- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Feb 1949, p. 224-233
- Murray, Major Gladstone, Speaker
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- Item Type
- Gaining an understanding of the problems of today by envisaging these problems as a consequence of history. Man achieving civilization as a response to a challenge in a situation which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort. How modern man is distinguished from the cave-man. A discussion and review of man's rise to civilization and the main factors influencing such progress. The unfailing answer to overcoming breakdown and the resumption of progress: the transfiguration, the spiritual process that produces the higher religions in their primal vitality. The chief concern now that freedom is not as highly valued as it was in some countries. A detailed discussion of these points follow. The central fact that man is fundamentally a moral being. The real course of evolution a "movement from the undifferentiated to the differentiated, from the general to the specific, from the collective to the individual, … all made possible by man's emancipation from the natural compulsions that rule everything else but man." The concepts of freedom and the structures laboriously built thereon now in mortal danger. A gleam of light: Christianity as opposed to institutionalism gaining ground. Christianity as the "Achilles Heel" of Communism. The effective response to the challenge of today to release every human being from the grim bondage of materialism.
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- 17 Feb 1949
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- Full Text
- THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE CIVILIZATION
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR GLADSTONE MURRAY, M.C., D.F.C., CROIX de G.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse
Thursday, February 17th, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
Here in Canada and the United States we have a standard of living unequalled anywhere else in the world and undoubtedly as far as the average citizen is concerned, the highest standard of civilization yet achieved in the history of man. And yet, there are people enjoying those privileges who seek ardently and persistently to destroy them. They openly advocate the doctrines of a Government which has made slaves of its people and destroyed their liberties.
Today, our guest of honour is Major Gladstone Murray, who I would describe as an ardent crusader for our way of life.
Major Murray addressed The Empire Club in October, 1943, when the title of his address was "Canada and the Empire of Tomorrow."
That tomorrow is here but it is not what we had hoped for. While we are at peace, yet there is no peace and the world at large is in a very troubled state. And so today Major Murray has chosen as the title for his address "The Only Way to Save Civilization."
Major Gladstone Murray, ever a champion of private enterprise, has had a very colourful career. A brilliant student he finally went to New College Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
In World War I he was one of the pioneer members of The Royal Flying Corps and flew 3,500 hours in action, truly a remarkable record, during which he was shot down several times.
After the war, Major Murray wrote for Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express and helped to establish the B.B.G. in 1923. Through its pioneer stages he rose to the top of a broadcasting system which has become a model for governmental broadcasting the world over.
In 1936 he accepted an appointment as General Manager of the C.B.C. and was later appointed Director-General of Broadcasting for Canada.
Six years ago, Major Murray responded to the call of industry and business to organize and operate The Responsible Enterprise Movement, a point of reference for all agencies engaged in repelling the advance of Collectivism. It now affords me very great pleasure to introduce Major Gladstone Murray, M.C., D.F.C., Croix de Guerre, whose subject, as I have already mentioned, is "The Only Way to Save Civilization."
HONOURED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
To gain understanding of the problems of today it is necessary to envisage these problems as a consequence of history.
Many of our troubles flow from the tendency to run away from history, or to regard history as merely the chronicle of one thing after another, a clutter of petty futilities.
The role of spectator is no longer possible,--we are all now perforce agents of history, which, rightly envisaged, is the process of the emergence of new forms and values of living.
Man achieves civilization not chiefly as a result of superior biological endowment or geographical environment but as a response to a challenge in a situation which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort.
How is modern man distinguished from the cave-man? Not chiefly in technology, despite the prevalent view. More important is the emergence of the ideal and the fact of freedom; below man there is nothing but the inexorable operation of natural cause and natural effect. The chief function of history is to teach men to be free. Another function, closely related, is to produce that which is individual and unique; the emergence of individuality. There are people alive today still in the pre-historic stage, close tribal groups, bound by unquestioned customs, each member unable to think or act for himself because it never occurred to him to do so. In these remnants of prehistoric society there is little more individuality than in a flock of sheep.
In the West during the past three thousand years, men have risen from mere massness into individuality, from sameness to difference. The process of individualisation has gone along with that of freedom. The mass comes first, the individual last. Distinctive persons did not produce the group; they were differentiated out of it.
The chief individualising force was the Christian idea of divine dispensation, because its Gospel taught that God was concerned not with humanity but with men. The Renaissance, The Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation all played their part in the progress of freedom.
Some civilizations have arisen not from the challenge of geographical factors but from the challenge of their human environment, from the challenge of dominant minorities,--a ruling class that ceased to lead and became merely oppressive.
The advancing river of freedom and individualisation reached its flood level in the 19th Century and kept on until about 1918. The ferment throughout the long process was wholesome. Then about 1930 the mounting curve turned downwards, between 1930 and 1940 there was a deliberate reversal of the trend of centuries. The delicate structures of civilized freedom were wantonly torn down in a calculated assault on human values.
