English writer predicts disaster for world unless new viewpoint supplants the old
H. G. WELLSDecember11931
Wells Looks at the Future
REVIEW of REVIEWS
English writer predicts disaster for world unless new viewpoint supplants the old
H. G. WELLS
IN THE November 15 number of Maclean's Winston Churchill prophesied what the world would be like fifty years from now. In John o’ London’s Weekly (London) H. G. Wells has recently written on the same subject, and it may therefore be of interest to compare the statements of these two eminent Englishmen.
Wells begins by stating that fifty years ago it was easily possible to predict what the present age would bring about, and he continues:
“But things are not like that today. Instead of progress there is crisis everywhere. There is no government, not even the American, which has now the manifest fixity of the ‘great powers’ of the ’Eighties. All contemporary governments have been outgrown, physically and mentally, by the needs of mankind.
“Human life has become a world-wide thing, but governments remain cramped and partial things. More and more people are coming to realize this. Yet none of us know clearly how to change over to a more comprehensive and securer way of running the world.
“International politics still consist largely of idiotic attempts on the part of seventy odd governments to get the better of their rivals. We are all drifting through needless and wasteful economic war toward actual military war. Some years ago I wrote that the salvaging of civilization was a race between education and catastrophe. But education has not even started yet. There is no race. It looks like a walkover for catastrophe.
“In the schools of Britain, America, France, Germany, Italy, Japan today, the school teachers are still casting minds into the old forms of national conceit and patriotic hatred. They are doing the fundamental work of mental armament. There are few exceptions. And the hundreds of millions of ‘modern democracy’ show as much ability to protect their minds from subjugation and arrest the advancing disaster, which will enslave, torture, mutilate and destroy the greater proportion of them, as a trainload of hogs bound for Chicago.
“Most people realize that there has been a profound industrial depression since last October, but few realize how near the economic life of civilization came to absolute smash, in the secret eventful days that preceded President Hoover’s announcement of a year’s holiday for war debt payments. And that announcement, hailed everywhere as an immense relief, and followed by a hectic revival of business, made nothing more than a temporary alleviation, a breathing space, in the march of events. It touched nothing of the essential forces, the blind suspicions and rivalries between nations, the strangulation of enterprise by debts and the gold standard, and the failure to develop methods of mass consumption to balance mass production, that are carrying us all to disaster.
“Gladly would the prophet prophesy pleasant things. But his duty is to tell what he sees.
“He sees a world still firmly controlled by soldiers, patriots, usurers, and financial adventurers; a world surrendered to suspicion and hatred, losing what is left of its private liberties very rapidly, blundering toward bitter class conflicts and preparing for new wars. The economic machine is stalling in every country in the world. The decline is going on under our eyes. Production is diminishing, trade is declining, presently we shall find even our present educational and hygienic services too costly for our existing methods of payment and cut them down to new low levels of inadequacy. Few people realize yet how flimsy and vulnerable are the liberties and securities, the plenty and the leisure we still enjoy. But it is more probable than not that in fifty years time men may be less secure, less well fed, and clothed and housed less comfortably than they are today, and that in that retrogressive age it may already have become as difficult and dangerous to
travel from San Francisco to London or Paris as it was to go from London to Moscow in the thirteenth century.
“The prophet must say what he sees. To me—to put it plainly—it is as if I was watching a dark curtain fall steadily fold after fold across the bright spectacle of hope with which the century dawned. Its fall is not inevitable; it is still preventable; nevertheless it continues to fall. I do not see any adequate effort to prevent its fall. Efforts are being made, but they are limited and insufficient. The way toward a great world State of power, freedom, and general happiness, is still plainly open to mankind. We have been brought to the very borders of the Promised Land of Progress. And the amount of visible human determination to cross those borders and escape from the age-long sequences of quarrelling, futility, insufficiency, wars, and wasted generations that fill the blood-stained pages of history, the amount of visible effort to open now a
new volume in the adventure of life, is— contemptible.
“It would need nothing superhuman to avert the decline. No triumphant devil is destroying us. We are being destroyed by the mean dull fool in our general composition. We are not being beaten in an honorable struggle; we are loitering and rotting down to disaster. A few thousand resolute spirits, the tithe of a tithe of the misdirected heroism that went to waste in the Great War, a few score million pounds for a world campaign for the new order, might still at the present time turn the destinies of mankind right round from mercenariness, narrowness, and cruelty, toward a new life for our race. Professor Einstein has said that it needs only two per cent of the populations of Europe and America to say plainly that they will resist any war that may be contrived for them, to put an end to the foolery of militarism for ever. I agree. I would go further, and say two per cent in the five leading countries in the world. And to that I would add something even more obvious. It needs only that the governments of Britain, the United States, France, Germany, and Russia should get together in order to set up an effective control of currency, credit, production, and distribution, that is to say, an effective ‘dictatorship of prosperity,’ for the whole world. The other sixty odd States would have to join in or accommodate themselves to the overruling decisions of these major Powers. It is as simple a business as that, which our presidents, potentates, statesmen, kings of finance and so forth, are unable to carry through. Which they do not even realize they could carry through. With human decay and disaster plain before them !
“Everyone alive might be a citizen of the whole world. What does that signify in actual fact? All of us would then be free to go where we would about this fascinating and sometimes so lovely planet, which would have become our own. For most of our lives we should be released from toil. All the necessities of the human population, food, abundant transport, clean, fresh, and beautiful housing and furniture, adequate health services, education, social security, could be supplied now under modem conditions by something between twelve and twenty years of not too arduous work on the part of everyone. The town, the countryside would be undergoing constant revision and improvement; the world city would be constantly more gracious and pleasant; the world garden constantly more beautiful. The layout of industry could be as exciting as a game. These are not the assertions of an ‘imaginative writer’; they are possibilities proved up to the hilt by economists and by the scientific examination of these matters. Some fifteen or twenty years of growth, education, and preparation there would have to be for everyone bom into the world, and the rest of life after that stint of economic service would be free for creative work, for graceful living, for movement and experience.
“For an ignorant world we shall have a soundly educated world.”
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