If we are, it will not be the fault of the old agencies, in which Kingsley always believed. Church and State are adrift; organised Christianity has abdicated; the aristocracy no longer governs even itself; Parliament has died of a surfeit of its own rules. If fundamental reform is to come, it will be forced upon us by the working class, and (at the pinch) opposed tooth and nail by the privileged. But is it to come? Is the working class deploying for action? In all the miscellaneous scrapping which we watch to-day is there one strong man with a sense of direction? It doesn’t look like it.
Men, having learned to get what they lust after by strife, do not easily forget the lesson. Sporadic war, like a heath fire, breaks out daily in some part of the world; and society is as easily kindled, and as irrationally as nations. A Jew is put out of Hungary and an Archduke takes his place. The working men of Britain, having chosen a Parliament which they don’t believe in, and didn’t want, set to work, not to get rid of it, but to make any future Parliament impossible. The police do their best for the shoplifters; the engine-drivers, to help the police, prevent them from going home to bed. Sir Edward Carson, a staunch Unionist, makes union out of the question. The bakers, to improve the prospects of their trade, teach people to make their own bread. The colliers—well, the colliers do not yet seem to have found out that unless they provide people with coal, people won’t provide them with many things they are in need of.
This doesn’t look much like solidarity, it must be owned; and yet I make bold to say that the one abiding good we have got out of the war is the discovery of the solidarity of man. Nationality (mother of war) has been killed since we have learned from the Germans how much alike we are at our worst, and best. Caste is mortally wounded. The land-girl and her ladyship admit their sisterhood; the staff officer and the batman understand each other in the light of common needs and their satisfaction. There’s the seed; water it with the dew of common poverty and you may have one Britain instead of a round dozen, and a League of Men to succeed a stillborn League of Nations. Courage, then; Eppur si muove!
Poverty is certainly coming, for Europe is on the edge of bankruptcy. With poverty will come freedom, and it can come in no other way. Nobody is free while he is serf to his own necessities, and the necessities of such a man as I am (to take the first instance that comes to hand) have grown to such a pitch that I am as rogue and peasant slave to them as ever Hamlet was to his. Gentleman born, quotha! Caste and self-indulgence go hand in hand. I must be a great man in the village, therefore live in the great house. Men must touch their hat-brims to me, therefore my hat (not I) must be worth their respect. A village girl must wait upon me, therefore (for my life) I must not wait upon her. That is where