Title: The Rights of Man.
Author: H.G. Wells.
Genre: Literature, non-fiction, politics, social criticism.
Publication Date: 1940 (lecture 2012).
Summary: Wells wrote the book partly in response to the ongoing war with Germany. The fearlessly progressive ideas he set out were instrumental in the creation of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU's European Convention on Human Rights and the UK's Human Rights Act. When first published, this manifesto was an urgently topical reaction to a global miscarriage of justice. It was intended to stimulate debate and make a clear statement of mankind's immutable responsibilities to itself. Seven decades later, now again witnessing a humanitarian crisis, the books remains as topical and important as when it was first published. The Preface is made up of 2 letters H.G. Wells had written to The Times editor that introduce his booklet and lays out the basics of Declaration of Human Rights, which he believes should be a universally applicable law. What Are We Fighting For? (2015) by Ali Smith is The 2nd Annual PEN H.G. Wells Lecture in which Smith expounds on her own introduction to H.G. Wells, as well as his life-long work for humanitarian rights and how it is still applicable today.
My rating: 8.5/10
♥ "Even then there was a world-wide feeling that a great revolution in human affairs was imminent; the phrase 'a war to end all war' expressed that widely diffused feeling, ans surely there could be no profounder break with human tradition and existing forms of government, than that. But that revolution did not realize itself. The League of Nations, we can all admit now, was a poor and ineffective outcome of that revolutionary proposal to banish armed conflict from the world and inaugurate a new life for mankind. It was too conservative of existing things, half-hearted, diplomatic. And since, as more and more of us are beginning to realize now, there can be no more peace or safety on earth without a profound reconstruction of the methods of human living, the Great War did not so much come to an end as smoulder through two decades, the fatuous 'twenties and 'thirties, to flare up again now. Now at a level of greater tension, increased violence and destructiveness and more universal suffering, we are back to something very like 1914 and the decisive question before our species is whether this time it will set its face resolutely towards that drastic remoulding of ideas and relationships, that world revolution, which it has shirked for a quarter of a century."
♥ "The result of suppressing the full, free discussion of revolutionary proposals, even of the extremest revolutionary proposals, is to force them underground. This sort of thing does not save an outworn and decaying regimen but it drives the critics who are discussing a new order to conspiratorial methods, to terroristic secrecy, to unventilated dogmatism. The revolution, when at last it arrived in Russia, was in the hands of men trained in underground methods, and the Soviet regimen, practically inexpert, with everything to learn, shut down on free discussion and free mutual criticism with the West, and degenerated into the masked incalculable personal rule of to-day."
♥ A real League of Nations might have turned the world into a new course in 1918-19; a real Federation of Mankind might do as much to-morrow. But if it is to be a real, effective federation of mankind, a genuine attempt to realize that age of world-wide plenty and safety that we have very reason to suppose attainable, then we have to discuss simply and sincerely and work out plans for the polite mediatization of monarchies, the competent socialization of the natural resources and staple industries of the world, the revision and extension of our universities and other knowledge organizations and the establishment of a world-wide rising level of common education. The war, under the auspices of A.R.P., is darkening everything. Are we to have as much light as that in the streets of the world? If not; if we are to go on with this present regime of vague insincerities, mutual distrust and sabotage, I for one can see no hope for mankind. More of that sort of thing and worse to the end.
♥ The destruction of confidence is one of the less clearly recognized evils of the present phase of world-disintegration.
In the past there have been periods when whole communities, or at least large classes within communities, have gone about their business with a general honesty, directness and sense of personal honour. They have taken a keen pride in the quality of their output. They ave lived through life on tolerable and tolerant terms with their neighbours. The laws they observed have varied in different countries and periods, but their general nature was to make an orderly law-abiding life possible and natural. They had been taught and they believed, and they had every reason to believe: "This (that or the other thing) is right. Do right and nothing, except by some strange exceptional misfortune, can touch you. Do right and nothing will rob you or frustrate you. The Law guarantees you that."
Nowhere in the world now is there very much of that feeling left, and as it disappears, the behaviour of people degenerates towards a panic scramble, towards cheating, over-reaching, gang organization, precautionary hoarding, concealment and all the meanness and anti-social feeling which is the natural outcome of insecurity.
♥ For manifestly the world is either in revolution or in collapse. The choice is not between accepting revolution and keeping on as we are, but between accepting revolution or destroying it and ourselves.
The book opens upon a journalistic and contemporary note, it prefaces itself for the third time; we hammer it in. Almost everything of significance is repeated several times, but almost always with a new intensification. The record had to take that form. It is a work that accumulates as it proceeds, and it seeks to evoke a continual collaboration in the reader.
♥ Most modern men have no set craving for fighting, and they are asking now with an increasing querulousness why their private lives are being disorganized and why they are being dragged, pushed, exhorted, compelled into a vast war effort, with no assurance whatever that any worth-while results at all, are to come out of it.
And our Government, the people who are ordering and pushing us about – and doing it in an obviously very incompetent way – makes no statement that is in any way reassuring and stimulating. Great Britain pretends to be a "democracy", that is to say a rule of, by and for the people, etc., etc. Consequently our Government is assumed to be acting under our instructions. Yet it gives no sign of what it imagines these instructions to be. It will not say what it imagines it is up to. So far as we are able to judge, it does not know. But it will not admit it does not know. This inefficient Government of ours has been clutching hysterically to strangle liberty of discussion and protest. (Thank Heaven for Mr Dingle Foot!) Our individual liberties are being threatened by emergency legislation. Our representatives, our ministries and servants are out of hand.
♥ We are not fighting the Germans. Everyone agrees to that. Our Government most of all. We are fighting Hitler and the Nazis. We want to free the Germans. And so we may point out how very similar is the predicament of these friends of ours, these Germans, whom we are fighting to liberate, to our own. They too find themselves marched off to war and undergoing, I am told, far greater privations and even more tiresome regulations than our own. They too, we are told, have a considerable distrust of their leaders. They too want to know what it is all about. But obviously they can no more get rid of Hitler than we can get rid of Mr Chamberlain, and Hitler anyhow has at least the prestige of being in his rough way a successful man. His Propaganda Minister tells these Germans we are so acutely anxious to free, quite awful stories of what will happen to them if they don't fight. It is a rather clever propaganda and it quotes every foolish threat against Germany to keep them at the desperate pitch.
♥ We know that we have been forced and misled into a position when we are bound to go on fighting. We are fighting against lawless violence; that is to say, we are fighting that "war to end war" which began on August 14, 1914. We were cheated in 1918, and put off with the Geneva League of the Victorious Powers for twenty years, and we have muddled along to this. And this time we are clearer about it and we want our Government to implement our will. We are fighting to abolish violence, we, the common people of Britain and France, because we find it impossible to live the lives we want to live, in a belligerent world. We want to end war for ever. That in the broadest terms is our War Aim.
♥ "We want to draw up a document and demand of Mr Chamberlain and his friends abroad and at home: "Is this what we are fighting for? And if not then please tell us what you imagine we are fighting for?
"Or better, perhaps, get out."
♥ But I found that most of the people and the younger men in particular who were going to do the fighting, with whom I discussed the declaration, were not prepared to receive it in quite the same order. They wanted to have it put another way round.
They were moved principally by two things. Firstly, they felt the need of fighting again to "put down violence" in the world, to go on with the war to end war that had lost its way at Versailles, and secondly, they had been stirred profoundly by those outrages upon human dignity perpetrated by the Nazis. The second motive was perhaps the stronger. Many of them had been incredulous at first of the stories that came from concentration camps and refugees. When they realized reluctantly that such things could still be done in the heart of Europe, something like a lynching spirit was stirred up in them. The peace of the world receded into the background. "These Nazis are too bad," they said. The first thing they wanted in a Declaration of War Aims was a plain statement that such things must happen no more on earth.
.."We are here to clean up something," they will say, "something you gentlemen and ladies who are picnicking so bravely sand merrily in evacuated and carefully camouflaged ministries 'somewhere in England' failed to clear up after 1918. Will you get on with it this time so that we can come back to a real worth-while life? What exactly are you doing and what are you going to do, to stop this sort of brutality and foolery for ever? If we are assured you are doing something effective, we shall not grudge our sacrifices, but if we are to have all this pseudo-cheerful muck dug up, to remind us that this is just the dear old 1914-18 over again, well – the morale of this army may suffer."
♥ The recently published White Paper makes it plain that our Government has known for some time that such things were going on, and yet that up to a late hour it was willing to make peace with those who are responsible for all these tortures and murders the White Paper now substantiates. I suppose if our Government had after all made that eleventh-hour peace, than all that is is in the White Paper would have been hushed up. We should have sat down to our Christmas dinner thanking God for Mr Chamberlain and ignoring the concentration camps altogether. And this incalculable Government of ours is still quite capable of sitting down in some sort of Conference with the Nazis, the White Paper forgotten. We have no assurance that it will hold firmly to these common human rights for whose sake alone our people are willing to fight.
And so we want our Government to declare for these rights unequivocally – or get out.
♥ But it is alleged by another group of critics that this Clause still leaves certain matters unsettled. There again I admit difficulties. They centre upon the ideas of conscription. It is objected to the Declaration as a whole that it says much about rights and nothing about duties. It may be true that anyone who observes the rights of others to the full extent of the Declaration, has already undertaken very considerable obligations, but that does not dispose completely of this objection.
The valid criticism that still remains is to be found very competently set out by William James in a small but very important book, The Moral Equivalent of War. He finds, and one must remember he was a very great and subtle psychologist, something very unsatisfactory and impracticable in the prospect of a world of peace and security in which everyone is to move about freely without any sense of ownership in the community, participation in the community or obligation to the community. The more collectivist we become – and continually we become more collectivist – the more the sense of proprietorship has to be transferred to the community as a whole. The community is something to which we look for the protection of our rights indeed, but it is also something we have to take care of and serve. And this is not to be attained by mere preachment and sentiment.
And so he suggests a universal conscription for one or two years of the formative period of life, somewhere between sixteen, let us say, and twenty-five, during which the young citizen, man or woman, will have to undertake some of that residue of unpleasing, irksome, dangerous or subordinate work that must still be done, whatever feats of mechanism or organization the future may have in store for us.
♥ In a democratic state there are or should be laws of three very definite sorts and very different grades of importance. First of all there should be the fundamental law expanding and implementing the Declaration of Rights, and protecting the individual adequately from any abuse of administrative authority. The primary duty of the legal organization is to sustain these liberties.
..A third type of law, administrative law, which may in some cases overlap the second, includes the enormous mass of legislation needed for the exploitation of the natural resources of the world in the common interest, and the prevention of waste and devastation by incoherent and short-sighted enterprise. This involves immense appropriations to technically competent authorities and their right not only to use and take, but to forbid and penalize the misuse of regions, minerals, forests, soils, waters. To restrain these delegated authorities from anti-social deterioration, and maintain their efficiency, it is plainly necessary to have the most outspoken and unrestrained criticism, discussion and publicity, and a definite power of calling these various administrative bodies to account.
..So far as (a) goes, everyone should know the law; so far as (b) goes, everyone affected should know the conventions; but so far as (c) goes, the whole framework of laws is beyond any single person's knowing it and it needs to be clearly codified and continually revised and made easily accessible, so that anyone affected can easily inform himself upon the issue that concerns him.
♥ Any fool can tell a lie and too many fools like doing so. The sub-human malicious mischief of the young men a generation of Catholic education has produced in Southern Ireland, their senseless burning of letters in pillar boxes, their indiscriminate cutting of telephone wires and so forth, are a reminder to all of us how little mankind at large has risen above the level of an exceptionally spiteful ape, and how soon our kind can sink back again to that level. The White Paper on Nazi cruelties displays the same atavism in a heavier and filthier form. Warfare or sub-warfare, by releasing these baser impulses to opportunity, abolish that confidence and candour which alone make free, happy and generous living possible. The gallant, sure and open life has become impossible. In a brief third of a century it has become impossible.
♥ The uprooting of millions of people who are driven into exile among strangers, who are forced to seek new homes, produces a peculiar exacerbation of the mental strain. Never have there been such crowds of migrating, depressing people. They talk languages we do not understand, they have queer ways; they are not at home with us; they are often quite unaccountable. They stimulate xenophobia without intention; they cannot help doing it; and among them, finding a convenient cover among them, are the spy and the agent provocateur. It is no good pretending they are all innocent and harmless. They can be not only definitely malignant but without any malice they can be a serious economic disturbance. Their necessary discordance with the new populations they invade releases and intensifies the natural distrust and hostility of man for man – which it is the aim of all mortal and social training to eliminate – to a dangerous degree.
One feels a certain justifiable wariness towards these outlanders, until one learns their forms of behaviour; until one realizes that they may do this but they can't do that, and so on. The ideally wise man may be able to retain such an observant balance, but normal people tend either to collapse into a sort of hysterical trustfulness on the one hand, or fall on the other side into exaggerated suspicion mania. The majority seem to fall on the side of mania, and under the stimulus of this mania there has accumulated a vast tangle of emergency legislation, regulations, barriers and restraints, out of all proportion to and often completely missing and distorting the needs of the situation. For the restoration and modernization of human civilization, this exaggerated outlawing of the fellow citizen whom we see fit to suspect as a traitor or revolutionary and also of the stranger within our gates, has to be restrained and brought back within the scheme of human rights.
♥ The primary objective of every sane social order is to banish fear – not necessarily to abolish danger, which by itself can stir men very pleasantly – but fear, from human life. Confidence and assurance are the essence of brotherliness; there is no ease in intercourse, no civilization, without them. Fear lies very near the surface of most animal life, but it need not do so in the life of man. It need not, but it does, and then it becomes a far more dreadful thing than mere animal fear. It does not pass. It goes on and on, and it gnaws.
Man, because of that restless excessive brain of his, complicates every issue in his life beyond comparison with the mental complexity of any other animal. He can go mad. A "mad" bull is a bull in a rutting fury or a blind rage, it just "sees red"; a "mad" dog is an animal with a feverish infection; they are not really "mad": in the elaborate, disordered way of human madness. But man can err and err fantastically, entanglement behind entanglement. He can go "off the lines" of reason altogether. He can meet trouble more than half way and so break down under his worries and disappointments as to become "certifiable."
And that now seems to be happening to mankind as a whole. We are all in it. We are none of us as sane as our self-satisfied, limited, confident grandfathers. We are all fighting within ourselves for self-control. Unless we can struggle through the mounting perplexities of to-day, to a new world order of law and safety, unless we can keep our heads and our courage, so as to re-establish a candid life, our species will perish, mad, fighting and gibbering, a dwindling swarm of super-Nazis on a devastated earth.
♥ With every step towards consolidation, we find the individual threatened in his independence and struggling to set up legal barriers to defend it. It is almost like the beating of a heart. There is a systole in which power is drawn together at the centre and then a diastole in which liberty asserts itself. But is is not exactly like a heart beating. It would be, if each time that heart grew, so that each time the rhythm recurred on a larger scale. It is not simply increase of government, rebellion, increase of government, rebellion, increase of government, rebellion. It is increase of government, rebellion, adjustment, increase of government, rebellion,
♥ This collectivism, which is rolling down upon us from the East knows nothing of the tradition of personal rights. There have been no Magna Cartas east of the Rhine. It is a collectivization in the dark; even when it is honest it is passionate, dogmatic and impatient of criticism. In the darkness it is bound to blunder into paternalism, absolutism, dishonesty, inefficiency, confusion and disaster.
♥ A further suggestion by an indignant lady who wanted to insist upon Women's Rights, has been ignored. "Man" in these Declarations obviously means any living specimen of Homo sapiens, male or female, young or old. We regret our constant use of the pronoun "he", but we did not make the language. The Aryan languages are, we admit, a little over-sexed. If the lady will try substituting "the individual" and "the individuals" in our Declaration, and then read it out aloud, she will find it much less satisfying.
♥ The nature of the marriage contract, the rights and liabilities of paternity and maternity, how far the community will leave a child under parental control, the protection of minors, the definition and treatment of sexual offences, all fall into the category of administrative legislation and may vary quite conceivably with locality, climate and changing beliefs. There is no reason why particular religious organizations should not have their own special contract recognized. It is not a question of elementary liberties.