The Second World War was won in military terms and lost in moral terms. The moral collapse has spread,
Where freedom remains it is less by conviction than by habit.
Arnold Toynbee and T. E. Jessop are among the contemporary thinkers who have logically diagnosed our predicament. While extinction is not a remote possibility it is not yet inevitable. There is still time for an awakening that could be decisive if it takes the form of a response adequate to the dread challenge of these times.
Internal weakness is invariably the prime cause of break-down. The abandonment of the Roman roads, and of the Mesopotamian irrigation system, were the result, not the cause of the break-down of the civilizations that had evolved and sustained them. Decline of active faith in freedom is a basic trouble today.
All history warns against short-cuts to progress. Where the uncreative majority follows the leadership of a creative minority by mimesis, a species of drill, a mechanical and superficial imitation of the inspired original, the invariable danger is that the leaders become infected by the mechanicalness of their followers. The result is an arrested civilization, in which the leaders substitute the whip of compulsion for persuasion. Then the creative minority is transformed into a dominant minority and its disciples into a reluctant and alienated proletariat. When this happens disintegration is inevitable. The society loses is capacity for self-determination, and the ensuing revolution is a delayed and consequently explosive act of mimesis.
Russia is a case in point. More Eastern than Western. Russia had not long been rid of serfdom. The creative minority under the Tsars had become a dominant minority alienated from the people,--still a vast area of illiteracy. There is no real change. The continued political backwardness of Russia today is revealed by her reliance on vulgar propaganda, secret police, foreign espionage, bluster and force. Communism in Russia is not the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat; it is dictatorship over the proletariat by the Communist Party comprising less than four percent of the people, and dictatorship over the Party by a handful of leaders. The result is that all interest and all values are concentrated in the group and none in the individual.
Communism ushered in the era of internal political violence as the method of change. The method was consciously borrowed and applied by both the Fascists and the Nazis. When these were subdued Communism took over their spheres of influence without the need of changing methods.
It is a fact of history that the group which successfully responds to one challenge is rarely successful in meeting the next challenge. The Jews, responding to the challenge of the Old Testament, are worsted by the challenge of the New Testament. The Athens of Pericles declines into the Athens of St. Paul. A "ghost" of the Roman Empire caused the break-down of Orthodox Christian society, in a passive surrender to the nemesis of creativity. The lesson for us is clear; our response must be decisive to establish the exception.
Sheer militarism is always suicidal. The Assyrians were ruined because of their sheer military efficiency and aggressiveness. The same fate befell the military machine of the Hohenzollerns.
The sense of drift,--the feeling that the world is ruled by chance or by necessity,--is an invariable symptom of decline. It acts as an opiate.
There is only one unfailing answer, only one secret to the overcoming of break-down and the resumption of progress, and that is transfiguration, the spiritual process that produces the higher religions in their primal vitality. The chief concern now is not the spread of the totalitarian creed from Soviet Russia but the fact that in other countries freedom is not as highly valued as it was. Modern tendencies have bitten into freedom and individualism. Large-scale industrialisation, by bringing a big proportion of the population into towns, has induced a reversion to the herd-mind, more suggestible and more open to mass fashions than the more independent mind of the countryman. Industrial workers, conscious of their collective power, have become a new vested interest, wielding the weapon of the strike, and swinging elections by their numbers and discipline. Up to a point this movement of industrial workers was justified; but the demand has become excessive, exacting an increasing proportion of wealth when less real wealth is being produced.
That workers should have fair wages and good conditions of employment is now recognized except behind the Iron Curtain. But the belief that workers can continue to get higher rewards with the same or less production threatens breakdown.
From industry there has intruded into politics the idea of efficiency through rationalisation. With machines this is right. But human friction is different from mechanical friction. Men were not made to behave as cogs. The planned economy,--the supreme rationalising,--by its nature, menaces all freedom. It is dehumanising.
The contemporary domination of politics by economics is sapping the very foundations of freedom. For freedom is a moral and not an economic concept. In making the production and distribution of goods and services the main concern we are obscuring the justifying purpose of existence.
There is a general decline of old standards, traditions, and scruples-a landslide from traditional morals and religion. And as the equivalent internal restraints of prudence, conscience, and religion weaken, external restraints have to be multiplied. As morality declines, freedom inevitably declines with it.
The truth is that the shape, texture, and temper of our civilization have been vulgarized by materialism of which Marxism has no monopoly. Culture itself has been vulgarized by industrialisation; our civilization is squeezing freedom out at the time we need it most.
