Some Repetitions on the Times

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Szerző: Howard Phillips Lovecraft • Év: 1933

This is to be a blunt endeavour to emphasise some basic and desperate truths about the present economic impasse—swelling ever so little the chorus now besieging the ears of our incoming legislators. It will be remarked that nothing in these paragraphs has not been suggested several hundred times before, but such a remark can hardly be taken as a proper objection. In social and political crises no idea or perspective can gain an adequate hearing except through insistent echoes, and today there cannot be too many voices raised in exactly similar outlines of our civilisation’s real plight, and exactly similar demands for a brushing aside of irrelevant precedents and preconceptions in facing that plight.

Only reiteration will help. The realities have been starkly and powerfully stated by competent individuals again and again, yet official thought and legislation very largely continue in their sluggish, superficial course, motivated by catchwords and conceptions left from former ages whose basic industrial and financial conditions no longer exist. For several generations the man-displacing effect of the machine has been realised by a few, yet the momentary ability of new industries to absorb displaced labour was enough to blind nearly everyone to the consequences inevitable after the end of this plainly temporary absorption. Even when the end did come, the majority refused to realise it. It took the repetitions and inculcations of the “technocracy” survey—a tremendously valuable and significant movement despite its handicaps of poor leadership and extravagant conclusions—to give the general public a really vivid glimpse of the permanently altered set of conditions around us.

Thus we may see the need for a repeated presentation of the whole dismal picture in all its familiar outlines and implications. Its desperateness—and the probably dire results of its neglect or subordination—must be literally hammered into the popular consciousness until increasing clamour reaches the legislator and forces him to face the facts and take drastic action concerning them. Our governing body must be brought to understand that the time is past for cherishing abstract institutions and deferring to purely theoretical ideals such as “rugged individualism”, “unregulated private property”, “sound money”, “free initiative”, “legitimate profits”, “economic laws”, “balanced budgets”, and so on. These institutions and ideals have to do with methods, but not with the realities underlying them—and today it is with the naked realities that we are having to deal.

The real problem is to accomplish certain ends irrespective of methods, as is done in such other emergencies as warfare and pioneering. A certain morale is to be preserved, and certain resources are to be distributed where they will do the most good. During the late war there was no talk of theoretical technicalities (or if so, it was justly reprehended) when a definite thing was to be done. If a certain number of men in a certain military area needed a certain amount of food, clothing, or other supplies, that amount was produced somehow—by drastic commandeering if necessary—and delivered where it was required. Still farther back in history, the rigid apportionment of labour and resources in the Plymouth colony—and traces of it in later American colonies—shews again that drastic and concrete action is not (despite the perfervid rhetoric of certain distinguished and plutocratic Elder Statesmen) incompatible with the real American tradition as distinguished from the artificial finance-and-business tradition built up during the myopic nineteenth century.

Today the country has plenty of resources and productive facilities, so that enough exists to support the entire population very comfortably—and without any of the destructive absolute equalisation demanded by ruthless communists. The problem is to get the existing material to those who need it—and the obstacles in the way are the theories which protect mere methods and abstract institutions and ideals.

We all realise that the existing equilibrium must not be disrupted by a violent overthrow of all the safeguards of property in moderate quantities. It is only increasing an evil if those who have a few resources left are to be shorn of their pittance and thrown into the plight of the destitute. But we also realise that a prodigious amount of concrete rectification can be accomplished by arbitrarily distributive methods productive of no physical or cultural hardship to anyone—measures which are really very moderate and conservative when judged in relation not to abstract theory but to human needs and cultural standards.

This is what the controllers of our political destiny must be made by popular clamour to see—that what is to be sought is not the preservation of a parcel of commercial methods and economic ideals, but a rational apportionment of resources and a continuation of our hereditary way of life as regards art, ethics, intellectual perspective, and the niceties of personal existence. We must stop thinking primarily in terms of “money” and “business”—both artificial things—and begin to think increasingly in terms of the actual resources and products on which “money” and “business” are based. In terms of these, of the human beings to whom they are to be distributed, and of the cognate human values which make the accidents of life and consciousness worth enduring.

