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No. 84 June, 1964

 

Editors: B. HAYHOW. H. MORGAN, J. D. BEANSE, R. C. BIGGS
Assistant editors: P. D. AVIS, P. J. THORNE

Without claiming any visionary powers, it would seem unlikely that a mere editor could envisage the state of our society a hundred years hence. Yet what can be determined. and which proves to be the paradox of our modern "affluent society", is the pattern of human behaviour since the beginning of the present century. The gradual reduction of physical hardship has met with the growth of an uneasy discontentment within the community. Homo Sapiens, adapting successfully to a changing environment for thousands of years, has reached the point of no return. At last he controls his own cosy ecological niche. Natural forces are replaced by consumer goods, the elements have given way to weather satellites and snow ploughs. It is unfortunate that emotion is responsible for what we are pleased to call our personality and character, since "logical" man has made intellect the only criterion for man's success. Yet he is bewildered by the complexities of his inventions and bored by the inertia which they force upon him. Unhappily, it seems that man's lot is always to be fighting a battle with his own discontentment, at a time when his store of tenacity is sorely tried by the age-old humbling blocks of fear and suspicion. It is all very well to cushion life with luxury, provided we never allow the artificial to become a reason for living; if we do, man will see his identity dissolve to a messy glue. If he tries to redeem his individualism by rebelling against a society he believes responsible for his lethargy, he may succeed in vomiting the pill - never the sugar coating. Protest is useful; there can be no doubt of this. But protest in excess is puny, for then it becomes not a specific grievance, but an expression of hopelessness. The physical discomforts imposed by his environment on Pithecanthropus are not as hopeless as the mental voids which accompany today's synthetic environment of slick sophistication. Heaven protect us from near-sighted intelligence! It is as easy to denigrate the rebel in "society", as it is hard to absolve those who seek expression for their boredom by belting into old ladies. Whichever side we take, comment is useless. Logical reasoning is foolish since emotions are not logical, nor can they be standardised. The truth of the matter is that so-called "protests" are losing their character and becoming commonplace. To relieve the monotonies and frustrations imposed upon us by the intellectual wizards in their ivory towers, we rebel. We rebel against the environment we created and so enact the ultimate stupidity. Every time mental stagnation is released in violence or disobedience we see the "civilised" man humiliate himself. We are protesting that our latent animal savagery prevents us from accepting the material advances provided by an intelligence uncluttered by a set of emotions which belong to the jungle. There are two courses open to us. We can gratify our emotional immaturity by trying to recapture the atmosphere of the early 1940s, with all their paraphernalia of sentiment and animal gregariousness, or, if our intelligence evolves still further, we may eventually achieve a "brave new world" of maximum efficiency and minimum sentiment. Only this is certain; on the one hand we cannot condone a regression of intellect nor can we become the passive instruments of Huxley's intellectual society. We must learn to compromise it is not enough for us to tolerate sociological advances and soak up their comforts like so many dead sponges; we must adapt. have we forgotten how to? Let us learn to adapt to the changes wrought by man, just as we once adapted to the changes enforced by nature. Perhaps by 2064 man will have wisdom enough to realise that sophistication is merely a symbol of man's intelligence, and that society, although formed emotionally, evolves by intellect and must not be overlooked by the very conditions it is able to generate. If man has this wisdom, then he will be on the threshold of a new era, free at last from the chattels of primeval animalism.


B.H.

 

No. 85 December 1964

 

Editors: I. D. BEANSE, R. L BIGGS, P. D. AVIS, P. J. THORNE
Assistant Edltors: D. STEWART, G. SWAN

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY
During the last 200 years the old, traditional way of life and the craftsman system have been shattered, to be replaced by the loose-fitting fragments of the machine-age and the present day mass-society, with its consumer-goods; although something has been gained, something has been lost-perhaps irrevocably so. Standardisation, centralisation, impersonality, and all that they imply, are creeping into our lives. Spontaneity, friendship, warmth and those qualities necessary for the development of individuality and a sense of independent significance are on the ebb. We are becoming increasingly introspective, increasingly withdrawn into ourselves. In a mass-society, where the consumer is king, we are exhorted to increase production, or face stagnation and ruin. That our markets are nearing a saturation point is irrelevant; an increase in production and gross national wealth must be sustained at all costs. Never mind that the costs are measured in terms of an increasing birth rate and an immoral raping, and near exhaustion, of our planet's dwindling resources, landscape and beauty. The consumer is king, and to serve him we have installed a vast juggernaut of machinery, red-tape, factories and men. And yet, what can we do? We are all agreed that materially we are far better off than our grandparents. But should we judge a man, should we judge happiness, by material wealth alone? We are all agreed that we are more literate than our forbears. But is the sole purpose of education an understanding of the three R's, with a string of letters tagged onto our names to prove our competency? We can of course beat our heads against a wall of bureaucracy, or follow the mass-line of least resistance and greatest comfort. Quantity, rather than quality, is becoming the criterion for success in our society. However, we cannot condemn people for a lack of pride in their work and for their lack of respect of the community. It is not their fault that they have not enthusiastically accepted the factory system. They have been marshalled along under the guise of progress. The only difficulty is that progress once started cannot be stopped. No. There seems little that can be done. We are becoming a nation of individuals with no outlet for our individualism; a nation, for the most part, procuring progress for the sake of advance alone. We are advancing, undoubtedly, but whether we are advancing forward is another matter. But there is still hope. The "new morality" has led to a far greater questioning of accepted standards than used to be prevalent. To some extent matters of moral importance are becoming a decision for the conscience rather than for society to decide upon. Most important of all, our system of education has more or less escaped the advances progress has brought. It has been said that if you give me the child till he is seven, then I will give you the man. But education does not stop at seven. It is a continuous process, which manages to distil over, even into adult life. In our schools there still exists a feeling of pride in work; the school still commands the respect which the family is losing. it is still a close-knit, personal society. But for how long will it remain so? Already the tendency towards larger, and hence more efficient, units is apparent. Already the greater fairness and better equality of opportunity that must be present in a larger community-or so the argument goes-is being emphasised. The case for comprehensive schooling, however, has not yet been proved; it is still in its experimental stage. We should, therefore, be wary of the efforts being made to impose this system upon us. The present tripartite system is by no means perfect, particularly in the second-rate teaching that is sometimes present in secondary-modern schools, but who can yet say that comprehensive schooling will be any better? Certainly, it may turn out its products more efficiently and in greater quantities, but something must be sacrificed to obtain this result. Only time will tell whether or not it is just the same end satisfying another means.

R.L.Biggs.