A Briton Looks at the World
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Sep 1934, p. 17-29


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Norwood, Rev. Frederick, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description:
The radical changes that are taking place in parts of the world. The speaker's 16 months of travel, testing out a few great convictions which have been maturing in his mind for years. Stating his case from a personal point of view for the sake of clarity. Personal background of the speaker. The world map of the speaker's childhood. A review of the history of exploration and discovery of the world's continents. The essential question in the world: "Why are we hungry and wretched when wealth and productivity is staring us in the face?" The next step, the Great War. Puzzling over why it became a world war, and a look at the reasons. The speaker's hatred of war and his determination to live and strive for peace. The triviality of what Europe is fighting about. The speaker's conviction that we have come to the end of an era and we haven't yet got a technique for the new era we have created ourselves. Summing it all up in a symbol. Our system which is disrupted without profits. Some of the things the speaker saw on his travels and what that showed him. The need to conquer the world again and learn what to do with its abundance. Setting science free. The amount of wealth spent on preparation for war. The bankrupt nations of the world. The need for more courage, and more thinking.
Date of Original:
18 Sep 1934
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English
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Full Text
A BRITON LOOKS AT THE WORLD
AN ADDRESS BY REV. FREDERICK W. NORWOOD, D.D.
September 13, 1934

MR. DANA PORTER, President of The Empire Club, introduced the Guest Speaker, REv. FREDERICK W. NORWOOD, D.D.

PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, it has been said that during the recent ears of economic; political and spiritual depression that the lights have gone out all over the world. Our guest today, Dr. Norwood, of the City Temple, London, comes to Toronto under the auspices of the Deer Park United Church. He has just completed an eighteen months tour of the world. He has seen many countries; he has met many thousands of people and he has observed them under the unusual conditions that prevail throughout the world at the present time.

Dr. Norwood, himself, is an Australian by birth. During the war he happened to be in London and was asked to preach at the City Temple. Very shortly after that occasion he was called to the City Temple and has been the pastor there ever since, coming direct from a small church in Australia to the very centre of the church to which he belongs.

Dr. Norwood has told me that in his world travels the thing that interests him most is the reaction of world forces and the great changes that are going on today upon the mind of the ordinary man. In Dr. Norwood, we have an exceedingly great pastor and one of the few giants among the masters of the spoken word. It is with great pleasure that I call upon Dr. Norwood. (Applause).

DR. FREDERICK W. NORWOOD: I called my talk, "A Briton Looks At The World". I have been, so to speak, looking around its back premises. I do not use the term in any derogatory sense, but it has seemed to me very often that our Western civilization is probably obsessed with its own grandeur and glitter and may not be suffi ciently aware of the radical changes that are taking place in the other parts of the world. At any rate, I felt a sudden impulse to break away from London and wander about these other countries, as casually as possible. Indeed, I did not organize this tour, except in the most meagre fashion. I wanted to go and test out a few great convictions which have been maturing in my mind for years.

I would not like you to think that what I am to say now is the mere outcome of sixteen months of travel; rather the sixteen months of travel were an inevitable outcome of twenty-five years of study and. reflection.

I want you to allow, me to state my case from a somewhat personal point of view. I do that for the sake of clarity. I am, myself, the son of Australian pioneers. My grandfather was swinging a pioneer's axe on the plains where the City of Adelaide is standing today. Nearly a hundred years ago, he purchased fifteen acres of ground in the heart of the present city for fifteen dollars, and being a shrewd man of business, he sold them for twenty-five dollars. By his foresight, I was delivered from the peril of lapsing into the ranks of the idle rich.

I think that I must have the blood of the pioneers, or buccaneers or missionaries in my veins, because as long as I can remember, I wanted to see the world. The most popular book in my boyish imagination was the atlas of the world, and many a time for long hours have I poured over that as a child, using the point of a pencil to represent my ship sailing, always from an Australian port but visiting every corner of the globe.

Now, I can see that atlas before my eyes, as a mature man, as distinctly as if it were on the table before me, and I remember that I got the impression as a child that the world virtually belonged to Europe or was in process of so belonging. It didn't matter where you turned the pages of the atlas, you could tell at a glance to what European country that particular country belonged. Indeed, to simplify the matter, there was a kind of graduated colour scheme printed on the margin of each page, a kind of key so you always knew at a glance what European country any quarter of the globe belonged to or was dominated by. There was, of course, the British red, and a great deal of it! There was the French mauve, the Russian green, the Dutch yellow, and the Belgian purple, and so on. As for the red, it looked as if some careless painter had been wandering around the world with a pot of paint, dropping great daubs of it in the most casual fashion imaginable. There was a t daub, of course, over more than half of the continent of North America. Australia was entirely red; so was New Zealand and South Africa. was intensely red at the southern tip and was afflicted with a kind of measles toward the north.

There was a number of small wars in my boyhood. There was the Zulu war and the Sudan war, and all the rest of them and after each one, the red went farther on the road to Cairo, so Cecil Rhodes seemed an inevitable Messianic prophet when he talked of the "Red route from Cape to Cairo".

But not all of Africa was red; there were great splashes of gold and yellow and purple and other colours. Stansky had just written a book, entitled "Darkest Africa".

I had read it but Africa did not look dark in my atlas. It rather looked like a barber's pole. Wherever the European settled, his colour spread, frequently from coast to coast. India was not entirely red, though mainly red. There were patches of neutral colour to indicate the Indian states. They were always firmly outlined with red. China was a parti-coloured country. There were all manner of European colours there to indicate what were called spheres of influence. The greater num ber of the islands of the sea were red. Some of them were so small that you could scarcely get a red spot on them but the smaller the island, the longer the name, as a rule, and always the name was firmly underlined with red. Indeed, there were only two countries on the map, as I remember, that used to puzzle me concerning their place in the colour scheme. One was in the west; the other was in the east. The one in the west was a little known country, rather under the shadow of Canada, called the United States. It wasn't red, though I understand indeed, I was taught-that all their original people were British and had crossed in a ship called "The Mayflower". They spoke the same language, though, God knows, with not the same accent--a phenomenon for which, I have observed since, both nations are equally thankful. They were chiefly remarkable to me for Red Indians and cowboys and for an extraordinary habit they had, whenever a ruler died, instead of solemnly accepting the eldest son of the deceased as civilized people ought to do, they plunged the whole country into a Presidential election and then, the day after, set to work to select his successor. But we never thought of them in my boyhood except as near British, as certain liquids were near beer. (Laughter). The other indefinite country was Japan. Apparently the map makers were not sure how to colour that. But still we understood that the Japanese were as busy as bees imitating everything we had and since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it seemed that they were very nearly European.

That was in the heyday of the Victorian era and it seemed exactly as it ought to be for was not Europe the greatest of all the continents? Had she not wealth, culture, science, mechanical prowess, commerce, ships, and troops, and, best of all, was she not Christian Europe? Had she not the one and only religion for the world?

Lam giving you the unsophisticated ideas of an Australian busy boy and I am bound to say that I really believed that the world either belonged to Europe or was rapidly in process of so belonging.

Well, later I began to study history and I learned how that phenomenon came to be for it really was a wonderful achievement. I have said for many years now that one of the most significant dates in history was the year 1453. In that year the Turk captured Constantinople and when he did that he closed' the Mediterra Sea. No longer could peaceful traders venture that way looking for the wealth of India. So the world then began to dream of other ways of reaching India, rather than that way. Indeed, it was the lure of India that put the world on the map and made even my atlas possible.

Europe faced west, dreaming of the East. Europe turned south, still dreaming of the East. The Portuguese threaded their way down the Western coast of Africa and Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape and turning north again, found India. Christopher Columbus, beleving the world was round, sailed west, hoping to reach India and believed he had done so when he stumbled across America. He called the little islands he discovered the West Indies, supposing them to be just off the coast of India. He called the aboriginal people that he found Red Indians. We call them so still, though many have nearly disappeared. They called the aborigines that they found in South America, Indians, and we keep the word yet-South American Indians.

Columbus, however died a broken-hearted and discredited man because while everybody believed he had found India, they couldn't find the big cities, the flashing roads, the sweet spices which they knew to be there.

Meanwhile, the Dutch were following the Portuguese, and the English and the French followed after them and all the world began to be discovered until at last in the year 1774, Captain Cook stumbled over Australia and New Zealand and added them to the British Crown, without a struggle. A sheer gift was dropped into the lap of the old mother when she was looking the other way. And with that achievement„ it may be said that the earth was unveiled. The lure of the East had put the Americas on the map, had shed light upon dark Africa, had unveiled Australia and New Zealand, until nowadays, there isn't a corner of the earth, so far as I know, left to be discovered. Indeed, there is no longer any need for laborious explorations through forests and jungles. We can fly over any portion of the globe. There wasn't left a corner of the earth that hadn't a flag on it. I notice that even Commander Bird, down near the South Pole, somewhere, heads his letters„ "Little America", and not long ago, His Majesty, the King, evidently considered that the Australians hadn't enough land, and added a patch of the Antarctic to the Commonwealth. There isn't a new point on, the star yet, but we have a new province at the South Pole. If there should be a boom in ice cream, we will put a point on the star. (Laughter). There was not a corner of the earth that wasn't beflagged. Europe had mastered it, discovered it.

In the decade in which Captain Cook completed the process, virtually, by the discovery of the Antipodes, there were some very significant Scotsmen in Glasgow, not natives there, I think, but living there, and one was named James Watt, and he invented the steam engine and the other was named Adam Smith and he laid the foundation of political economy, with his book, "The Wealth of Nations", and at the moment when the geographical process was complete, the age of the machine came into being and Europe, following the lead of Adam Smith, conceding that the great difficulty was scarcity, began to solve the problem of how to find the wealth of the world, how to bring it back to the centers of civilization and turn it into manufactured goods for the enrichment of society, for the building up of a great ' civilization and in that age we have been living until now.

There is no limit, apparently, to the power of the machine. We have even become terrified by it. It works so swiftly, so cheaply, so skillfully, that it often seems more dynamic and, as it were, more personal, than the poor mechanized human beings who feed its maw with raw materials. Scarcity no longer exists, Gentlemen, except as the result of maladjustment and, more frequently, of deliberate contrivance. We are just as much afraid now of abundance as our fathers were afraid of scarcity. I have travelled right round the globe within the last sixteen months and I declare that I haven't been anywhere, though the people spoke different languages, where they weren't really speaking about the same things, and they were saying, "Why are we hungry and wretched when wealth and productivity is staring us in the face? Now, the next step, so far as my experience was concerned, was the Great War, and I pass it in' a sentence. I took a little share in it, but I was always puzzled over and I was puzzled more than anything else, I think, with why it became a world war. Nobody meant that, nobody had the technique for it. The wildest megalomaniac never dreamed of a combination of events that would set seven-eighths of the human race plunged in slaughter and destruction. Why was it a World War? Why, because of what I have told you, because our fathers, by their valour and enterprise and acquisitiveness, had penetrated into every corner of the earth and dug up all manner of interests and opened up all manner of venues of association, and once that thing started in Europe, you couldn't stop it. It just pushed itself until not only Europe but Asia, Africa„ Australia and America demonstrated that we really had done the thing, we had made the world to be affiliated with the West.

And the next episode for me has covered all the post war years. I came out of that inferno with a blazing hate of war and a determination to live and strive for peace. I have been for fifteen years in a little hunting tower of a pulpit in the heart of London and I am unsophisticated sort of parson but trying to understand, and I have seen Europe engaged in a perpetual series of conflicts, each swearing their adherence to peace. Every responsible voice in the Continent, and, indeed, in the world, declaring that war was a futility, that another war would mean the end of our civilization; every nation swearing it didn't mean war, and yet unable to accomplish peace. I do not think that they are rogues and vagabonds any more than you and I are and we have all got a touch of it about us. I have come to think that we are not facing the facts really. We are obsessed--we think it is all a matter of guns and ships and troops and we do not realize that the seas are getting emptier, and emptier and we do not realize that what we have really done with the outer world is to wake it up. And we do not realize yet that we built up that glittering civilization upon the raw materials and cheap labour of the distant world. We drew it all into our maw and became nabobs and masters of industry and the thing is altered. It is just not so, now.

What is Europe fighting about anyhow? Does anybody know? Is it a few paltry acres of disputed territory? Is that enough to deluge the world with blood again? I think not. But Europe has inherited several centuries of quarrels over the spoils of the world. You haven't forgotten, Gentlemen, that the Great War really began with a drive to the East. The great German obsession was, since the colonies had been secured to cross over the bridge near Constantinople and get a way down to the Badgad railway and get a new grip upon Asia.

Now, I solemnly believe that what is really the case with us is that we have come to the end of an era and we haven't yet got a technique for the new era we have created ourselves, by our valour and our enterprise. We beat scarcity but all the technique with which we conquered scarcity is invalid for the proper use of abundance. We have reached the condition now, Gentlemen, when anything that humanity sufficiently desired, resolutely desired, could be done. If Europe and the rest of the world meant to abolish poverty, poverty could trot stay. If we meant to abolish disease, disease would have to go. We have got the technique but we haven't got a driving force. We haven't got a motive. We have no motive but the profit motive and our civilization motive is split in two by an irreconcilable paradox, one wing of which declares that in order to make things cheaply y r must make in vast quantities; and the other wing declares that the only way to keep up prices is to create a scarcity, and how we can do those two opposite things, we do not seem to know.

May I sum it up in a symbol? When I was in South Africa, I got very interested in diamonds. Kimberley, who you know, consists of a group of craters out of which innumerable diamonds have been brought. Everybody knows that there are far more diamonds in those craters than have ever been gotten out of them but Kimberley is disengaged and most people think it will scarcely function any more, and the reason is not merely a temporary maladjustment in the market--there is another as well. There is a bit of land--a God--forsaken bit of territory. You can tell that when even our Empire didn't wish to control it! But Namaqualand is full of diamonds. They say that they lie in the soil above the rocks. A gentleman who spoke with authority assured me it might easily be possible for man to go out in the morning with a bucket on his arm and come 'back in the evening with his bucket full of diamonds and South Africa is alarmed to its very soul. What are you going to do about that? I cannot describe it from actual experience because they won't let a man like me get within miles of the territory. It is defended, defended rigorously, and little is said about it.

But, don't you see, Gentlemen, if the diamonds got loose, well, how Would any Maharajah feel sure his crown was worth anything? What comfort would Lady Fitzdoodle have in going to the ball if she suspected, even suspected, that some artisan's wife might come across a diamond greater than her own? As you know, the only thing to do with very valuable diamonds is to make paste imitations and never wear the real ones. Now, personally, I, an unsophisticated parson, can imagine a lot of uses for quite ordinary people. I would just love to outline the veranda of my home with them. They would look beautiful in the moonlight. But I notice that you laugh and in your laughter is the wisdom of the ages. You know that profits would disappear and you cannot do anything without profits. Who said? Who said? God? Are you sure, Gentlemen? God? I don't think so.

We have put over a certain system, you see. We have got a certain technique which is disrupted without profits. That is all. And that might be tolerable if we let the world alone, but we never do that. We keep on prodding the world and waking it. We go to the East which, from time immemorial has been unchanging, and we prod it with our bayonets and infiltrate her with our commerce and she awakes.

When I was down in South Africa, T crossed a portion of the Kalahari Desert. I lost a motor car out there. We had a broken axle and we left it out all night. We piled the party on another motor car and broke the spring and arrived home next morning. The Kalahari Desert is enough to give a man a nightmare, but anybody knows if you wanted to irrigate the Kalahari Desert the engineers would do it with gladness. They could turn the Zambesi over the Kalahari and alter the climate of Africa. The air, instead of blowing over that arid territory, would blow over a moist territory and the climate would be altered across the land.

I went into India and I saw a marvellous feat of engineering by which were reclaimed huge valleys, barren since the creation and the engineer, himself, took me around them and I was terribly thrilled. I suggested that they ought to make him a lord. That is the only way we have got of expressing values except by money. Either make a man rich or put him in the peerage. Gentlemen, he said, "Doctor, I fear we have made a mistake. It is a great bit of work, as you say, but it will make rice that cheap that there will be no market for it." I said, "Sir, have all the people got all the rice they need now. Don't they suffer from famine now?" He said, "Of course„ that is not it. If rice becomes too cheap, who will plant it?"

I visited great tea plantations and when I congratulated the planters on the marvellous yield of his estate, he was always sad and told of his troubles, how all the tea planters agreed to sacrifice thirty-five percent of their crop to save the market.

I went to Australia, my native land, which I had not seen for seventeen years. My Australia is as big as the United States and hasn't the population of New York. When I was growing up I used to plead and wax eloquent about the possibilities in this country-that it might become the granary of the world. When I came back they were exhorting from the highest seats of authority to grow twenty-five per cent. less wheat or the bottom would fall out of the universe.

Wheat, wool, cotton, silk, rubber„ rice, tea, coffee, sugar--every great staple thing in the world, we are afraid of. And as for manufactures, why there is no limit to what we could do if we wanted to do it. The only limit is in the absence of a motive. The motive is the profit motive. If we cannot make things pay, nothing can be done and it looks as if we cannot make them pay much more.

Gentlemen, as our fathers, five hundred years ago, set out to conquer the world, to unveil its mysteries and discover its treasure and relieve humanity from this haunting terror of scarcity, so we and our children will have to go out and conquer the world again and learn what to do with its abundance. Set science free; it is in chains now. All the best brains in the world are being diverted to purposes of slaughter and destructiveness. More than half of the wealth of the world is being spent on preparation for war. Every nation in the world, almost, is virtually bankrupt, except that it does not choose to consider itself so. The money that we flung away in the Great War was not money at all--it was only paper. It was theft, theft upon the future, taking away the birthright of the unborn, though it bears interest; it would bear interest if we had to offer it up to Satan at the gates of hell.

The technique won't do, Gentlemen, and we ought not to look too alarmed about it either. When I was back in Australia I thought of the few aboriginals whom I used to know in my youth and I imagined gathering them around the camp fire and saying: "O boys, white man in terrible difficulty. You boys know what it is not to have enough food;, hunger within. White man's difficulty worse than yours. He has so much food he doesn't know what to do with it." And the black man will look at me and say: "Is the white man mad?" Yes, Sirs, we are mad. We have won a great battle; we have accomplished a great deed, but we are on the verge of a terra incognita, and everything we call a problem is really a blessing. Being a parson, you will allow me to say it is a gift of God. It would be a satire unimaginable if humanity went reeling down to hell because it had too much food, too much wealth, too much power.

No, Sirs, it is a bit more thinking we want and a bit more courage we want, and youth wants it most of all. There is a technique and if the technique were to be used there would dawn upon mankind an order of existence infinitely greater than anything the race has ever known before, passing the dreams of poets and of artists and of prophets. It might be the era that would break upon the race if we only had mastered the technique of abundance, and, if we love the Empire, Gentlemen, as we do, if we love it so much that we take it for granted and we can joke about it, we are so sure in our affection, then let us at least believe that the old Empire that has done so much in the conquest of the difficulties of the era that is now coming to an end, has yet got it in her mind and in he soul to give the sort of leadership the world is waiting for and reach the very climax of her glory by demonstrating that she can be a commonwealth of free peoples and that she can recognize the growing needs of subject races and that she can put the British qualities of patience and of courage to a nobler use than the fratricidal, bloody, ineffective storm of an insane war. As a Briton, looking round the world, I stand dazzled by the promise, refusing to be terrified by the portents. (Tremendous applause--followed by three cheers and a tiger for the speaker).

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A Briton Looks at the World


The radical changes that are taking place in parts of the world. The speaker's 16 months of travel, testing out a few great convictions which have been maturing in his mind for years. Stating his case from a personal point of view for the sake of clarity. Personal background of the speaker. The world map of the speaker's childhood. A review of the history of exploration and discovery of the world's continents. The essential question in the world: "Why are we hungry and wretched when wealth and productivity is staring us in the face?" The next step, the Great War. Puzzling over why it became a world war, and a look at the reasons. The speaker's hatred of war and his determination to live and strive for peace. The triviality of what Europe is fighting about. The speaker's conviction that we have come to the end of an era and we haven't yet got a technique for the new era we have created ourselves. Summing it all up in a symbol. Our system which is disrupted without profits. Some of the things the speaker saw on his travels and what that showed him. The need to conquer the world again and learn what to do with its abundance. Setting science free. The amount of wealth spent on preparation for war. The bankrupt nations of the world. The need for more courage, and more thinking.