Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

Chapter XL. — The Survival of the Fittest

page 356

Chapter XL.
The Survival of the Fittest.

No Community of Interest and Duty.—The Fortresses of Capital.—Discontent and Bitterness.—A Remedy.—Eight Hours' Work per day.—Spontaneous Concession.—Philistine Capital.—A Reckless Democracy.—Eight Hours System began in New Zealand.—Musty Precedents.—Practical Lessons.—The Gordian Knot.—Dispute one of Adjustment.—'The Classes' Law.—Sixty days in prison for stealing Two Shillings, Twenty days for nearly Killing a Wife.—'The Masses.'—The Old Order and the New.—The Darwinian Madness.—The Régime of Wild Beasts.—Man no Monkey.—Sham Christians.—The Basis of Belief.—A Living Jesus.—His Faithless Followers.

InThe preceding Chapter I noted some of the developements of Capital, our modern despot, developement of the worst evils of Monopoly, and absolutely destitute of any trace of a 'Community of interest or duty' between Capital and Labour, between Producer and Consumer.

In this way, the English people having abolished feudal tyrants, and destroyed aristocratic rule, are now setting up Capital, a new despot more dangerous than the old. The feudal noble in his castle, at least did not leave his serfs to starve. Capital from its page 357fortresses the Factory, the Company, and other strongholds, rivets its fetters on the common people, and coldly throws thousands of workmen idle, at the bidding of the latest developement of modern tyranny—the 'Trust.'

Is it strange, whilst by these and similar means, the rich become richer, and the poor poorer, that discontent and bitterness increase also? Is it possible, with the increasing power of the common people that such a state of things can continue?

It is not possible.

Is there a remedy? There is a remedy.

It lies in the old command,

'Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.'

To reduce production is doubtless the first step, but not by closing factories, so throwing workmen out of employment; but by a reduction of the working time to eight hours per day. A diminution of production would be thus secured without the discharge of a single workman.

The spontaneous concession of a reduction to eight hours per day, would be such a manifestation of good will, such a concession by Capital to Labour, that the growing hostility between them would be instantly checked, and time given for adjusting their respective claims and duties on such a basis of reasonable fairness, as would surely end in the establishment of a reciprocity of duty and a community of interest between them. In some such way, modern society would be page 358placed on a basis, that a Nation Made on such a foundation of fairness and good will, would secure loyalty, strength and duration, which tyranny—whether in the form of the master of armed millions, of Philistine capital, or of a reckless democracy—can never secure.

This remedy will, as a matter of course, be denounced as Utopian, laughed at as childish, or sneered at as impracticable. Nevertheless, the signs of the times are plain enough, that one of those great social movements is on foot—in the air as it were—which never ceases till it has accomplished the first part of its work—its dream if you will—the reduction of the hours of toil. This great movement, beginning silently at the ends of the earth—in the small free communities dwelling in the Australasian Colonies—commencing first of all indeed, in the Colony of New Zealand—is spreading amongst the English-speaking race all over the world. Nor is the movement confined to that great race, which in modern times has struck the strongest blows, and made the greatest sacrifices for freedom.

It is spreading amongst nearly all classes of toilers on the Continent of Europe.

This great march of opinion is not to obtain narrow privileges, not to win universal suffrage even, but to secure a common right, a right natural to man, the right to toil reasonable hours, without which, a man is little better than a slave.

page 359

It is idle to say, that the Eight Hours system is an untried experiment, in the face of its almost universal adoption by the freest communities in the world—the Australasian Colonies. In this, as in the solution of many other social problems, England has the opportunity of benefitting by the example of her Colonies, which so readily throw off the musty precedents of the Past, and adopt the practical lessons of the Present. If she is wise, she will follow them in this, as she has already followed them in other directions.

It is equally idle to say, that the reduction of the hours of labour would place her factories at a permanent disadvantage with their Continental competitors. For, to a Nation which, boldly and alone, adopted the Free Trade policy, that excuse is hardly open. Besides, the general agitation amongst large bodies of Continental workmen for the adoption of the Eight Hours system, will to a certainty, render its adoption more safe and easy by England at this juncture.

The establishment of a reciprocity of duty, of a community of interest between Capital and Labour now, will prevent an enforced dissolution of partnership between them, certain to occur—whether Capital likes it or not—when the common people fully realize the power, which the recent extension of the suffrage, has placed in their hands. If the consideration of their just claims be postponed, and their adjustment be deferred till the working classes have realized their power, it will probably be a very different adjustment page 360to that, which may be effected by the exercise of good will now.