Part of the task of our repetitions must be to convince the holders of power of something which the farther-sighted philosopher long ago realised—namely, that the present collapse is not merely a transient depression from which automatic recovery is possible. This, we hope, may be accomplished through the soberly disinterested efforts of that Columbia group of energy-surveyors under Prof. Rautenstrauch from whom the more sensational Scott “technocrats” have now been weeded.’ It is by this time virtually clear to everyone save self-blinded capitalists and politicians that the old relation of the individual to the needs of the community has utterly broken down under the impact of intensively productive machinery. Baldly stated—in a highly mechanised nation there is no longer enough work to be done, under any conceivable circumstances to require the services of the entire capable population if each individual is worked to his maximum (even an humane and rational maximum) capacity.

This is an unbeatable truth around which no amount of sophistry can get. It means that from now on no person of average ability and willingness can be given a guarantee of food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for work performed. There is not enough, under a laissez-faire system, for all to do; hence a residue of the permanently unemployable, increasing as mechanical ingenuity increases, must always be with us. We have the three alternatives of feeding this residue charitably, starving it into a civilisation-ending revolt, or restoring it to self-respecting effectiveness by artificially spreading work. Of these alternatives the third is the obvious choice—but, since it involves a regulation or minimisation of private profit, it can be adopted only through a facing of realities and a wholesome repudiation of empty political and economic theories. To make the moulders of policy realise this, our repetitions must be insistent, sober, and well-informed.

We must also repeat endlessly the very real danger of annihilative revolution which, in case of indefinitely delayed relief, lurks in the offing despite the truly astonishing degree of popular patience exhibited thus far. Men cannot be starved or buffeted about perpetually without protest—and when a person has nothing to gain from an existing social order, he feels free to act against it. If a sufficiently large minority become convinced that an honest willingness to work under the present system will no longer gain them a living, they cannot be expected to do otherwise than strike out for another system. Even now the anti-legal acts of the Iowa farmers—who prevent mortgage foreclosures through mob intimidation—are highly significant.

It is of course true—despite the bolshevistic howlings in foreign centres like New City—that what the overwhelming bulk of discontented Americans would aim for in a revolution would not be bolshevism, but merely a new system of state control of property ensuring a decent apportionment of resources within the existing civilisation. It is not, however, equally certain that that is what they would get if they were actually stirred up to decisive and successful action.

Americans know little of the technique of social revolt, hence administrative leadership would inevitably fall into the hands of aliens already highly trained in that respect, and harbouring altogether different ideas regarding proper objects. Once the avalanche was started, it would be difficult for the conservative but untrained revolutionists to preserve their rational programme against the astute machinations of the imported leaders With their utterly repulsive ideas derived from the slave-heritage of Continental Europe’s under-men.

As the rational Russian revolution of Kerensky, Kornilov, and Miliukov2 became at last the tragic cataclysm of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, so might a well-meant farmer’s and mechanic’s uprising in America become an orgy of slaughter and cultural destruction. It must not be forgotten, in this connexion, that the alien leaders of such an orgy would have powerful support from a superficially impressive and dangerously articulate American element in sympathy with them; the neurotic “intelligentsia” which includes persons of substantial achievement in non-political fields—authors, critics, and scientists like Dreiser, Anderson, Edmund Wilson, and V. F. Calverton.3 Clearly, it would pay to go to almost any length to avoid even the start of an upheaval of any sort—and repetition must not fail to emphasise this.

Nor should we neglect to repeat the details of the dark picture presented by this age. To use a very conservative estimate, about 12,000,000 people in the United States are unemployed, while a much larger number—perhaps half the entire population—are suffering hardship to a greater or less degree as a result of reduced income, unsatisfactory employment, or the burden of assisting unemployed relatives. Of the unemployed, an undoubted majority are persons of ample skill, experience, and capacity, prepared to offer in exchange for decent wages certain definite services which have hitherto been useful and necessary. They are not less capable than the average run of persons still employed, but are merely the unlucky ones in the constant competition for the insufficient number of positions now available. A natural upturn in the current of business would restore work to many, but not to a great remaining bulk. Mechanical and commercial efficiency has arranged more and more methods—many of them devised since the dawn of the depression as aids in saving private profit—whereby all the needs of an unlimited consuming public can be supplied through the services of fewer and fewer human workers.

