Darkness and the Light, by Olaf Stapledon

8 — Precarious Advance

i. Difficulties Over America

THE TROUBLES of mankind were by no means over. Nor will they ever be. But with the founding of the new world-order the species entered on a new phase of its career, in which the balance of the forces of the light and the forces of darkness, already slightly favourable to the light, was tipped still farther by a much improved social structure. To many of the generation which founded the new world it seemed not only that a new age had started, which was true, but that henceforth there could be no serious troubles. In this they were mistaken. Masses of human beings who were not ready for the new order were included in it against their wills. In their hearts they still clung to the old values. They still desired a disorderly world so that they could continue to practise brigandage of one kind or another. They still cared mainly for personal dominance or for tribal glory. In the new world, therefore, they set out to make trouble. They tried to undermine the federal authority and the people’s confidence in the new order. They exaggerated its failures, disparaged its successes, fomented the differences between the peoples and between social classes.

Two great conflicts had to be solved before the new order could be so firmly established that no large group within it would ever dare to take arms against it. The one was a conflict between the eastern and western hemispheres, the other between the leaders and the led.

In the conflict of hemispheres, Australia and New Zealand must be counted in the American hemisphere, as they had long ago come under the American influence. During the struggle between the free peoples. and the empires the Americans had been relatively untouched. The North Americans had greatly changed since their tired Utopia had been annexed by the Russian Empire. Under the not very efficient tyranny which followed they discovered a new aim, namely to free themselves. A new generation of young people, sons and daughters of those earlier young who had welcomed the Russians, began to rediscover the virtue of the great American tradition. The heroes of the first American republic, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, were once more, though secretly, studied and praised. A new but vigorous and underground current of individualism began to flow through North America. Once more the state, even in the Utopian form that had once existed in America, began to seem merely an unpleasant necessity. The Russian state was an unmitigated curse. Men lauded once more the virtues of individual enterprise and ingenuity, liberty and personal integrity.

During the decline of the Russian power the movement of individualism generated a sort of submerged individual capitalism, a Robin Hood capitalism, one might say; for the outstanding American intelligences, copying in this respect the Jews of the medieval world, found means of wresting wealth from their conquerors and transferring much of it to their own oppressed people. Under the subsequent and more efficient Chinese rule this system of illicit capitalism in America was methodically destroyed, but it left a spirit of passionate individualism. With the fall of China the Americans reverted to a more or less benevolent and restrained capitalism. There followed a great wave of material reconstruction under the influence of the new aristocrats of wealth. The new capitalism was strikingly different from the old. It was much more like what the old capitalism had claimed to be but never was. No doubt the higher standard of the new capitalism was a symptom of the slightly increased power of the will for the light in the minds of ordinary people.

Imperial tyranny had never impinged on the peoples of America, Australia, and New Zealand with quite the same searching brutality as on the rest of the world. And so, confident in their own spirit of responsible individualism, they did not easily recognize the urgency of bringing the private enterprise of individuals, social classes and nations under the control of a common world authority.

Trouble arose over the disposal of American tidal power. The World Federal Government declared that all the great resources of production must henceforth be controlled exclusively by the World Government, which alone could organize them effectively for the immense task of raising the standard of life of all peoples to the level needed for full psychological development. The American capitalists replied that, having constructed their great tidal system by their own enterprise, having watched it for so long being exploited and misused by the late imperial government of the world, they intended to retain control of it themselves. They agreed, of course, that the system ought to be used strictly for the benefit of the human race as a whole. They had no intention of using it to benefit America exclusively, still less to strengthen their own capitalist class. ‘But since we,’ they said, ‘by fostering private enterprise in our country, have become the world’s greatest inventors and organizers, we claim the right, nay the duty, of managing our own unique generating system and disposing of its power as seems fit to us for the full economic development of the world. Who else could do it? Not the Tibetan revolutionary leaders. Splendid as their record is, their experience of economic organization is far too restricted. Not the Indians, for they are neither organizers nor engineers. Not the Chinese, for they are for the present too soaked in the tradition of their recent imperialism. It is the Americans alone who must take charge in the field of organization, leaving to the Tibetans the great task of educational and spiritual leadership.’ In reply it was urgently pointed out that no one people and no one class should be assigned leadership in any sphere. Those individuals who were capable of leadership would rise to positions of responsibility in whatever fields were suited to them. Privilege and vested interest must never more be allowed to appear on the earth. Moreover the American social system, though it had usefully built up American prosperity behind the backs of the alien tyrants, was quite unsuited to the new world-order, in which there must be fully co-ordinated planning of the world as a whole.

The American capitalists refused to give way. Though unarmed they were confident in their strength, because they were confident in the rightness of their cause. The American national government announced its withdrawal from the World Federation. To this direct challenge the World Government, including its American members, appealed to the Americans in the most friendly terms to reconsider this momentous step, and reminded them of the ancient American ‘War of Secession’. They added, reluctantly but firmly, that, if necessary, force would be used to prevent the secession from the new and greater Federation. The human race had declared its unity and would no longer tolerate local sovereign powers. In answer the American capitalists cut the great cables by which their surplus current was transmitted to Europe. The World Government ordered the world police in America to occupy all the generating stations and see that the cables were repaired.

The Americans, of course, like all other peoples, had agreed to the abolition of national armaments. They had their own unarmed police; and a contingent of the armed World Police, drawn from all peoples, was stationed at key points throughout the two continents. The seizing of the generators was carried out without opposition; but the American Government organized a general strike in protest, and there were great demonstrations in all the cities. In several parts of the continent rioters attacked the offices of the World Government. The native police did not intervene. Thereupon the World Police took control of the whole of the two American continents, along with Australia and New Zealand. Democratic government in the American hemisphere ceased. Rioting became widespread. But the American, Australian, and New Zealand governments, recognizing the futility of mere rioting, organized a vast campaign of civil disobedience and non-co-operation.

Throughout these troubles the World Government showed great forbearance. There were many arrests, but the prisoners found themselves treated almost as honoured guests. Many of them were not even retained in captivity at all but put on parole on condition that they left the American hemisphere and spent their time, until further notice, in touring the rest of the world, at the expense of the World Government. Thus, it was hoped, they would see the system at work and be impressed by it. Special facilities were given them for interviewing high officials in charge of industrial organization.

Meanwhile a great war of words was resounding throughout the world. The Americans were allowed complete freedom of expression. Floods of radio propaganda issued from both sides. It became increasingly difficult to keep order in the Americas. There were many attacks on foreigners. Sheer nationalistic passion grew from day to day.

At last the President of the World, at this time a Zulu, decided to make a great gesture to end the dispute. He offered to tour the Americas, along with two American members of the World Government, and to meet all the leaders of American capitalism for intimate discussion. Before leaving the hemisphere he would make fresh proposals. The offer was accepted. It is hard to say which member of the party needed the greater courage, the President, whose race was still distasteful to the Americans, or the two American ‘traitors’. Unescorted and unarmed, they travelled in the hemisphere for four months, then called all the American leaders to a conference. The President reminded his hearers of the epic struggle of the Tibetans, and the founding of the Federation of Mankind.

He then paid a generous tribute to the achievement of America and the ideals for which the rebels (he did not shrink from the word) were now (he recognized) making a sincere stand. He himself had learnt much from his tour, and he now had a proposal to make. He recognized that in the world’s present transitional state, a state of rapid and bewildering economic enrichment, there was much to be said for allowing a good deal of scope to private enterprise in industry. He recognized also that the motives of most of the American capitalists were generous social motives, and that the American peoples on the whole supported them. On the other hand the World Government could not tolerate any attempt to flout its authority; otherwise the whole new order, so painfully created and on the whole so beneficial, would soon break down. Authority, however, had been unhesitatingly asserted. The World Government could now afford to be generous. He therefore proposed, with his Government’s full assent, a temporary arrangement allowing the Americas economic autonomy within the Federation. The World Government reserved the power of constant inspection of American industry and would not permit any infringement of the rights of the workers, as laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Federation. Certain kinds of industry were excluded from capitalist enterprise entirely, such as armaments and the great means of expression. These, and education, were to be nationalized under the American state, subject to final control by the World Government. It also reserved a power of veto on any industry which it regarded as undesirable from the point of view of the world, and it might order American industry to produce some particular kind of goods needed by the world. Such work might be subsidized by the World Government. The American capitalists, then, must regard themselves as civil servants under the World Government, liable to dismissal and confiscation of their property if they broke the agreement, though paid for their services through the open market. The American peoples, of course, would regain the right to abolish the whole system of local capitalism at any time.

Such was the compromise of ‘capitalism within socialism’ that was finally established. The conflict could never have been successfully solved by such a precarious arrangement had not both sides been convinced of the fundamental goodwill of the other. The World Government came out of its first great crisis with increased authority. On the whole the compromise worked.

In South America, however, it lasted only for a decade. There the worse elements of the capitalist class gained power and indulged in secret violations of the agreements. The peoples of South America came to realize that they were being exploited, not flagrantly, as in former times, but at least annoyingly. The movement for socialism rapidly gained ground. The World Government, foreseeing the end, refrained from action, preferring that the change to a socialistic local economy should be brought about by local effort. The bosses of South American capitalism appealed to their colleagues in the northern continent, but in vain. Without trouble the South Americans went over to socialism.

A few years later Australia and New Zealand followed suit. And within a couple of decades the North Americans themselves, not without heated discussion, decided to enter fully into the world economic system.

ii. Difficulties with the Bureaucrats

The other serious conflict which troubled the early World State did not come to a head until a couple of centuries after the solution of the American trouble. This was a new kind of class war, a worldwide struggle between the bureaucracy and the mass of ordinary citizens.

The world bureaucracy was selected by psychological tests for organizing ability and moral integrity. It was known that superior organizing ability ran mainly in certain families or biological strains. Consequently there began to emerge strong traces of an aristocracy of birth, rather in the manner of the loose network of crystals which appears in water in the act of freezing. The ranks of the bureaucracy were never closed to suitable candidates from outside the great bureaucratic families, but in subtle ways scions of the well-tried stocks had the advantage. Certain family names became labels promising bureaucratic ability. The prouder families guarded their names very jealously. Members who failed to come up to the family’s high standard of ability were deprived of the family name. Able children of female members of the family who married into humbler stocks were granted the name of the maternal family. New-comers into the bureaucracy were subtly influenced by the prestige of the old families, imitating their manners and ideas, and seeking to gather similar prestige for their own family names.

Thus, little by little, the new aristocracy crystallized upon the surface of the world-society. It was an aristocracy not of mere birth, nor of wealth, but of genuine ability; but of a special kind of ability, namely the aptitude for organization and for managing human beings. It did its work well; and superior intelligences of other kinds, such as the scientific and the literary, were well content to leave the born organizers in power. But there came a time when people began to murmur that the bureaucrats were becoming rather self-important and meddlesome. No one denied that their rule was in the main efficient and honest, but there was a growing suspicion that they were growing too fond of power, and that their loyalty to the world community was increasingly tempered by unwitting preoccupation with their own prestige, not as individuals but as a class. They held their position, of course, under the will of the federal and national assemblies. Unfortunately the politicians were themselves members of the bureaucratic class, and would seldom take action against officials who exceeded their powers. Thus, little by little, the strength of the bureaucrats broadened out from precedent to precedent. Increasingly they resented criticism. Increasingly they hung together, developing little by little the beginnings of a distinctive way of life and a distinctive moral code.

Matters came to a head when a great physical research-laboratory in Russia was ordered by the World Research Ministry to give up its inquiry into the condition of matter in the interior of stars and to concentrate on the practical problem of applying sub-atomic energy to industry. The eminent Russian physicists protested, refused, appealed to the World President, and were arrested. There was great indignation in scientific circles throughout the world. Many research workers went out on strike in defence of their arrested colleagues. Industrial workers, though their pay was good and their hours were short, took this opportunity of complaining of excessive discipline in the factories and of interference in their home life. The small but well-established class of pioneering industrial capitalists (incorporated in the World State as a result of the American experiment) complained that factory inspectors used every means to hamper their work and destroy their profession. Certain writers affirmed that they could not get their books published because the national or federal ministry of publication disliked them. This, they said, was a violation of the original function of the ministries, which had been founded not to censor but to foster matter critical of the régime. Similar charges were made against the ministries of radio.

