Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ships under any flag. I ask you, then, Mr. Smith, to hear what I have to say, and to decide by your own judgment whether I am right or wrong.

Now, then, what is the problem? I call it the problem of life. We have here a country and a people. The problem is, given a country and a people, find how the people may make the best of the country and of themselves.

First, then, as to the capacities of the country and the people.

The country is fertile and fruitful, and well stored with nearly all the things that the people need.

The people are intelligent, industrious, strong, and famous for their perseverance, their inventiveness and resource.

It looks, then, as if such a people in such a country must certainly succeed in securing health, and happiness, and plenty for all.

But we know very well that our people, or at least the bulk of. them, have neither health, nor pleasure, nor plenty.

These are facts; and, so far, I assume, you and I are quite in accord.

Now I assert that if the labor of the British people were properly organized and wisely applied, this country would, in return for very little toil, yield abundance for all.

I assert that the labor of the British people is not properly organized, nor wisely applied; and I undertake to show how it might and should be organized and applied, and what would be the results if it were organized and applied in accordance with my suggestions.

The ideal of British society to-day is the ideal of individual effort, or competition. That is to say, every man for himself. Each citizen is to try as hard as he can to get for himself as much money as he can, and to use it for his own pleasure, and leave it for his own children.

That is the present personal ideal. The present national ideal is to become “the workshop of the world.” That is to say, the British people are to manufacture goods for sale to foreign countries, and in return for those goods are to get more money than they could obtain by developing the resources of their own country for their own use.

My ideal is that each individual should seek his advantage in co-operation with his fellows, and that the people should make the best of their own country before attempting to trade with other countries.

I propose, Mr. Smith, and I submit the proposal to you who are a sensible and practical man, as a sensible and practical proposal, that we should first of all ascertain what things are desirable for our health and happiness of body and mind, and that we should then organize our people with the object of producing those things in the best and easiest way. The idea being to get the best results with the least labor.

And, now, Mr. Smith, if you will read the following books for yourself, you will be in a better position to follow me in my future letters:

Thoreau's “Walden." Boston: Houghton, Miffin & Co.,

$1.50.

“Problems of Poverty,” John Hobson, M.A. London:

Methuen, 2s. 6d.
Industrial History of England,” H. de B. Gibbins, M.A.

London: Methuen, 25. 6d. There are also a Fabian tract called “Facts for Socialists," price five cents, and a pamphlet called “Socialism," a Reply to the Pope, price five cents, which will be useful. The last-named pamphlet is by Robert Blatchford, and can be had at the Commonwealth office.

CHAPTER II.

The PRACTICAL SCHOOL. Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land also is full of idols: they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.- Isaiah.

As I said in my first chapter, the problem we have to consider is, given a country and a people, find how the people may make the best of the country and themselves.

Before we can solve this problem, we must understand the country and the people, We must find out their capacities; that is to say, what can be got from the country; what it will yield; and what can be got from ourselves; what we can do and be.

On these points I differ from the so-called practical people of the Manchester school, for I believe that this country will yield a great deal more of the good things of life than the people need; and that the people can be much happier, healthier, richer, and better than they now are.

But the Manchester school would have us believe that our own country is too barren to feed us, and that our people are too base and foolish to lead pure, wise, and honest lives.

This is a difference as to facts. I will try, presently, to show you that the facts are in my favor.

You, Mr. Smith, are a practical man; you have reason and judgment.' Therefore you would do a pleasant thing in preference to an unpleasant thing. You would choose a healthy and agreeable occupation in preference to an unhealthy and disagreeable occupation. You would rather live in a healthy and

agreeable place than in an unhealthy and disagreeable place. You would rather work four hours a day than twelve hours a day. You would rather do the things you would like to do, and have the things you wish for, than do the things you dislike to do, and lack the things you wish for.

You live in Oldham, and you are a spinner. If I ask you why you live in Oldham, and why you work in the factory, you will say that you do it in order to “get a living."

I think also that you will agree with me on three points: First, that Oldham is not a nice place to live in; second, that the factory is not a nice place to work in; third, that you don't get as good a living as you desire.

There are some things you do which you would rather not do; and there are some things you wish for and cannot get. Now, suppose we try to find out what are the things it is best for us to have, and which is the best and easiest way to get them. I hope that up to this point I have been quite clear, and

practical, and truthful.

Of course you have read Robinson Crusoe. You know that he was shipwrecked upon an island, and had to provide for himself. He raised corn, tamed goats, dried raisins, built himself a house, and made vessels of clay, clothing of skins, a boat and other useful things. If he had set to work making bead necklaces and feather fans before he secured food and lodging you would say he was a fool and that he did not make the most of his time and his island. But what would you call him if he had starved and stinted himself in order to make bead necklaces and feather fans for some other person who was too lazy to work?

Whatever you call him, you may call yourself, for you wasting your time and your chances in the effort to support idle people and vain things.

