The New Freewoman: No. 3, Vol. 1, July 15th 1913.
by Dora Marsden
DEMOCRACY is a weed of the tuber order. When its visible leaves are lopped off, the underground root remains strong as before. Proof that the worship of democracy is just the apotheosis of tyranny, that democracy is tyranny erected into a cult, does not make patent the absurdity of the conclusion that democracy is the gospel of the free. Proof is not proof that is: a sure sign that one has formulated the wrong proposition. The argument ostensibly only is on democracy; a democrat arguing his creed is arguing something else which he does not state. To convince him one must reach beyond democracy and grip hold of the subconscious something which is bolstering his belief in spite of argument.
Democracy viewed on its own merits of course reveals itself almost as a mathematical error. Starting from an aversion towards the tyranny of One- the historic Tyrant-the impulse towards democracy has spread tyranny-i.e. government-through a wider area, through oligarchy, and plutocracy, the Few, and the Rich, and presses onwards as to a desired goal, to the government of All by All. "Government of the People by the People." To how many million millions of speeches has not this phrase given a fillip during the last century and a half? Yet its meaning is clear. Democracy is a special form of government, that is, a particular form of according to some or all the privilege of meddling with the lives of the rest. Considered in the light of an agreement conferring this power to meddle between Smith, Jones, Robinson, and Brown, each of these persons severally agrees to place the regulating and governing of his life outside his own ordering and under that of the majority of the rest. For the sake of meddling in the affairs of the others, each one abandons power over himself. When Smith wishes to adopt a course of action to please himself, he finds he has placed a possible majority over himself with power to decide against him. He has agreed to the placing of a constant blockade upon his course of action. In return he can help to blockade the actions of any of the rest. Previous to the compact he was, as far as his own power enabled him, the equal of any; after, he finds himself automatically faced by a constant superior of his own making-the alliance. He has fenced himself round with restrictions, and receives as the utmost reward for his pains-alien responsibility. Govern himself he may not-but to govern others he is pledged.
If, abandoning the instance, we look at the same relationship in its vastly extended form, i.e. in democracy, the viciousness of the situation is found to be proportionately increased. Here in these British Isles, an English democrat, in return for having the one seven millionth part of a unified tyranny over each one of his fellows, suffers the accumulated weight of the remaining six million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine parts in his own person, should he elect to deviate by a hair's breadth from the authority of the alliance. When British democracy completes itself and unto the seven million are added women, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, beggarmen, thieves, and the rest the effect will be correspondingly worse. The alliance will smite with the force of Jove and the "free" little democrat will put up his share in the bargain with the force of the moth's wing. This is what Democracy in Excelsis, means-democracy perfected, democracy with proportional representation, with respect for minorities, and the like. This is what asking for a "vote" means: strangling by request, the bludgeoning of the individual by the alliance, by majorities. This is the freedom of the people which the poets have sung.
"The common-sense of most shall hold a fretful
realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in
That is Democracy's vision splendid, "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world."
That the above is the only description which can be given of democracy, i.e. a vast system of tutelage, a system impossible of conception by men accustomed to exercise their own judgments freely, none who use an intellect with precision can deny. Of all the forms of "government," democracy is the one most nicely calculated to overcome free instincts, and for the same reasons which make government under a "Tyrant" the least pernicious viewed from the same aspect. This, by the way, explains why there is now an increasingly popular demand that the royal power should be increased. It is a harking back to the single "Tyrant," in the interest of fuller play for free instincts. Democracy may have its good points, but whatever these may be they are the reverse of everything which tends to encourage free agents.
When an effort is made to account for the deluge of democratic sentiment which is submerging our times, one naturally turns to the doctrinaires of the Revolution period, with their conceptions of inflated "Humanity" and belief in the increasing perfectibility of "Mankind as a whole." "Humanity" has sat very heavily upon men for the last hundred years. In making schemes for the perfecting of "Humanity", the myth, men, the realities have been forced into set moulds, like clay into bricks to become fitting building-material for the purpose. Observation of individual men would never have led to the formulation of the static conceptions upon which the democratic edifice is founded, such as justice, equality, fraternity, order. These are based not on the traits of living men but upon schemes for the aggrandisement of mere thought-creations- "humanity"- "mankind." Indeed the "characteristics of men"- are something to be explained away, something to be overcome in the interests of "mankind." The individual man mars the thought-picture, just as testy individual people mar Mrs. Webb's vision of a perfect state. If the individual will can be annihilated, so much the better; if unhappily it cannot, then it must be scduced by guile into the service of the concept-and all for the benefit of " mankind."
