XV

THE WILL FOR CHANGE

HOW is the present world-population, which consists mostly of minds poisoned by economic disorder and bad education, to be brought to will the new world? An increasing number of the working class demand far-reaching social change; but, very naturally, most of them are concerned almost entirely with the economic side of revolution. The educational side is for most of them subsidiary. Of the dominant class only a few seriously desire either economic or educational revolution.

Somehow or other the makers of the new world have to persuade the young adults of all the peoples to demand not only economic but also educational changes of the most far-reaching kind.

In the present state of the world it does, indeed, seem hopeless to expect the young to demand anything of the sort. Movements of reaction are becoming stronger every day. The peoples are inclining more and more to demagogues and tyrants, who have no conception of the world-aim, and maintain their power by appeals to primitive fear and hate, and to the mob's passion for hero-worship and tribal assertiveness. The policy of the victorious nations since the War is having the results which it was bound to have. The great opportunity of civilization was missed; and now, in spite of our much-advertised trade-recovery, Europe, nay the world, seems to be taking the first step toward barbarism.

Yet there is hope. There are still in every country some who have not been duped by demagogues, and a few who have definitely given their allegiance to the world-aim. As the situation grows more desperate, these few are coming to realize that they must take their allegiance much more seriously than they have done hitherto. Their main task is to fire men's imagination by a well-thought-out policy and by effective propaganda. Whenever possible, also, they must capture the actual social machinery, and direct it for the making of the new world. Some of them must find their way into parliaments and city councils. Some must work through trade unions, others through associations of employers. Some must join in the great task of revitalizing education by permeating and capturing all kinds of education authorities. All must join to attack and transform, and use for their own ends, that most irresponsible and potent influence, the commercial press, which at present does so much to keep men enslaved to their baser passions. They must also seek, by one means or another, to gain access to the microphone, so that the eminently respectable ether may at last be forced to resound with their seditious doctrines.

All this the makers of the new world must do. By all possible methods they must make a bold and vivid appeal to the imagination of the peoples. They must seek to become living examples of devotion to the greatest of all causes, the making of the new world. Sometimes, and perhaps increasingly often, they will have to bear witness in the most effective way of all, by martyrdom.

For a short time after the War it seemed almost as though the new world might come into being easily, by the general will of the war-racked peoples, and without need of martyrs. But since then everything has changed. Through the revived nationalism of the same peoples and the folly of their rulers the great opportunity was missed. And as a result men are losing faith in pacifism and world-unity and all the principles which they used to applaud but have never yet put into practice.

But the blackness of the outlook may help to waken a new spirit There is a real chance that, if those who care for the true cause of humanity can behave to-day with intelligence and courage, they may yet light a fire such as has never before kindled mankind.

They will not succeed unless they can first increase a hundred-fold the fire in their own hearts. How is this to be done? By self-discipline and meditation they must strengthen their belief in their cause. They must let it take complete possession of their minds, so that it becomes for them the all-absorbing topic, so that all lesser interests subordinate themselves to it. To serve in the making of the new world must be for them not a reluctant duty but the great passion of their lives.

But, lest they should become narrow fanatics, they must strive as far as possible to fulfil themselves splendidly both in body and in mind, so as to become not only effective instruments for the creation of the new world but also examples of ample personality and generous citizenship. For the cause which they must serve, unlike so many other causes, is one that cannot be served well by fanatics but only by men of broad experience and understanding and sympathy.

Yet they must consecrate themselves absolutely to the cause. If they climb mountains or compose music, it must be to the glory of the new world. If they fall in love, it must be to the glory of the new world. Everything that they do, everything great and small, public and private, they must consecrate to the new world.

For mutual strengthening they must get together and cling together. Of many nations, they must yet recognize one another as one tribe, one chosen people, though scattered among all the peoples. Diverse in language, tastes, customs, even in ideas, they must yet hold together in virtue of the single supreme idea which they all serve. Of many social classes and occupations, they must transcend these limitations; but also they must preserve and use any special capacity which comes from class or occupation. Thus their thought, their breadth of understanding and depth of purpose, may perhaps come largely from those of them who are 'intellectuals'; but their drive, their passion, their consecration, will come from those who are of the people, and are not unused to desperate remedies.

They must get together; but they must none of them lose their individuality, their personal uniqueness. They must not sink to become mere mindless echoes of one another, or of a new herd-voice. If they do, they will go the way of so many other revolutionary movements. They will become slaves to their own dogma. Instead they must each one keep alive, in the roots of his own unique individual being, and test all things by the touchstone of his own most awakened reaction.

The new world must not, of course, be a world of little hard, disconnected individualists; but neither must it be a world of mindless herd-mimics. It must be a world of real persons. Each must move forward, so to speak, upon his own feet, though shoulder to shoulder with his fellows. Each must contribute his own reality to the world; and at the same time each must be enriched and strengthened by his fellows, so that all together form a true community.

And since this is what the new world is to be, the pioneers of that new world must themselves exemplify it in their own lives; else they cannot possibly produce it. In short, if they are to achieve their aim, they must form themselves into a very special kind of party or order, made up of very diverse persons, each one a vital self, but all united by the supreme world-aim. In some ways this order must be like the early Christian Church; for its purpose will be at bottom religious, a unity of vital individuals bound together by their deepest experience. In some ways it will be like the Bolshevik party of Russia in its earlier phase; for its aim will be revolutionary, anti-capitalist and in one sense anti-religious. It will strive to bring about some kind of effective economic communism, and to free the world from the dead hands of big business and of the churches. In some ways it will even be like the Fascist party of Italy and the 'Nazi' party of Germany, in so far as these depend on youth and seek to revitalize society with a new devotion and a new protest against the mechanic's mentality, if this devotion and this loyalty are indeed factors in the Fascist and Nazi movements. In many ways, too, it will be like Mr. Wells's Open Conspiracy, for it will appeal to the great technicians of the world to bring their skill and their organizations to the service of the world-aim. But they must come to it not only to manage, not even only to serve, but also to waken those sides of their being which have lain dormant, and thereby to discover that the world-aim includes much which lies beyond the range of the mechanic's mentality even at its most generous best. At bottom the party of the new world must at all cost be both revolutionary and in a special sense religious.

In the present state of the world it would be foolish to hold at all confidently that such a movement as I have described will actually occur, still more foolish to feel hopeful that it will triumph.

But there is a chance that it may do so. The time is ripe for such a reawakening. The Western peoples have suffered grave distresses and bitter disillusionment. They are beginning to be terrified at their own folly and baseness. They are longing for a new way of life, and are feeling their way toward it. Perhaps in fifty years' time men will look back on our day as to the blackness before the dawn. It is not impossible that within a few years we shall see the spontaneous fire of the new life kindled in a thousand regions and spreading in every direction. It is not impossible that the human race is now about to solve triumphantly one of the greatest problems of its whole career; that it is about to pass at one stride out of the tentative, disorderly, blind, half-civilization, of the last ten thousand years into full civilization, consciously directed toward the true world-aim.

It is not impossible. But lei us not for a moment deceive ourselves into believing it probable. What seems probable is decline and widespread misery, or at best an age of confusion, of prolonged conflict between the old order and the new hope; and then at last, centuries hence, the dawn. Sooner or later man surely must begin to come into his own. Whether it is later or sooner depends very largely on the young of to-day.

Bibliography

Chapter 14

Waking World Contents