The movement of protest began in the British Isles, and, though it spread throughout the world, the British and Irish peoples were its most vigorous upholders. The islanders expressed their discontent in mass meetings, processions, broadcasts, letters to the press, letters to members of parliament and cabinet ministers, and above all in hearty resistance to particular instances of bureaucratic tyranny. The most popular slogans were, ‘Less efficiency, more freedom’, and ‘Less producing, more living’, and above all ‘We won’t be robots’. I could not but smile when I compared the grievances of my countrymen of this period with the disheartening inroads into civil liberty which had occurred in my own time and had been far less indignantly resisted. The dominant note of this movement was the insistence on individuality. Comic relief was given by processions of ‘typical Englishmen’. The marchers, or rather the disorderly stragglers, were persons made up to represent ‘unstereotyped types’ and odd individuals in the present world and in all ages. Nineteenth-century tramps, and vagabonds of every period were the most popular figures. They were represented as unshaven, ragged, filthy, drunk, and friendly. Each was got up to be as unlike as possible to every other. These jostled with medieval minstrels, friars, and fools, scatter-brained philosophers, artists, research scientists entangled in electric wires and test-tubes. This motley host of ancient and modern eccentrics strayed along the street in studied disorder, singing songs of freedom, blithely recalcitrant to the efforts of the comic ‘officials’ who fussed beside them, trying to get them into regular formation. In contrast with this rabble might come a batch of well-drilled robots, made up to look like machinery and linked together by red tape or electric cables. All this buffoonery the real bureaucrats regarded with contempt and indignation. In their view it was a symptom of a sinister weakening of social morale, a neurotic craving for anarchy, a denial of the dignity of the human species.

The agitation and the comic relief welled up in every country. The governments were forced to promise certain immediate reforms, and the World Government set up an independent commission to investigate the whole matter. It was characteristic of the improved condition of the human race that the commission’s report was issued within three months, and that, although it firmly condemned the bureaucrats for their unnecessary officialism, it also won their respect by its insight into their point of view. But its proposals for reform they strongly condemned. There was to be a vast system of special courts of appeal to deal with cases of alleged officialism and interference with liberty. The most notorious bureaucrats in every country were to be dismissed. Worst of all, in future no family should have more than three members in the bureaucracy at any time. After much debate the World Government decided to accept the plan, with a few modifications. Thereupon the bureaucrats, honestly convinced of their own importance and the rightness of their ideals, announced that they alone, who were carefully selected and carefully educated for their task, could possibly know what was needed in the life of the world society. They frankly claimed to be a true aristocracy; and in this emergency they were forced, they said, to suspend the constitution and resume dictatorial power. The World Parliament and the swarm of national parliaments, composed almost entirely of members of the bureaucratic class, and secretly in sympathy with their claims, put up only a half-hearted resistance. In all the states except Britain, Ireland, and Tibet, the oldest and the newest homes of freedom, the coup d’etat was at once successful, for the chiefs of the World Police were of course members of the bureaucracy. In Ireland the local government split, and the country boiled up in disorder. The British and Tibetan governments made a stand for freedom. Guarding themselves with their unarmed police, they arrested the local bureaucratic leaders and appealed to the local World Police to defend the constitution. But the World Police carried out the instructions of its Chief Constable. Armed forces appeared at the two ‘rebel’ parliaments. Much to the distress of the police, the rebels made an effort to resist, and fire-arms had to be used against them. Several members of the two parliaments were slightly damaged by shots fired at their legs. The governments were duly arrested, along with their supporters.

But the peoples of the earth were by now far too spirited to accept dictatorship, even a dictatorship which was manifestly benevolent according to its lights. A general strike started in Britain, was taken up in Tibet, Iceland, America, New Zealand, and developed into a universal campaign of civil disobedience. From the point of view of the bureaucrats the human race had gone quite mad. For these hosts of civil servants and politicians were very conscious of their own integrity and fundamental human loyalty. They were not Nazis or ‘wicked capitalists’ but conscientious servants of mankind, and, moreover, demonstrably superior members of it. Their only fault was that they had served not wisely but too well. This one fault, however, they could not recognize. They attributed the whole agitation to ‘subversive elements’, to ne’er-do-wells who could do nothing but stir up trouble. But the agitation increased. Only minimum services were maintained. In a world of limitless wealth, people settled down to a life of penury till liberty could be restored. Meanwhile there was still complete freedom of expression. There were great demonstrations and protest meetings, and many serious clashes between rioters and police. Yet, though feeling was now very strong, there was practically no bloodshed, for the temper of mankind had indeed improved. But the new spirit was still frail.

As the conflict developed, both sides became more exasperated and harsh. Matters came to a head in London. Huge crowds converged on Whitehall and broke the windows of the World Government Building. The Chief World Emissary himself appeared on a balcony to appease the crowd, but as luck had it some one threw a bottle which hit him in the face and covered him with blood. Suddenly the repressed brutishness of both sides surged up and broke away all restraint. Anyone dressed as a bureaucrat was roughly handled. The authorities were forced to make a display of their fire-arms. This merely roused the mob to fury. They charged the building. The guards fired at their legs, but the majority rushed on, overwhelmed the guards, broke into the building, and set fire to it. The officials were badly knocked about, but even at this stage no serious hurt was committed. A fresh force of the World Police was brought to the spot. Not realizing that they were confronted by a brawl rather than a bloody revolution, the new-comers used machine guns. Owing to the practise of low firing there were very few serious casualties, but the crowd, far from being quelled, rushed forward, regardless of further casualties. There was a massacre. But thousands upon thousands of furious citizens now poured in from all directions. The police, now completely surrounded and fighting for their lives, fired indiscriminately. Walls of dead and dying surrounded them. But the people of London were by now possessed by savage and reckless hate. All the barbarous impulses that had been so thoroughly tamed during the last three centuries suddenly took charge. As the wall of dead rose, new attackers climbed over it, only to add their own dead bodies to its height. Presently ammunition ran out. The mob broke in and murdered everyone of the defenders. By now large reinforcements of World Police were converging on London. Desperate struggles took place in the suburbs.

