Typos p. 8 rigourously [= rigorously]; p. 8: antiquiy [= antiquity]
Slavery, life and revolution
Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 19, 1941, pp. 78
- p. 7 -
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that I have often offended both relatives and friends by this defect, because there appears to be in nearly every owner-driver a sensitiveness which makes him resent a refusal to dash with him through the countryside in order to watch the hedges fly past at lightning speed.
Why? This is a mystery I have not solved. But there is another aspect to the car which, strange to say, I have not yet seen mentioned anywhere, although it has been in my mind from about the year 1905 onwards.
Let me first invite the reader to picture ancient Rome before Stoicism and Socraticism had begun to work.
Sauntering through the Capital, a Roman would come across human beings more or less like himself in looks and colour chained to doorways like dogs, and he would know them as the slave-porters of the houses to which they belonged. A perfectly familiar sight, he would take it for granted.
Coming from the baths, he would see ladies and gentlemen with their paraphernalia carried behind them by male and female slaves on whose backs were clearly visible the wales of floggings which their well-to-do and highly respectable owners had recently administered.
Over his wine at a party, a smart and cultivated lady friend would indignantly inform him that her female slaves had that morning run away, and he would comfort her by the assurance that they would soon be recaptured, although he might know that his charming companion habitually took pleasure in sticking long pins into their bare breasts while they were attending to her elaborate toilet.
At the baths he might rebuke a neighbour for having kept him awake the previous night. On enquiry, the neighbour would learn that the agonised yells of his slaves being thrashed in the ergastulum had been the cause of the disturbance. But it would be the inconvenience to the neighbours, not the inhumanity to the slaves, that would be frowned upon.
All this was taken for granted. Slaves deliberately maimed and mutilated would confront our Roman at every step, and benevolent and respected old gentlemen would stop him to complain that, unfortunately, old age meant that one's slaves had also grown old and decrepit and had to be cast out to make room for new ones. "Such a bore training these new fellahs!" The inhumanity of turning out to perish of want, servants who had worked all their lives for a family was not considered!
Now, if our Roman happened to be unusually sensitive and thoughtful, secretly offended by all he saw, and alive to the possible existence of occult forces, might he not have pondered in private the not improbable effect on human destiny of all this aching hopeless misery? Might he not perhaps have asked himself whether through all this contempt of human dignity, through the silent prayers and curses of this outraged slave population, currents were not possibly being generated which would one day sweep the whole ghastly scene away?
What a relief! What a cleansing of the landscape!
Nor would the slave risings of 132131 B.C., and 104101 B.C., and the Spartacus revolt of 7371 B.C., have satisfied him. They would have seemed too clumsy not magic enough! Only when the sweeping reforms, heralded by the Stoics and Socratics, began to take shape, would he had he lived have perceived the kind of occult echo he was expecting to the volume of human wailing. These he would have recognised as the reverberation which magic forces might possibly have called into being.
In the same way, though at a much lower speed of emotional vibration, a sensitive Londoner of 1880 and 1900 might have been moved by the distressing spectacle of animal suffering.
It was not the suffering envisaged by the R.S.P.C.A., or that which benevolent interference could check; but the kind caused by treating living creatures like machines aye, worse than machines, as I shall show! which by callousness, operating consistently for months at a stretch, turned fine animals into wrecks in two or three years. Its worst aspect was that, like the suffering of the Roman slaves, it was unnoticed and taken for granted by everybody except, perhaps, a few horse lovers who, sick at heart, watched the willing beasts tear their hearts out, not once, but ten to a dozen times to the half hour, to restart a loaded bus or tram. Along the flat? Uphill? A hot day? No one asked!
Hundreds of thousands of these 'bus and tram passengers would have shrunk at the thought of killing a fly. But this only made the phenomenon more distracting, because it was a commonplace, and therefore hopeless.
To such a sensitive Londoner, the sharp ruthless clang of the bell was often a stab. If he had a fine ear he might hear the exceptional driver curse under his breath. "What! Again?"
Musing, like our Roman of two millenniums ago, he might also have wondered whether all this inarticulate misery, this deep sadness of the horse's ears turned back to catch the dreaded note of the bell, just as the load was once more in full swing, might not be generating magic currents which, by occult means, were to sweep this intolerable spectacle away. Perhaps at that very moment inventors were already feverishly at work, trying to adapt the internal combustion engine to locomotion.
Was there any connexion? Who can say?
At any rate, when the motor-car first appeared, it did sweep this ghastly institution from our streets, and it was in this great transformation that I, at least, have always seen its one and only redeeming feature.
Incidentally, however, it is interesting to note, as casting a sidelight on the unconscious brutality of men when under the influence of powerful current values, that when at last the motor bus and electric tram-car did appear, then and then only was stopping between stages rigourously disallowed! Nor is this all! For such is the tender respect felt by modern man for the machine (especially for the motor-car, probably owing to its associations of wealth) that in side-streets, without traffic lights, heavy horse-drawn vans can, to this day, be seen held up in full swing by a constable in order to allow a car to pass without decelerating.
But this by the way!
At any rate, it was probably no less magic than the fact that the Stoic and Socratic philosophies which ultimately removed the spectacle of slavery from Rome should in the excess of their terrific momentum, have carried humanity to unwholesome extremes in charity and compassion, and have led to such a disregard for higher claims, to such a universal salving and succouring of the botched and the polluted, that in the end all human stocks have become infected, tainted, and suffering, so that the Roman slave's revenge has culminated in an almost world-wide bondage to dysfunction, degeneracy and disease.
This ultimate repercussion of the anguish of generations of Roman slaves is certainly severe a thousand times more so than the pain and death due to that equine revenge, the motor-car. Perhaps, however, this is only just; for the sufferings endured by the horses that drew our public conveyances for decades was but a drop compared with that of the slaves during centuries of Roman antiquiy.