1920s >> 1923 >> no-229-september-1923

Bread and Brains

There is a great deal of truth in the saying that man believes what he wants to believe. This is merely another way of stating a scientific axiom that man in his beliefs adopts that which affords him the greatest satisfaction with the minimum of effort. In the matter of his thinking, man, in the majority of cases, takes the line of least resistance.

The development of human mentality is precisely similar to that of the animal kingdom as a whole. The position occupied at present by the animal kingdom (including man, of course) is the outcome of countless experiences and resulting variations in the past, the elimination by death of those who failed to fit themselves to their environment, and the survival of those who, through heredity, became possessed of what has come to be called “survival value.”

So that when we speak of a man’s “intellect” we are referring to something which is the result of the existence in his past of many connections, some of which were dropped, others which persisted.

In modern times however, this “survival value,” on the mental side, is to some extent inoperative. Since man entered the phase of history known as wage-slavery, most of his thinking has been done for him. Since the greater part of his life consists of food getting and food distributing, a great part of his sense impressions will be derived from these activities, and what little thinking he does of a serious nature will be correspondingly coloured. In other words, his economic conditions will determine what he shall think.

It might be urged that the present economic condition would tend to enlighten him as to his slave position and thus bring about class-consciousness. So it does, in some cases, by its very nature; but in the majority of cases, owing to the precautionary measures taken, no serious attempt at interpretation is made. Generally speaking, the mind of man has become so accustomed to acquiescence in the belief of the necessity for obedience, that it can hardly grasp the notion of freedom as being something apart from this condition.

This conception of obedience is by no means inherent—it is a product of an environment of years of slavery acting upon an organism amenable to its influence.

There are those who, quick to recognise this “failing” (in others), dispose themselves to take the fullest advantage of it. Especially is this so where some material interest is served, such as on the field of religion, or in the schools, and in various centres of “ethical” teaching, where the resulting product is a decided asset to a system where one class is enslaved by another. Except in those cases where they are hired out for use against their own class, a worker or his children found possessing brains above a certain (low) standard is considered an impertinence. Where found, methods of adulteration are resorted to; failing this, pressure is applied to prevent contagion.

In a wage-slave society it is important that the system shall appear to have the sanction of the slaves themselves. To this end all “education” is directed. Any institution that has for its object the regulation of man’s thoughts must be under the control of the slave owners. The result is that the largest part of the mental food assimilated by man to-day is that provided by his master. By this means acquiescence has been secured.

An important contributing factor to this condition of mind is that “engine of progress”—as it is euphemistically termed— the Press. By this means people may be reached who are otherwise difficult of access.

It may have been noticed by some that the papers very often contain columns of matter that can only be described as silly, and one has no doubt often wondered what the inducement could have been to publish it. As a matter of fact, the “silly” stuff is deliberately utilised for one purpose, and one purpose only—that of distracting the attention of a mass of people from things disquieting. For it must not be forgotten that the powerful instrument known as the Daily Press is, in every instance, in this country at any rate, in the hands of the ruling class or its supporters. No matter which we take up, or whatever we read, it represents, at bottom, only just what the ruling class wants us to know. They have their writers, men who are proficient in all branches of knowledge, who render their services as required, even to writing the silly stuff, the importance of which—to the capitalists—is seen when we learn that, as a feature, it has not only been retained, but considerably extended.

Human mentality appears to be well understood. Acting on the “line-of-least-resistance” theory, they usually prepare their matter in a form easiest to assimilate—that is, of course, when they wish something to be particularly effective. It may be political news, the doings of this or that person, or even ordinary news items; no matter what the subject is, it is handled and presented in such a way as is determined by just how much they think we ought to know, and the depth of impression desired. At other times, and for quite different reasons, but acting on the same principle, they may make it so difficult to understand that the average man or woman will not subject their mental powers to the task. The main thing appears to be to prevent people thinking too long about any one thing. “Variety is the spice of life ”— and they get it! Apparently the mass of people, whose attention in these days is lamentably undisciplined, will accept any convenient notion offered to it. If the purveyors of the people’s mental food are convinced that food served raw might prove unpalatable or indigestible—well, then, they will cook it, and flavour it to any required degree. In other words, where precise information is dangerous, or falls short, imagination and false testimony is employed.

Again. Prominence is always given to the utterances of those whose business it is to misrepresent or vilify anything which tends to enlighten the mass of people as to the true position they occupy in life, and to a true understanding of the huge swindle of which they are the victims at the hands of those who at present own and control. Needless to say, a speech by a Socialist is never seen mentioned, which goes to show that impartiality is not the aim of the Press. If Socialism was wrong it would be self-evident; if the capitalist was right there would be no doubt about it, and the claims of the Socialists would be superfluous. But the Press takes no chances, because it knows !

Tom Sala.