says Tennyson. Emmanuel Kant means exactly the same thing when he speaks of the Will being free to obey the " Moral Law." "Free to obey"-a curious phrase! The name of Kant here is opportune because he more than any other is responsible for thc introduction of the idea of independent law to be realised in human conduct. This notion has sunk deep, this idea that we do not belong to ourselves, that we are not our own. The shackles of democracy do not offend because at heart men have come to believe that they ought not to be free, to be their own masters. They believe that there exists underlying law, an underlying harmony, and that to learn this harmony, to get into step with it, is the proper role-the "duty"-of men. They may not actually be in tune with the infinite but they feel they ought to be. And here we have it. Men love the "ought," the duty, the submission to "something higher," the categorical imperative. They are in truth fearsome and very timid, the sons of men! The real Ishmaelite among them, the real outcast, is the man who says "I desire to be free, not free to obey or free to serve, but free (as far as my power goes) to please myself." Of the Egoist in thought human culture bears small trace: men cannot easily suffer this view of themselves; but of egoism in action all that is hard and lasting has been built up.
" Our wills are ours, we know not how.
Our wills are ours to make them Thine,"
So with democracy: timid hearts and feeble minds have made common cause to raise up false gods. The soul says "Thou shalt have no other gods but me," but the alien gods arise notwithstanding and democracy has its full share of them-Equality, Justice, Fraternity. Because these are lies, i.e. without correspondence to anything real, the men who have raised them aloft for worship do not worship for long, and the people cry out that democracy, in these its bases, is being undermined. The "People" bitterly complain that their politicians betray them. They are betrayed surely enough, but their own minds are the culprits. They are the victims of their own hasty and mistaken generalisations, their own false analogies, and slack efforts of attention. For it is to be noted that the democratic idea, i.e. all governing all, is one not at all incapable of realisation. There are circumstances where it would be the perfect adjustment: in living organisms for instance, such as the human body. There in the inter-relationship of each single member of the body with the rest we have in their common health and well-ordering the "Each for all and all for each," the "government of all, by all, for all," of democracy. But the living organism is an actual unity, not a "thought" unity -but a reality. Its indivisibility, its separateness and oneness are its distinguishing marks. Attempt to divide it, chop it up into members and we kill it. Not so mankind. Only by false analogy is "humanity," "mankind," conceived as a unity and hence our "human" woes. Out of the disparities, diversities and separateness which "mankind" comprises, to create a semblance of unity in order to fit the concept these naughty frauds of thought are perpetrated: Equality to level differences, Justice to keep them levelled; Fraternity to cement the mixture permanently together, into "the brotherhood of man"- mankind.
What is wrong with democracy is that it is calculated to fit mankind: a homogeneous, ardently desired, much-vaunted but non-existent unity. It does not fit men. Hense this quarrel of "human" culture with egoistic men. If men do not conform to the "ideals of humanity" then they ought to. That has been the claim of all moralists, and egoists have usually lost the argument. Rather they have never attempted to win it, but in a shamefaced way they have acted on their egoism. The "Moral Law" has held the entire platform, "humanity" has had full innings, and we have all agreed that humanity would be uplifted and glorified, with democracy fitting like a glove, if only men were free (to obey), equal, just, loving, and guided by law. And men have piously admitted that they ought to be these things, and have cast a glance in their direction in leisure moments. No institution can thrive however on attention so casual, and as for democracy it has clattered down in a straggling ruin. The clatter of its fall may prove capable of breaking the spell of hypnotism which the architects of mankind- the moralists-have laid upon their living material- men; capable of dispelling the authority of the "Moral Law," the authority, ruling in an alien interest from without. Then the ego, the wayward will of the individual man may have courage to mount the throne and ask, "Now what precisely does it avail me, Oh my Soul, to be free, to be just, to be loving?" and the individual value of the satisfactions to be derived therefrom will be the measure of their intrinsic value of these.
The New Freewoman: No. 3, Vol. 1, July 15th, 1913.
