IN THE following article which appeared in the London DAILY TELEGRAPH of June 22, 1976, Duncan Williams, the author of “Trousered Apes” discussed the theme of his book, “To Be Or Not to Be.”
The author clearly outlined the choice facing the Western World – a choice facing South Africa no less – where deadly liberalism is fast corrupting the thinking present Western leaders. – Editor, S.A. Observer.
One recent characteristic of Western society has been the tendency for people to adopt a totally cynical attitude towards duties, coupled with an almost religious scrupulosity concerning “rights”.
A mentality has consequently emerged based on the lunatic premise that humanity itself is a “special case” and that nature will indulgently suspend its laws so that individually and collectively we can proceed to gratify each and every impulse and bizarre want with no bill to pay.
Nature, however, is emphatically not permissive and any logical mind must recognize the inexorable fact that Faustian man’s irrational belief in limitless material progress has come face to face with a finite, fragile world, against which his infinite, often artificially fanned, aspirations will batter in vain.
Unless we speedily adopt a humbler, more prudent attitude, individually and socially, we will be ecologically and spiritually bankrupt, and the receivers, in the shape of famine, pestilence and nihilism, will take possession.
Such is human nature that today’s “luxuries” indiscernibly but inevitably become tomorrow’s necessities and no sooner has one material ambition been gratified than man has to invent some further “want”. The contemporary inhabitant of a council house, for example, in terms of heating, lighting, variety of food, mobility and general material comforts enjoys a higher standard of living than did a Tudor monarch, yet he remains dissatisfied, clamoring for still more.
Happiness (never contentment, for which in our spiritual illiteracy we have exchanged those juvenile, self-confusing passions – exhilaration and excitement) can be bought, according to orthodox Mammonism, and if dissatisfaction persists after acquiring yet another car then happiness will be, must be, achieved with the next purchase or pay rise.
This attitude has persisted throughout history but certain, unprecedented, factors today add an ominous dimension to the situation and these, unless checked or curtailed, will inevitably produce the ultimate catastrophe.
First, there is secularism. Organized religion, in past centuries, despite its manifest, manifold faults did inculcate a spirit of reverence, of awe and humility towards God and towards nature, his locum tenens on earth. The absence of these qualities today, no matter, how superficially beneficial in materialistic terms, has nevertheless brought the human species to what Toynbee has called the eleventh hour, not just of civilization but of survival.
With the modish rejection of the concept of deity as mere “myth” has also gone the idea of ultimate accountability, of any sense of stewardship of his creation; consequently we no longer prudently and humbly use natural resources but embark Gadarene-like on a policy of rapacious exploitation and abuse. It is no coincidence that various forms of humanism (or “man worship”) together with secularized politics should be regarded today as the sole subjects deserving serious academic and social debate. Opposing factions claiming a Marxist, capitalist or Maoist solution as the only tenable one vie each other, ignoring the basic threat.
Politicians of all parties, and their adherents, together with trade unionists, resemble children engrossed in throwing balls at a coconut shy while behind their back, unobserved, a tornado is approaching to engulf their game.
In any event the game is almost totally irrelevant. The Soviet Union is as busily polluting its natural heritage as is that capitalist bastion, the United States; the state-owned steel works at Port Talbot has transformed a once-pleasant, fertile valley into a barren hell-on-earth surpassing the collective imaginings of Dante and Milton.
No mediaeval serf with sense and dignity would dream of exchanging his lot with the contemporary “free” spirits who work there under the direction of their “new, unhappy lords” – the bureaucrats, whose recently acquired mobility enables them, should they wish, to live miles away in rural surroundings. At least the old ironmaster shared to a degree the environment to which he owed his livelihood and to which he condemned his workers. (An unbelievable environmental transformation would occur were a law to be passed compelling all citizens to live within, say, three miles of their employment.)
Secondly there is the concurrent upsurge of egalitarianism and technology. This has resulted in the suicidal premise that everyone has an equal, inalienable “right” to everything his imagination can conjure up, or that man – completely amateur sorcerer – can invent.