These unemployed persons are for the most part still comparatively young and in reasonable health. They have diligently sought for work not only in their own respective lines but in all other lines which they feel they have any chance at all of competently following; and in general tend to be the sincere, industrious, and persevering type usually regarded as assets to the country and to their local communities. Being accustomed to consider themselves necessary parts of the industrial system, whose labour has a real and definite value, they have developed a high degree of self-respect; while the assurance of at least a modest income has given them a wholesome, comfortable, and in many cases tasteful standard of living. This standard of living is now so deeply ingrained that it cannot be lightly abandoned—indeed, it would be a calamity if it were abandoned, since its good effect on the tone of the whole nation’s civilisation is so ample.

Its holders expect certain normal rewards from life, and in return are staunch sustainers of the peaceful system of law and order which has until lately made such rewards possible. They feel that their contributions to society ought to earn for them, and for the young, aged, and infirm persons dependent upon them, a definite material security and spiritual dignity. When, through no fault or diminished capacity of theirs, the assurance of that security and dignity seems about to be withdrawn, they have a right to demand that vigorous steps be taken to restore it. They believe that it is a duty of government to try to establish—by any means whatever—a degree of balance which will once more make the normal prizes guaranteed results of industrial willingness and ability.

The psychological effect of the present catastrophe on these sturdy and competent unemployed—for whom the securing of money has suddenly become an impossibility—is disastrous and far-reaching. Faced in most cases with actual and unaccustomed hardships, and in any case with a preying anxiety about the future, they have on their hands an aimless idleness (for only the topmost strata are trained to the intellectually I and aesthetically profitable use of leisure) which vastly aggregates their mounting worry about food, clothing, shelter, and the maintenance of decent standards.

The higher in the cultural scale the victim is, the more heavily does his new destitution press upon him and bewilder him—and many of great refinement and cultivated mode of life have been engulfed. The anguish attendant upon the loss of cherished possessions and habits which have become dominant landmarks of existence is probably the most thoroughly poignant which any human being can endure, and it is not alone the former possessor of luxuries who suffers through the present debacle. As previously mentioned, a large majority of the unemployed possess deeply seated standards which, though far from sybaritic, nevertheless indicate self-respect and well-regulated social experience—and which must be almost wholly relinquished amidst the universal discomfort and distress of today. Many accustomed to the social amenities are now obliged to live in unutterably depressing and dispiriting quarters—with an insufficient and unpalatable food-supply, and with eviction and unthinkable horrors of starvation and exposure staring them in the face. Desperation or deterioration of morale are under such circumstances almost inevitable. With nothing to enjoy or hope for, the victims are confronted by a choice between suicide and beggary—the proudest and most potentially valuable individuals often choosing the former.

That this condition harms the national tradition as well as the individuals concerned can hardly be disputed. The dominantly commercial civilisation of boom times was itself an anti-cultural influence, and this addition of a materially degrading element greatly abets the decline. When families of taste are no longer able to maintain the dignified and independent form of life which has hitherto distinguished them, and when even the essentials of a neat personal appearance are made impossible for formerly fastidious multitudes, the general standard is bound to suffer. High levels of living are hard-won enough in any case, and tend to disintegrate alarmingly when existence becomes a sordid, aimless, and apparently helpless struggle. Ethics perish along with good manners when people begin to feel that there is nothing to live or fight for any more.

Naturally, some steps have been taken toward the relief of the people’s more elemental woes; but their ironic inadequacy is easy to see. In many cities the artificial work created for the jobless is wholly unsuited to most of the victims concerned, and far too fragmentary to give any of its recipients a genuine living. Usually, too, the process of application for such work is rendered infinitely painful and humiliating by the personal catechisms imposed, and by the general sense of defeat and insignificance inculcated through the harsh and individuality-crushing red tape made necessary by the very nature of the enterprise. The abnormal, artificial, and essentially charitable character of the alleged “work”—haphazardly created as an excuse for giving out monetary driblets—is almost always manifest to a devitalising and spirit-dampening extent. It is so clearly a disguised “dole” that it lacks all the stimulus of that genuine work which supplies the actual needs of the community. Moreover, it is usually so repugnant in nature, and so ill-adapted to the capacities and temperaments of its performers (ditch-digging and brush-clearing for soft-handed, short-winded office clerks, and so on), that it tends all too often to become a stultifying and sullenness-breeding nightmare.