Magna Carta has a lot to say about wards and heiresses, to remind us of a time when women were still largely chattels. We have grown out of that.
♥ A civilized, united and progressive world will be continually replanning itself, rebuilding itself, conducting research, learning, teaching, and thrusting forward into new experiences. It will have to interest and employ a healthy, well-fed population, or face the social dislocation, the possible return to destructive activities and war, its accumulating energy will produce. A large part of the present troubles of our world are due, not to want and insufficiency but to an excess of energy which overflows into war and the preparations and training for war, because we have no other channels ready for it. The monopolization of natural resources by private ownership and private finance, so that the hands of the worker cannot reach them, and the plain necessity for mankind to break through these barriers and liberate these hoarded resources, make such efforts and communism and totalitarianism inevitable. These efforts may be so crude as to blunder at last into war; but until the attack on Finland developed and the mental and moral deterioration of the Soviet Government became manifest Communism in Russia showed very little disposition for more than precautionary and defensive war. It still seems to be the delusion of the conservative interests in the world that in some way this unchaining of the hoards can be averted.
♥ Nor will I discuss how far a sage world administration would find it necessary to restrain betting and gambling. Most modern governments betray a distrust for this mean form of excitement. Money in a collectivist system is essentially pay for service to the community. It is paid in order that it should be spent either upon the surplus goods produced by the community as a whole, over and above its basic human needs, or else upon those individual private productions that are too questionable or novel or experiential for the administration to undertake. The sooner money is spent upon a product or a service the more it activates the world. The less it is held up or played about with, the better.
♥ We envisage a world in which there will indeed be inequalities between man and man, but none will have power over another, and none will have such a disproportionate fortune as to jostle and humiliate his fellows. It will be a world of infinite variety and incessant change.
♥ ..and we declare:
"(1) That every man is joint heir to all the resources, powers, inventions and possibilities accumulated by our forerunners, and entitled without distinction of race, colour or professed belief or opinions, to the nourishment, covering, medical care and attention needed to realize his full possibilities of physical and mental development and to keep him in a state of health from his birth to death.
"(2) That he is entitled so sufficient education to make him a useful and interested citizen, and further that special education should be so made available as to give him equality of opportunity for the development of his distinctive gifts in the service of mankind, that he should have easy access to information upon all matters of common knowledge throughout his life and enjoy the utmost freedom of discussion, association and worship.
"(3) That he may engage freely in any lawful occupation, earning such pay as the need for his work and the increment it makes to the common welfare may justify. That he is entitled to paid employment and to a free choice whenever there is any variety of employment open to him. He may suggest employment for himself and have his claim publicly considered, accepted or dismissed.
"(4) That he shall have the right to buy or sell without any discriminatory restrictions anything which may be lawfully bought or sold, in such quantities and with such reservations as are compatible with the common welfare.
"(5) That he and his personal property lawfully acquired are entitled to police and legal protection from private violence, deprivation, compulsions and intimidation.
"(6) That he may move freely about the world at his own expense. That his private house or apartment or reasonably limited garden enclosure is his castle, which may be entered only with his consent, but that he shall have the right to come and go over any kind of country, moorland, mountain, farm, great garden or what not, or upon the seas, lakes and rivers of the world, where his presence will not be destructive of some special use, dangerous to himself nor seriously inconvenient to his fellow-citizens.
"(7) That a man unless he is declared by a competent authority to be a danger to himself and to others through mental abnormality, a declaration which must be annually confirmed, shall not be imprisoned for a longer period than six days without being charged with a definitely offence against the law, nor for more than three months without a public trial. At the end of the latter period, if he has not been tried and sentenced by due process of law, he shall be released. Nor shall he be conscripted for military or any other service to which he has a conscientious objection.
"(8) That although a man is subject to the free criticism of his fellows, he shall have adequate protection from any lying por misrepresentation that may distress or injure him. All administrative registration and records about a man shall be open to his personal and private inspection. There shall be no secret dossiers in any administrative department. All dossiers shall be accessible to the man concerned and subject to verification and correction at his challenge. A dossier is merely a memorandum; it cannot be used as evidence without proper confirmation in open court.
"(9) That no man shall be subjected to any sort of mutilation or sterilization except with his own deliberate consent, freely given, nor to bodily assault, except in restraint of his own violence, nor to torture, beating or any other bodily punishment; he shall not be subjected to imprisonment with such an excess of silence, noise, light or darkness as to cause mental suffering, or to imprisonment in infected, verminous or otherwise insanitary quarters, or be put into the company of verminous or infectious people. He shall not be forcibly ged nor prevented from starving himself if he so desire. He shall not be forced to take drugs nor shall they be administered to him without his knowledge and consent. That the extreme punishments to which he may be subjected are rigorous imprisonment for a term of not longer than fifteen years or death.
"(10) That the provisions and principles embodied in this Declaration shall be more fully defined in a code of fundamental human rights which shall be made easily accessible to everyone. This Declaration shall not be qualified nor departed from upon any pretext whatever. It incorporates all previous Declarations of Human Right. Henceforth for a new era it is the fundamental law for mankind through the whole world.
"No treaty and no law affecting these primary rights shall be binding upon any man or province or administrative division of the community, that has not been made openly, by and with the active or tacit acquiescence of every adult citizen concerned, either given by a direct majority vote of the community affected or through the majority vote of his publicly elected representatives. In matters of collective behaviour it is by the majority decision men must abide. No administration, under a pretext of urgency, convenience or the like shall be entrusted with powers to create or further define offences or set up by-laws, which will in any way infringe the rights and liberties here asserted. All legislation must be public and definite. No secret treaties shall be binding on individuals, organizations or communities. No orders in council or the like, which extend the application of a law, shall be enforceable. There is no source of law but the whole people, and since life flows on constantly to new citizens, no generation of the people can in whole or in part surrender or delegate the legislative power inherent in mankind."
