Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Gospel of Simplicity by Godfrey Blount, Part 2

The Gospel of Simplicity’s influence can be seen in John Chiene’s book Looking Back, 1907-1860 
 “We want to get back to the time when we make the whole boot, and don’t spend our days in punching the eyeholes.  We want to get back to the gospel of simplicity, as preached by Godfrey Blount in No. 8 of the “Simple Life Series,” and by Dr Geo. Keith in his most valuable book, “Plea for a Simple Life.”

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903

In the extract of The Gospel of Simplicity (Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903), in my previous post here, Blount continues “Politics can only seal, never initiate, reform.  They are therefore quite incompetent to cope with the increasing danger of substituting everywhere machinery for hand labour, dangerous because a nation’s prowess must consist in the number of her sons who can win their living from Nature unaided and direct.

What armies of the sword or plough do we imagine these fetid hives of manufacturing cities, which destroy the countryman in his third generation, will produce?

The truth is that the majority of us, in and out of Parliament, are too compromised with machinery in some form or other to question its necessity, to abstain from its convenience in private, or try to control its growth in public.  Hence our revolution must proceed on individual lines, by the conversion of persons here and there to the wisdom of ultimately adopting the more primitive, slower, simpler, but in the end more satisfactory and humane, methods of labour; and for a long time to come our movement must be ethical and patriotic in the best sense of the word, and appeal to sentiments with which politics have practically nothing to do. 

The popular cult of machinery is the saddest evidence of that hallucination that we can beat down the price Nature asks us for her fruits. 

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903
If we cheapen her on one side, however, she is bound to compensate herself on another.  In spite of all the labour-saving inventions of the past century, one may venture to doubt if the ultimate cost of production has been lessened, when we come to calculate the social and moral condition their influence has had on the country, when we take into account our dependence on foreign nations for our food and clothing, the depopulation of the country, the growing danger of our big towns, and the increasing discontent, ignorance, and savagery, of the population that infests them.

In actual cost alone, it is doubtful if wholesome living, good food, clothes and accommodation are any cheaper to-day than they ever were; doubtful indeed if beyond a fairly defineable limit machinery can possibly lighten the average labour or conduct to the average happiness.

We tamper at our risk with a certain standard of effort, of personal hard work that Nature asks us in return for her gift of Life, just as we tamper at our risk with the physical and spiritual mysteries of that gift.

Machinery, in fact, has been making slaves and savages while it has been making fortunes.  It is owing to machinery that unskilled labour is superseding skilled, that the countryman has forgotten his lore, and the craftsman his cunning. 

In bringing this broad accusation against machinery I recognise of course that it is itself a result and not the cause of the disease we are suffering from, and the evil we have to fight against; the sin of greed, the love of money, the wish to gain more of the world’s wealth than is natural or healthy for us, this is the real root of the trouble, whether it takes the form of monopoly in land or capital, the means of distribution and production, or any other method in the vast field of human selfishness which remains to be exploited…

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903
We cannot preach the faith that is in us unless we act it as well, by practising in what we do, and in how we live, that simplicity and directness which will keep us in loving touch with the great Nature of which we are a part.

There are many ways of doing this, of which agriculture must always come first.  But while land is difficult to come by, tools are easy to buy, and while the tenure of land is surrounded by uncertainties, there are no restrictions to our making things by hand.

We can all help to encourage the revival of handicraft without waiting for Parliament to protect us, and help individually to hasten a better day, or avert a worse.

"We conceive at present of labour as a disagreeable factor in our existence; our main object is to avoid the necessity for doing any of it ourselves and to shuffle it by hook or crook on to somebody else’s back, or to get it done by “labour-saving” machines, whereas it is labour alone, backed by a good conscience, that keeps us healthy, happy, and sane."

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...