The tactics of profit-seeking private employers in the crisis are about what might be expected. In the city of New York many commercial and industrial enterprises have taken advantage of the tragic labour surplus by discharging their normally paid help and hiring new staffs from the ranks of the unemployed at the same pitifully small Wage—$12.00 per week—which is usually offered by the local Emergency Work Bureau for the Unemployed.

One result of these palliatives and piracies is to give the much-buffeted victim a disconcerting and conceivably dangerous feeling of his precarious, puppet-like position and constant instability under the existing system. Another result is the total or partial Alienation of skilled workers from their normal occupations, so that they will be clumsy and rusty if ever called back to these pursuits. It is of course needless to remark on the obvious problem of the young, who are now growing into adulthood without any chance to learn and practice a regular occupation.

For the southern and western farmer the outlook is as dire as for the eastern labourer or urban clerk. Agricultural products bring no appreciable money, and foreclosed mortgages are rapidly transforming self-respecting freeholders into peasant-like and increasingly penniless tenants. Vigorous and progressive Westerners cannot look with equanimity upon a system which bids fair to reduce them to the servile state of the deep South’s poor-white cotton “croppers”.

With large sections of the population in this hopeless and torturesome state of dispossessedness—Yankee and Southerner, Easterner and Westerner, rustic and urbanite, Republican and Democrat, patrician and plebeian, wet and dry, old-American and assimilated immigrant for once united in a desperate common cause—it would be idle and frivolous to minimise the danger of a spread of revolutionary sentiment from the old “red” class of chronic incompetents, malcontents, fanatics, and foreigners to those responsible elements of the people who have so far been our chief bulwarks against social explosion. Of course it would not be a communistic revolution that these elements would desire, but as pointed out before, a revolution is a much easier thing to start than to control. We cannot well starve and goad the people into an uprising, and at the same time expect to be guaranteed immunity from those extreme lengths to which uprisings are fatally apt to go. If a revolt conies, it is likely to mean bolshevism in the end—hence it behoves us to look closely at that article as now practiced in Russia and see if it be not a thing worth going to any length to escape.

In considering Soviet Russia we do not need to consult the reports of its impassioned enemies. The plainest proofs of the unfitness of its methods for nations of Western-European traditions and race-stock are to be found in the preachments of its own leaders. Certainly, many individual details of its programme—such as the coordination of industries—are of admitted ingenuity and worthy of possible adoption in modified form by the Western countries; but the merest glance at the whole underlying fabric is enough to demonstrate its unsuitability.

What the Soviets have done is to ensure a meagre livelihood to the least competent classes by destroying the whole background of tradition which made life endurable for persons of a higher degree of imagination and richer store of cultivation. It is their claim that they could not have guaranteed security to the humble without this wholesale destruction of accustomed ideas, but we may easily see that this is but a thin veil for a purely theoretical fanaticism bearing all the earmarks of a new religion—a fetichistic cult woven around the under-man’s notion of transvaluated social values and around a fantastically literal application and extension of the groping theories and idealistic extravagances of the late Karl Marx.

While of course the backward production-capacity of Russia creates problems unknown in America, it is none the less clear that quasi-religious zeal for a “new order” with unaccustomed values—born of the present leaders’ hatred for the old culture which gave them a subordinate place—lies behind the wanton destruction by the Soviets of all the refinements, cherished memories, familiar customs, artistic traditions, and historic associations which gave the civilised Russian his primary reasons for existence. To claim that a production and distribution system including the humblest elements could not have been devised and eventually made effective without this cultural vandalism is the sheerest nonsense—a form of nonsense arising from the Marxians’ hoary fallacy that economics and the arts are inextricably connected. The bolsheviki’s real objects are not primarily to feed the starving and give decent jobs to those willing to work, but to disrupt the whole system of privilege-tenure in accordance with an elegance-hating theory of abstract justice. As between this theoretical ideal and the preservation of a real civilisation of natural growth, they chose the former. They have made it possible for everyone to live—but have deprived life of all that makes it worth living. Such is the system which communists would like to see forced upon the United States.

