School; Monovian Editorials

Editorials - 1956

 

No. 67. Spring, 1956

 


Editor - P. K. San

Assistant Editor - D. J. Wilson
.

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY

ALTHOUGH THE MAJORITY of historical pronouncements are apt to suffer from the fault of being too indiscriminate, one would probably be justified in saying that the birth of modem nationalism dates from the reaction to the Napoleonic Era and to the subsequent European Settlement. When the Great Powers of 1815 succeeded victoriously in banishing Bonaparte himself from the European limelight, they nevertheless failed to suppress the legacy of national feeling that remained where the French armies had withdrawn from the field. At first nationalism began innocently enough. It was only natural that subjected peoples, having imbibed their first taste of freedom, should feel the desire to break the shackles imposed on them by a self-interested overlord. There arose the conception of a free, self-conscious people at liberty to steer their own course, independent of a foreign pilot. National feeling was then in its infancy; but it was strong enough to cause much embarrassment to the Great Powers, who did not fully understand the temperamental moods of the new baby, and resorted to spanking it. Some guidance, possibly that of a kind, understanding, but firm, "parent ", was necessary to see that nationalism developed along the right lines. Once the national aspirations of the country had been satisfied an era of repose was essential in order to reconnoitre, consolidate, and develop; nations, like human beings, must sometimes look to the future, before plunging blindly into an unknown void. But neither the "parent" nor the era of repose was forthcoming. National feeling grew up in its own impetuous way. It chose for its companions the ultra-radical sentiments of extreme political philosophers and the precarious bomb. In the mammoth task of consolidation, national feeling turned to intense national patriotism. The infant nationalism of the early nineteenth century became, in its adult form, a huge monster, the State, relying for its survival on the new weapons of mass indoctrination and the total subjection of the individual. It was in this way that Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy progressed. Nationalism in its totalitarian shape had reached its bursting-point; this is what happened in 1939, when Europe plunged into World War II. As the charter of U.N.E.S.C.O. says, the War was a war " made possible by the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity, equality, and mutual respect of men, and by the propagation in their place, through ignorance and prejudice, of the doctrine of the inequality of men and races ". Add to this, fear, selfishness, economic discontent, and possibly personal ambition of individuals, and you will have a formula for blind nationalism. While the established nations were busy razing one another to the ground, these very issues, a new force began to make  itself heard. In 1945, when Europe returned to a relative state of sanity, the Powers once more had time to look around them. For the first time they became vividly aware that European nationalism had a " baby brother ". This time the challenge came from Asia and Africa. It was the beginning of a new era of national feeling. It was like starting to read a book for the second time. Basically the story had not changed much; in some cases the words " self-determination " or " anti- colonialism " had been substituted for the slightly out-of-fashion " nationalism ". Today, we, the Western Democracies, are in a position similar to that of the Great Powers who met round the table at Vienna in 1815. The scale of our problem is considerably larger, however. The former statesmen had to restore some semblance of order to Europe. Our task is to prevent the disruption of the whole world. Today also political activity seems to have been greatly accelerated. That which was the metaphorical " baby brother " of a few years ago has now grown into a gigantic threat of the present day . The Powers in 1815 were concerned with the discontent of suppressed minorities. Today we face the problem of the national ambitions of teeming millions. Subsequent history has shown that the European Concert was ill- advised in trying to stamp out the inevitable flames of the bonfire lit by its erring infant wards. Today the use of the " big stick " by the Powers to crush nationalism would not only be ill-advised, it would be disastrous. Must Asia and Africa be allowed to let their nationalism grow into the ugly monster that has been prevalent in Europe in the past? Must the mistakes of Europe become the pattern to follow for the under-developed areas of the world? If this is to be the case then the only future for Asia and Africa is a repeat performance of the abominations of totalitarianism that made World War II inevitable. There are two reasons why we should not let this occur. One is that we have a moral obligation to our fellow beings: anybody who has the courage to envisage a future of peace and prosperity must accustom himself to the idea of sparing an occasional thought for the welfare of his fellow men. The second reason stems from commonsense self-interest. If we are to preserve our own standards of life, then we cannot afford to risk them by a clash with over-ambitious patriotism. Statesmen of the past may have had smaller areas to cope with; we have a much smaller world. Former statesmen may have been bewildered by the rise of nationalism; we have the benefit of their experience. We should realise that nationalism must be made to develop peacefully. How are we to achieve this? Coercion would be futile; the extension of a moral argument would be contemned or mistrusted. The answer probably lies in material assistance. It is significant to note that the brand of extreme national patriotism that is the forerunner to totalitarianism has bred swiftest where living standards were initially lowest. The poverty-stricken peasant, the maltreated industrial worker, see a ray of hope in the dictatorial demands of the state with its purported emphasis on the good of the community as a whole. By lending part of our brains and resources to the underdeveloped countries on the verge of a national awakening, there is every prospect of a future of peace and prosperity. And it is only then that people can become individuals, instead of suffering from an over-generalised view for the many.