by Dora Marsden
THE NEW FREEWOMAN is clever. So it is and with encouragement would inevitably become more so. We feel the tendency, and really are struggling against it. Hence these explanatory "comments," in which we can revert from the Greek to the Anglo Saxon and change the illustration of the Dithyramb into that of the Cradle. The fact that, at present, THE NEW FREEWOMAN has no intellectual kin, that the "spirit of the age" is the opposite of ours, makes it necessary for us not only to set up our own creed but to create the milieu in which this will be able tolerably to live and be known for what it truly is. Hence these attacks upon what may seem cob webs, atmospheres and mere conceptions. But let us revert to the "cradle." So exquisite an example of what we were attacking under the guise of the "Nothing worked on by the Dithyramb" has recently come our way that, can we get it accepted for what it is, we shall have taken possession of the substance of every false style, shivered the rhetoric of every platform and created a wide retreat from human "culture." The function of the cradle is open to no question: it is to rock, and the rocking is designed to deprive a lively and wakeful occupant of so much of its consciousness as is involved in going to sleep. The luxurious swaying is designed to overcome intelligence, and ordinarily it is very successfill. Rocked in the cradle the infant sleeps and so do the intelligences of grown-ups worked on by a similar mechanical process. Impregnated with the rhythm of matter, mind is subdued; assailed by its opposite, mind gives way, in a luxury of abandonment; overcome by material rhythm mind will embrace renunciation, annihilation, death, and with the relax of strain involved in the abandoning of mind's hold on life comes the voluptuary's pleasure, the thrill. The "thrill" of pleasure comes always where "feeling"-i.e. life, impinges on matter. The "thrill" in feeling is not part of the emotional impulse itself, it is to the surge of emotion what the fretful surf at the base of the cliff is to the deeps of the sea; it is the phenomenon which shows itself only in the last stages of feeling, when the impulse has spent itself. Voluptuousness, the mechanical creation of "pleasure" is the attempt to create "pleasure" in a reverse order: by imitating the material rhythm of matter and endeavouring to implicate it in the outer fringe of feeling. It is of necessity doomed to disappointment, since this outer fringe, too frequently worked upon becomes one with the outer agent and dies. The small amount of feeling which is necessary even for mere pleasure is not forthcoming, which accounts for what is essentially vicious in "vice" i.e. that pre-occupation with the by-product, the mere accidentals of real feeling which blocks up the channel of feeling itself.
There is no difference in the essentials of this process whether it be observed in the obvious spheres of "sense" or in the subtler realms of intellect. It remains the difference between reality and a fake, sincerity and insincerity, joy and pleasure. This may appear a long excursion away from our original instance, but in reality it is not. It is a plain statement of what is amiss with "bodily health," "happiness," "thought" and "culture"-amiss because insincere, "touched-up," merely associative; lacking real foundations.
* * * *
The instance to which we referred we give at length below. The flower of modern culture is to be seen in Woman; the flower of Womanhood are Englishwomen; and the distinguished of the distinguished among these are the Englishwomen of literary genius-those of "the Pen and of the Press." At a moment of national sarrow, calamity, yea disgrace, these bright particular stars unburden their souls (to the Press-not to THE NEW FREEWOMAN by the way) of what is at once an indictment and an exposition. And this is what they have to say and how they say it:
"We, the undersigned, women of the pen and of the Press, who stand shoulder to shoulder with men in the art of literature without let or hindrance, without- favouritism or animosity, who share with men the pleasures and pains of our profession, its rights, its wrongs, its praise, and its blame, hereby- individually, and as vice-presidents of our league- assert and maintain that the present attitude of rebellion, anarchy, and defiance which many otherwise loyal and law-abiding women have adopted towards the Government is largely due to the lack of straight dealing and to the almost inconceivable blundering of that Government.
The Government, sir, has paltered with a problem of the deepest significance. It seems to have forgotten that 5 million of women workers, forced by our social laws into the labour market, instead of being, as heretofore, dependent upon men for their livelihood, are taxed unconstitutionally, many of them sweated unmercifully.
It has failed to see that the whole conditions of woman's life are different in this twentieth century from what they were in thirteenth; it has failed to realise the elemental nature of the movement, and has treated it in a spirit of shuffling insincerity unworthy of serious statesmen.
By this appalling ignorance and negligence it has induced and encouraged a state of tyranny and resistance which is a disgrace both to England and to Englishmen.
FLORA ANNIE STEEL and BEATRICE HARRADEN,
ALICE MEYNELL and GERTRUDE BAILLIE REYNOLDS,
ELIZABETH ROBINS and EVELYN SHARP,
MAY SINCLAIR and MARGARET TODD, M. D.,
MARGARET L. WOODS and E. AYRTON ZANGWILL.
* * * *
It will be noticed, thanks to our careful pointing, that there are "two of everything" (like underclothes), even of signatories. "Its rights" "its wrongs," "its praise" "its blame," "to England and to Englishmen." This is the cradle-of Rhetoric. If one carefully teckons up the amount of real matter in the above effusion, a fairly accurate estimate will be acquired as to the value of the platform-created phenomenon which is called the "Woman Movement." Rumour has it that this rhythm-intoxicated "Cause" is to ally itself with the forces represented by Mr. Lansbury. The prospect makes the head giddy. Mr. Lansbury has, we believe, a heart of gold but he has a literary intellect, that is, he suffers badly from cultural brain-rot. One would have hoped that Mrs. Pankhurst, after her escape from the alliance with Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence, would have shunned the rhetoricians like leprosy. Instead, unhappily she appears herself to have caught the plague.
