Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 9 June 01, 1938
Anyone who has sat out a Capping Show should, by this time, have real ised in his "soul or souls" that Extravaganzas, just like ovipositors, have Meaning. Beneath all the silver paper and pink sugar there is a purpose.
This is all very right and proper.
"You will change the world by chang ing the people in it, not by shooting them. If people can be made to think rationally, to reject, if necessary, de based ideas and worn traditions which it is now considered blasphemy to reject, to attain the state described by Aldous Huxley as 'non-attached': if they can be made to put service above self—then and then only will we know: peace on earth and goodwill towards man.'"
Doctrine of Despair.
Such an argument Is familiar enough—along with the circumstances that prompt it. As a doctrine of despair it has always risen into prominence side by side with an unwillingness to face the unavoidable inconveniences of social change. It has unfailingly been the gambit of the spokesmen of the propertied classes, who have never been able to reconcile justice with any lessening of their material power. Thus when, according to them, reform from without is clearly impossible, they satiate their uneasy consciences by In sisting on reform from within. It is this situation which provides the ribald spectacle of plump captains of commerce (their week of exploitation through), who rest their india-rubber buttocks on the red-plush of church news, offer up their vows to God and assure themselves that wealth and poverty are only mental pictures, and that really the misery of the poor is just a rumour—and slightly funny.
But the pastime is contagious. Today we often find this doctrine of "personal reformation" as the defence mechan ism of individualists who shrinking from contact with "radical elements" or disgusted with the hopelessness of "politics," take refuge in the hope that they themselves can remain uncontaminated, that they and their friends can at least save their spiritual skins.
Such a retreat has run riot in the mawkish revivalism of the Oxford Group.
This "personal reformation" is seductive enough a faith—but what of its truthfulness?
First, the bulk of people are forcibly held in the thrall of traditional concepts. Their minds are socially conditioned. What with the coercion of newspaper, radio and school, they are quite unable to consider events outside of a system of traditional prejudices. This Is why "personal reformation" lends to nothing but the delicate preen ing of one another's souls.
Second, no one can deny that there are some circumstances more favour able to a rational and harmoniously-developed life than others. Also it is certain that today the most favourable conditions possible do not exist.
For well-trained saints it may be easy to live in the worst of conditions. For the mass of men and women an improvement in material conditions—more money, a sure job, more freedom, less war and more peace—would be, to say the least a great help towards living the good life.
Let us talk sense and admit that a change in social and material condi tions is essential before there can be any real flowering of the "palpable and obvious love of man for man."
And that flowering will be Anally achieved, not by performing "spiritual exercises" amid the opulence of cushions but by active participation in day-to-day struggles Inch by inch is justice gained.