At this stage the Lord Mayor of London made a radio appeal by loud speakers in the streets, urging the World Police to retire, and the people to go home. Meanwhile the metropolitan unarmed police, who were popular with the London crowds, were sent out to all the danger spots and coolly took charge of their rather weary fellow citizens. Seeing that the mobs were now well in hand, the armed police retired.

The news of London’s orgy spread by radio over the world. Other cities flared up in rage, and one by one were persuaded into quietness again. At last a statement was broadcast by a large section of the World Police in every country saying that they would no longer carry out the orders of their bureaucratic chiefs. It was now clear to the bureaucrats that the game was up. The World Government resigned, and many national governments followed its example. In Japan the ministers committed hara-kiri. Many of the chiefs of the great public services, national and international, surrendered their offices. Most of them reaffirmed their ideals but recognized that mankind was not yet ready to live up to so high an aim. Others recanted. For a whole month there was scarcely any public authority anywhere in the world except the local governments of Tibet, Britain, and Iceland. There was no world government. The police and the civil services were without their administrative heads. Yet there was no disorder. Everything functioned normally, in the spirit of benevolent anarchy. This condition could not last indefinitely, but no one had any authority to alter it. Earnest discussion took place by radio; and from this, as in a world-wide Friends’ Meeting, it emerged that the ‘feeling of the meeting’ was in favour of reinstating the old governments and the old bureaucratic class in general, and charging them with the task of putting the world on its feet again. Meanwhile the new political and social constitution could be thought out in detail. Thus for the time being the old governing class, chastened by its experience, retained its position, save for a small number of fanatics and adventurers who were dismissed. It is impossible that a revolution should end in this manner in any community that had not already far surpassed our present level of integrity and intelligence.

Thus the human race successfully avoided the danger of taking the first step towards reviving class dominance. With the warning of the recent troubles constantly in mind mankind gradually acquired a new temper and tradition of morality in public life. It was but an extension of the new temper and tradition of personal relations which had resulted in the slight but general increase in the will for the light. Once it had become firmly rooted, this new temper grew with surprising vigour. Whereas formerly honesty and generosity had been regarded as ideals difficult to attain, and men had on the whole expected their neighbours to treat them scurvily and their rulers to be tyrannical and corrupt, now honesty and generosity were increasingly ‘in the air’. Both in private and in public affairs men confidently expected to be treated decently.

iii. Progress

The human race was now able to carryon without distraction enterprises that had been started as soon as world unity had been attained. Industrial production and distribution had to be fully developed in such a way as to afford security, comfort, and full growth of body and mind to every human being between the poles. Resources of tidal and volcanic power had to be exploited to their full extent. For the needs of the race would soon be a thousandfold what they had been. New and better synthetic materials must be invented, and some old materials must be produced in far larger quantities. There must be new and plentiful building materials and standardized parts of buildings, more durable plastics for articles of domestic use, better and far more plentiful fabrics for clothing, better food, better transport, far more lavish educational equipment.

All this production must be done in such a way that ‘sub-human’ work could be carried on solely by machines. Of course, so long as the standard of human capacity remained what it was, many world-citizens would be content with low-grade work; but no human being must ever have to spend his life on work below his capacity, and none must ever be tied to a kind of work for which his special aptitudes were unsuited. There must be a great advance in vocational psychology, and therefore much research.

Psychology, indeed, now came into its own. Human culture in the scientific age had at first been dominated by physics and chemistry, then by biology; and now finally it was largely influenced by psychology. As the understanding of human nature increased, great advances were made in educational method. Crippling neuroses gradually disappeared. A composite photograph of mankind would have shown an expression of frankness, confidence, and friendliness such as in an earlier age was to be seen only in those who were outstandingly fortunate in their genes and their nurture.

By now it was universally realized that fullness of life, though it involved ample material means, was not to be measured simply in terms of luxury, but rather in terms of bodily well-being and the higher ranges of bodily and mental skill. A rather sharp distinction was made in the new order between articles of mere luxury and articles needed for the development of body or mind. Industry was planned so as to make the former difficult to procure, the latter easy. Luxury was by no means condemned, but the unlimited power of the world-society to produce luxury articles was deliberately restricted, so that though every one could procure a certain amount of pure luxury with his ‘luxury allowance’, no one could gather to himself masses of choice articles which it was beyond his power to use or appreciate. Thus the more flamboyant kinds of clothing, though not banned, were produced in very small quantities; while simpler materials and patterns were plentiful and various. Essential foods were obtainable everywhere in lavish amounts. Luxury foods and the more precious kinds of wine were difficult to come by. Serviceable motor cars and aeroplanes were available for every citizen. Luxury cars and planes were to be obtained only by the fanatic who was willing to stint himself in all other respects. Choice jewellery was almost unobtainable, and was used mainly for communal rather than individual display, but simple trinkets, hand-made by craftsmen steeped in some local tradition or venturing upon new forms, were available for all who wanted them. In general the aim was to use the vast mechanical resources of the race not to complicate but to simplify life, and to bring all that was needed within the reach of all. Full use was to be made of machinery while ensuring that machinery should not dominate. In the old days the needs of ordinary people were catered for incidentally by enterprises undertaken for private profit. The result was a constant appeal to the more primitive and more insistent impulses of men, and a gross degradation of sensibility and integrity. But now that public need was the first claim it was necessary to decide what the public need really was, and which needs were most to be fostered. Industry had to be planned accordingly.

The world which now began to emerge was of very different type from the old one. While nearly everyone was in some style a worker, the ‘working class’ was rapidly vanishing. No longer did the bulk of the population work for long hours and for insufficient pay, living more or less in squalor, and failing to secure that small amount of self-expression without which mental health is impossible. The general frustration and misery of the past had produced a characteristic mentality, now vanished. In politics, for instance, frustration had expressed itself in a gnawing vindictiveness which later on seemed merely silly. At each end of the political spectrum, and indeed to a great extent throughout it, fear, jealousy, hatred, and a frustrated itch for self-display, were dominant motives, though often appearing under the guise of righteous indignation. Hence Fascism, Nazism, and the baser sort of Communism. By now, Fascism and Nazism had of course long ago vanished. Communism, which at one time had made so great a contribution to thought and feeling and institutions, was no longer a fanatical creed. In a sense all sane men were communists, since all accepted much of the Marxian social analysis; but the militant Communist Party had long since vanished, and the Marxian attempt to do without the primacy of the fundamental values, love and wisdom, was recognized as a perversity due to the poisonous atmosphere of the machine age.

Instead of the ‘working class’ there were increasing millions of people whose standard of life we should call ‘comfortable middle-class’, but whose minds were very different from our middle-class minds, since they were no longer moulded by the desperate necessity of trying to get the better of their neighbours in the commercial dog-fight. Most men were now salaried servants of the world state or some national state or local or vocational authority. Three classes alone received no salary, but drew, when necessary, the liberal maintenance allowance to which every citizen was entitled when he needed it. The small and curious class of private capitalists, whose function it was to provide society with the benefits of daring private enterprise in industrial pioneering, lived on profits, but were prevented by sumptuary laws and taxation from attaining more than the tolerated degree of affluence. Their employees were skilled workers of all kinds, attracted by the possibility of somewhat higher pay and shorter hours than were allowed in state service, and by a sense of adventure in a small common enterprise. Most of them were persons who had saved up their luxury allowances to contribute to the equipping of the factory. Thus they themselves were capitalists. The aim of the original capitalist or group of capitalists who founded the concern was always to build up a co-operative and self-governing society in which all the members were in some degree capitalists.

The second class of unsalaried persons were the artists and writers who started professional life in complete dependence on the maintenance allowance and such extra help as they could obtain from their parents or friends. They might also gain state ‘subsidies of merit’; but in the main they hoped to live on the sale of their works, since in the new world the demand for books, pictures, musical performances, and so on, was far greater than in our own day.

The third unsalaried class was made up of the born idlers and tramps. These, a small minority, either supplemented their maintenance allowance with an occasional day’s labour, or frankly depended wholly on the ‘dole’. Although the great majority of these people were socially quite useless, the world society could easily afford to keep them in idleness for the sake of the few outstandingly creative or critical minds that now and then emerged from among them. Many of these inveterate tramps were people with strong anti-social impulses. They regarded all social organization as a nuisance and as ‘fair game’ for the predatory wanderer. The fact that they were nevertheless tolerated and even fostered is a measure of the stability and the wisdom of the leaders of the new world. These ne’er-do-wells were very few, for improved education had greatly reduced the number of merely warped minds. These were apparently not warped but innately individualistic. Some were individualistic to such an extent that they refused to avail themselves of the dole, and lived almost entirely by pilfering, sometimes by audacious highway robbery. To me it seemed at first incredible that this sort of thing should be permitted in this almost Utopian society. But these ‘outlaws’ were a minute section of the individualist class, and anyone who suffered from their attentions could claim compensation from the state. There was therefore no attempt to eradicate them. When they were caught they were very leniently punished, except when they had done bodily hurt to their victims.

In the vocational representative system which ran parallel to the parliamentary system, the capitalists, writers, artists, and tramps had their own voting colleges, along with the salaried occupations, such as engineers and teachers. The tramps and outlaws, however, very seldom exercised their right to vote.

The lives of salaried persons of course varied very much. The aim was to provide that in boring occupations hours should be short, and in interesting work long. Exceptionally, some monotonous work involved rather long hours, but in such cases the workers were chosen from the psychological class who thrive best on monotonous occupations in which they can day-dream. On the other hand some enthralling work was restricted to short hours because of the strain which it involved.

One striking institution, first tried out in North America, but immediately copied in China and soon adopted throughout the world, was the Corps of Emergency. This consisted of workers from almost every occupation chosen for their versatility and enterprise, and kept in training and on full pay, to be moved hither and thither as occasion required. Thus, if for some reason a river had to be deflected, a mountain removed, a sea drained, thousands of civil engineers were available without disturbance to existing enterprises. The Corps fulfilled the function of the unemployed in the old capitalist system, but with a very different temper.

The professed aim of the World Government was to secure a right balance of specialization and all-roundness. Thus the more specialized a man’s trade, the more he was encouraged to take up outside activities. Every individual, of course, was educated primarily to be a developed personality and a responsible citizen. He was given an outline of world-history and of the modern world culture. He was also deliberately educated for breadth of sympathy and understanding. Whatever his special capacities, he was trained to some degree of insight into the activities of others. It was constantly urged upon him that his prime duty was twofold, both to develop his own special aptitude and to comprehend and foster so far as possible the special aptitudes of others.

The World Government jealously exercised its right to supervise all national educational systems so as to ensure that the essential principles of education for citizenship in the new world should not be violated; should in fact be vigorously practised. The aim was, not only to impart a clear outline of man’s story, along with some detail of national and provincial history, but also to foster the two supremely important human impulses, the will for community and the will for intelligence. Not only as between individuals but also as between peoples specialization was carefully restricted. Inevitably at first some countries were predominantly industrial, others agricultural, but it was deliberately designed that this specialization should be based on an underlying self-sufficiency. This surprised me, for the danger of war between the peoples had by now vanished. Why, then, this insistence on self-sufficiency? Partly, self-sufficiency was a result of natural economic development. With the great advance of physical and chemical technique, industry had become far less dependent on locality. Anything from food to typewriters could now be produced in almost any district, for the primary raw materials were vegetable tissues and the very common minerals.