Prof. Lynn White diagnosed the problem when he wrote: “Science was traditionally aristocratic, speculative, and intellectual in intent; technology was lower-class, empirical, action-orientated.” The sudden fusion of these two in the last century, was related to the “slightly prior and contemporary democratic revolutions which tended to assert a functional unity of brain and hand. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications.”
The demand for a third London airport is one illustration of the truth of White’s statement; but why stop at three? Given constant “progress” where will the 20th be sited?
Thirdly, we are adding approximately 190 000 potential “consumers” to the world daily. The phenomenon of ever-growing numbers, increasingly demanding equal shares in a world in which, relatively speaking, space, food and consequently the opportunity to live a life of human dignity and significance are all rapidly diminishing would seem to indicate a future of total and unrelieved strife. Inflation and internecine guerilla warfare are merely symptoms of the ruthlessness of a purely secular, materialistic society.
Fourthly, there is the curse of educational specialization, for the specialist “one who never makes small mistakes while moving towards the grand fallacy.
It is one of the tragic ironies of our time that when problems of the environment are seen to be inextricably related, specialists are becoming increasingly specialized. Newman’s idea of a university was that of an intellectual institution, performing for the mind the same function that a gymnasium does for the body – in other words the exercise of the whole intellect. No sane man would attend a gymnasium daily, solely to exercise one limb while neglecting all the others.
If such a physical programme were followed, ultimately one limb would function perfectly while the others would be cripplingly withered and weak. Mentally, over-specialization has resulted in a similar crippling of society – in a civilization which has lost meaning because the parts no longer function for the ultimate good of the whole.
Finally we have the “permissive” society – a product of anchorless, self-destructive egotism. Far from fostering brotherly love, such a basically selfish attitude in our over-crowded world, unless challenged, is much more likely to reduce humanity to a Hobbesian “war of all against all” –the ultimate anarchy.
I am well aware of the advantages of affluence, stemming from the industrial and technological revolutions, and am emphatically not advocating a simplistic return to ignoble savagery, but prosperity can exact too high a price and any economic system worthy of serious examination must be predicated on the survival of the species which it purports to benefit; no one, presumably, would ascribe “prosperity “to a childless, dead millionaire.
The problems posed may seem daunting. However, if an individual visits his doctor and is faced with the alternative of curtailing smoking or dying, the odds are he will modify his habits and live.
This is the essential message of my book, “To Be or Not to Be”. Either we recreate a society healthily blending our spiritual and cultural life and our materialistic appetites – one based on the classical concepts of beauty, order, balance, harmony and restraint – or emphatically we will not survive.
It is late, but not too late for a gradual and civilized alternative to emerge, provided informed and concerned persons declare a moratorium on pettiness, factionalism and ideological differences and unite in what is surely the greatest and most urgent cause of all: mankind’s health and survival.
To Be or Not to Be, by Duncan Williams, published by Davis-Poynter, 20 Garrick Street, London W.C. 2E 9BJ.
THE whole history of the White man’s retreat is one of betrayal by the moderate conservatives who at every stage, try to find an accommodation with the dynamic forces of change and revolution.
History is replete with the disasters this brings in its train, but man never learns.
There are three forces involved, as follows:
- The activists of change: liberals, do-gooders, communists and so-called Christian humanists.
- On the other side, those who are aware of the disasters which will follow and who set out to oppose the change, or at least change on essential points.
- In between, a big mass of people, in leading positions everywhere, who will not face facts, who would prefer to live in a conservative atmosphere, but rather than face up to the aggressive dynamism of the Left will either remain silent or will even try to persuade the real conservatives to compromise with the extreme forces of destruction in some blind hope that this will appease and at least gain for them some respite from the strain of making decisions.
The third group, is the most pernicious of all the traitors. – DR. R. GAYRE, in MANKIND QUARTERLY.
THE definition of cowardice is to see what is right and not do it. – CONFUCIUS
NOW they’re saying that even the future’s not like it used to be. – TOM ANDERSON.