And the chief culprit is that impalpable and universal creature the "common man" who no one will admit to being and whom no one has ever seen. The cult of the "common man" has induced the ordinary citizen to seek again organization in masses, to use his collective power to force the State to become more meddlesome and mighty than ever before. Consider what is happening in Britain. Direction by employers is being exchanged for direction by Trade Union leaders, political party bosses, and State bureaucrats. The ordinary citizen is not a partner in the State, which he should be, but a ward of the State. He is not really consulted; he is crooned to and nursed; not challenged but manipulated. After the sacrifice of centuries, freedom is being yielded for a willing bondage under the elusive inducement of immediate material advantages. The effort that brought the citizen differentiation seems to be exhausting itself, and he is' reverting to the mass whence he started. From collectivism to collectivism is the real tragedy of these times.
Fortunately the process has not gone so far as to be hopeless. Flaming ideals still can be imparted because man is mostly a metaphysical being. His life contracts or widens as his belief becomes narrow or wide. The gifts of imagination and reason enable us to organize our ideas into a world that becomes the reality in which we live. Ideas, therefore, are the principal realities. Beyond reason there is conscience. The defining quality of ideals is their validity.
The central fact is that man is fundamentally a moral being. That the light we have is imperfect does not matter as long as we are always trying to improve it. There is no real freedom without the implication of a spiritual world. Man is unique in dignity, a cosmic dignity, a high status in the universe.
We are equal in sharing the moral freedom that distinguishes us as free men. Man's status makes each individual an end in himself. No man is by nature simply the servant of the State, or of another man.
The real course of evolution is movement from the undifferentiated to the differentiated, from the generic to the specific, from the collective to the individual, from common and anonymous to personal and signed achievement--all made possible by man's emancipation from the natural compulsions that rule everything else but man.
As has been observed already, the ideal and fact of freedom,--and not technology--are the true distinguishing marks of our civilization. But in recent times the thing which the West has been exporting to the great nonwestern majority of mankind is not freedom but technology. The law and the free institutions on which the West rightly prides itself grew up in a moral climate created by Christianity, but the technology that is a by-product of Western law and liberty has been cut adrift from the religious and cultural soil that nourished its origin.
Our technology, being propagated apart from its original spiritual setting, has become destructive; rivalling Communism in its destructiveness. What the modern West exports is not a new vision of God; it is the power that is generated by the application of organization to science. As Arnold Toynbee puts it "We are now selling our souls to Leviathan, and if we complete the transaction the funeral will not be Christianity's but ours. Christianity can take care of itself. A Christian tradition existed before our western civilization was heard of, and the spiritual force will continue whatever happens to us".
The concepts of freedom and the structures laboriously built thereon are now in mortal danger. There is indeed no room now for spectators; we are all perforce agents of history.
The challenge of reversion to the mass calls for a supreme response. Faith in freedom is not a vague abstraction to be displayed on patriotic occasions and then carefully put away in mothballs. Internal weakness, the principal cause of break-clown, is due to drift, inertia, indifference, and corroding cynicism-all of which are gaining ground.
It is unlikely that the trend backwards to the Collectivism of primitive slave societies will be reversed unless and until there is widespread spiritual regeneration. The things that men believe are the dynamic realities of living; material environment is only a shadow of reality. Fortunately there is a gleam of light. Christianity, as opposed to institutionalism, is gaining ground, Individual religious experience as opposed to external authority is becoming "The impregnable rock" of faith. The revolt from regimentation finds no more eloquent expression than in the chambers where individual men and women engage in prayer. In the face of the God-less darkness spreading across the world, I believe the crust of sectarian ice is cracking and thawing.
To sum up,--the organisation of the free world must proceed, the material support of war ravaged countries must continue; re-armament must go forward-all these things contribute to the protection of our civilisation but by themselves they will not succeed. The real strength of Communism is its Asiatic fanaticism, utterly ruthless, destructive and pagan, based on hate, envy and frustration, a devotion which recognises no limits. Its "Achilles Heel" is the denial of the power of love as taught by Christianity. The attempt of the Communists to exterminate the Christian religion by persecuting and imprisoning its exponents is having just the opposite result. Eternal truth emerges from martyrdom and persecution strengthened and refreshed.
The priority of spiritual values contains the decisive answer to all materialist fallacies. In establishing this fundamental truth in the public mind the Churches have a special responsibility. This, however, cannot be discharged by amateur excursions into economics or by blundering descents into partisan politics. No longer can we afford to regard religion as the object of amiable lip-service once a week. The practice of the Christian virtues is the first ingredient of the new citizenship which, by restoring morality, will make possible the resumption of progress.
In organisations such as service clubs, professional and business associations, trade unions, universities, colleges, and schools--wherever free men and women co-operate for some good purpose-spiritual awakening should be proclaimed. And more important still; most important of all; is the re-dedication and the sanctifying of the home so that there will be myriad centres radiating brotherhood, tolerance, humility, and understanding.
An effective response to the challenge of today cannot be less than the greatest crusade of all time to release every human being on this globe from the grim bondage of materialism.
Without such a transfiguration, without a generous stirring of the souls of men, economic or military conquest will only delay the ultimate catastrophe, will be only the prelude to further struggles, until the shattered remnants of human society fade out for centuries, perhaps for ever.