Illustration by Theodore Schluenderfritz. G.K.’s Weekly, 2 July 1932.
Politicians will not make a land fit for heroes to live in. It is heroes who make a land fit for all the other poor people to live in; even such poor little people as the politicians. A vivid illustration of this may be seen in those small but bright patches, already beginning to appear on the map of England, in which men have really devoted themselves to the reclamation of the land and the restoration of the family. In some cases the work really has to be heroic in the sense of ascetic. In several cases it has actually been led and inspired by ascetics. Nay, by that profound Christian paradox which so much puzzles the pagan stupidity around us, the men who have restored these things are often the very men who have renounced them. Friars who have flung away all property will be the first to re-establish property; monks who have turned their backs on the family will be the last to defend the family. In this respect there is a great resemblance between the Distributist Movement, as described in the pamphlets of Father McNabb and Father McQuillan1 and Commander Shove,2 and the original work done by monasteries in their first days. It is not only that the Christians exist already, but that their institutions exist already. There were monks and nuns long before there had ceased to be priests and priestesses of Apollo. Great councils of the universal Church had already met when great emperors were still thinking of Nazarenes as a new sort of food for lions; and the missionaries were preaching in the ends of the earth while the bishops were still prisoners in the Capital. And the reason is that both types of reaction are appeals to the individual; even to the salvation of the soul of the individual; though the sins and diseases of different societies make it necessary to emphasise things that seem different, and may even seem directly opposed. The old pagan world was far too personal, with its personal government, its personal and almost simple greed, and its only too personal gods. Therefore it was often necessary to protest against it by the renunciation of personal property. The modern paganism is far too impersonal with its impersonal bureaucracies, its impersonal fantasy of finance and usury, its impersonal and therefore more than imbecile god. Therefore it is often necessary to protest against it by the assertion of personal property. But both are modes of the assertion of personal dignity; and you will note that it is the same spiritual philosophy, stretched across the ages, that has made possible these two contrary forms of protest against these two contrary forms of pride.
There is one aspect of the heroic venture, made by the working Distributist, of which I feel free to speak, because it is quite unheroic; and I am not a hero. I hope everybody understands that the Land Movement of the Distributists does not mean that men are to sell turnips as other people sell top-hats; or to manufacture cabbages in a cabbage machine like sausages in a sausage-machine. Distributism dies when men sell their land; but it is rather off colour, even when people sell most of the produce of their land. And the obvious inference is that men living by grubbing roots out of the ground are not living at all. The more the experiment succeeds, the more effort will be made to show that it means life on a lower level than that of the modern town; which, God knows, would be very low indeed.
Now, because this is a frivolous point, and because I am a frivolous person, it is one on which I think I can really give advice; as I cannot give it on serious things like sowing and reaping. On work I am a very doubtful witness; but on holidays I am all there. On sustaining life—I could learn from the poorest peasant. But on enjoying life I will not learn from anybody. And I really think this question of the fun or sport of a Distributive State is one about which I can see the truth more clearly, either than the good men who have been stupefied by modern labour, or the bad men who have been staled by modern pleasure-seeking. For the truth is that the latter are much too stale with pleasure-seeking not to be stupid about pleasure-finding. And when the case against Distributism is that men will never desert the film for the farm, or that life on a farm is always dull, or that common sport and fun will be forgotten, I feel almost personally moved to reply.
For the fact is that the fun will begin with the new life, not that the fun will end with it. The fun is already ending without it. For the whole thing called Sport is now absolutely staggering on its last legs; staggering on the rickety ridiculous stilts, on which plutocracy and professionalism have hoisted it above the crowd, for the purpose of advertisement. We are always reading of dying creeds or crabbed sciences petering out in petty quarrels about details, in hairsplitting about trivial applications of trite and tiresome rules. And all this is visibly happening to Sport or Games, if it ever happened to anything in this world. There is not really more fun out of golf; there is only more fuss about golf. There are only more golf-clubs or more technical articles in magazines, drawing fine distinctions between one ungainly attitude and another. Also, as is invariable in such decadence, nobody dares to deny or alter the original dogmas of the game; nobody dreams, for instance, of inventing a new game. There was never a golfer who went forth to golf and then suddenly decided to do something else; to throw his clubs about like a juggler, or fence with the caddy. Exactly what has gone out of all sports is sport; the spring or spontaneous jerk towards doing something fresh and free. Very slowly and intricately will the technical ceremonies end; but we are still waiting for the fun to begin.
And where did the fun begin? It began on the farm. It began with the sort of tools, tricks and hiding-places that can most easily be found on the farm. Our fathers made the great English game of cricket out of a stool and a stone. The very terms of tennis and many old games refer, not to new engines bought at Gamage’s,3 but to new uses found for the buttery-hatch or the milking-stool. No; we shall have no lack of games; for the world’s great age begins anew; and we shall have some new ones.
- Father McQuillan, member of the Catholic Scottish Land Movement.
- Herbert W. Shove was an associate of the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic, the author of The Fairy Ring of Commerce, and one time head of the London Distributist League branch.
- Gamages was a department store located in central London.