* * * *
Mr. Josiah Wedgwood, who seemed to annoy members of the House of Commons very considerably by mentioning the fact that "killing is murder" even in South Africa, writes in a seemingly astonished way to the Herald, "Now we know what the army is for. Two hundred and seventy men and women of our own blood have been shot down by other men of our blood-men paid with our money to do the work." But an infant in arms knows what an army is for; what even the elders appear unaware of is what we unarmed are for. We are targets. That is the relationship of civilians to the army. Mr. Wedgwood appears to think that "our blood" should have some deciding force in the matter. He is surely pre-occupied with a non essential. It is the possession of the gun which matters in a community where there exist two orders -armed and unarmed. It is worse than futile for unarmed men to parley of sweetness, truth and light at the nozzle of a rifle. That they do so and pride themselves upon their meekness reveals the real temper of the new "movement." The only proper retort to the threatened onslaught of armed men is to supply oneself with arms. For corroboration refer to any of the friends of freedom of the actual as opposed to the verbal sort, Pym, Washington, Lincoln, Garibaldi, even Sir Edward Carson. Conscription throughout the Empire, men and women alike, would to our mind be the strictly accurate reply to the "brutalities of government," presenting an infinitely more prevailing argument than a deluge of argument and an ocean of tears.
It is a thousand pities that THE NEW FREEWOMAN has so few tastes in common with the "Friends of Freedom." It is indeed a difference in taste, and we can only hope that such differences are not so fundamental as experience has led us to think. Mr. Wedgwood goes on to say, "I like the story of the unarmed man, who crossed the line, and, with arms stretched out, asked them to shoot him, and was shot." Mr. Wedgwood likes it: so do not we. It is typical of an attitude we cannot abide. It gives us shivers of violent irritation, not directed against the shooters but against the shot. What silly business had the man to cross the line? The place for unarmed men with soldiers about is under cover, unless, of course, the thing is done for sport, in which case we shall not be expected to see in the person a likeness to the figure of Christ which surely enough the writer draws in the succeeding line!
The latter-day "Friends of Freedom" are suffering from a disease, which is highly contagious and will be the death of them for all serious plans and purposes unless a sense of humour comes to save them. For instance they have been haunted with this "Image of Christ" notion since the very first days of their activity. Applied to every witless deed, its use was rampant in Mrs. Pankhurst's union, where it was applied not only to shining beacons like Mrs. Pankhurst but to followers too humble for naming. Then it passed to the Revolutionary Labour movement, by way of Mr. Lansbury; and now it has infected our "friends inside the house"! Perhaps the violence of the disease will prove its best cure.
* * * *
The characteristic of inverted intellectualisation which is the cause of this perverted taste shows itself in the nature of the clamour which is being raised against the "Cat and Mouse" act. It is a "disgrace to the Government," one hears. The "Cat and Mouse" act in our opinion is -exceedingly good government. In fact, as government, it is a master piece. What is government for if not to keep rebellious elements deprived of power to do mischief, to break the "law" with impunity? Suffragists above all others, being the only ones anxious to share in government specifically, ought to know what "government" is. They believe in reform by law, in doing good unto others by compulsion: well, the government is giving them an instance of how it is done; its reforming them by law, doing them good by compulsion, when it compels them to save their lives by forcible feeding, when it shows its ingenuity and tenacity by the "Cat and Mouse" act. If "friends of freedom" had a larger supply of brain power than the moiety only with which they seem to be supplied, they would be able to understand why feeling so often runs against them, when reasonably it might be expected to be with them. They would then manage to get some idea of the force of underlying assumption. When for instance a man of teeming benevolence like Mr. G. K. Chesterton gives it as his opinion that while he likes the suffragette tactics better than their ideals, he nevertheless holds that they, upon refusing food, should be left to starve in prison, they would realise that some weighty consideration must be operating to overcome his natural softness of heart: that he is not influenced unaccountably by some sudden irrational spite. The consideration is that Mr. Chesterton believes in government and political law. Government must govern, law must be vindicated; if law is belittled, reduced to impotency in one case, so it may be in a thousand cases. Therefore let the law be upheld in every case, and let government be strong to govern: Anyone who believes in government believes thc same thing: suffragists at heart believe it, and so does the country at large. That is why there is no popular outcry against the barbarity of these circumstances. The "horror" which the suffragists hold that the country feel against the government in this particular simply does not exist. They alone have the tale for the telling. The "country" regards the situation as a deadlock with the argument as well as the advantage against the women. Had the women spent the smallest proportion of the time which they have expended trying to persuade a sceptical public as to the powers and virtues of votes in examining the nature of government, making this clear to themselves and the people, they would have had sympathy and comprehension where now they have only hostility and misunderstanding.