But there was another reason for increasing self-sufficiency. At first sight it seemed a reason pointing in the opposite direction. The aim of the world government was the development of the world as a whole, not of any one people. Local cultural differences were therefore to be fostered, since it was realized that mental diversity was the breath of life. This, it might seem, would involve fostering economic specialization in each country, since economic diversity should produce mental diversity. But extreme psychological specialization was now recognized to be very dangerous. The highly specialized factory worker of the past had been but the caricature of a real man. The agricultural worker who knew of nothing but turnips had been equally limited. For a people to be capable of significant cultural variation it must have within its range a great diversity of activities. Persons in each walk of life must be open to the direct and constant influence of persons whose occupations, and therefore their mentalities, are different. A highly specialized national economy breeds a lop-sided mental culture. In a world of highly specialized nations this danger can be partly avoided by the insistence on foreign travel; but not effectively; for travel is either a holiday occupation, in which case its effect though valuable, is not far-reaching; or a way of life, in which case the traveller is mentally uprooted from his native culture.

The aim of the leaders of the new world was a high degree not only of national but of provincial self-sufficiency. Thus in Britain, where economic organization centred on the tidal generators of the west coast of Scotland, industry was not allowed to concentrate in that district. Improved transmission made it possible to take the electric current into every part of the island, and to scatter the new bright factories and workers’ dwellings throughout the agricultural regions. On the other hand much of the former congested industrial area of Lancashire and Yorkshire and the Midlands was once more largely agricultural. In consequence, not only the Scottish and Welsh nations but the new-old English provinces of Wessex, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, and so on, developed each its own limited but vigorous autonomy, and made its own contribution to the English culture. England in turn was becoming far more self-sufficient than of old. Improved agriculture and reduced population made it possible for the three British peoples to feed themselves, though there was always a large import of luxury foods from abroad. Britain had long ago ceased to be ‘the workshop of the world’, since every country was in the main its own workshop, but Britain’s imports were ‘paid for’ by the export of the special lines of high-quality machinery and fabrics for which the British were becoming famous. Trade, in fact, was becoming more and more an exchange not of necessities, but of products which local genius produced for the amplification and embellishment of life throughout the world. Each people aimed at being basically self-sufficient but also at producing for the world economy some special class of goods which could be produced with unique success by its local tradition and skill. Each also prided itself both on its cosmopolitan and on its national culture, both on its insight into the common human tradition and on its peculiar contribution to that ever-exfoliating culture.

Thus the British, never a highly cultured race in the intellectual sense, claimed with some justice that they could still teach the world through the example of their political life, with its anomalous but effective institutions and its temperate and forbearing spirit. And though the population of Britain remained relatively unresponsive to literature, English writers, and particularly English poets, wrote for the world and were read by the world more than the writers of any other land. This was partly due to the importance which the luck of history had given to the English language, for at this time it had become the ‘second language’ of all other peoples, and was being constantly enriched by extensive borrowings from other languages, to such an extent that the Englishman of that age considered the English of our day as archaic as Chaucer’s English.

The Germans still gave the world great music, monumental works of philosophy (increasingly often written in English) and meticulous applications of science. Their organizing ability expressed itself throughout the world in the great preponderance of Germans in the control of cosmopolitan institutions such as the World Commissions for Health, Postage, Radio, Transport. Indeed there were those who murmured that the Germans had at last achieved their dream of world empire. The Russians, freed from their delusion of imperialism, rightly claimed the world’s admiration for their powers of insight into personality and their spirit of comradeship. The Tibetans, ever-respected for the glorious victory that they had won against the forces of darkness through their spiritual discipline, were universally regarded as the main fastness of the spirit. The more subtle and more diverse Indians, however, were becoming the main interpreters of spiritual experience to the rest of the world. The North Americans, now the leading pioneers in industrial invention, and also in man’s ever-increasing astronomical exploration, claimed in addition that they were leaders in the important task of digesting and co-ordinating the other cultures. The Chinese, who in virtue of sheer numbers and the continuity of their civilization played an immense part in forming the culture of the new world, ensured that the ordinary man should indeed within his powers be a cultured man, and provided him with a subtle and humane pattern of personal conduct. Thus at the outset of the phase of Utopian development there was great cultural diversity among the peoples. Of course, to excel in any one cultural direction an individual had not necessarily to belong to the people which was its chief exponent. Indeed, in every cultural sphere outstanding contributions might be made by individuals of any nation. Moreover, some cultural activities were far more international than others. Most of the natural sciences, for instance, depended on many peoples equally. But on the whole, and in the long run, each people gained its special reputation, and to excel in any sphere a man must if possible start by absorbing the contribution of the people that had done most in that sphere. Not that the talent of a people remained fixed for ever. Reputations might be lost, and new ones made. Indeed each people was capable of surprising the world with achievement in directions hitherto unattempted by it. Few would have expected that the Russians, after an age of fanatical materialism, would develop a special aptitude for mystical experience; still fewer that the minute and storm-racked population of the Shetland Isles would come to excel in philosophy to such an extent that the new little university of Lerwick vied with the great German and Indian seats of learning in this respect.

Though everything possible was done to encourage each people to develop its special capacities, certain essential principles were ensured in all states, namely those customs, institutions, and values which were deemed necessary for the welfare of mankind as a whole and the further development of human capacity. Thus in education, while each people and each large minority within a people was permitted to arrange curricula and the temper of its schools and colleges in accord with its peculiar needs and tradition, all must conform to the fundamental principles of the new world, educating for personality and world-citizenship, and the full expression of the potentiality of man. Similarly in respect of law, though each country preserved its legal system mainly intact, all must in respect of such vital matters as civil liberty, health, the prevention of economic exploitation, fulfil certain essential requirements. If in any respect its national legal system fell short of the common standard of mankind, changes, however drastic, had to be made. But indeed, in respect of law there was a strong tendency to abolish all national oddities and to work out a single uniform system of world law.

