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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1924

Free Discussions Club

Free Discussions Club

The annual general meeting at the beginning of the year attracted a good muster of students. After the formal business, election of officers, etc., had been disposed of, Professor Hunter opened a discussion on the Modern Press in Relation to Democracy. He showed that the rapid growth of in page 62 dustrialism, with the attendant ease of communication and the spread of education, were not unmixed blessings. If all that these benefits were to lead to was the presentation of unlimited facilities for propaganda for vested interests, then perhaps it might be better to revert to the days of the Regency. Man had forged himself weapons of destruction that might prove his complete undoing. His ingenuity bad outpaced his morality. He had misapplied the discoveries of science, devoting them to destructive purposes. The late war showed that the art of printing was capable of being abused. It was used for the fomenting of national hatreds, irrespective of truth or fairness. In peace the distortion and selection of news did not cease. The press was becoming vested in fewer and fewer hands, and its views were those of the financial magnates who controlled it. Remedies had been proposed by Norman Angell, Walter Lippman and others The former wished to have the press controlled by the elected officers of a guild of journalists; the latter wished to make the collection of news a State enterprise, out of the control, however, of politiicans. Both Professor Hunter's address and the discussion which ensued were particularly valuable at this juncture in furnishing the College representatives at the Easter Tournament Debate with a mine of information for what appeared to be their congenial task of indicting modern journalism as a menace to Democracy.

For the first ordinary meeting of the term we were fortunate enough to secure Mr. Elsdon Best. Mr. Best rather overwhelmed the meeting with his comparison of the Maori and Christian mythologies—certainly one of the finest addresses the Club has had the privilege of hearing. The Club has had Mr. Best's address printed, and as it is reviewed elsewhere in this "Spike," it is not necessary to traverse the ground again in these notes. The discussion, though interesting, was short, and came rather as an anticlimax.

The second meeting was opened by the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Mr. H. E. Holland). Mr. Holland laboured valorously to wreck our patriotism. He assured us that we erred if we thought of Britannia as of Sir Galahad—

"Her strength is as the strength of ten,
Because her heart is pure."

If Britannia's strength was as of ten it was rather because her digestion war, good. Many unwholesome morsels had contributed to her present puissance. Mr. Holland instanced several. There was the Opium War in the early forties. Coming down to more recent times, Mr. Holland lingered awhile over the Boer War. The ostensible reason for this war was the securing of voting rights for the Outlanders on the Rand. Yet thousands of the men who laid down their lives in South Africa had never enjoyed politiical rights at home. The scramble for territory was the true reason for warfare. For territory meant exclusive trading rights, the opportunity for the raising of tariff walls against competitors, and, above all, a field for the investment of the capital that piled up at home owing to the profiteering at the expense of the public and the plundering at the expense of the workers. Our entry into the late war was itself based on the entangling alliances that were the outcome of a world game of beggar-my-neighbour. The installing of a Labour Government in the Treasury benches at Home was the reply to the illiberalism of a Liberal Government that had not trusted the people in the prewar years, as well as to the jingoism of a Conservative Government that was willing and ready to salve its conscience with the precious degree or two of longitude that legally absolved Singapore from the conditions of the Washington pact. In the open diplomacy of the Labour Government was the hope and the promise of better things. The discussion following was somewhat desultory. The main issue involved was the five battle cruisers. What was the meaning of this display of militarism by a Labour Government? Mr. Holland pointed out the precarious position of Mr. MacDonald s Government; it had to make some concessions to political opponents. The cruisers were for replacement purposes only. And the naval programme that Mr. Baldwin had contemplated had been vastly shorn even apart from Singapore.

Mr. Harold Miller opened the third meeting of the year with a paper on Anglo-Catholicism. The old antithesis of materialism and spiritualism was sunk forever in the philosophy of James and Bergson, opined Mr. Miller But Bishop Gore had done even more than those two very worthy philosophers to ensure the eternal felicity of mankind in a universe that was a probationary anteroom to the hereafter. Whether there was going to be no need of probation when the dissipation and degradation of energy was com page 63 plete and the solar system run down was not quite clear. Mr. Miller left this point somewhat obscure, and it troubled one or two of his audience in the discussion that followed. Bishop Gore, it appeared, was born in 1853. But the devil effected a countermarch with Bernard Shaw in the same year. Bishop Gore believed in confession and in the real presence of Christ on the altar. Bernard Shaw did not, although Mr. Millar did not dwell on that point. It appeared that where Bishop Gore and Bernard Shaw differed was in the credibility of the New Testament. Bishop Gore thought that it would be a greater miracle that the writers of the New Testament were the victims of exaggerated and false rumour than that a man was born immaculate, and rose bodily from the dead. Bernard Shaw apparently thought it more likely that rumour was a fickle jade than that such prodigies really occurred. Bishop Gore believed in the Disestablishment of the Church of England and in the Labour .Movement. He disbelieved in Protestantism. The discussion led from the indebtedness of the prophets to the Code of Hammurabi to the questionable morality of the doctrine of immortality. The opinion was expressed that an eternal lease of life might induce laziness. If there were only threescore laps and ten in the race the pace would be swifter than if there were laps innumerable. Mr. Miller dissented. Mr. Puck explained the doctrine of transubstantiation lucidly and forcibly. The meeting broke up amicably.

At this stage of the year it was beginning to be felt that outsiders were being afforded more than their fair share of the limited time available for meetings, and members not enough. Mr. Mackie accordingly opened the next meeting on Christianity and War with a brief exordium lasting only a quarter of an hour. He showed that evolution proceeded from individualism to co-operative aggregations of individuals. The World State of the future would bear the same relations to the warring nationalities of to-day as the metazoa to the protozoa. It must come, and come quickly, or else the transition will never be effected. The strides made by destructive science demand a rapid leap in the evolutionary process, or else its entire reversal. Commonsense and religion were comrades in arms in the struggle against war. Christianity taught the loving of one's enemies. Miss Moncrieff could not agree with Mr. Mackie. War had brought out the heroism latent in men. Moreover, it was a continuation of the struggle for existence that was the foundation of all evolutionary progress. Mr. Davidson thought it was high time this struggle for existence was raised to a spiritual plane. Let it continue in a World Tribunal, not on the battlefield. Mr. Baume said that the Quakers in Pennsylvania had failed to live up to their pacifism after the death of Penn. Various speakers failed to see why we moderns living in a different age and under vastly different conditions should necessarily follow suit. Messrs. McCaw and Steele said that Christ was a pacifist, and that the service of God was above all worldly considerations, even existence itself. War was unholy. Better the Empire were wiped out than continue in Godless fashion. Mr. Wilson wanted to know if all the pacifists present would contentedly watch a bully maltreat a child, or a militaristic State ride over a peaceable small neighbour. Mr. Beaglehole read Mr. Wilson a lecture on the international politics of the last twenty years, and remarked that his analogy was an impossible one. Miss Gardner pointed out the menace of unequal degrees of disarmament in different States. Other speakers pointed out that war, unlike the struggle for existence in the lower organisms, led to the survival of the decrepit and unfit, that the Sermon on the Mount was undoubtedly pacifist, but as it was hardly likely that it was the voice of God, and still less likely that it was God reported correctly, that such a fact was not decisive. The meeting terminated abruptly at 9.30, and overflowed outside to wage the war above the tennis courts. Projected meetings are to be opened by Dr. I. L. G. Sutherland, on "Human Nature and War;"Dr. Gibb, on" The Efficacy of Prayer;"and Mr. E. H. Dowsett, on "Pacifism."