-day such a phrase as "the brotherhood of mankind," or "the equality of men through their common form, their common fate in birth and death, and their common spark of divine fire," or "the noble fight put up to make the world safe for Democracy," or anything else equally undefinable, vague, or incapable of translation into an intellectual form and the chances are that the applause will be both deafening and prolonged. On the other hand, state a profound truth in terms which make a purely intellectual appeal, and nine times out of ten your effort will be unnoticed, even if it has been understood. As I have tried both, and have some experience of public speaking, I presume I am entitled to speak with some authority on this subject.
Now, obviously, the danger of this emotional susceptibility at the cost of intellectual alertness among the manhood of the nation, is that it exposes them to the trickery and charlatanism of any actor, mountebank, demagogue, or political humbug who cares to exploit
It is too often forgotten that emotional thinking, or thinking carried on without the co-operation of the intellect, is regressive thinking that is to say, the thinking that characterizes primitive or uncivilized man. It may be easy and pleasant, because all regressive acts, by taking us back along the ladder of evolution, bring us to what we have practised longest, and to what we are therefore most accustomed to. As man has advanced, however, his thinking has become more and more intellectual, and consequently more and more difficult. But the whole of England is degenerate to-day that is to say, has gone backwards along the ladder of evolution. To suppose that degeneracy is only to be found among the working classes is pure snobbery. We moderns are, therefore, all inclined to be regressive thinkers to believe that which pleases us, and to doubt that which annoys us and we are, therefore, all equally at the mercy of catch phrases, decoy words, and theatrical display, and all equally remain unmoved by a purely intellectual appeal.
But the extent to which regressive or emotional thinking is spreading, is the measure of our political instability; and our womenfolk, who recognize their
(e) The decline of liberty through the inevitable despotism of minorities or majorities in a democratic country, and owing to the abuses which any powerful group or combination behind the Government can perpetrate in the name of the "People," was a result which might have been, and was, in fact, anticipated by the first body of men who were opposed to centralized and democratic control. It has often been said that an individual tyrant can be got rid of, but that a tyrannical majority or minority cannot, and indeed, there is much truth in this statement.
England, chiefly owing to the spirit that once reigned within her shores, still enjoys on the Continent the reputation of being the country of the free. And, indeed, when the King, the Lords and the Commons, contrived to run the country, the idea of liberty was so much bound up with the relation which each class in the nation bore to the other, that it would have been impossible for a commoner say of the fourteenth century to regard his overlords as in any way the enemies or destroyers of his liberty. On the contrary, he knew perfectly well that his overlords secured his liberty, and that the King watched impartially over the whole. 1
The rule, or rather the tyranny, of minorities and majorities may roughly be said to have begun with the
1 Even as late as the reign of Charles I it was considered the glory of the crown, according to the view of the Lord Keeper Coventry, "to maintain the right of the weak against the strong," and Charles I in commenting on the Petition of Right is alleged to have said: "The King's prerogative is to defend the people's libertie." See also Disraeli (Op. cit., p. 488): "In the selfish style of factions, two great existences have been blotted out of the history of England, the monarchy and the multitude: as the power of the Crown has diminished, the privileges of the People have disappeared: till at length the sceptre has become a pageant, and its subject has degenerated again into a serf."
It is possible to distinguish between alleged "political liberty" and "personal liberty"; but the latter is rapidly disappearing. Even a hundred years ago Heinrich Heine was shrewd enough to point out, with some astonishment, that what seemed to satisfy the Englishman was a form of liberty quite inadequate for the taste of the foreigner.
To-day, the Englishman imagines he is free, because he has a vote, and because he can say more or less what he likes in the Press about his rulers and their public behaviour. 2 But, meanwhile, his personal liberty is
1 Speaking of Charles I's fight with Parliament, the Right Hon. J. M. Robertson says: "It is idle to keep up the pretence that what was at stake was the principle of freedom." An Introduction to English Politics, p. 441. See also my Defence of Aristocracy for a full description of what was lost to England with Charles I.
2 See The Enemies of Liberty, by A. S. P. Haynes (London, 1923), p. 138. "We have no individual liberty except in regard to political discussion, and even this liberty is a fraud because it gives us no participation in the government of the country." The whole of Mr. Haynes' book is well worth studying, as is also his excellent previous treatise on the Decline of Liberty in England (London, 1916). In this work he describes with much penetration the steady inroads that have been made on individual liberty since the Reformation, and deals in detail with the increase of bureaucratic tyranny since 1895; the powers of the Caucus as opposed to the illusory powers of government by representation, the recent interferences with private life; the lack of
The very rise of Socialism is, in itself, the best proof of the loss of the spirit which once made England renowned as the land of freedom. For it must be quite obvious, even to the most ardent supporters of Socialism, that personal liberty will vanish under it.
The unfortunate correlative of this decline in personal liberty and in the determination to secure it, is that the sense of responsibility is also on the wane. Only where there is personal liberty can the individual feel, or wish to be, responsible for himself and his actions. And the loss of the feeling of responsibility is probably one of the most serious consequences of our present trend. Again, here, we have not only an inevitable development of democratic government, but also a demonstration of a change in the character of the people, which can certainly not be regarded without concern. For, although we must make allowances for the fact that democratic tyranny, being the most formidable and most irresistible of its kind, and allowing of no appeal and no quarter, is the most difficult to oppose for a majority or ruling minority has no intelligence and no mercy yet, if the old spirit of liberty had survived in the nation,
liberty in the family; the limitations imposed on free discussion in religion and morals, and the constraints imposed on social freedom. "There is no doubt," says Mr. Haynes (pp. 14, 15), "that for the last forty years the whole tendency of British politics has been hostile to individual liberty." And on p. 16, he adds: "In all democratic countries the executive, and usually the legislative, powers ultimately fall into the hands of groups who exploit what they choose to call the popular will for their own purposes."
There can be no doubt that this loss of the old spirit is also to be traced to the decline in vigour and stamina, which physical deterioration, and possibly miscegenation have brought in their train. But how far it is possible to restore to the constitution those guarantees against sectional tyranny, which recent reformers have so unwisely removed, it is difficult to say. For, even if we can envisage so desirable an unravelment as the recovery by the English people of their stamina, their health, and therefore their spirit, it is questionable whether the havoc that degeneration has wrought in our political machinery could ever be repaired.
Let it, however, not be forgotten that to be a revolutionary to day, to be an innovator and a herald of salvation, means precisely that one is in favour of this decentralization of power, this redistribution of power over other bodies than the House of Commons. Socialism and Communism are already vieux jeu antiquated and discredited. To be modern in the best sense to-day, is to see the eternal sameness of human nature so long as it remains in health, to interpret man's periods of flatness, slavery and muddle, as periods of bodily and mental decline, and, therefore, to wish to restore those institutions which man invented in the fulness of his power. This is not reaction, in the ignominious sense, but creation. For it depends on the creation of a new manhood, and of a new national spirit, devoid of decadent and effeminate elements.