It is needless to rehearse the utter and degrading loss of individual liberty which results from the orthodox communistic theory that society is itself an organism in which each person is merely an insignificant cell. It is not in anti-Soviet libels, but in the proud reports of Soviet leaders, that we read of the forcible transfer of whole village populations from their ancestral abodes to new locations in the Arctic, and of the arbitrary ordering of Moscow clerks to tasks of manual labour in the farms and forests of Siberia. All these things are logical outgrowths of what the bolsheviks call their “collectivistic ideology”, and typical examples of the horrors which might fall upon us if communism were to gain a foothold here.

The irreparable destruction on the purely cultural side is equally flagrant. The identification of all art (or what passes for it) with political and economic propaganda and the virtual outlawry of the artist whose work is sincere and non-propagandist, are things too well known to need emphasis. What they have produced is a vast desert of dry and immaturely conceived social tracts, redeemed only by a few promising (and generally disapproved) experiments. This in the country which produced Turgeniev, Dostoievsky, and Tschaikovsky, and whose pre-revolutionary traditions are still a powerful influence in the Western world! Of the Soviets’ architectural vandalism, which destroys beauty right and left in the interest of “practical efficiency” or anti-religious fanaticism, the less said the better. Even pure science is belittled in favour of applied technology, and of the pseudo-science which can be made to serve as communistic propaganda.

While the meddling of the bolsheviks with matters of personal identity and family life is perhaps exaggerated by some, it remains a fact that the hereditary traditions of honour and human relationships which mean so much in Western-European life would be seriously imperilled wherever communism might secure a foothold. Likewise, our deepest racial instincts would be outraged by attempts to enforce negro social equality. Cherished landmarks and background details—the small things which give us a sense of placement, direction, and purpose in life would be snatched away by the dozen. Our calendar, for example, would probably be butchered almost beyond recognition, with numbers substituted for the names of the months and days as frequently in seventeenth-century New England and among the Quakers.

The squalor and lack of privacy in living conditions imposed upon the Russian population is a portent of what would follow in communism’s wake. It is, of course, clear that no nation with a fully representative population would for a moment tolerate such a chaos—Russia having succumbed only after her better elements were murdered or exiled. That such murder and exile would be the lot of the best American elements in case of a communistic revolt, is virtually self-evident—and it might be added that the exiles would probably find much difficulty in gaining a permanent haven elsewhere, since all the European and colonial nations are too racked with unemployment problems of their own to welcome any large body of newcomers, no matter how high in quality. Probably Canada—climatically unsuited for a large number of us—would form the principal refuge, unless parts of the United States (such as the loyal, conservative, and overwhelmingly native-American South) remained free from bolshevik control.

If it be fancied that a realisation of these perils will be enough to deter the desperate and dispossessed American unemployed from any rash move, we must remember that on the other hand provocations are rapidly and unbearably increasing. Each year the situation grows worse, and relief money comes harder and harder. When all charities and appropriations trickle down to nothingness, and actual starving looms close at hand, how likely are the victims to employ the finer gradations of reason? Clearly, a change must come somehow—and the earnest wish of the good citizen is that it may come through the intelligent action of properly seated legislators and lead to something like a remedy, rather than through a general tumult and chaos leading in all probability to destruction. The cultural fruits of 1500 years of continuous Anglo-Saxon life, 300 of them amidst the moulding influences of this continent, are too precious to be risked in the arena of savage strife.

What, then, is to be done? Certainly no one is naive enough to fancy that a casual edict or two from congress, even in the most approved direction, will be sufficient to produce an over-brimming Utopia on twenty-four hours’ notice! At the moment it is unlikely that anyone could outline the long series of gradual steps and legislative experiments which will be needed to bring our political institutions into accord with changed realities, facilitate the wider distribution of resources, and restore to the willing workman the certainty of receiving a good living in exchange for his labour. All we can expect at first is that the legislators will slowly begin—through popular clamour and repetitions of the obvious—to shed the almost insane cowl of blindness, indifference, evasion, and self-deception which the mixed forces of inertia, reckless plutocratic pressure, and obsolete, preconceived doctrines have drawn so tightly over their eyes. A genuine readiness to abandon the worship of methods, abstract formulae, and catchwords, to think in terms of the entire population rather than of the larger business interests, and to face the realities of the present industrial muddle with an open willingness to use unorthodox methods in achieving specific ends, is the most one may ask of the government at present, except perhaps a few immediate and temporary palliatives such as domestic debt cancellation and an increase in public relief through the heavy taxation of very large accumulations of private capital.

