The Dean and the Chop Sticks

If we charitably concede that Dr. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, is, as he claims, a devout and peace-loving Christian, filled with loving-kindness for all humanity, anxious to promote happiness and to avoid violence and war, it is only possible to do so on the assumption that he is capable of self-deception and mental blindness to the point of absurdity. This assumption is, however, an easy one, for the Dean’s public utterances over a long period have shown him to be naive almost beyond belief, highly susceptible to flattery, with an unparalleled capacity to be misinformed on the economic and political questions he studies and writes about and a pathetic readiness to believe the most incredible stories without, or against, evidence when once his emotional interest has been aroused. At one time he espoused the currency mumbo-jumbo of the credit creationists, at another he was backing the idea of a communist Britain, with the present monarch at the helm, and as member of the Editorial Board of the communist Daily Worker he was able to square his Christian doctrines with that journal’s barely veiled campaign of national hatred against Americans. He has long sought to reconcile the irreconcilable, by holding that Marxist materialism is compatible with Christian mysticism, though it must be said in excuse that he was in this matter merely a gullible dupe of two-faced communist propaganda. His principal published contribution to political confusion has, of course, been his “Socialist Sixth of the World,” in which, against all evidence, including much that he provides in the book, he maintains that Russian State capitalism is its opposite. Socialism. He easily took in his stride the notion that dictatorship is democratic provided it happens in Russia. In recent times he has been active in trying to show why the Russian war preparations and glorification of the weapons of destruction are quite different from identical manifestations in other countries, and has achieved particular prominence by proclaiming his belief in the Russo-Chinese Governments’ propaganda about germ warfare in Korea and China.

Here let us clear the air by stating the obvious about the use of germ warfare. Governments at war—all governments—will use any weapon that they think will help them to gain the ascendancy over their opponents. The Dean would doubtless assent to this general proposition, but with the exception that he does not believe this of the Russian government and its allies because they say they are peace lovers. To which, of course, there is a brutally simple answer, For what purpose does the Dean think the Russian government makes atom bombs if not for the purpose of using them?

The Dean is equally naive about war propaganda. Words are a weapon of war, used to stimulate die home front and weaken the enemy. The truthfulness of the words is irrelevant except that some experts in war propaganda hold the view that propaganda that is built up on some truthful elements is more effective than total untruths.

Among recent efforts of the propagandists of Russia and her satellites have been the Colorado beetles said to have been dropped by American planes beyond the Iron Curtain to destroy the potato crop, the dropping of poisoned food in Albania, British poisoned cannon balls in the Crimean War of a century ago, and alleged dropping of lepers by British troops into’ North Korea. Bv contrast, the Daily Worker’s horror at the sending of “savage dogs” from Britain was a puny effort. The only story that has really justified its use is that of the germ-infected flies and fleas said to have been showered down on the Koreans and Chinese. The Dean believes this to be true mainly because it is vouched for by certain Christian bodies in China, and though he can, it seems, stomach all the horrors of war waged by “conventional ” weapons he cannot condone germs.

Since we know that all governments when at war will stop at no horror, the most pertinent point made by the Dean’s opponents is that researches into germ warfare by Western Powers have produced nothing likely to be at all effective. This—if true—would carry more weight than all the denials, and as it happens the Dean confirms this. He denies that the germs alleged to have been dropped have had any appreciable effect because a simple remedy has been evolved. He told a Press Conference on 8th July “how the little Chinese, when germs had been dropped, formed sanitary cordons in the fields and went about ‘collecting the germs with chop sticks’ and popping them into bottles.” (Manchester Guardian, 9th July, 1952.)

So effective is this that, according to the Dean, “the direct effect of germ warfare will be a rapid lowering of the mortality rate with consequent rise in population.”

The logic of his conclusion is perhaps open to question since lowering the mortality rate due to germs can hardly increase the population, unless indeed the children also collect germ-laden insects native to the countryside as well as those dropped by planes; but the Dean’s belief is clear.

If, therefore, we are to believe the Dean his course is obvious. He should now open a campaign for the abolition of dangerous weapons like rifles, artillery, tanks, high explosive bombs, etc., etc., and get the governments to agree to fight wars only with germs. “ The germ, the whole germ and nothing but the germ.” Then, with our issue of chopsticks and bottles we shall all be safe and sound in a third world war and shall all live to bless the Dean of Canterbury.

One other aspect of the battle of the germ deserves notice. His fellow Christians in Britain have denounced his lack of patriotism and sorrowed over his absence of any critical faculty that would deter him from accepting statements on trust even from fellow Christians in China. But why should anyone expect a Dean, nurtured in the bosom of the Christian church, to be able dispassionately to weigh the evidence of what is alleged to have happened this year in the Far East? Are not all Christians taught to accept on faith astonishing stories of wonders and miracles supposed to have taken place in the Middle East nearly 2,000 years ago?


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