Now that the new world order was firmly established the main concern of the World Government was the detailed organization of human affairs so as to secure that future generations should have the best possible conditions. In the economic field the aim was to strike such a balance between producer’s goods and consumer’s goods that, though present conditions should be as favourable as was necessary for physical and mental health, future conditions should be far better. This involved a great deal of research and bold planning by the World Economic Development Commission. At the same time the World Health Ministry was able to organize a well-co-ordinated attack on disease, and to secure that the rising generation should be more healthy than their predecessors.

iv. The Population Problem

Of all the problems that confronted the World Government the most difficult was that of population. During the period of the Russian and Chinese Empires and subsequently under the World Empire, population in most countries had very seriously declined, and the average age had increased. The French had dwindled to a sprinkling of disheartened old people in a swarm of German and Russian invaders. Yet Germany and Russia themselves had suffered a startling decline of population. China under the Empire was badly depleted. The Japanese, whose sufferings had been worse than those of any other people, were almost exterminated. The Indians had multiplied after gaining their independence from Britain, but had declined heavily under the Russian and Chinese Empires. The British, reduced during the tyranny to a handful of semi-barbarians in a land of ruined factories, had later, under the influence of Tibetan missionaries, conceived a new national purpose even under the heel of the tyranny, and had concentrated on reproduction so effectively that the decline was stayed and these island peoples became sufficiently vigorous to undertake rebellion after rebellion. At the founding of the World Federation, Great Britain was inhabited by some eight million human beings.

The two empires had tried to stem the downfall of world population by forbidding birth-control and persecuting the childless. These methods had little effect, for under the empires life was not worth living.

While numbers were declining, the average level of intelligence was declining also. The more intelligent were more reluctant than the dullards to burden themselves with children in a hostile world; or else, climbing into wealth and comfort without any social or religious ideals to stimulate them into assuming the burden, they avoided it.

One of the first acts of the World Federal Government was to set up a Ministry of Parenthood, charged not only with stemming the general decline of population but also with securing that intelligent stocks should not dwindle while dull stocks increased. The first task was to make parenthood attractive to people of average and superior intelligence. This was done partly by heavy subsidies. Every intelligent child, far from being a burden to its parents, became a financial asset. Great efforts were made to free childbirth of its distress and danger, and to ensure that the upbringing of children should not demand the enslavement of the mother during the best years of her life. With the aid of communal meals, communal nurseries and labour-saving devices within the home the mothers were freed and yet the home was preserved as the fundamental unit of social life. All girls were trained in mothercraft. The Ministry also undertook careful propaganda to persuade all young people that parenthood was at once their supreme privilege and their first obligation; the supreme privilege, because only through marriage and the rearing of a family could they know community in its most intimate form; the supreme obligation because in the present condition of the species the most urgent need was that the decline of population should be checked, and that there should be a lavish supply of vigorous and intelligent young. For this age of mankind’s history, they said, was the true age of sunrise. The period from the origin of the species to the overthrow of the world tyranny had been merely the long-drawn-out dawn. But with the founding of the Federation of Mankind bright light had suddenly appeared over the horizon. At last the whole prospect was clear and golden. Not only must population cease to decline; the needs of the new world were such that the number of human beings must be increased to a hundred times their present number. The world-resources were ample, and for the fulfilment of man’s potentiality it was necessary to have a world of many scores of great diversified peoples. But more important even than numbers was quality. It must be the task of each generation to secure that its successor should be more healthy, more intelligent, more generous, more sane, and more creative than earlier generations. Every young couple must surely desire this for its own children, and must covet the rarest of parental glories, namely to bring into the world some outstanding genius, whether in political action, science, art, or spiritual leadership.

Much was done in order to foster intelligence and integrity in the rising generation. Lavish research produced at last very reliable mental tests. Defectives and certain types prone to criminality were sterilized. Dullards were severely discouraged from having children. Parents of good average intelligence were of course helped to have large families. Those of exceptionally high intelligence were handsomely subsidized. Outstanding children were treated as the world’s most precious possession, and trained with the utmost care and skill to enable them to make full use of their powers.

v. Aristocrats and Democrats

Within a few generations this policy of fostering intelligence and integrity began to have surprising results. Society began to be stratified in ranks of ability. People tended to confine their mating within their own rank of capacity. Consequently the first signs of a new caste system appeared. Serious problems were thus raised, and two world-wide political parties, opposed to one another with increasing emphasis, advocated opposite policies. One party, the Aristocrats, favoured the acceptance of the caste tendency, and even the deliberate breeding of specialized human types for specialized functions, including a caste of world-organizers or rulers. The other party, the Democrats, insisted that, though inevitably there must be great differences between men in respect of mental and spiritual developments, and some differences were no doubt desirable, it was important to prevent such divergences from broadening into unbridgeable gulfs. The distinctive attribute of man, they said, was not specialism but versatility, not social organization of types alien to each other, but free community among mutually understanding and respecting persons. For man, the way of aristocracy was the way of insectification and of death.

Against this view it was insisted that society was like an organism composed of highly specialized cells. A man’s body could not be made up wholly of brain cells; nor could a highly developed society consist wholly of the highest possible types of individuals. The Democrats agreed, but added that human society was far more like a brain than a body. Its body was the material fabric of civilization. Itself was a cerebrum which, whatever the specialization of its cells, must act as a whole. Every unitary member must be at least able to appreciate the rhythm of the whole. In fact, human society must be human society, must be a genuine community. Just as in the body the cells must not be so different that they could not hold together in organic relation, so in a human community the members must not be so different that they could not hold together in the distinctively human relation of true community. Or rather, it did not matter how great the differences. The greater they were the better for mutual enrichment, so long as it remained possible for every member to recognize the humanity of every other whom he might encounter, to speak to him as man to man, to feel fundamentally at one with him, to welcome his differences for the sake of his essential kinship, nay to value them for their enriching power.

