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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

The Triumph of Reorganisation

page 27

The Triumph of Reorganisation

It has been rather aptly said that the greatest pain to human nature is the pain of a new idea. The point of the observation is more or less relevant to whichever class of people it is applied, be their economic and cultural circumstances what they may. We cling to old ideas and customs in our ethical, intellectual and industrial life with a tenacity which is the puzzle of the psychologist and the despair of the reformer. We are, as Robert Burns said, “a foolish, credulous, headstrong, unthinking mob.” Yet paradoxical as it is we are receptive to new ideas and are tremendously progressive; the sciences and arts—civilisation in a word is the proof of it. As the enchanting colours revealed by the polariscope merge imperceptibly one into the other, so old ideas become obscure and lose themselves in grander conceptions. Allowing that conservatism, accepted as an attitude of caution, is a necessary virtue, it is obvious that it is the principle of innovation rather than of conservation which explains the marvellous progress of our age. This is the progressive principle, and it ever urges man to continue the reconstruction of his world.

One of our great poets, Sir William Watson, analyses the innovating spirit in the following beautiful lines:—

Guests of the ages, at to-morrow's door
Why shrink we? The long track behind us lies,
The lamps gleam, and the music throbs before,
Bidding us enter; and I count him wise
Who loves so well man's noble memories
He needs must love man's nobles hopes yet more.

It is a correct interpretation, for most of us are justly proud of what is distinctive and superior in our civilisation; progress, better organisation, elimination of waste, greater efficiency, and are hopeful of the future. Moreover we believe that only a negligible number of people oppose progress and innovation altogether. They are the mentally halt and blind in the Army of Progress, the slackers who deliberately do less than manhood demands of them, and are certainly despised by their fellows. These pachyderms do not concern us here. We are concerned with the great majority who recognise the social significance of work as such, from the university professor to the dustman. This kind of work is the consciousness of the organism alive. It implies, as Mr. Delisle Burns tells us in his “Philosophy of Labour” that, a railway man, an engineer, a textile worker or a dustman is bound by the honour of his calling. He cannot bring himself to do certain acts, and certain difficult tasks he feels bound to endure. There is pride in it, but that sort of pride is a virtue.

This is notoriously true of railwaymen the world over. They feel bound by the honour of their calling and are proud of the great part they play in supporting the fabric of civilisation. They realise that the cessation of their daily activities would paralyse the social organism and involve multitudes of people in privation and suffering. It was not to be expected, therefore, that the re-organisation scheme recently set in operation throughout the service would meet with any opposition from the ranks. Every railwayman was aware of the waste and inefficiency of the old order; of the lack of organisation. He did not condone these imperfections, but rather accepted them as a temporary factor in the evolution of a gigantic enterprise. The attitude of laissez-faire he knew to be seriously prejudicial alike to the healthy development of the industry in all its phases, and his own economic interests, which were inseparably bound up with its success or failure to sustain itself as a solvent organisation. He knew these things and hence welcomed the re-organisation of the service on progressive lines. It meant a greater sense of security to himself and family, and conditions of work growing daily more pleasant and interesting. His adaptation to the new order proceeds with intensified enthusiasm for he feels the value of his service and the pleasure of performing it as never before. This is the new psychology of work. Work in this sense, to quote Mr. Delisle Burns again,—

is in essence, an enterprise, an adventure, an outlet for energy, a form of vitality; it is a binding force of society, a service, a co-operation, a fellowship.

The development of this ideal of the service and social value of our work has been perhaps the greatest gain from the re-organisation. The whole service pulses with a new vitality, which reflects itself within, in eager energetic and efficient work, and without, in widespread public appreciation. This is the triumph of re-organisation.