♥ "The Rights of Man, 'natural, inalienable, sacred', were first asserted in the Declaration of 1789. These principles were confirmed and extended in the version by Robespierre adopted by the Jacobins in April 1793 and voted by the National Convention in the Second Declaration of Rights, on May 29th, 1793.
.."Article 2. The first right of man is the right to live.
"Article 3. The right to live includes the right of the mother to all the care and resources necessary to her function, the right of the child to all that its full moral and physical growth demands, the right of woman to the entire suppression of masculine exploitation, the right of the old, the sick and the infirm to the regime their weakness demands, the right of all to benefit equally in the help and protection that modern science now makes available.
"Article 4. The right to live involves also, the right to have work so limited as to leave ample leisure time, and so remunerated that everyone will have a fair share in the well-being which scientific and technical progress renders possible, and an equitable distribution of which could and would now assure to everyone the full intellectual, moral, artistic and technical development of all his or her faculties and a sufficient subsistence for everyone incapable of work.
.."Article 7. Liberty of opinion demands that the press and all other media of thought andexpression should be released from the control of monetary power.
"Article 8. Infringements of the rights of the community as a whole, are as grave as the infringement of individual rights. No representatives of the people and no functionaries entrusted by the nation with the direction and controls of economic life, should be allowed to derive any profit in, or accept any place, remuneration or advantage whatsoever, in the interests which have been entrusted to their care.
.."Article 11. The right to live implies the abolition of war.
.."Article 13. The nations of the earth constitute a society. Every people suffering from aggression has the right to appeal to the human collectivity for defence, and it is the duty of all peoples to go to the aid of violated national rights.
♥ Here next, by way of stimulus to discussion is anyone draft of a Declaration, emanating from the "Cambridge Peace Aims Group", which appears to be mainly Mr Robert Jordan. It runs as follows:
"Here are the Rights:
"(i) FOOD. Every man shall be entitled to sufficient food to GIVE him the fullest nutrition to develop his physique to the fullest capacity and to play his full part in the life of the community.
"(ii) HEALTH. Every man shall be entitled from conception till death to benefit from the best medical and surgical achievements of the day and to the fullest enjoyment of hygienic and preventive services.
"(iii) ENVIRONMENT. Every man shall be entitled to housing with services and equipment, to surroundings favourable to all his activities and generally to an ordered environment, whether urban or rural, in accordance with the best planning principles of the day.
"(iv) EDUCATION. Every man shall be entitled to a sound and objective education and there shall be genuine equality of opportunity. Education shall be a matter of environment as well as of instruction, and everyone shall be entitled to an education untouched by the interests of any party or religion.
"(v) FREEDOM. Every man shall be entitled to as much freedom as is compatible with the freedom of others. He shall have full freedom of thought, speech, assembly and movement about the world without passport or visa. He shall be free to live and work where he chooses (subject only to the regulations of the world labour bureau). Every man shall have his home and property secured against entry or confiscation by others, and he shall possess such literature, etc., as he chooses. He shall have access to all open spaces except such as are set aside with each house for private use, provided, of course, such access does not intervene with industrial or agricultural processes. No man shall own property of such a quantity or character as shall involve the exploitation of others. Every man shall have the right to buy or sell such commodities as may be lawfully traded with such reservations as are necessary for the common good. No man shall be imprisoned anywhere in the world for more than a short stated period without open public trial, and he shall then have free legal advice and full knowledge of the process of appeal available to him. No man shall be subject to spying or enforced exile. When convicted of any crime he shall be subject at the most to imprisonment under hygienic conditions. (Without here entering into details, crime shall be regarded pathologically – a disease to be cured or prevented.) There shall be no political crimes on the statute book. Every man shall be entitled to have access to all Truth which is humanly obtainable, and no measures shall be taken to withhold from him any facts or opinions or to prevent him publishing any facts or opinions.
"And here are the Duties:
"Every man shall (in accordance with his mental and physical capacity) do some work which shall either directly or indirectly benefit the community. He shall not be compelled to do unpleasant or undignified work for more than the minimum number of hours which equal distribution and scientific devices shall make possible. Every man shall be entitled to public consideration of his claim to do such work as is in accordance with his inclinations or interests. No man shall hold any post or public appointment except on the grounds of his ability.
"Every man or organization who, by reason of research or experiment or special ability, shall achieve, discover or invent something which might benefit others shall publish the results of such work and shall be suitably rewarded.
"Every man shall perform such necessary civic duties as voting, sitting on juries, etc., and such other voluntary work as may from time to time be required of him for the general good.
"THESE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF MAN SHALL BE THE CONCERN OF THE WHOLE WORLD, AND IT SHALL BE THE FIRST DUTY OF THE SUPREME GOVERNMENT TO GUARANTEE THEM TO ALL MEN EVERYWHERE. THE SUPREME GOVERNMENT SHALL BE ENTITLED TO STEP IN AND ACT, IF NECESSARY WITH THE AID OF FORCE,M IF ANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS FAILING IN ITS DUTY TO PROVIDE MAN WITH HIS ELEMENTARY AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OR TO ADMINISTER A STRICT ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW IN ACCORDANCE WITH FUNDAMENTAL ABSTRACT JUSTICE."