Some of the Aristocrats were inclined to agree with all this; but they held that in the time of transition from semi-humanity to full humanity the race must inevitably consist of an élite and a commonalty, and that the élite must be segregated and given special privileges and responsibilities. True, replied the Democrats. The élite clan must carry forward the advance of humanity, must do all the creative work. Their capacity to do this is in fact their supreme privilege. They need no other, save the special environment and instruments needed for their special occupations. But if they come to demand as of right that inferior types should exist beneath them to do the baser work of society, they are being false to their own humanity. Sub-normal individuals, of course, there will inevitably be in any society, and they must be cared for and if possible helped to serve in some humble capacity; but no society can be healthy, can be really human, if it requires that some of its members should fall short of that level of mentality needed for intelligent partnership in the common enterprise.

The Aristocrats argued that the urgent task was to improve the calibre of the creative intelligence which led the human advance, gradually specializing all the castes for their peculiar functions, the clerks for clerking, the manuals for hand-labour, and so on. The Democrats demanded that the main effort should be to raise the general level and blot out the incipient caste systems.

This great dispute was carried on for centuries, and became increasingly violent as its solution became more urgent. Successive world-governments adopted conflicting policies. Some peoples inclined more to one view, some to the other. The upshot of this confused and ineffective policy was that the caste structure gradually developed automatically. It became possible to tell a man’s caste even by the appearance of his naked body. The heavy-limbed labourer, the brisk and bird-like clerk, the strong-armed, weak-legged mechanic, could be singled out in the swimming bath. Already there was a movement to provide special accommodation for each caste and to forbid intercourse.

Little by little, however, it became clear even to members of the Aristocratic Party that the world was once more falling sick, and that the source of trouble was the caste system. Sharp conflicts arose between the castes, and particularly between the more privileged and the less privileged. Official secretiveness and official meddlesomeness began to return. Fundamental human liberties were imperceptibly but ceaselessly curtailed, save for the élite. The sacred scriptures of the race began to echo reproachfully in men’s ears. In spite of the improved intelligence and goodwill of the race, the bulk of the privileged class found reason for clinging to their privileges. It seemed that the world must sooner or later be torn once more by a bitter class conflict and a civil war. But once more the improvement in mentality, slight though it was, made the difference between disaster and precarious triumph. Many even of the supporters of the incipient caste system could not shut their eyes to the fact that their party was drawn almost entirely from the élite alone, that the rest of the race was violently opposed to their policy, and that oppression, though tempered with decency, was once more appearing.

As so often before, a crisis was brought about by a change in the method of production. Through a long series of new discoveries and inventions a new and incomparably mightier source of mechanical power was at last brought into action. This source was sub-atomic; but whether it lay in the disintegration of atoms or in the actual conversion of the ultimate material particles into free energy, or some more obscure activity, I could never clearly understand. Its impact on society, anyhow, was obvious. Both tidal electricity and volcanic power were quickly superseded. Power could now be generated anywhere on the earth’s surface, and to a limitless extent. The generators, however, though small were extremely complex and delicate. They were dangerous too, for mishandling might easily lead to the devastation of a whole province. Only a highly trained physicist of superior intelligence could control them. The adoption of the new process throughout the world was restricted by the lack of a supply of practical intelligence of sufficiently high grade; and also by the fact that the huge class of workers connected with the old sources of power were too specialized to be turned over to any other skilled work. Owing to the caste tendency, they had become ‘bound intelligences’ of an exaggerated type, apt for the routine problems of their profession, but utterly incapable of versatility.

Thus the work of adapting the structure of society to the new means of production was very difficult. Physicists had to be trained in huge numbers; the old engineering profession had somehow to be transformed. But how? Some advocated pensioning off the whole population of them for life. Some few did not scruple to suggest the lethal chamber.

This state of affairs brought the caste problem to a head. Discussion was world-wide and heated. The radio sets of all the peoples resounded with earnest speeches from those who advocated the abolition of caste and a rapid change over, and on the other hand from those who urged a slow transformation both of the caste system and of the productive method. There were some who would have sacrificed sub-atomic power altogether in order to preserve the caste principle. But to common sense it had long ago become obvious that the caste principle was harmful anyhow. Many even of the Aristocrats were by now convinced at heart. In an earlier age this would not have prevented them from fighting to the death for their privileges, but the temper of men had indeed improved. By an overwhelming majority the Parliament of the World accepted the principle that henceforth everything possible should be done to raise the general level of intellectual and moral calibre rather than to produce a caste of cultural and social leaders supported by specialized castes of various types of bound intelligence. It was recognized that special aptitudes would always be needed and must be developed to the full, so far as they did not interfere with the fundamental human identity of all members of the species.

Certain principles of policy were laid down for the guidance of the World Government. The transition to sub-atomic power must be tempered to the needs of the old engineering caste. These unfortunate servants of the human species must be given the choice of either accepting a pension, or learning some new work, or continuing their present occupation in normal circumstances, even if this involved slowing down the rate of transition to sub-atomic power. Intermarriage between castes must be encouraged. Social segregation of castes must be prevented. Individuals with extreme specialized characters must be forbidden to marry individuals of the same type. And so on.

The dissolution of the incipient caste system formed the end of an epoch. Hitherto the great conflicts which occurred in the human race had been in the main uncontrolled and gravely damaging. In tribal warfare, national warfare, and class struggles the organs of humanity tore at one another in blind fury, so that their common life was at all times crippled and abject, and every human being was to some extent warped. Not only were the types of cell within the great organism but feebly united but often by nature they were lethal to one another. Each was to the other an army of disease cells. Even during that long first phase of the career of the species some conflicts had of course been successfully integrated into the life of the whole, or at least into the life of a whole nation or class. But henceforth, conflicts were far better subordinated to the needs of the whole human race. They ceased to be desperate internecine life-and-death struggles, and became merely internal strains, needed to preserve the taut balance of the common life, like the tension between the antagonist muscles of a limb.

Two conditions, it seemed to me, assured this new sanity of the race. The first was a social order in which every individual who was not gravely sub-normal could count on a life of self-expression and co-operation. The second was the widespread, heartfelt, and not merely verbal acceptance of the fundamental religious aim of social life, namely the development of man’s capacity for personality in service of the spirit.


Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30