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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1933

Unemployment Unmasked

page 58

Unemployment Unmasked

"God is love; and he that dwelleth in love
dwelleth in God and God in him."

1 John iv., 16.

The outlook for human society can never have seemed so black as it is to-day. The world has been sinking supinely deeper and deeper into a morass of despondency and dissatisfaction. All our most revered and treasured institutions have been toppling in ruins about us. In politics we have elevated to a position of authority a flock of professional parasites who prey upon the vitals of our nationality and clog the wheels of progress with empty platitudes and party shibboleths. These men, the bloated and oafish offspring of our much vaunted democratic system, are only second, in the deleterious effect they have on the community, to the purveyors of sedition and social saboteurs who manipulate their insidious propaganda under the popular misconception of a jealously guarded freedom which merely amounts to licensed seduction of the majority by an interested and irresponsible minority. In the economic world is to be seen the paradoxical situation of people blindly working in spite of the fact that science has abolished toil, of abject poverty and want where plenty has been created. Financial wizards and quacks call upon the people to increase production while already our warehouses are stocked for at least two years to come, to increase prices while the people starve because they cannot buy, to work harder while a third of our worker? can find no work to do. Socially we are disorganised because as Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler has said, "we are trying to solve the problems of the 20th century by reciting the maxims of the 18th and following the procedure of the 19th." It is absurd to suppose that social organisations which fitted the needs of our forefathers by whom and for whom they were evolved, can equally befit us. The result of such a policy has been that social organisation has got out of step with industrial arrangements.

A reorientation of society is necessary. The time has come when individual gain must be subrogated to communal welfare; it is necessary to realise that a win for the individual of necessity results in a corresponding loss to the community, comprised, it must be remembered, of individuals; it is necessary to realise that we are all of us economic units in society and no longer little worlds within ourselves, that no work is worthwhile unless it is constructive and that no work is constructive unless it is for the benefit of all. Especially is this evident in the unemployment situation, and if unemployment such as we know it to-day can exist in a world slowed down by depression, then in a world where economic stability has released, unfettered, the resources of science and industry on a civilisation still largely imperfect and comparatively primitive, the situation is beyond comprehension. Not only will thousands who to-day are considered as unemployed never again be able to get a job, but millions who now eke out a bare existence as manual workers will in the future be displaced and disemployed by much more efficient and capable machines.

Looked at from a more rational point of view, however, the outlook is decidedly more encouraging. The question of unemployment will remain; indeed, it will be aggravated as time goes on, but this can really result only in good. Perhaps it is that man in his folly and his ignorance has failed to appreciate the effect of the mode of life which modern conditions have driven him to, that the necessity for rest, for ordered thinking and reasoned action has been overlooked in this age of fevered bustle and frenzied activity, with the result that the scourge of unemployment has been loosed upon the world to bring this principle home to him. From the point of view of the economist, unemployment in its final analysis is really rationing, if not among individuals at least among classes in the community; from the point of view of the sociologist, it is nothing more nor less than leisure, albeit compulsory and un-paid leisure; in either case it has now become a necessary concomitant of social and economic welfare. Man, so great is his thirst for gain, has so far refused to admit this, and throughout the history of the human race has attempted to drag out a crabbed old age in striving vainly to keep pace with a younger and more vigorous generation trained under more modern and enlightened methods. Instead, he should be entitled to feel that at 40 or 45 he has done his bit for society, page 59 and the community should recognise this and retire him to live out the rest of his days in the cultivation, and for the benefit, of his inner and higher self. It should be felt that up to then he has been engaged upon conscriptive work in the service of the community, but is now entitled to collect his reward. He will only get such reward as he has earned, but since at heart human nature is so abundantly good, only the best must be reserved for him. It may be argued that this is impracticable, but if this be true the swelling army of unemployed must be ignored, which would be an absurdity and an impossibility; economically, of course, all that is required is a financial adjustment, such, indeed, as has already been made in the United States.

Such a conception of life is based upon a foundation of love, and is therefore the highest consummation of the teachings of Christianity. Would we but put this into practice, as a reorganisation of our commercial resources would quite well permit, there need be no fear for the future; man will not abandon himself to a life of debauchery, gambling, drinking, and licentious living, nor will initiative be lost or direction ignored, as may be suggested, because where love is, these things cannot also be. The problem of the future is not a problem of unemployment, of finding work for those who need no longer work, for those whom science has and will release from industry and from commerce; but rather, it is a problem of leisure, what is to be done with it, how is it best to be exploited?

Let us clamber up from the depths of the depression to the higher country and the clearer air beyond and then will the vision of a more enlightened future lie spread before our eyes. The days of the depression are numbered; the eyes of the youth of the world have now been opened and they clamour at the portals of politics, of commerce, of industry and of social science, clear eyed, fresh, and fearless, pressing on into the future and seeing their way as those who hold sway to-day can never see it. They demand that the sins of a past generation cease to be visited on the present, they deny that it is the task of posterity always to straighten out the muddle after the generation preceding it has had its brief fling and, the bubble having burst, has departed hence. They deny that in this fertile country so rich in position, in climate, in mineral, agricultural and industrial wealth, both actual and potential, it is impossible for all to enjoy a decent livelihood, free from the necessity of venal competition in already overstocked markets at cut-throat prices, while some 70,000 of our best manhood and boyhood pick up a precarious and purposeless existence digging among the weeds by the roadside and living like vultures, unwillingly but of necessity, on their fellows more happily placed.

Gloomy clouds hang low over the world to-day, but like all clouds they have a silver lining and are shot with the colours of hope and faith. These are days of testing and trying, these are the birth pains of a new and more rational era which is flooding the horizon ahead; its dazzling splendour, blinding us to its real significance, causes all the trivial pin-prick things that gall us to stand out in bold relief while the major conception is too bright and too intense for our limited vision clearly to perceive; it is none the less there, and, as our senses adapt themselves to its presence and our natures are purged of the unwholesome influences which have brought our present system so ignominiously low, we shall be enabled to partake of it in all its wonder and its beauty.

A. McGhie.