♥ Many people, the present writer included, believe there is quite a lot of normal and incurable wickedness in mankind which has to be restrained.
♥ I do not think, myself, that a man should be obliged to vote upon any issue. He has, I maintain, a right to tacit acquiescence. "Trial by jury": in a world of open criticism and discussion, may be a much less necessary guarantee of liberty than it was in the small untravelled, illiterate communities of the past. A recording microphone, cameras, alert critical reporters, unrestrained publicity, may provide a check upon the unjust magistrate more efficiently than any boxful of "twelve good men and true".
♥ Among other criticisms to which our Declaration has been subjected is first of all the use of the word "Revolution" in the third paragraph of the exordium. The objection is a practical one. A great number of people have been trained to regard "Revolution": as meaning a dreadful destructive breaking-up of social ties, with barricades, tumbrils and so on, and why should they be shocked by such a word? I see no strong reason why their fear should not be dispelled by substituting "world reconstruction" for "world revolution", though I believe that as far as possible people should be induced to think rather harder than they do about the real meaning of the words they use.
♥ The French slogan was Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This seems to need only one addition. We want to emphasize "equality of opportunity." Perhaps "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality of Opportunity, and Equality Before the Law" would be a suitable amendment.
♥ Plainly I am an extreme revolutionary. Although I dislike rhetoric and emotion intensely, my reason nevertheless compels me to be extreme. I do not believe it is possible to go on with the present way of living that prevails throughout the world, with the sovereign governments we have and the economic practices that prevail. These sovereign governments have given us nothing but inconclusive wars on a larger and larger scale, and we have to get rid of them all. All of them. It is not the present German Government we are fighting to get rid of; it is any government of that sort, including most emphatically our own. We have to get rid of and replace all these governments by a world system, and that alone is world revolution. But, in addition, we have to get rid of and replace methods of exploiting natural advantages, business control and finance, that in the midst of possible plenty keep nearly all of us poor and needy, sweated and bored. This applies equally to the maladministration of Russia and the Totalitarian states and the chaotic scramble for profit of the so-called capitalist countries. All in their various ways waste and devastate life. The common sense of mankind revolts against these things and grows less and less patient with them.
♥ Communism is a project for a new world order I have also subjected in the same book to a destructive statement of the obvious. Both these things equally – League-of-Nationism and Communism – have lost heart and failed. We can never go back to them. They are over and we have to go on.
♥ But since, for the reasons we have italicized in an earlier section, the world becomes one, this Federal Union idea cannot be confined to any group of states, however extensive. It has to be propagandist for all the world. The "abolition of distance" means in practice the abolition of boundaries. An act of gross cruelty or injustice that occurs in Manchuria or Danzig is as much an Englishman's concern now, as if it occurred in Nigeria or Cardiff. Nowadays the infection of such evils travels too fast to be ignored. In only a week of years, as we have seen, a terroristic gangsterism, can develop from back-street outrages to a savage and dangerous assault upon the peace of mankind. We need to bring all the world into our map of states and territories.
♥ The Germans have shown very little regard for the sufferings their belligerence has inflicted on millions of people outside their borders, and, when one has weighed all the possible excuses that can be made for them, it still remains against them that in a quarter of a century they have twice marched enthusiastically behind ruthlessly aggressive leaders. Do these heroic warriors really want to be treated with mawkish consideration directly the scales of war tilt against them? Must they go on for ever in alternate phases of war and whining? Would it not rather conduce to a manly mutual respect if, as people say, we gave it to them hot and good?
They have insisted on being a nuisance to all the world, they have stopped the wheels of progress, life is entirely disorganized not only in France and England and Poland but in Sweden, Holland, Belgium, on account of their love for playing soldiers, and it is absurd to concentrate upon Herr Hitler the responsibility for all that fierce, fatuous, crowd-swaggering which thousands of photographs have recorded. There are thousands of pictorial records. There are, I say, many excuses for the Germans, Versailles and the strangulation after 1919-20, etc., etc. – we all know how sound their excuses are, we concede them almost excessively, we over do it; none the less they have been made excuses for abominable behaviour – and I am convinced that vigorous bombing and bombarding, town-wrecking and the like, would be an entirely wholesome and chastening experience for the German "soul".
It has been for us. Navy-proud Englishmen have never had quite the same feeling about marine bombardments since the shelling of Scarborough, and Mr Antholy Eden, who opposed the abolition of the bombing plane by the League of Nations, probably sees that weapon now from quite a new angle. One object lesson, one home lesson, in such things is worth endless hearsay, as any leader will testify.
..The devastated regions of France and Belgium have not made the French and Belgians into war fanatics. On the contrary they have made them extraordinarily thoughtful about war. The Germans would be all the better for similar regions in their home land to meditate upon.
I make these unusual, these un-Quakerlike, remarks without any feeling of vindictiveness towards Germans. I am a pacifist, but I am a realistic pacifist. I want an organized world peace. But I have always thought it a mean way of scoring off an antagonist to turn the other cheek. It is disrespectful to his pugnacity, it is irritatingly smug, and much more likely to stir him up to further outrage than to turn his wrath aside. Let the Germans have their medicine now. I maintain that the nett saving in human life and the increased security of the next generation of human beings all about the earth, would enormously outweigh the suffering that would have to be inflicted in order to demonstrate to these people just what being a Nazi involves for others – and ultimately for themselves. I believe the Germans are potentially one of the greatest peoples upon the face of the earth; I am altogether opposed to any diplomatic arrangements that would cut up their natural great community into small, sterilized states. It is a valuable and important population of immense scientific and literary capabilities, which has not to be restored, even by drastic means, to health. There is no real alternative to a healthily beaten Germany but some diplomatist's scheme for perpetual enfeeblement and discord in the heart of Europe that will be far worse for the general human outlook.
♥ It is time we recognized fully that the making of any lethal weapon larger than what may be required for the control of big animals, is a matter of universal concern, just as aggressively nationalistic history text-books or the fostering of infectious diseases in swamps and slums, or interference with free speech, is a matter of universal concern, just as aggressively nationalistic history text-books or the fostering of infectious diseases in swamps and slums, or interference with free speech, is a matter of universal concern. Making a weapon, except for unavoidable police necessity, making a provocative lie anyhow, or fostering fever, is the first stage in murder. Whatever federal systems we contemplate as we draw the map of our future world, are systems that will have a very definite and reasonable aggressiveness. They will need police organization in common not only for mutual reassurance but to control as far as possible what is going on inside the federal boundaries. The coalescence of such international police forces, once they exist and prove their usefulness, into a world system, may go on very rapidly. On the only hand it may be found convenient to entrust air and sea control to such an organization, and on the other it might even keep an eye upon educational reaction.
♥ The ending of warfare will put no stop to the mental conflicts of mankind. We have heard a lot in the past two decades of communist propaganda in the West; we shall hear, I hope, even more of liberal propaganda in the East. We can adopt very parallel methods, and though the propaganda in Russia of the Declaration of Rights by actual democratic governments (when we get them) might be an embarrassment in such international relations as survive, a propaganda by organizations enjoying the liberties of democratic institutions is an altogether different matter. The nearer we approach to the abolition of war and of the nationalist use of force and economic pressure, the more intense the conflict and competition of languages and types of culture may become. Instead of subsidized spy systems and propagandas, we may have the organized endowment of university chairs, presses, periodicals, special school, exhibitions and theatres...
But we will not wander too far along the road to Utopia. This little book begins and ends to advocate a renewal of the Declaration of the Rights of Man as an instrument of primary necessity and importance in the adjustment of human affairs to that world collectivism which is overtaking the entire planet.
♥ "From the beginning I may exclude here the Communist party and the National Bolshevik party. Both, it is true, talk much of "freedom". Yet, we known that they use the word in another sense than we do it."
♥ We need a democratic republic, support for trade, import of raw materials and export of finalized goods, moral support, no humiliation (!), under all circumstances severe prevention of every kind of rearmament by an international authority without hope of relaxation.
♥ There is no time to lose if that body of constructive opinion is to come into operation. There is no time to waste. Do not wait for "leaders." Act yourself. Spread this idea of world collectivization plus the Rights of Man. We do not want "leaders"; we want honest representatives and missionaries to embody that idea and carry it everywhere on earth. In a sane world the idea and the law will dictate, and we shall have no more use for personal dictators and ruling gangs. The politicians will come to heel when they realize that the wind is setting steadily in this quarter of the compass.
♥ It was in honour of Wells, I knew a bit about him, I knew a great deal vicariously—I'd seen the films, knew the tropes—but had read very little by him, though I knew what we all knew, that he'd written several of the most seminal visionary texts not just of the past century or so, but ever, and he'd been world-famous, hugely so in his time, and deeply politically engaged, and very very human, it sounded like, with so many extramarital lovers that his social and amorous peccadilloes were an open joke among some of the more aesthetically experimental writers alive at the same time as him about whom and by whom, because of the way my life had taken its shape, I happened to have reach much more.
♥ I began wondering why watches had been called watches, and what watching had to do with time, and vice versa, how time was related to the word watch, and to notions of watching.
I looked up the etymology of watching. Verb, transitive. To follow the motions of with the eyes. To observe the progress of, maintain an interest in. To have in one's care, to look after, to guard, to tend. To beware of danger to or from, to be on the alert to take advantage of. To wait for. To catch in the act. To keep a hawk from sleep in order to tame it (those last two are Shakespearean uses). To look with attention. To remain awake. To keep vigil. To attend the sick by night. Noun. A small timepiece for wearing on a strap round the wrist of carrying in a pocket. The state of being, or act of staying, awake. A religious vigil. A vigil beside a corpse, a wake. The collective noun for a flock of nightingales. A division of the night. The dark hours of the night. Close observation. Surveillance. The body of men who, before the institution of a police force, patrolled the streets at night. The name applied to certain troops in the Scottish Highlands. From the Old English waecce, waeccan, wacianb, from wacan, to wake.
♥ Then it was about the number of migrants who'd died in the sea last year compared to the number who'd died in the sea so far this year. Two thousand dead in the Med, the announcer said, just like that, like it rhymed. Two hundred thousand picked up already this year. Last year, a hundred and seventy thousand.
The migrants who die and the migrants who survive, whether they survive or they die, are always described like that, a number. They are never allowed to be the individuals each person, dead or alive, actually is. It's like we're meant to think of migrants, according to the media, like clones, like each migrant is not a person, just a "migrant".
♥ I typed onto the search box the words: HOW TO LOOK INTO. That's as far as I got before THE FUTURE came up by itself, in that predictive box that shows us the most asked questions with the same wording on Google. But below that, the rest of what people ask when they ask Good how to look into caught my eye.
It read like a poem:
How to look into the future
how to look into someone's phone
how to look into your icloud
how to look into private instagram accounts
how to look into the camera
how to look into your ear
how to look into yourself
how to look into someone's whatsapp
how to look into a jar file
Our contemporary looking is closely bound up with the usual age-old human concerns but also some very new ones. We want to know, as ever, what's going to happen to us before it does, and how to go about intimacy—but now also how to bypass others' privacy. We want to know how best to be seen and recorded, how best to see ourselves—and how to work the technologies that are these days working on and giving our versions of us.