Now to our problem. How are we to make the best of our country, and of our lives? What things do we need in order to secure a happy, healthy, and worthy human life?

We may divide the things needful into two kinds mental and physical. That is to say, the things needful for the body and the things needful for the mind. Here again I differ very much from the self-styled practical people of the Manchester school.

My ideal is frugality of body and opulence of mind. I suggest that we should be as temperate and as simple as possible in our use of mere bodily necessaries, so that we may have as much time as possible to enjoy pleasures of a higher, purer, and more delightful kind.

Your Manchester school treat all social and industrial problems from the standpoint of mere animal subsistence. They do not seem to think that you have any mind, With them it is a

ure

question of bread and cheese and be thankful. They are like the man in “Our Mutual Friend" who estimated the needs of the ferryman's daughter in beef and beer. It was a question, he said, “of so many pounds of beef, and so many pints of porter." That beef and that porter were the “fuel to supply that woman's engine,” and, of course, she was only to have just as much fuel as would keep the engine working at high pressure. But I submit to you that such an estimate would be an insult to a horse.

Your Manchester school claim to be practical men, and always swear by facts. As I said before, I reverence facts; but I want all the facts, not a few of them. If I am to give a verdict, I must hear the whole of the evidence.

Suppose a gardener imagined that all a flower needed was earth and manure, and so planted his ferns on the sunny side and his peaches on the shady side of his garden. Would you call him a practical man?

You will see what I mean. Soil is a "fact," and manure is a "fact." But the habit of a plant is a “fact" also, and so are sunshine and rain “facts."

Turn, then, from plants to men, and tell me are appetites the only facts of human nature? Do men need nothing but food, and shelter, and clothes ?

It is true that bread, and meat, and wages and sleep are "facts,” but they are not the only facts of life. Men have imaginations and passions as well as appetites.

I must ask you to insist upon hearing all the evidence. I must ask you to use your eyes and ears, to examine your memory, to consult your own experience and the experience of the best and wisest men who have lived, and to satisfy yourself that although wheat and cotton and looms and plows and bacon and blankets and hunger and thirst and heat and cold are facts, they are not the only facts, nor even the greatest facts of life.

For love is a fact, and hope is a fact, and rest, and laughter, and music, and knowledge are facts; and facts which have to be remembered and have to be reckoned with before we can possibly solve the problem of how the British people are to make the best of their country and themselves.

A life which consists of nothing but eating, and drinking, and sleeping, and working, is not a human life-it is the life of a beast. Such a life is not worth living. If we are to spend all our days and nights in a kind of penal servitude, continually toiling and suffering in order to live, we had better break at once the chains of our bitter slavery and die.

What, then, are the things needful for the body and the mind of man?

The bodily needs are two-health and sustenance.
The mental needs are three-knowledge, pleasure, intercourse.

We will consider the bodily needs first, and we will begin by finding out what things ensure good bodily health.

To ensure good health we must lead a "natural" life. The further we get from nature-the more artificial our lives become -the worse is our health.

The chief ends to health are pure air, pure water, pure and sufficient food, cleanliness, exercise, rest, warmth, and ease of mind.

The chief obstacles to health are impure air, impure water, bad or insufficient food, gluttony, drunkenness, vice, dirt, heavy labor, want of rest, exposure, and anxiety of mind,

The sure marks of good health are physical strength and beauty. Look at the statue of an ancient Greek athlete, and then at the form of a modern sweater's slave, and you will see how true this is.

These are facts. Any doctor, or scientist, or artist, or athlete will confirm these statements.

Now, I shall show you, later, that hardly any of our people lead natural and healthy lives. I shall show you that the average Briton might be very much healthier, handsomer, and stronger than he is; and I shall show you that the average duration of life might easily be doubled,

Next, as to sustenance. There are four chief things needed to sustain life in a civilized community-food, clothing, shelter, and fuel. All these things should be used temperately. Enough is better than a feast. - Luxurious living is a bad and not a good thing. You know that when a man is training for any feat of strength or of endurance he takes plain and pure food, and abundant rest and exercise. A rowing man, a running man, a boxer, a cricketer, or an athlete of any kind, would never think of training on turtle soup, game pies, and champagne. Again I say that any doctor, scientist, artist, or athletic trainer will indorse my statement.

Now, I shall show you, later, that our people are badly clothed, and badly fed, and badly housed. That some have more, but most have less, than is good for them; and that with a quarter of the labor now expended in getting improper sustenance we might produce proper sustenance, and plenty of it, for all.

Meanwhile, let us consider the mental needs of life. These are knowledge, pleasure, and intercourse. You may describe all these things as pleasures, or as recreations, if you choose.

Of knowledge there are almost numberless branches, and all of them fascinating. Modern science alone is a vast storehouse of interest and delight., Astronomy, physiology, botany, chem

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »