- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Jan 1948, p. 195-208
- Beck, Thomas H., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Observations and impressions from the speaker's recent round-the-world flight by Pan-American Airways. Discouragement from what was seen in Britain because of the enormous difficulties under which the Mother Country is labouring. The spirit of independence throughout the World today which goes far beyond political lines and has even entered into trade. The example of the nations of the Commonwealth and most of the Colonies, and even those Foreign Countries who are within the "Sterling-Bloc" wanting to do their own manufacturing as opposed to Britain being the manufacturing centre for a large part of the world. Talking to people on the street in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey's enviable position, having avoided the troubles, difficulties, and the terrors of war. Modernization in Turkey. Positive changes brought about by the now late founder of the Republic in Turkey, who was a Dictator. Arabia, where the Anglo-American Oil Company is at work. A wonderful example of what private enterprise can do in modernizing a backward country. Details of modernization and progress, especially in education. A most discouraging situation in Calcutta. People with no homes, no money, no food and no occupation; starvation rampant. Conditions growing worse since the withdrawal of the British. Limitations of India's spiritual leaders. Religious problems in India between the Hindus and the Moslems. The fear that Russia could take over India if she wanted to. Siam also an unsettled country, with much disease and health problems. The Philippines as a great demonstration of what can be accomplished due to the introduction of American schools, sanitation, and water systems. Bringing the Philippines to a condition of self-support. The willingness of the Filipinos to pay back taxes for the period of the Japanese occupation as an indication that they are attempting to rebuild their country. Great ingenuity shown in Manila in reconstructing reparable buildings. The rich natural resources of The Philippines. Shanghai: a teeming city of more than seven million people, most of them in a state of semi-starvation with no obvious way out. Some illustrations of the financial problems in China. Japan and evidence of the tremendous job done by General MacArthur. A review of the Japanese attitude to the war, and to defeat. The speaker's recommendations to the President of the United States, on his return from this trip. The suggestion that the solution for the backward countries of the World would be to send them teams of doctors and practical nurses, and also have American enterprise build pilot plants for the manufacture of penicillin, which can now be made out of wood pulp. Further suggestions to aid in the development of the backward countries, especially in the agricultural field. The need throughout the World for more business enterprise. The speaker's concern over Russian aggression, and his evidence for it.
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- 22 Jan 1948
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THE WORLD TODAY
AN ADDRESS BY THOMAS H. BECK, C.B.E.
Chairman: The President, Tracy E. Lloyd
Thursday, January 22nd, 1948
HONOURED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
The Empire Club is greatly honoured today in welcoming as its guest Mr. Thomas H. Beck, C.B.E., of New York City. Our guest is chairman of the Board of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, publishers of The American Magazine, Collier's and The Woman's Home Companion, having a combined total audience of over nine million.
Our guest is also a director of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and a member of the Board of Curators of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.
Our guest of honour has, for many years, been interested in aviation and was for many years a director of the National Aeronautic Association, chairman of The Civil Patrol League and recipient of the Frank Hawkes Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to aviation in 1941 and is also Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Mr. Beck's interest in aviation has naturally taken him to many countries of the world and he was with the first round-the-world flight and also with Pan American to Hong-Kong, New Zealand and Europe.
Among our guests' many other interests is the protection, conservation and restoration of wild life and for four years he served as chairman of the Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game and also acted as chairman of the President's Committee on Wildlife Restoration.
In connection with our speaker's publishing interests, it is interesting to mention that Mr. Beck has, for a long time, been interested in developing a world-wide publication calling attention to national features worthy of adoption throughout the world. During the war years, Mr. Beck's company undertook the publishing of a magazine under the auspices of the Office of War Information and the experience gained in servicing a world-wide foreign audience in their own language has been the framework for the proposed publishing venture. Nineteen countries have already signified their intention of participating and an international editorial board will introduce the new publication probably next year.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Mr. Thomas H. Beck, C.B.E., who will address us on the subject: "The World Today".
While I am very grateful for such a flattering introduction, I am quite certain that I can not live up to it because I am only an old shoe who has worked all his life and enjoyed it and have travelled a good deal to broaden my perspective, which is more or less essential to a publisher.
I thought I would tell you something of what I saw on a very recent round-the-world flight by Pan-American Airways. We were going for thirteen days and had ninety-five flying hours. The trip was uneventful from the standpoint of aviation, but extremely interesting from the standpoint of what we were able to learn in that brief time. I must admit my views are based on what I was able to glean from the man in the street, businessmen, doctors and others who spoke English and were able to tell me about the conditions that existed in their own Countries. This also applies to Britain and Ireland.
I was very much discouraged at what I saw in Britain because of the enormous difficulties the Mother Country is labouring under; a condition which is bound to continue for some time to come. There is a spirit of independence throughout the World today which goes far beyond political lines and has even entered into trade. For example, the nations of the Commonwealth, and most of the Colonies, and even those Foreign Countries who are within the "Sterling-Bloc", want to do their own manufacturing. As you know, Britain has been for years the manufacturing centre for a large part of the world. It is going to be a terrific fight to maintain her position as a leading manufacturing Country and this will involve her in a great industrial campaign. Furthermore, a new philosophy, the philosophy of producing cheaper goods is necessary. For example, a cheaper car in order that Britain may compete not only with American, but also with the hitherto "tied-in" people of the World; those who have been handicapped from a credit standpoint.
From Britain we went to Istanbul, Turkey, and there I spent my entire time visiting shops and talking not only to Bankers and Doctors, but also to people on the street. Compared with most of the other nations I visited, Turkey is in an enviable position, because she did not go through the troubles, difficulties and the terrors of war. The Turks are modernizing their country to a great extent. You will recall that the founder of the Republic was a Dictator, a man of great power and influence. In spite of an early death, he managed to bring many reforms to his Country, a number of which cut across religious lines. He abolished the wearing of the fez, introduced western clothing and brought the women out of the harems, but above all he established a modern sewage system and brought to all the principal cities a fresh and pure water supply. The whole scheme lessened the danger of contagion which is rampant in so many parts of the world. Then he did away with their telegraphic alphabetic form of writing and introduced the Roman Alphabet. All this he did by decree and enforced the changes, and as a result, the illiteracy in the country is rapidly decreasing.
Some ten thousand farmers are attending schools under American Teachers and are learning the principles of mass production of food with the use of tractors, gangploughs, cultivators and seeders.
Amongst other things, I saw a number of large buildings enclosed by high walls covering as much as a whole City block. I said, "What are these?" I was told "Those used to be the harems of so-an-so'", naming some wealthy politician or government leader. I asked "What are they now?" They said, "Well, they are trade schools." It seemed to me that really spelled progress. I was greatly encouraged by what I saw in Turkey.
From Istanbul we went to Arabia where the Anglo-American Oil Company is at work and there we found a wonderful example of what private enterprise can do in modernizing a backward Country. Many of you Gentlemen know that these Arabian Deserts are really deserts; they are not like our United States counterparts, where we have sage-brush and cactus. There is not a thing on those of Arabia, but sand-sand in endless quantities and a terrific heat. Well this Company has built a village with refineries around the oil wells and in some places have even brought in soil and grown vegetables. The workmen are Arabians; they can be seen going around in shorts instead of in yards of cotton. Air-conditioned barracks with modern plumbing and shower baths have been built for these Arabs, in fact, everything is as modern as one could imagine. Under no circumstances whatever will these people go back to the old life. They are convinced that this is the life they want, and this is how they wish to live. Their children are being educated in good schools and taught the Roman Alphabet, and are growing up to be a totally different generation with modern ideas and education and are becoming more aggressive. Their King has a fixed deal with our oil companies; this is largely in the matter of the boring of wells. Every now and then he asks--"As a favour to me, won't you do these things?" Strangely enough, under the sand there is water everywhere, so throughout the desert, on the trade routes, they have built oases; little villages have sprung up around the wells that have been made, and these wells have become reservoirs.
The Company built a railway to Mecca for the King. Mecca is near the Red Sea but not on it and it is a long way across the desert from the Persian Gulf to Arabia. Every Mohammedan is supposed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his life. The King gets fifty cents or the equivalent from every person who makes the journey by rail. It is very difficult to get across the desert, so they use the railway and with the money raised from the levy of fifty-cents, it is expected with this increased revenue they will be able to extend the railway another fifty miles. It is interesting to remember that Mecca is the second Holy City; Jerusalem being the first.
From Arabia, where we had seen this great example of progress and how it had been achieved, we reached Calcutta, and there we found a most discouraging situation indeed. We arrived at three o'clock in the morning. The sidewalks in Calcutta are nearly as wide as this room--that is from the front of this table to the wall (about 20 feet). These were covered all around the block with people; no more clothing on them than breech cloths--sleeping men, women and children. There are hundreds of thousands in India living this way, with no homes, no money, no food and no occupation. Starvation is rampant everywhere. They do not raise enough food to feed themselves properly. Since I was there, conditions have grown worse and since the withdrawal of the British they have become even more so. Their leaders--and I met a number of them--are apparently all spiritual leaders. I would not have you think for a moment that I am discounting the value of spiritual leaders, but I do maintain that the background and education of these men does not fit them for enterprise in industry, agriculture and those things that are necessary to pull the people out of the mire and rut they are in today. As a matter of fact, the leaders whom I met knew little or nothing about the affairs of their own country from that standpoint. They have no plans for the future except to make sure that the Moslems do not get away with anything in the Hindu territory and that the Hindus do not get away with anything in the Moslem territory. A poll or referendum has been taken in the State of Bengal and it was found that forty per cent of the inhabitant were Moslems and fifty per cent Hindus, so the Moslems immediately demanded their proportion of all state offices and got them. Then a similar referendum was taken in the City of Calcutta and a like division was made. So the Moslems got their share of appointments in the Fire Department, Police Department and the Mayor's office, and for that matter all other offices. These conditions are spreading throughout India, and are dividing that country against itself.
You can well imagine what it would be here in Canada if a referendum were taken on the basis of protestants and Roman Catholics, and offices divided in each province accordingly, and finally in each City, and right down to industry. In India they were going to take a referendum on the National Railways to make sure that the proper proportion of Moslems and Hindus were employed. Neither party was concerned with the health of their own people, nor were they concerned with the education or anything that would make for progress.
India is in a very unsettled condition; I think that Russia could take the Country overnight if she wanted it, but she is probably too smart to want it. She would not know what to do with it. On the other hand, we must remember India is a Country with great natural resources and great opportunities for development.
Prom India we went to Siam, which is another unsettled Country. I saw children-if there are any doctors in the audience they will be interested in this-who were playing in open sewers and I mean real sewers, filthy and disgusting beyond belief. They have no idea of the dangers of contagion, what it means or what it brings about. A doctor whom I met there told me that incidence of syphilis was at least 60 per cent and between 60 and 70 per cent of the inhabitants were suffering from tuberculosis. No Country can ever make any progress so long as its people are in that state of health. The proper thing to do is to get them out of that condition by proper feeding. This can only be done by the people themselves, and not by Canada or the United States. Neither of our two Countries have enough money to do this for the rest of the World. That is inconceivable. We only can help by showing them how it can be done.
From Siam we went to the Philippines and here we saw a great demonstration of what can be accomplished. You will recall the Spanish-American War where most of the people were headhunters. Since that time, literacy among the inhabitants of these islands has increased to forty-five percent. Among Hindus it is one per cent, the Moslems seven per cent, and it is now forty-five among the Filipinos. Owing to the introduction of American schools, sanitation and water systems, these people have improved and to a great extent, have been brought to a condition in which they are self-supporting.
The Filipinos have shown an inherent honesty in paying back taxes for the period of the Japanese occupation, when no taxes were levied; those who had the money paid up. Anyway, they expected to put their country on what we would say here, "The Canadian Bank of Commerce basis," so that any borrowings would be soundly financed, and eventually be paid off. Not like these LendLease and Governmental' loans that may be paid and may be not-mostly not. These people were attempting to rebuild their country to the best of their ability.
I have been told that Manila was the most damaged city in the world with the exception of Warsaw. I could not testify to that myself. However, great ingenuity has been shown in reconstructing reparable buildings, and they were doing a splendid job. The Philippines are rich in natural resources, including gold, manganese and other minerals. Among many agricultural products, sugar is a main item. We gained the impression that the Filipinos were making a come-back.
Our next stop was Shanghai and here we found a teeming city of more than seven million people, most of them in a state of semi-starvation and there seems to be no way out for them. We received an invitation to go to Nanking to meet the Generalissimo. We accepted and planes were sent for us. We met not only the Generalissimo, but also his wife. It appeared to me that he knew little of what was actually going on in China. I had been to China before and know a little about it, but what he knows could be put in grandmother's thimble; that is my opinion-unless I am prejudiced and maybe I am. He does not speak English and somebody said to me, "Isn't it strange that he has lived with this woman for eighteen years and can't speak a word of English and his wife speaks beautiful English?" I said, "What do you mean--lived with her for eighteen years?" He said, "I mean just that." I replied, "What do you know about Chinese home life?" He admitted that he did not know anything; I said, "Well, he has three wives; his number one wife bears the children, his number two wife is his housekeeper and number three is his show front, so probably he has had little opportunity of learning the language."
When my friend Nielson was in China and found the banks were charging up to a hundred per cent a year for loans for the building of factories, he said, "How can they do it? Nobody can build a factory under those circumstances." He was told it was done to curb inflation.
To illustrate the monetary conditions of the Country, I had something scratching my eye. I couldn't get it out, so I went into a drugstore that handled some American goods and I bought a two-ounce bottle of McKesson and Roberts eye wash; I paid $65,000 for it and I got a receipt to prove it. When I arrived back in the States I wrote to Mr. Murray, the President of McKesson and Roberts and I said, "Here is a receipt for $65,000 I paid f or a two ounce bottle of your eye-wash, and to me it was well worth it." I am telling you this story to show you the condition of the Country.
While I was in China, I bought $1,250,000 of Chinese paper money for $30,000 just for fun; later I bought $10,000,000 worth of their money. In order to raise some money, I sell these bills for one dollar; they are one thousand dollar bills, and cost me one cent each. I am just showing them to you; I am not selling them now, although I would not mind doing so. The money I have made from the sale of these bills goes to the American Medical Aid in China. This fund is handled entirely by Americans, and to it the Rockefellers have given a very large contribution. This project starts with health and food just as it would be in India.
After China our next stop was Japan. As a publisher I was very skeptical about the reputation gained by General MacArthur for all the things he had done. We publishers have to be skeptical as we must be sure of our facts. I came back to the United states convinced that General MacArthur has done a tremendous job. Any man who after two years can have between three and four thousand Japanese and American G. L's standing in line every morning at ten o'clock, just to see him get out of his car and walk into his Headquarters, and a lesser number-one to two thousand-every night to see him come out and step into his car, has done something to these people. They appear to adore and worship Americans. Naturally, we are all skeptical about that. We think pretty well of ourselves, but not quite to that extent. Anyway, we asked General MacArthur whether he thought this attitude of the Japanese was real or not and he said, "Yes, he did." We were all very much impressed with the General; he is a strong man and to me, he seems to be inspired. He talked to us for an hour and for one and one-half hours subjected himself to questioning. We asked him, "How do you account for it?" His reply was, "Well for years, almost generations, these people had been taught by their elders and their leaders that they were supermen and that they could "lick" the World." They proved it to themselves by trying to get Canadians, Americans and other tourists to walk up to the shrines on their sacred mountain; no foreigner ever walked up without resting; the ascent is quite difficult. This to them was day-today proof that foreigners were weaklings and they were unable to do what the Japanese did. Can you imagine them doing this for years? We know they walked, but we did not know it was a test. Anyway, the Japanese were brought up in the belief that they were supermen and that all magic was on their side; they had the spirit of Shintoism in them. They had always beaten China and they felt they could beat Russia, too. They could lick the world and they began to believe it, and after Pearl Harbour they were practically convinced of it.
Well things began to pop--the Japanese fighting men did not come home; their ashes came instead--that is, when they could get them back. Many of their merchant ships sailed and never returned and they had to admit they were lost. Naval convoys went out and many did not return and the people began to wonder. They were tremendously impressed when suddenly aeroplanes appeared from the West and the strangest thing of all--these planes dropped bombs on synthetic gas plants and shell-making factories--places they did not dare talk to each other about. What really impressed them most of all was that no attempt was made to bomb the palace of their Emperor; these planes only went for the war plants. How did they know? This was the unanswerable question. Then finally came the atomic bomb and they gave up, but before this occurred there was another happening that impressed them enormously--I am now talking about the people in the street. Under great effort and stress, the Japs had built some large 59,000-ton air-craft carriers in Tokio Harbour; these were well armed and superior in every respect. The people were down for the launching, flags were flying and bands playing. Finally these carriers started out for their showdown cruise accompanied by a couple of destroyers and an umbrella of aeroplanes. After proceeding about seven miles out to sea they took a nose dive and went to the bottom. How we knew about this launching was beyond their men.
As a matter of fact, one of our submarines had gone into Tokio Harbour and watched the celebrations and got them outside. Well, that was a mystery; then the Japs tried to save face; they finally decided that the Allies were supermen and they here adopted the old philosophy--join them, that is what they are trying to do--"If you arm us we will 'lick' the Russians for you; we did it once, we will do it again."
When we arrived back in the United States, the President asked me to come down and tell him something about our trip, so I told him something of what I have told you. I also said that in my opinion the solution for the backward countries of the World would be to send them teams of doctors and practical nurses, and also have American enterprise build pilot plants for the manufacture of penicillin, which can now be made out of wood pulp. That does not mean it is cheap, as you Canadians well know, even at the present price of wood Pulp. However, wood pulp can be manufactured in China and India at lesser prices and it would not have to be imported from Canada. Treatment could, in this way, be given to the countless syphilitics. American and Canadian farmers who are conversant with mass production should be used in available districts to teach these people to use tractors, ploughs, gang-seeders, etc., for the purpose of raising food-stuffs in quantities.
It was a citizen of the United States of America who won the prize last year for an outstanding performance in farming. He was a young man in South Dakota, who, with a single tractor, gang-plough, gang-cultivator and gang-seeder, ploughed, cultivated and seeded 116 acres in an eight-hour day. Well, that is an outstanding record. It is not likely that these people could at the beginning do the same amount of work on a hundred acres in eight hours, but give them a little longer time and they would soon catch up with themselves.
I would not be surprised if our large manufacturers of industrial machinery would not be willing to sell to these foreigners on a basis of taking a third of the crop each year as payment for the machinery and selling the crop elsewhere. There is no doubt it could be so financed and put on a self-sustaining basis. What we need throughout the world today is more business enterprise. Before leaving on my round-the-world flight, I attended a lecture at the Princeton Club in New York. I was very much struck with a statement made by Brock Chisholm, the Canadian Doctor who is head of the united Nations Health Units. He said the Ethiopia was first in all the Countries of the World in natural resources per square mile and that they have an incidence of over sixty per cent of syphilis and only fifty-four doctors.
Just before we left, Pan-American Airways called me up and asked me if I wanted any health and dismemberment insurance. I thought no insurance company ever so named a policy. I had visions of the Spanish Inquisition and the rack-dismemberment used to mean being pulled apart. I said, "How much can I get?" I was told that the ceiling would be a hundred thousand dollars. I asked, "How much would a hundred thousand dollars worth cost for the trip?" They replied, "It would cost $130.00." I said, "Somebody made a mistake. That is too cheap. I will take it." Then I thought, what am I going to do with it? I shan't be here to collect if it becomes payable and those who were my dependents were well provided for. I didn't think I needed it in my estate. Then I remembered what Dr. Chisholm had told us about Ethiopia, so I called up the doctor from the Metropolitan Insurance Company, who had taken me to the lecture. I said to him, "Do you remember what Dr. Chisholm said about Ethiopia?" Well, I am going to leave you $100,000 and you can buy enough units of penicillin to cure a hundred thousand Ethiopians." He replied, "That is fine, why not do it for the Americans first?" I said, "We can look after ourselves, can't we?" His reply was, "Why pick on Ethiopia?" I then said, "I have two very good reasons. They are negroids and there are many of them of the Jewish Faith-two reasons why stupid and ignorant people hate them. Therefore, they won't get any attention if I don't do that." I have attended to that in my will so the money could be used if I did not return. However, I cheated them as nothing happened to me.
Now, I do not know that there is much more I can tell you that you would like to hear except that on June 1st or thereabouts I predicted war with Russia within the next three years. Some people think I am crazy-others think I am an optimist. I can tell you this, I work in an office at home with a large map of the world under glass on my desk. I view this as a jigsaw puzzle. I pick up little items of news from the newspapers, examine them carefully and wonder where they will fit. Then I find a place on the map of the world for one item here and another there and the first thing I know I have a picture. Let me tell you a story. You will remember when the peace was made between Russia and Finland, Russia compelled the latter country to cede them the area around Petsamo. Six or seven years ago I was talking to Mr. Stanley of International Nickel at Sudbury. I asked him where nickel came from and he replied "Sudbury and California". I said "Where else?" He said "Petsamo". So, of course, Petsamo on my jigsaw picture, which had by treaty been taken over by the Russians, meant Nickel Chrome. Then in the Financial section of the New York Times, I saw where I. K. in Russia had six millions in gold to pay for the machinery to work this nickel mine. The Russians would not have needed to buy this nickel mine if they were peacefully inclined; they could buy from International Nickel and probably at a lower rate than they could produce it themselves. I refer, in this section, to pitchblende and other items. I have lists yards long of similar materials which all tends in one direction, preparation for war.
On this map, I place an item here, another there, and in this manner I build up a picture which shows world conditions which tend in one direction; aggression. I have maps here showing the area of Russia in the 10th Century. If anyone wishes to step up they may see them. The Russians have enlarged their sphere of influence and right under our noses are continuing to do so and not by means of war. Look how easily they took Hungary; see with what ease Rumania was made a satellite state and the King was deposed. They go right along. We can not stop them with food; we can not stop them with dollars; not even with Chinese money. Look at official maps and you must be very much concerned as we are at the encroachments of Russia. They have ambitions to recover Alaska and that part of the Pacific Coast they formerly had under their control; an area which extends from British Columbia across the Bay to my Home Town of Oaklands, including San Francisco. They are certainly on their way and nobody can stop them unless it is the British and Americans combined. This is the only way. The London correspondent of the New York Tribune quoting what Karl Marx said in 1850, "This is their technique; this is their method; they never retreat from the things they have; they come back again and always ask for more than they expect."
There is a possibility the Russians might take all Europe. In that eventuality where would Britain be with all her market gone? But, I do not envisage a war of invasion; the use of the atomic bomb will change the entire warfare of the world, and, as we have the means for this type of warfare in such quantities, another armed conflict may be avoided. In conclusion, I do not know whether there is time for questions and answers. I may not know all the answers and if I do not I will tell you so.
Many thanks for your attention.
DR. B. K. SANDWELL thanked the speaker on behalf of the Empire Club.