* * * *
The charge of misappropriation of a sum of money which was brought so precipitately against Mr. Charles Granville by some of his former colleagues and upon which judgment has been postponed from December last, recently has been decided against him, and many among the wide circle of literary people who benefited by his generosity and sympathy with struggling authors and "advanced" writers generally, will learn with regret that a sentence of several months imprisonment has been passed upon him. The ridiculous and impertinent charges of bigamy which were unearthed no doubt very strongly prejudiced the case, though their worthlessness is indicated by the fact that even in the eyes of the judge, they were considered not to warrant punishment, and the sentence passed in respect of them runs concurrently and will have terminated before the expiration of the major sentence. Although there appear to have been but few friends about him to bear public testimony to his worth and work, Mr. Granville must have the personal knowledge that but for his assistance most of that which to-day comprises the braver note in journalism would probably have no existence. In undertaking the complete financial responsibility of inaugurating and maintaining a publicist organ of hitherto unprecedented outspokenness such as the Eye-Witness, he performed an invaluable public service; he came forward to save the Daily Herald at a moment when it seemed impossible for it to go on, and for a short period kept that voice of the new temper among the dispossessed audible; of what he did in financing THE FREEWOMAN it is perhaps not our place here to speak: the efforts we have made to carry on a like work in THE NEW FREEWOMAN will sufficiently indicate the value we set upon it. He gave his help freely and graciously and without any reservations. He occupied the truly unique position of financing journals without attempting to "control" them.
Of his personal generosity there is no need to speak since throughout a wide circle of literary London testimony could be taken of it. It is somewhat ironical that the one journalist who gave evidence in his favour should be probably the most disinterested -Mr. Orage, the editor of the New Age. Perhaps the benefit of the doubt should be given to beneficiaries, whose offers to help may have been made but not called upon. We sincerely hope that such was the case.
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The Eye-Witness has recently published a series of opinions on the Jewish question under the quaint heading, "What shall we do with our Jews?" Considering the relative powers of Jew and Gentile at the moment, the naive question suggests another situation, the conference of Tails debating "What shall we do with our Dogs?" The humour of the situation is quickened by the presence at the sitting of one of the Dogs, the contribution of that super Christianly courteous Jew, Dr. M. D. Eder, who thinks that in consideration of the difficulties all round consequent on their presence, the gentlemanly thing to do would be for the Jews to retire into voluntary exile to-Angola, the only place available as far as the Commission appointed by the Jewish Territorial Organisation to inquire into the question can gather. Moreover, and gentlemanliness apart, the Jews want a country, a nationality. Well, Angola seems a long way off, so why not England? Dr. Eder quotes M. Poincare saying to the French in England: "Keep carefully before your eyes and in your hearts this sacred image of France." "Ah, that is the image of a reality," says Dr. Eder. But is not England real, and more interesting and "on the spot" so to speak, than is Angola? We should advise the Jews to keep their eyes on England: the people seem to be peculiarly adapted by nature to submit to them, and what more can seekers of new homes want? They will have a far easier task than the Saxons had with the Celts, or the Normans with the Angles. And respect for priority of occupation has no place where vital matters are concerned. It holds good only in first-class railway carriages and drawing-rooms where there is not adequate elbow-room even were there the necessity to fight such matters out. In fighting for a land and a home more drastic measures are necessary. "This seat is intended to accommodate five" does not hold good in the last excursion train from, say, Blackpool to Oldham. It oftener accommodates ten. Dr. Eder's gentlemanly attitude would be emulated by the incommoded gentlemen pushed, in such circumstances, into a far corner rising and saying "Gentlemen, I see there is an inconvenient crush to which my presence contributes. I hear, I know, that there is plenty of room at the head of the pier, where I will go and spend the night." Of course there is a conceivable possibility that the Jews will prefer Angola to England: and if so that ends the matter. But if so, why the necessity for symposia on "What shall we do with our Jews ?" There is nothing to prevent them departing thither, any more than to prevent them going up in an aeroplane and disappearing in the clouds. If, however, they want to remain here, and if it should please them to call England the "New Judaea" why should they not? We know of no scruple which should deter them, and the chances of successful occupation are heavily in their favour.