Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

room.

more than our young lady friend gave us; but (after all) it amounts to little more than telling us that before we press the electric button the plumbers and plasterers have had to perform a great deal of cunningly concealed work about the walls of our

"But then,” as she might retort to him, plumbers' work is not very interesting to watch, and I find it more convenient to go out into the country when that sort of thing is going on in the house.'

And this brings us, by a natural transition, to yet another class of possible readers, who, however, are not likely to become readers of a book of this sort. They are the class of persons who object to questions about the creation and destruction of wealth being raised at all; who feel that they will be more comfortable if such discussions are never mooted and who are inclined therefore to vote all such questions " bad form." Of such are likely to be the man who wishes to live somnolently on inherited wealth-how is his income of goods and services maintained ?_and the man who wishes to live pestiferously by stirring up sympathetic strikes -what groups of workers will be impoverished by the strikes ? All such are in fact first cousins of that interesting boy from the Whitechapel slums who, after his fortnight on the farm, under the auspices of the Children's Country Holiday Fund, found at least one point in which town life is the pleasanter. Here at home he could drink his milk without uneasy dreams to follow it; “ because mother always buys it in a clean shop; out there they get it from a dirty cow."

If the reader who has come with me thus far be one who has no sympathy with the poet to whom dividends and interest were an insoluble enigma

“ Nor could he understand how money breeds ;

Thought it a dead thing

and is satisfied with learning that it breeds because he takes it to a Savings Bank and leaves it there (or buys stocks and shares with it and waits till the dividends come in), he will have, I am sure, no sympathy or patience with me. My temper and outlook are those of the puzzled botanist who dissects an acorn and spreads its slim sections under the microscope in hope of catching some glimpses, however tantalising, into the problem of how it can possibly grow into an oak within whose boughs the birds of the air will find commodious shelter; rather than the temper and outlook of the jobbing gardener ("a practical man, sir !") who brusquely points out that it can be turned into an oak right enough if you give it the proper quantity of water and the proper quality of soil. The business community-employer, wage-earner, inventor, and investor-forms for us all a commodious shelter from the winds of poverty, more majestic and more marvellous than the forest forms for the blackbird and the thrush. It is at least equally worthy of study, and equally interesting to investigate. In the spirit of the botanist considering the acorn, “how it grows," I propose that we should ponder the structure and the workings of the business community of which, in one way or another, we are all shareholders and fellow-members.

And if we bring ourselves to study it in this spirit, we may find that our commonplace world-street, farm and factory, bank, stock exchange, and mint and market–becomes no longer a squalid thing, but an ever-changing scene of shifting light and colour -much as the great painter finds in sordid alleys, the smoke of factory chimneys, or the Arabian wealth of pots and pans flung haphazard among the rainwashed nettles and thistles of a roadside rubbish heap, a magic world of ever-growing wonder and delight and mystery. Or (to turn it a better way) our City of Man-the world of buying and selling, of banking and investing, of exporting and importing -is (to the trained ear) as one vast roll of neverending orchestral music;

seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,

And therefore built for ever.” There are discords, no doubt; discords only too imperfectly masked by the masterful conquering concords of trumpet and clarion. There is suffering, perpetual suffering in our City of Man,

Wasted lands, Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps

and fiery sands, Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and

praying hands." But there is suffering likewise in the forest that thrills us with its glistening dews and endless avenues of light and shade. “The mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow speared

by the shrike, And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of plunder

and prey." Yet we feel the beauty of the woodland. Let us seek, likewise, for the beauty in the Jungle of Mankind.

CHAPTER II

A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF THINGS IN GENERAL

Now this is the Law of the Junglemas old and as true as

the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf

that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth

forward and back, For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

KIPLING.

We all desire (though with very varying degrees of eagerness) to attain success in life. We would all fain gather into barns." Our criteria of economic success will of course differ widely according as our social environments differ-whether the environment be one of Galilean peasants, of English trade-unionists, or of North American millionaires. It is always a relative thing. The professional man of present-day England would feel that he had indeed failed in life if his work brought him in no larger income of commodities and services than fell, let us say, to Queen Elizabeth's wealthiest subject. The lowest grade English artisan would be horrified if he could gain no more, by following out a prescribed routine of leisurely labour, than the ablest and most industrious coolie of India could hope to achieve by unremitting effort. For the greater part of all we get in life is produced by the action of the community in which

own

we live, creating, as an organic whole, wealth for us all. But many of those who pursue wealth unremittingly would yet prefer to be able to congratulate themselves on a moderate success won by their

“unaided efforts," than acquire control of far greater material wealth coming to them as a windfall. We should nearly all like to be able to say to ourselves that we are self-made men.

Now what is it exactly that constitutes this

success," this "getting on in the world," at which we all aim ? And what precisely can we mean by

a self-made man” ?

Let us, to begin with, convert ourselves in imagination into Robinson Crusoes taking up our lives afresh in the solitude of a gorgeous South Sea island. Our social environment is now a blank. Getting on” would then seem to mean acquiring greater skill in spearing fish or trapping ground game; mastering the art of gathering coconuts from the tops of palm-trees ; learning the habits of vegetable and reptile, bird and insect, thunderstorm and hurricane; discovering how to

to put together better and better clothing from the fibres of shrubs and trees, to make a safer and more comfortable hut in which to shelter at night, and to construct better boats or tools with which to work. the stronger and more vigorous we were, the quicker with our hands and feet, the more intelligent in our amateur botanising and zoologising, the more we should

We should be growing richer, though we had no money, and nothing to buy with it if we had money.

get on.”

1 I omit, as irrelevant for our immediate purpose, somo considerations of far deeper significance than most of these : the mastery of the laws of health-not merely as a means

And so,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »