The purpose and method of colonisation

Some time ago the Bishop of Hull, speaking on the relation of Christianity to Social problems, referred to the decision of the Japanese people, not to make Christianity their national religion, and said:

“This was because the shrewd Japanese had known too much about the lives of professing Christians. During the time when the present Archbishop of York was labouring in Stepney, a Japanese traveller called upon him and asked to be put in the way of seeing the real inner life of the people of the East-end. The clergyman did not refuse, bat he said he could only pray that the Japanese visitor might forget as soon as possible many of the things he saw . . . The Japanese could not fail to perceive that as a people we were hopelessly divided, class against class . . . squalid poverty at the one end of the scale and stupid luxury at the other.”

It would appear that even the Bishop felt that Christianity was not playing a very creditable part in the sordid tragedy of this much belauded civilisation, although we have no doabt that he would not publicly endorse the charge of the Socialist that religion is always to be found on the side, and, indeed, is the active ally of the forces of oppression.

In the face of the hideousness and injustice of the social conditions obtaining in Christian countries—”the terrible social difficulties,” as one eminent prelate said—the purpose of missionary societies, who go to great efforts and .spend enormous sums in bringing this 20th Century civilisation to the “heathen,” might well puzzle those who, although not Socialsts, will readily agree that the conditions of existence in modern society not only leave much to be desired, but are in fact paradoxical in the extreme.

The all too apparent and ever increasing poverty of the great mass of the people, which means their shortage not only of those means, opportunities and healthful environment which afford culture and minister to a high develop ment of one’s physique and intellect—the only guarantee for the real enjoyment of life and therefore the road to happiness—but their shortage even of the barest and crudest necessities of existence, side by side with undisputed abundance of all those things, or “unparalleled prosperity.” The paradox of increasing insecurity and harder toil, owing, not as one might suspect, to the failure or misunderstanding of nature, or the difficulty of producing the means of subsistence, but in spite of or contrary to the continuous advance in understanding, mastering and utilising the forces of nature, and more insecurity and harder toil as the result of ever greater facilities to produce.

Neither of the above mentioned instances of glaring inconsistences and cruel ironies, which could, of course, easily be multiplied, will be denied. Nor is there, so far as the non Socialist is concerned, any remedy for, or any escape from, that condition of things. It is easy to get their admission that unemployment with all its attendant evils is inevitable, and that it exists side by side with excessive toil oa the part of those “in work.” It is common knowledge, “but cannot be altered,” that overcrowding, slums, homeless and shelterless exist side by side with spacious, comfortable and healthy empty and half empty houses; it is equally common knowledge, “but cannot be altered,” that there is preposterous waste of all sorts of commodities side by side with the most pressing and bitter want. Foodstuffs, especially of easily deteriorating nature, such as vegetables, meat, fish, etc. are rotting and perishing in markets and stores in enormous quantities, while uncounted workers with their families are suffering the pangs of hunger. Fuel, such as coal for instance, is being uselessly destroyed to an incredible extent alone in keeping battle ships continually “prepared,” while in cold days the lack of the same precious fuel accentuates the gloom and squalor of innumerable dreary habitations and causes sickness and death due to insufficient warmth.

Anyone reading, for example, the records of such institutions as the Salvation Army, or the Church Army, Dr. Barnardo’s “homes,” etc., etc., the signposts of “civilisation,” or their soul stirring appeals on behalf of the thousands of destitute men, women and children reduced to implore the humiliating, degrading and demoralising help of such charities ; or anyone having perused the facts in Seebohm Rowntree’s “Poverty: A Study of Town Life,” or “How the Labourer Lives,” or Sir Charles Booth’s “The Life and Labour of the People of London,” or Dr. Wallace’s “Social Environment,” or the eloquent comparisons in Chiozza Money’s “Riches and Poverty,” or any other of the numerous similar enquiries, again might fail to detect the reason for the enthusiasm of mission ary organisations in transplanting a system such as produces the crying evils and glaring inconsistences surrounding us.

“In London”—so ran a whole page appeal in the “Daily Telegraph” in the cold month of February—”at this moment there are thousands to whom each degree’s fall in the thermometer is so much additional agony. Men and women feel it keenly, acutely, and to the hapless children it means suffering untold. Think for a moment of some of its phases. There is no money to buy coal, the grate is fireless, . . . and there is nothing bat a bit of hard, dry bread. Even the solace of a cup of tea becomes impossible then . . . the pangs of hunger are felt with tenfold force, and the emaciated mother and the shivering children huddle together in the gloom of their bare room. . . . The poor, thin rags that serve as an apology for clothes; the broken boots, through which toes and heels protrude, no warm blankets at night. . . . You cannot—you dare not say you do not see these sufferings. No one can go a walk or drive of half-a- mile in London without passing them:

Women, children, young and old,
Groan from pain and weep from cold;
From the haunts of daily life,
Where is waged the daily strife,
With common wants and common cares
Which sow the human heart with tares.

For we know the long drawn-out misery is there—on our right hand and on our left in this great, proud, wealthy Capital of the Empire.”

“No food, no fire, no home.” “Work for starving women,” etc., etc. Such are other head lines to advertisements in the Daily Press of civilised Christian countries !

Besides this, eloquent figures can be quoted from capitalist economists and statesmen, and a long row of Bluebooks produced, which go a long way to explain a good many of the social anomalies surrounding us.

1,400,000 persons in the United Kingdom, for instance, appropriate between them some £634,000,000 whilst 39,000,000 other people share between them £935,000,000. 30,000,000 people of the United Kingdom own no land, whilst 7 landlords draw £14,640,000 pe,r annum in ground rent!

Is it a wonder that there are 13,000,000 continually on the verge of hunger and that the great majority of the people are at the mercy of a small minority ? And is it a wonder that this stupid disproportion of wealth-distribution should produce anarchy ?

And the same tale of chronic poverty and con sequent degradation can be told of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of Germany, Austria, France, America, and the rest of those countries where His Majesty King Capital reigns supreme, and where, consequently, Their Worships Profit and Prostitution, male and female, are the pillars of civilisation. Any native from an “uncivilised” land who had been shown through the factory hells of Continental or American industrial centres and brought into contact with the “life” of the workers there and their “homes,” might well be excused if not rewarded, for bringing to an abrupt end the career of the missionary babbling to him about the blessings of civilisation.

Chronic strikes, bread riots, sordid tragedies of strife, misery and want, police and military brutalities, are evidence that there, as here, millions do not receive a “living wage,” and that there, as here, they are, as the Bishop said, hopelessly divided—class against class.

If then, as can be done, overwhelming evidence can be brought that the system of human co-existence in the so-called civilised Christian countries is “rotten from top to bottom”—as one great apologist for the system has put it—if besides, the worst that can be said by the Socialist is being repeatedly admitted and substantiated by capitalist economists and statesmen, and if, in spite of the struggle with nature having been won by “civilised” men, the great majority of them have still to live from hand to mouth and, not having any property, have to eke out this existence of perpetual penury and insecurity with the spectre of starvation haunting them, it would certainly seem strange that the contamination of the pure atmosphere of the “uncivilised” with our system and institutions should tend to produce there something different from what it produces here—that is, anarchy and social idiocies.

(To be Continued.)


Leave a Reply