To-day, the Gordian Knot may be peacefully untied. To-morrow, it may be cut by forcible means.

At present the dispute between Capital and Labour is mainly a question of Adjustment. By a wise, firm, considerate, just and courageous treatment now, the dispute may be amicably settled.

Christ's command, the golden rule,

'Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you,' delineates the plain, simple duty of Man to Man.

It is of course in direct opposition to the doctrine of 'the survival of the fittest,' a formula describing accurately enough the condition of wild beasts in a forest, and which may possibly represent with equal accuracy, the condition of communities of men under the dominant influence of Companies, Corners, Syndicates and Trusts. Such a condition is the incarnation of the modern fashionable dogma of 'the survival of the fittest,' which after all, is but a new version of the old doggrel,

Let him take who has the power,
Let him keep who can.

In England until recently, the real power has been in the hands of the 'Classes.' In accordance with feudal barbarism, English Law has protected Property and severely punished offenders against it, whilst Man has been largely left to his fate, offences against the person having been lightly dealt with.

page 361

Take the following instances, as reported in recent Scottish newspapers:—

In one of our Courts the other day, a poor bare-legged half-starved boy, twelve years old, was sentenced to sixty days in prison for stealing two shillings. On the same day, in the same Court, a man was charged with brutally beating his wife, and this being his second offence, he was sentenced to twenty days in prison.

David Blain, a Dundee rivetter, has been fined 2l., or three days, for criminally assaulting a married woman in her own house.

At Perth police court yesterday, a man named Michael Blaney was charged with begging, and having pled guilty, was sentenced to sixty days' imprisonment. Comment is unnecessary.

Is it possible that such shameful laws can continue?

The power is rapidly passing into the hands of 'the masses,' the common people. What if they adopt the doctrine of 'the survival of the fittest,' and proceed to use their new power against those who have held it, as it has so long been used against them? What if they destroy the old civilization, and erect on its ruins a new civilization? If the New takes the place of the Old—survives it—will it not be fitting that it be so, according to the philosophists, because it survives?

What more would such a version of 'the survival of the fittest' be, than a new application of another and older dogma,

'The end sanctifies the means'?

page 362

Hitherto this famous saying has hardly found admission within the pale of modern morality, but under the influence of the Darwinian madness, it would seem to have become the word of command, under which many forms of selfishness, tyranny and cruelty may march to victory—so that it be a victory.

In truth, Darwin's famous doctrine seems admirably suited, as already observed, to the conditions under which wild beasts naturally live in a forest There, the lion destroys the deer, the tiger the antelope, the wolf the lamb, the dog the hare; but the lion does not devour the lion, nor does dog eat dog. It is reserved for Man, the King of universal life, to devour and destroy his kind, by the aid of the various organizations created and fostered by what we call Law.

But man is not a lion, nor yet a monkey. His life is not naturally, and ought not to be, a career of rapine and blood, ending in success. Not Nature, to use the scientist's term—meaning nothing—but the Great First Cause, has not made man to develope the instincts of a wild beast alone. He has made him with speech and reason, capable of pity, remorse, love, and consideration for his fellows; of a knowledge of right and wrong; qualities which wild beasts have never hitherto manifested, but which in every age and country, man has more or less displayed. The animal—wild beast—qualities lying in his nature together with the sentimental, the emotional, the spiritual, the religious side of his nature, qualities page 363which belong to him alone, and out of which come self-denial, self-sacrifice, love of his fellows, love of God.

That in the constant struggle in his nature and life, between animal instincts and the nobler qualities, he has not manifested the latter more, may be due to the natural obstacles to a speedier developement, to the mercenary and selfish direction given to Law and Gospel; the slow advance being like the progress of a skiff against a river current, naturally drifting down stream if left to itself, but never advancing without constant watchfulness and unwearied toil.

A Nation made on Darwinian lines, were such a Making possible, would be a Nation of wild beasts. Happily, Humanity belongs not to monkeys, but to men.

The Christianity of our times has courted attack. It has deserved it. The disputes by the various sects, and the hypocrisy of people calling themselves Christians, have long been, and still are, a scandal, and a barrier to the progress of mankind. They are responsible for much of the success of the efforts made to destroy all Basis of Belief.

Happily, Christ, the Living Jesus, has survived the follies and the crimes of his faithless followers. His noble, self-denying, courageous, pure, sympathetic, loving life has survived, and will for ever survive, a perfect model, as well as a perfect sacrifice for Humanity.