P.K.S.

 

 

No. 68. Summer, 1956.


Editor - - P. K. SEN.

Assistant Editor - - D. J. WILSON.

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY

Ever since 'homo sapiens' first discovered that by switching on an engine and pulling a few levers he could travel faster than either his own legs, his horse, or the wind could carry him, there seems to have been stirred within the hearts of mankind an insatiable desire to go even faster. Fast cars, express trains and record-breaking jet 'planes are symbolical of an age in which the general rule of the traveller is to reach one's destination as quickly as possible. No longer is Man content to amble along on the back of a horse, a camel or a yak. From Texas to Timbuktu, from China to Peru, indeed everywhere from Aabenraa to Zywiec, the accent is on speed. The principal result of the speed mania has been to make the world a very much smaller place-so small, in fact, that Man is no longer satisfied with the earth around him, but is contemplating enlarging his horizons to embrace the vast potential hinterland around our planet. The possibility of space-travel appears to have become such a probability that an American firm has even started to sell chunks of the Moon. And prospectors of a more absentee variety than their 'forty-niner' ancestors are rushing to stake their claims with bewildering alacrity. It can be only a matter of time before the enterprise of the business man will lead him to conquer fresh lands in places farther afield, such as Mars. It can be only a matter of time before someone invents something to take us to both the Moon and Mars. Since Man seems so certain of conquering space in the not-too-distant future, we should try to find out something about the problems involved in communication with other planets. Is there, for instance, life on Mars, and if so, what will our well dressed Martian neighbours look like? Questions like these have to be answered even if it is only to ' keep up with the Martian Joneses'. There seem to be two con temporary schools of thought regarding the appearance of the Martian-Punch cartoons and American horror-comics. The former nearly always depict our trans-universal neighbour as a small, rubbery creature, half-way between a man and a piece of plasticine, quite bald, with pointed ears, and with eyes on stalks. Since Punch cartoonists rarely, if ever, take their problems seriously, such a description can be of little practical value. Their Martian was probably modelled for by a leprechaun. American horror-comics, on the other hand, are a little more realistic. They generally depict the Martian as a rather unpleasant thug, half-way between a Chicago gunman and a member of the Nazi S.S. For some reason, the 'American' Martian invariably has a green face. Whether this represents a close affinity to nature, or the result of germ-warfare experiments, or a surfeit of spaceship' mal de mer' is a debatable point. Of course, the green face may simply be some exiled Irishman's way of manifesting his national pride. Whatever the case, the green colour of the Martian would present an embarrassing problem in South Africa, where there are presumably no railway Compartments for 'greens only'. A much more likely description of the Martian is one which depicts him as a bowler-hatted, pin-stripe-trousered, rolled umbrella-carrying type, who travels up to town every morning on a Martian 8.45, from a Martian Suburb to a Martian office. This idea has in the past been disregarded as being too unromantic. It is interesting to note that our ideas of the Martian vary according to whether he arrives on our planet before we reach his. If the Martian gets here first, then presumably his planet is in a more advanced state of scientific development than ours, and this would be quite intolerable. The Martians would almost certainly be of the American horror-comic brand, ruthless, merciless slaves to a totalitarian dictator unequalled in obnoxiousness by anyone save George Orwell's 'Big Brother'. Furthermore, these Martians would probably go around on flying motor scooters, firing happily on the luckless mortals below with paralysing ray-guns. Of course, the Martians might turn out to be quite decent fellows, who could learn to speak English, play cricket and drink tea. In which case, we might even consider letting them into the Commonwealth. If, on the other hand, we got to Mars first, then presumably we should be in a more advanced state of scientific development. In these circumstances, the Martian immediately shrinks in our imagination to a stalk-eyed, Punch-like leprechaun. To borrow a phrase from io66 and All That, our conquest of Mars would be a 'good thing'. It is as well to remember, though, that from the point of view of the Martians it would be a 'bad thing'. They would consider our acquisition of their planet as an act of aggression by a 'land-grabbing imperialist'. And as everyone knows, 'land-grabbing imperialists' are not quite the thing nowadays.

 

P.K.S.

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