An Old Man in a Tub.
“Mankind must either look for salvation from within or without. Hellenism and Christianity bid him look within. The Marxian Creed bids him look without and expect regeneration from the agency of material conditions.” From Editorial, Daily Telegraph, January 7th, 1922.
Once upon a time there was an old man who lived in a tub. According to the most reliable reports got from almost totally unreliable historians, that strange old man didn’t want much of the stuff of the earth. In the middle of a market he would some times stand still, look blandly upon the good things of Greece, and melodramatically exclaim, “Good Lord ! how many things are there in the world of which Diogenes hath no need.” Then he went again to his simple old home.
That is all I know of Diogenes, and all I care to know. He has always struck me as being a rather silly gentleman. Others seem to think him to have been a wise boy, and say (as Viscount Milner did in his address to the Classical Association, as the “Telegraph” did in its editorial comments on Milner’s address) that it we were wise as he, Old Tubby, we wouldn’t rush about on the earth for lamb chops and green peas and wines to wash ’em down, and clothes to keep ourselves warm, nor yet for houses but instead we would get hold of a damned good book, soak our minds in sentimentality, forget almost we have bellies, and thereafter be content with plain living and high thinking.
That way of thinking won’t do for us. Philosophy can help us a fair amount when we are in the thick of the natural and inevitable tragedies of life. Ordinarily, the human needs, physical needs, must be satisfied first. You may be idealistic; you may start life on oatmeal and water, and keep your pockets full of books; you may feed on an abundance of moonlight and music and a minimum of boiled rice; you may sit out the nights over Plato, Socrates, and the rest of the old crowd of chatterers; you may be Godly, Philosophic, Poetic; you may do all that and be all that—for only a short time. At the end of 12 months your anatomy will be distinct as a tree in winter. You will probably get the sack for being slow, and perhaps in the end you will have to look out for an old tub. And I think I should laugh to see the wind whistle through you as it does through a bare tree.
Far as I can see, the old man in the tub was wrong. And Milner is wrong, and even the “Telegraph” is wrong. We can’t successfully ignore the facts of our place in the scheme of the universe, nor the character of our particular make-up. Before we can enjoy anything—the fresh air, the colours in skies or in fields, human companionship or any sort of books done by wise or passionate men—we must have a certain amount of flesh on our bones.
Nowadays thousands of people are far too thin. They are too thin to think. They are hungry, ragged, haggard, and full of bitterness ; but they are too thin to think. I will not now go into the sickening history of the workers. Those who suffer ought to know all about it. The awful curse of Capitalism was upon them from the first.
They have sweated in the pits and at the furnaces, and been heroic upon the seas. They have done weaving and made engines and ships. They have put numberless big buildings all over the country, and they have made some pretty good guns. But the people who have done all this are poor. And the monocled sensualist who would do anything to recover his youth, “except get up early in the morning, take exercise, or become a useful member of society,” represents the class which, by its agents in Parliament, controls the guns which control you.
I haven’t much more to say now.
Rub out all you have heard about politics. Try to get your second wind. If you don’t, then the years will pass on as before —the shadow of Capitalism will be upon us all—the hate and sin and sorrow of this social system will go on, and millions of workers, will be needlessly crushed and treated worse than the beasts of the field. If you want to laugh then you will have to get blind drunk.
Our way is the best way. We want all people to be free and happy. Our Object and our Principles are printed plainly as possible on the back page of the “S.S.” If you won’t trouble to read them and thoroughly consider them, I may as well dry up, for you won’t be bothered with anything I say here. If you think the “Telegraph,” Milner, and the Old Man in the Tub to be right, if the affairs of the world are nothing to you, then you will let the capitalists still own and control all the wealth and all the sources of wealth.
If you think Tubby’s philosophy to be wrong,
H. M. M.
(Socialist Standard, April 1922)