It would be absurd for a layman, ignorant of the complex links of cause and effect involved in the regulation of production and distribution, and in the readjustment of resources, to do more than guess vaguely at any of the elements of possible recovery. Probably a bald assertion of governmental control over large accumulations of resources—a potential limitation of private property beyond certain liberal limits—would form one of the salient features. This would involve the state coordination and operation of the wider fundamental industries on a basis of service rather than profit, and would enable the hours and conditions of labour to be artificially regulated with a view to distributing work among the whole population, no matter how little is left by machinery to be done, or how little profit could be obtained from the employment of many persons at a really living wage for only a few hours per week.

It will probably be thought advisable to guarantee decently appropriate work to every citizen of the state, with a really substantial unemployment insurance to allow for the natural imperfections in this universal allotment. Reciprocally, however, the state will probably reserve the right to make work compulsory upon everyone when circumstances demand it—though refraining from forcing persons into remote and inappropriate industries as the Soviets do. Liberal old-age pensions, beginning early enough to help in cutting down the permanent labour surplus, are virtually a foregone conclusion.

Whether independent agriculture can be preserved, no one can properly predict. If this, and independent merchandising, survive, certain complex price-fixing and other auxiliary measures will probably be necessary. Otherwise the growth of governmentally controlled farms and chain selling establishments seems likely, the operators of these things receiving the customary guarantees of employed persons. There would I seem to be no barrier against such an universal condition of working for the government; nor would such an arrangement, in a country of unlimited resources and production, necessitate any of the restrictions on the individual which the Soviets ruthlessly impose.

Levels of salary in every branch of activity would be determined by the complexity and difficulty of the work performed, so that high-grade executives would receive as much more than common labourers as is now the custom. The continued protection of a limited private property would of course enable persons of the executive class to retain their present type of existence—minus some of the extravagances—and to retire on a modest scale without calling on the pension funds except in case of necessity.

The state control of industry would naturally introduce new factors into the matter of foreign commerce, and one cannot well predict the future of tariff and free trade. Large investments in foreign countries—and especially the wholesale exploitation of economically backward countries—would almost certainly be discouraged as a leading provocative in war-breeding. For defensive purposes, of course, an army and navy of great strength would be rigorously maintained—perhaps through universal training.

On the cultural side the existing tradition need not be menaced. Education, how-ever,will require amplification in order to meet the needs of a radically increased leisure among all classes of society. It is probable that the number of persons possessing a sound general culture will be greatly increased, with correspondingly good results to the civilisation. On the other hand, it would be foolish to assume that the more mentally sluggish types will ever lose their present cultural inferiority. Curricula will naturally be shaped to fit existing conditions; and in view of the now complex nature of government and industry, civics and economics will receive enhanced attention.

If anything approaching the Soviets’ re-shaping of popular conceptions is attempted, it will probably be in the direction of removing the old tendency to judge the individual by his industrial status—a step made necessary by the extension of much potentially cultivated leisure to persons of varying occupation. Naturally this leisure, plus education, will bring many of the skilled labouring class into fields of intellectual and aesthetic activity, removing them altogether from the traditional cultural state of the “workman”, and this removal must be recognised.

Where the course of good sense will have to differ most widely from the plans of old-time idealistic socialism is in the matter of political organisation. Nowadays we realise that no layman, no matter how generally cultivated, is in any way capable of passing on any average point of governmental policy. National affairs, in an age of intensive mechanisation and widespread organisation, have become so involved and technical that only an administrative and economic expert or a trained engineer can form any genuinely clear idea of how certain broadly desirable results can be secured, or what the ultimate consequences of any proposed measure will really be. All the factors of cause and effect in political action, and in the problems of production, distribution, and national maintenance, have become so infinitely complex that the ordinary individual can no longer hope to trace them. Today the “man in the street” casts his vote for things he actually knows nothing about, and nothing but the subterranean control of large industrial interests (now a menace because of our changing economy) has so far saved the nation from general incompetence and irresponsible chaos in government.

Obviously government by the people is now a joke or a tragedy, although government for them remains as the most logical goal. Though the wider distribution of resources must be accepted as a cardinal policy, the narrower restriction of power will be a necessary corollary. No bungling democratic government could even begin to accomplish the delicate adjustments which loom ahead. Laymen of slight education and low intelligence are wholly useless and potentially harmful as determiners of the national course, and even laymen of wide education and high intelligence can do no more than roughly (and often erroneously) judge the general executive calibre of certain administrators from watching their performances in a few fields which may happen to be familiar. No non-technician, be he artist, philosopher, or scientist, can even begin to judge the labyrinthine governmental problems with which these administrators must deal.

Accordingly we must expect any adequate government to be of the sort now generally called “fascistic”—forming, as it were, an oligarchy of intelligence and education. Office-holding must be limited to men of high technical training, and the franchise which elects them must be granted only to those able to pass rigorous educational examinations (emphasising civic and economic subjects) and scientific intelligence tests. Elective offices ought to be very few—perhaps no more than a single dictator—in order to ensure harmony and speed in the execution of necessary measures. What would make such a system perfectly fair and representative would be, of course, the equal availability of franchise-earning education to all—an effective reality in view of the leisure of the future. Corruption, naturally, could not be entirely abolished; but there would undoubtedly be far less of it in a government of the educated and the intelligent than in the haphazard governments of today.

The difficulties in getting such a government established, like those in getting any useful measure enacted, need be underestimated by none. Therein lies the tenuous uncertainty of all predictions. However, it is noteworthy that in times of national peril the bulk of the people—holding the balance of physical power—are often willing to support policies which, although beyond their understanding and tending to curtail their power, seem to them honestly designed for their benefit. Thus, despite minority grumblings, Mussolini was borne to office by the genuine will of the Italian people.

Such are the prophetic guesses of a layman—self-disqualified, as just noted, from any pretence to authoritativeness. It must be understood that the real developments of the future are utterly beyond prediction, since wholly unseen or wrongly appraised factors may swing matters in totally unexpected directions. Even without these factors many conceivable alternative courses, some not vastly removed from ordinary capitalism, exist, the preceding guesses including perhaps the extremes of departure from present conditions which could reasonably be called for, according to our present idea of the possibilities. All that seems certain is that the general problem must very soon be squarely and scientifically faced by the government without regard for political and economic orthodoxies, if the peril of an unfathomed revolutionary abyss is to be averted.

Hence these repetitions of things which thousands have been thinking, saying, writing, and publishing in the last few years. They are things which must be repeated more and more widely—publicised as “technocracy” was publicised—if the slow and dim-eyed forces at the helm are to be impressed in time to take preservative action. We must cease to fear being trite.

Here are the facts:

 

Millions are unemployed, probably permanently under the present system, and existing in increasing misery and fear.

It is no longer possible for ability and willingness to work to guarantee a man a decent living, and the widespread conviction of this is undermining public morale.

There are plenty of resources in the country, withheld by artificial methods from those who need them.

Attempts at relief have so far been irregular, inadequate, unscientific, and painful to the recipients; producing a dangerous popular psychology.

When men feel that an existing system has nothing to give them, they will strike out for another system. Insecurity for half the nation means disaster for the whole.

If the people are starved into revolution, the worst excesses of communism are very likely to occur.

Precedent makes it certain that, given the will, brains, independence, and determination of high-grade men, the forces of government can accomplish a recuperative redistribution of resources through emergency measures ignoring the absolute orthodoxies of politics and economics.

What is needed is a restoration of the power of normal work to ensure each individual a self-respecting status and a modest quota of food, clothing, shelter, freedom, and recreation; enough rewards, that is, to make life under the existing civilisation worth enduring.

 

These matters cannot be dodged, and every moment of delay in facing them increases the nation’s peril. We have plenty of thoughtful and liberal men who cannot or do not act, and plenty of strong men of action who cannot or will not think in a farsighted or liberal way. Are there not a few in the seats of power who have both the minds to think and the strength and opportunity to act?

