Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 3. March 20, 1952
These talks had probed deep issues. Now we were looking for someone to tie it all together and give tty a plan of action. One solution was put forward at the Student Labour Federation session where three student Socialists put forward their case. Economic chaos and inequality, coupled with an increasing outmoded superstructure of ideas accounted for the malaise Mr. Chapman had pointed out and even perhaps for Mr. Jensen's imposed culture. For music, as well as science and the university, are the Instruments of the ruling class, acting in league with the "Coca-coionisation" of American Imperialism. This is also at the root of the trouble in Asia and Middle East. The solution is not patchwork on isolated aspects of the problem but a thorough-going overhaul of the whole structure, based on the socialist creed "From each according to his ability, to each according to his labour"—or should this read: accordingly as he is Labour? Above all we must have Peace, for Life is the essential precondition of progress.
An alternative view had been put forward early in the Congress in the talks given by Mr. James K. Baxter (Wellington) and the Rev. F. C. Harrison (Dunedin), and it became increasingly apparent as the days passed how profound their analysis was, and how many were coming to see the issues in their terms. On the subject of "Choice of Belief," Mr. Baxter analysed the principal attitudes to society exhibited in recent literature. What poets rebel against chiefly is the "Comfortable View," typified in that pleasant faith in the collective man which passes for a philosophy in the "Readers' Digest." For "only when guilt is recognised does innocence become possible." The poet recognises the precariousness of human life, in which men are creatures linked together by a common sense of fatality springing from the knowledge that they can take pleasure in doing evil. But some, seeing this, blame it upon a falling-off from, an age when perfection reigned on earth. This Idyllic View may not be temporal, for it may idealise the Swagman or the Maori, but it always envisages the state in which no moral choices are called for because all are naturally good. More widespread is the belief in Progress, exemplified by the American tourist who told the speaker: "You'll be all right, just as long as you prow-grairss." The fallacy of this view is shown by the fact that although modem man's tools are better than his Palaeolithic ancestor's, they are used for exactly the same purpose—War: for, in Eliot's words, in moral matters generations are as "Bricks laid end to end" and there is no transference of wisdom or virtue from father to son. The unjustifiable conceit which characterises this attitude is also found in the Promethean View of the man who seeks to master remorse by knowledge. "Scientists," Mr. Baxter agreed with Dr. Parton, "do research for its own sake but people yearn for delivery from moral bankruptcy." Only the terror and isolation of Prometheus, bound upon the rock with the vulture tearing at his liver, can result When we persuade ourselves of moral infallibility. And this is the disaster also of the Revolutionary View, which though it recognises the false complacency and the shoddiness of modem society, yet relies on politics for regeneration, and in so doing, disguises as perfect altruism its own real motive, the will to power. The Truth is the view of man as a Moral Being, suffering if he denies his guilt yet capable of moral choice and so dignified as the naturally good being can never be Political cries, like Socialism, Reconstruction, Freedom, are as false as the faith in science—"Sociology is a frigid overcoat to disguise our natures." All that matters is the naked force for good or evil of our personal relationships, and the hope for the world comes not from foisting off responsibility on to the State or any other abstraction, but from exercising moral choice in public as in private, and in sharing the Sin of the World.