As soon as you get mass production you are delivered over to the token. Now you have to think of that. If you have got a small house of your own, and you have got a few books, you know nearly all your books—you don’t require a catalogue. You almost know where every book is. You may organise them in any way you like—and the fallacy of organisation is one of the most interesting studies in animal psychology. But if you have a large library you are delivered over to the token. The next thing is the expert—the token begins to have control. That is morally wrong. That is against the moral order which intelligence has placed in this world. An organisation, for instance, in which the expert of tokens is more important than the expert of realities, is morally wrong. The intelligent order of this world is the moral order. I cannot develop that: to me it is intuitive.
When you are getting, for instance, efforts actually made to internationalize all the tokens, you are only going to make it worse—it is going to be more immoral …against the moral order of things. Of course the moral order is a very intelligent order, and the intelligent order is a moral order. As soon as you get the very big thing you cannot deal in the realities. You cannot cart about 600.000 tons of potatoes, but you can put them on a piece of paper.
Now the whole of the modern world has been organised by the token person, and it is at the bottom of both Capitalism and Communism. That works out actually, historically, this way. The first movement is practically to destroy the economic basis of the world, which is the family…
The family began to be an encumbrance—as if the most important production was not reproduction! That has to be the unit: all the other things are incidental. A great deal of fuss is being made, for instance, about growing wheat. It is families that have got to grow, not wheat. Wheat is necessary for the families, not the families for wheat. They scrapped the family for the individual. Then the individual began to be scrapped for the thing—wheat, motor cars. By not a logical (a person should never use the word logical when he means psychological or economic: I hardly ever use the word logical because I have to be accurate)—by a psychological necessity they were driven to scrapping the family for the individual, scrapping the individual for the thing, at last scrapping the thing for the token. Until at last you get almost a mathematical formula; mind you, a mathematical result. I am told it now costs three times as much to sell a thing as to make it! That is what you call efficiency. Therefore an organisation of things, an arrangement of things which will scrap the family for the individual, and go on to even look upon the token as primary, is an immoral system; it is against the moral order which is in the world, whether there is a God or not.
Here incidentally I may remark that the great Decalogue—the greatest contribution to human thought and action which has ever been made, in a sense, and which Jesus only authenticated, was promulgated by a very highly intelligent group of persons who had sufficient strength of intelligence and of will to go out of a capitalised and servilised country—Egypt. They recognised that the organisation of Egypt, which was exceedingly efficient—so efficient that I believe the furniture would compare favourably with the Tottenham Court Road—was wrong. There you have a moral thing. I will go on to a further immoral thing.
If I hit the Chairman over the nose in a fit of abstraction, that is a very simple relationship. It is a relationship between two moral agents. It is a perfectly simple relationship; perfectly simple, visible, and it can be proved-though I might find it difficult to prove that I did it in fit of abstraction. Now that is a very simple relationship; and whenever you want to think, thinking consists in getting simple principles, and you may get simple principles in ethics by going back to something simple. Supposing he had attempted to hit me in self-defence: that is quite easily proved and that is a simple arrangement. But now, if you get a complication by your own will, in which it is very difficult to prove when you have done something unjust, that is a wrong principle, that is an immoral arrangement.
Now that is an extraordinary thing of the world to-day as arranged under Capitalism and Communism. No one is, in a sense, responsible for anything. You have gone away from the family and you have now arranged the world with the big mass thing in which it is impossible to lay the injustice of anything almost at the door of anybody…
I will go still further. There is a sense—you will quite understand it—that the title to property (I mean of the adult) is the making of something…. But once you get the great mass organisation, which is the very dream of the Capitalist State, who makes what?
If you have an organisation in which the title to property from work and the making of the thing is practically impossible, your organisation is wrong–it is against morals —it is ethically unsound. It is difficult for people to see—very difficult. But I think the argument is apodictic.
I myself discovered what I consider one of the greatest principle you can discover, and that I discovered when I was scraping about in England. You then see the primaries. I saw a primary—that when you get back to primaries you need never waste a moment of time or an ounce of material. That is one or the most important principles for judging of what I call the ethical evil of both Capitalism and Communism—for they are both essentially based on waste.