Legújabbak

Clark Ashton Smith:
Hasisevő, avagy a Gonosz Apokalipszise, A

Olvasás

Robert E. Howard:
Harp of Alfred, The

Olvasás

Robert E. Howard:
Red Thunder

Olvasás

Legolvasottabb

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Cthulhu hívása

Ez az egyetlen történet Lovecraft részéről, amelyben jelentős szerepet kap a szörnyisten, Cthulhu. 1926 későnyarán, kora őszén íródhatott. A dokumentarista stílusban megírt történet nyomozója, Thurston, a szemita nyelvek egyetemi kutatója darabkáról darabkára rakja össze a rejtélyes kirakóst. A fiatal kutató egyre több tárgyi és írásos bizonyítékát leli a hírhedt Cthulhu-kultusz létezésének. A kultisták a Necronomicon szövege alapján a nagy szörnyisten eljövetelét várják. A történetek a megtestesült iszonyatról beszélnek, ami átrepült az űrön és letelepedett a Földön sok millió évvel ezelőtt. Most hosszú álmát alussza tengerborította városában: Ph’ngluimglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, vagyis R'lyeh házában a tetszhalott Cthulhu álmodik. A Csendes-óceán déli részén néhány bátor tengerész megtalálta a várost és felébresztette a Nagy Öreget. Ennek hatására őrülethullám robogott végig a Földön, több ember lelte halálát ezekben az időkben. A találkozást csak egy tengerész élte túl, de ő is gyanús körülmények között halt meg. A fiatal kutató érzi, hogy ő is erre a sorsra juthat... A novellát nagy részben Lord Tennyson Kraken című költeménye inspirálta: Cthulhu is egy csápos, polipszerű szörny, egy alvó isten (ez a gondolat nagyban Lord Dunsany műveinek Lovecraftra gyakorolt hatásának köszönhető). S. T. Joshi felveti, hogy számottevő hatást váltott ki Lovecraftra Maupassant Horlája és Arthur Machen A fekete pecsét története című története is. Maga Lovecraft e történetet roppant középszerűnek, klisék halmazának titulálta. A Weird Tales szerkesztője, Farnsworth Wright először elutasította a közlését, és csak azután egyezett bele, hogy Lovecraft barátja, Donald Wandrei bebeszélte neki, hogy más magazinnál is érdeklődnek a sztori iránt.

Olvasás

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Őrület hegyei, Az; Hallucináció hegységei, A

Egy déli sarki kutatócsoport, köztük a narrátor, William Dyer a Miskatonic Egyetemről az Antarktiszra indul 1930/31 telén. A fagyott környezetben 14, a hideg által konzerválódott idegen lényre bukkannak. Miután a kutatók több csoportra oszlanak, és az egyikről nem érkezik hír, a megmaradt tagok felkeresik az eltűntek táborát, ahol szétmarcangolt emberi és állati maradványokat találnak - néhány idegen létformának pedig mindössze hűlt helyét... Legnagyobb döbbenetükre azonban a kutatás során feltárul előttük egy évmilliókkal régebben épített, hatalmas kőváros, amely a Nagy Öregek egykori lakóhelye lehetett. A kisregényt szokás Poe Arthur Gordon Pym című kisregényének folytatásaként tekinteni, az enigmatikus és meg nem magyarázott jelentésű kiáltás, a "Tekeli-li!" miatt. Eredetileg a Weird Talesbe szánta Lovecraft, de a szerkesztő túl hosszúnak találta, ezért öt éven át hevert a kisregény felhasználatlanul a fiókban. Az Astounding végül jelentősen megváltoztatva közölte a művet, több bekezdést (nagyjából ezer szót) kihagyott, a teljes, javított verzió először 1985-ben látott napvilágot.

Olvasás

Abraham Merritt:
Moon Pool, The

Amikor dr. David Throckmartin elmeséli egy csendes-óceáni civilizáció ősi romjain átélt hátborzongató élményeit, dr. Walter Goodwin, a regény narrátora azzal a meggyőződéssel hallgatja a hihetetlen történetet, hogy a nagy tudós valószínűleg megzavarodott. Azt állítja ugyanis, hogy feleségét és kutatócsoportjának több tagját magával vitte egy "fényjelenség", amely az úgynevezett Holdtóból emelkedik ki teliholdas éjszakákon. Amikor azonban Goodwin eleget tesz Throckmartin kérésének, és társaival a titokzatos szigetre utazik, fantasztikus, megdöbbentő kalandok sorozata veszi kezdetét.

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