♥ Woolf and Wells knew each other first because Leonard Woolf and H.G. Wells were both members of the League of Nations, which Wells had helped to set up. She knew him through his PEN presidency, which he held from 1933 to 1935; he'd been an early member of the group, the role of which was to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere. Wells had also been deeply involved—in 1938, after the callous treatment of the Hunger Marchers by the police and by Parliament—in the formation of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty. (Of both PEN and Liberty more later, and of his 1940 political tract, The Rights of Man, the book which meant he was instrumental very late in his life, and even after his death, in the setting up and drafting of every one of our international human rights acts and declarations).
♥ Meetings between writers are always fraught with the politics of their times, because writers, to paraphrase the great Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago, can't not be political simply by dint of being human and being citizens. This does not mean that written works will be propagandist. But it means written works have eyes. They're able to see, and reveal what they see. They're able to watch. The word Saramago favours is observe.
♥ He lived and learned. His idealisms fluctuated and matured. I know mine have, over the years, but with any luck I'm learning; we all do a bit of time-travelling, with any luck.
♥ ..it's 2 p.m. and the Radio 4 news come on. The Israeli government is planning to make stone-throwing an act of terrorism punishable by twenty years in prison. A left-wing UK politician vying for leadership is telling everyone he abstained from voting against the government and austerity as an act of solidarity and keeping the Labour Party together, but that really underneath it all he's very left wing. And, according to the Home Office, asylum seekers with children are going to be stripped of benefits in order to send a message to migrants in Calais that Britain is not a "land of milk and honey", and landlords are going to be imprisoned if they find themselves letting to illegal immigrants.
Terrorism. Stone-throwing, by those small boys who throw stones at the tanks that are flattening their homes. I spend a lot if time nb these days staring in disbelief at the radio, the TV, the computer screen. What can I do about it? What can I do about anything?
This is H.G. Wells, invisible but there anyway, thank God, in the back of the car and the back of the mind, at the back of the twentieth century, in 1916 and writing in a book called What is Coming?: I hate and despise a shrewish suspicion of foreigners and foreign ways, a man who can look me in the face, laugh with me, speak truth and deal fairly, is my brother. And in the book open in my hands, The Invisible Man has just proved his existence by throwing little stones through the air at another of society's outcasts, or invisibles, a tramp sitting in a ditch, a man called Thomas Marvel.
♥ Here's a random list of just some of the things Wells foretells in his work, usually decades before these things were real or thought possible, many of them now norms to us. Tanks: global warming: the ethical and physical questions about vivisection: aerial flight in heavier-than-air aeroplane form—he writes about it some years before Orville and Wilbur Wright actually do it, and knows when it comes it'll be for leisure but also for bombardment: the vision of the floating astronauts and their floating belongings in their capsules on their way to the moon: visible mass surveillance: invisible mass surveillance: modern germ warfare: radio, TV, video: the World Wide Web—he called it the "world encyclopaedia" and saw it as a sure way to win that historic race between education and catastrophe.
His first novel, The Time Machine, was all about split worlds, and in it he points out a split between the social classes caused and maintained by who has access to education and who hasn't. He'd become keen, as he matured, on a meritocratic World State, and in the last decade of his life his notion of a "world brain", that world encyclopaedia, stood for a democratic and internationally wide-open education. "The time is close at hand," he wrote, "when any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document." There it is, that resource, on a screen near you—in your hand—on your Watch, if you like. it's up to us how we use the World Brain.
♥ She accuses him, elsewhere, of too much clay in the mix, "the great clod of clay that has got itself mixed up with the purity of his inspiration." I think it's the clod of clay that is his inspiration, the clod that makes us equivocating, unheroic, unpoetic, likely, earthy and earthly.
He never loses sight of what it means to be human...
♥ He helped fork and sustain PEN, where an intenationality of writers would come together and think the world, and fight for and protect each other's freedom to write and freedom to read.
He helped form and sustain the National Council for Civil Liberties, we know it now as Liberty, to monitor and fight for the civil liberties that human beings need and that weak or bullying governments who want all the power will always want to mess with.
Above all, what we needed to do, Wells believed, was make and ratify as law an international declaration of human rights. In his final years of life, Wells was a core contributor to the Sankey Declaration of the Rights of Man, in fact he was the most active member of its committee, the main drafter of its clauses of fundamental human rights, his versions of which were closely followed in the eventual drafting of the wording for the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, shortly after Wells's own death in 1946.
♥ The current government of the UK, now a hundred days old, announced as soon as it took office that it fully intends to scrap the Human Rights Act, that's the word they always use, though God help me I find it an obscenity, those words scrap and human and rights together in any sentence. That's what I call evolution going backwards.
But it's okay—There is invisible support all around you. Whether Fortuna the online goddess is right or not, Wells was wise enough to call for a much more visible form of support after a lifetime of seeing the dark of the future and the fragility of the light in people's eyes. He had known what it means, since his first years as a writer, to be human and thought of as somewhat alien. And since 1896, when he was a young man writing The Island of Doctor Moreau, a book all about the beast in the human, he'd been interested in how at the mercy of the random or self-serving lawmakers we are. He was in his seventies when he wrote The Rights of Man, "using 'man' of course," as he said, "to cover every individual male or female, child or adult, of the species."
~~What Are We Fighting For? by Ali Smith.