I was demonstrating it the other day to a person who wanted to see things. I said, ‘Supposing there is a dozen acre field and you have got a tractor to plough it with. It doesn’t pay you to go into the little corners—you will go round and round. Curiously enough you will notice that modern things always go round—they don’t go into corners. To me that is apodictic—it proves it is morally wrong. It does not pay those who have got a 600 acre field to take all that time going into the corners. It does not yield token.’ Do you know, he got so confused about that. And I regret to say it was a fellow-priest of mine who was reported to have made this appalling remark. He said. ‘I am told there is no living in wheat…’ It takes some time to see that. If that was the ultimate intellectual attitude towards the truth, it would almost qualify that person to be certified as a C3. What is meant by that is, curiously enough, that if you grow large quantities of wheat. you do not get a number of tokens. That is all that is meant.
The modern mass production of various things is organized on the calculation of how large a waste they can allow; for instance, out of a 600 acre field … it will pay mass production to neglect say an acre. To cultivate that acre would put up the costings. If you divided that into small economic things there would not be an ounce or a square yard wasted. Your big mass production is essentially organised on waste, and you will find that the bigger the organisation the more waste they can allow for. That is against the moral order of the world.
Look at the way they are wasting things in Russia-appalling. And the extraordinary thing is this: that waste of material is also waste of time. When you get a unit of human existence, a human individual, the most economic time-saving thing there is, there he is. But now you have got a person here and someone else there, and he has to invent the most infernal things to get ground. Waste of time! Consider the economic values consumed by the gentleman who merely punches a hole in a piece of cardboard—waste of time! It is almost essentially based on a waste of human life. If you waste time you are also implicitly wasting human life, and I think that is a terrible thing.
One of the things that proved that to me very much, and I think it is a sort of inevitable thing (mind you, specious arguments can be brought against it) was this. I remember studying profoundly a Medical Officer of Health’s Annual Report-I have always found novels too dull. And I came across the most extraordinary law: that if you took the richer quarters of that town and the poorest quarters, you found the infant mortality was constant in all the towns, and it worked out almost to a mathematical equality as well as a constant. In all the Annual Reports that I read and studied found that it worked out that the infant mortality in the slum neighbourhoods was about four times as great as in the best-to-do neighourhoods. That is as if three out of every four of those children were killed at birth. That is part of the collective hypocrisy at the present time. We think we are very careful of human life. Waste of human life! It has defied the intelligent but well-meaning people to get any remedy. It seems to be a necessity of a system of mass production, the only primary thing of which would almost seem to be, if not the sin of avarice, some other sin-which would mean the denial of the supremacy of the spiritual, and by that I mean the intellectual. Therefore I feel myself that all that is in its essence immoral-against ethics; that it is very difficult to show it; that there can be the most excellent people in it; that I am not necessarily condemning anybody in it-possibly we are all in it.
I want therefore to enunciate that thesis, that I consider your Capitalistic or your Communistic organisation is, in its very essence, unethical, and that in the end it will bring a certain thing which the believer in God will call punishment, and which others can call what they like.
I think I owe it to myself and you to say that I do love little things because I love the greatness that is possible through them. The greatness of intellectual culture. I think sometimes that men and women who are little accustomed to intellectual culture, fear that by going back to things primary there is a danger of losing intellectual culture. I think that reason now is a little imperilled; that reason is one of the rare things in the modern world. I believe we shall not recover our reason until we get back to something simple in our modern life. We have to simplify so much of human life. And my invitation-which is the invitation of my Master-to something simpler, is like all His invitations, it is a Sursum Corda—Lift up your minds! Your very civilisation, your intelligence, is imperilled. I often think that your very ear for music is imperilled with the noises of your machines.
These islands, I think, took some of the music of the sea fret. They were almost unrivalled, I think, in their music. I think no people can sing so sweetly as those that listen here to the heart of the sea on our coasts, and I am terrified that we are losing that sensitive ear. Do you know I am terrified of losing even the music of our mother tongue? I have only one thing, my tongue, my voice, but it is of more value to me than ten thousand things that you produce by machinery; and I had rather hear you speak, and I had rather hear those southwest winds playing against my brow, than I would hear those things that some think a triumph.
I live almost in terror of our losing the culture that somehow or another was the gift of the old Pre-Christian days, and of the incarnate crucified Saviour. and when I went abroad to the great continent which used to be considered the be all and end all of social perfection, I almost fled. I wanted the music of the old language. I wanted the littleness of the English village. I wanted the home. I said of New York, “There are no homes: so I came home.” And to-night I am only addressing a little thing, but I would rather address this voice of mine to your beloved intelligence than through some mechanical device of an age that was vast and vulgar.