No. 58. Spring, 1951.
Editors: R. E. DURGNAT, A. J. KNOCK
To be a good citizen to-day is an almost impossible task. The degree and the range of awareness demanded of the citizens of a democracy would tax all but the ablest and most determined minds. All the influences of our society to-day tend to make the mind feeble and flabby, to turn it into a passive receptacle for the shoddy and quite incompetent fodder of radio and television; propaganda ensures that the emasculated mind shall listen only to the very loudest loudspeakers and the most powerful ampliliers. What the propagandists claim the people want is trumpeted into their ears till all their own interests are forgotten and their own ideas buried deep in this cacophonous sepulchre of sound. We know more about the love life of Hollywood film-stars than we do about the life (or death), of the Chinese, of the Koreans, of the Greeks, of the people in whose lands men wage their battles for liberty and civilization-- which, of course both sides are fighting heroically to defend. It is all very easy to fall back onto the comfortable idea that only the government and the experts need bother about affairs and that all we, the people, need to do is once in five years to put a cross opposite certain names on a ballot- paper, like a sort of super football pool: but how can the people know whom to vote for if they don't know in what circumstances the Government is acting, and what the results of those actions are? A lazy democrayc gets, and deserves, a dictatorship. We in Britain are uncomfortably aware of the fact and out violent and panic-stricken defence of our liberties (against snoopers, censorship, centralisation and so on) are last-ditch measures in a perpetual situation which would never arise if our democracy insisted on controlling, not on being controlled by, our Governments. Unfortunately, to be a good citizen involves such tremendous difficulties that few would or could undertake the task. Not merely would we need to take an interest in (for instance) agriculture, population problems and general conditions all over the world today, but the roots of these problems in the past. We would have to take an interest in the histories, not only of present-day trouble spots like Korea, India. Malaya and French Indo-China, but of potential trouble spots like Italy, Persia and South Africa. (How dull and far away all these places are Yet who would say that what happens in these places will not affect us personally?). Equally important, therefore, is an understanding of historical and economic cause and effect. And so the subjects spread on and on till the entire mind must be transformed and thinking revolutionised. The prospect is (frankly) a grim one for a race reared on Pickles and Mrs. Dales Diary or the vicissitudes of eleven Englishmen clad in white on a tour of Australia. One would have a hard time trying to persuade the public that there are more pleasurable and more exciting relaxations than those of passive partisanship and vicarious sportsmanship; that it is more fun to have a go ' than to listen to a whole programme full of Lancashire men earning huge jackpots, more fun to play the piano than to listen to the no doubt praiseworthy efforts of Charlie Kunz. Only education can accomplish such a feat and obviously it is fighting a losing battle. Unfortunately, unless it does manage to create an intelligent and active body of citizens-and citizens means more than just people or classes or organizations or patriots-we are likely to pay the penalty. What has posterity ever done for me? and "Apres moi le deluge" are the favourite cries of those who urge irresponsibility. Once they were, on their own terrain, quite justified: they were justified until the days of the steamship and the railway engine; the aeroplane converted their jubilant call into the sandchoked burble of the ostrich, and the atom-bomb (how bored we are with the phrase, to be sure!) into a savage praying for dry weather in the middle of the Monsoon season. How many of us would escape if the war which every moment threatens us were to explode into' reality ?
No. 59 Summer, 1951
Editors: R. E. DURGNAT, A. J. KNOCK
One of the hardest truths to realise today is that we arc living on inherited capital. We have fought two world wars largely on inherited capital, to such good purpose that we are almost financially dependent on the benevolence of America: but there is a deeper sense in which we are living on capital. It is, I think, in the name of Humanism that the' two wars were fought and won. We are fighting now in the names of freedom, tolerance and justice, the basic virtues of Humanism. But how long our faith in these principles continue when the assumptions on which they rest are undermined, when for so many the forces of Christian belief and custom have lost significance and strength? All the watchwords and ideals to which the last century gave such sincere devotion and in whose name the present society has been built arc ultimately based on Christianity. If we, falling in with the humanistic tradition of the recent past, continue to cut ourselves loose from religious foundations of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, it is indeed hard to see how anyone can be for long persuaded to subscribe to a sentimental political idealism demanding that all men should be free, equal brothers. We have had in our own time the terrible example of an anciently Christian country which turned its back on Christian ideal and tradition in favour of a cynical and desperate materialism. In our own country we have till now maintained a balance between the forces of tradition and innovation. Whereas in Europe the political truths which England helped to formulate were distorted and pushed to a point where they became falsehoods, in this country, to quote Professor Butterfield : "More of Christianitv remained in our traditions, more of nonconformity and less of atheism, even in liberalism, and much of the Christian outlook remained in a secularized form, even among those people who had thrown overboard Christian dogma. Above all, we retained more strongly than other countries the respect for personality as such-respect for the other man's views, for example-the tolerance which does not seek to wipe the other man out as a rogue or a fool or a vested interest." But nowadays our situation is different. Our laws, our parliamentary institutions, our freedom of the individual are no long admiration of the world. In the face of a militant atheism which asserts that true happiness is only obtainable by the subordination of the individual to the State, we can only offer a systcm of indivdualism almost cut off from the belief in God which gives it meaning. It is the assertion of the supreme value of the single human soul in the sight of God that can alone make up for the manifest economic superiority of a nation united by tyranny. Our own age and country arc well summed up in T.S. Eliot's bitter words : "...a decent godless people, Their only monument the asphalt road And a thousand lost golf- balls.
It is finally the urgency of the times that must surely force us to the choice between the moral code of the materialist and that of the Christian. Our own fate and the world's hang on the character of our leaders in the next few years: we can gain thc whole world not by losing, but by gaining our souls.