Royal Advice: On putting Britain back on course
. . . Karl Marx postulated that the material conditions of man determine his mode of production and consumption and that these, in turn, determine his sociopolitical organization, his practice of life, eventually his mode of thought and feeling.
But there is a sense in which Marx underestimated the complexity of human passions which led him to a rather romantic idealization of the working class, which was to a certain extent the result of a purely theoretical scheme rather than of an observation of the human reality. The crux of the matter, though, is this one of human motivation.
The dominant view expressed in capitalistic thinking is, of course, that the main incentive for man's work is his interest in monetary rewards. But there is farm more to it than this and that is what we are discovering now in Britain. We cannot avoid the feeling, because that is probably the best way to describe it, that the unrest which expresses itself all about us represents, in part, a loss of faith in what can be summed up as the traditional values and ways of life.
It also represents, I believe, a loss of meaning in life and, in Britain, the search for a new role. The feeling seems to be stronger in this country and more articulate than anywhere else because of the singular quality of the history of the British people and the fact that much of the unrest is focused on the increasingly metropolitan and industrial context of the life of the people of this country.
It is clear that, like Karl Marx, we have neglected the moral factor in man. Because Marx assumed that the goodness of man would assert itself automatically when the economic changes had been achieved, he did not see that a better society could not be brought into life by people who had not undergone a moral change withinm themselves. I believe it is now essential to consider the humanm aspects of the social problem and to examine industrial society from the standpoint of what it does to the humanm qualities of man, to his soul and his spirit. Our concern now should be to restore man to his central place, to find again that concrete relatedness to our fellow men and to nature and to rediscover a meaningful life.
How do we do this? There is, of course, no complete answer as such and I wouldn't dream of proposing one, but I feel compelled to make a few suggestions, which no doubt will pass smoothly and uninterrupted through one ear and out the other. . . .
It seems to me that there is one clear motivation which has run through British history from the time of Alfred the Great to World War II and that was a search for a way of life that would create a community of individuals free in thought and deed and united as a nation only through a common love of justice, liberty, rule of law, and determination and courage to defend the right to be themselves without damage to one another; a nation of individuals united against whoever and whatever tried to overwhelm them.
This concept of a nation of individuals was modeled on the example set by the greatest expression of an individual life in service of ultimate meaning, which was crucified in Palestine some 2,000 years ago. This example was not one which called for a blind, literal imitation of itself, but challenged the human being to recognize that he had within himself a personal obligation toward the life of his time which was peculiarly his own and in the service of which he found a meaning that made his life, no matter how hard or cruel, more than worthwhile.
It seems to be one of the ironies of human existence that inner awareness of the self and of the nature of the universe is often born out of suffering of one kind or another and in that sense we have, to a certain extent, failed to learn the lessons from the indescribable horrors of the last war. I am not for one moment suggesting that we should somehow renounce the material life, pull out the plug, and retreat into a semi-monastic state of communion with nature and the everlasting contemplation of our navels. Far from it. I would merely suggest that we ought to consider the role of education as a means of fostering the growth of individuals who understand and discover their own unique responsibility to the universe.
At the moment I cannot help feeling that there is too great an emphasis on squeezing facts into people's heads rather than educating the whole person. For instance, it seems that religious education in schools is now in a state of uncertainty. I would have said that this is a blessing in disguise because it should enable us to devise a more open-minded approach to religious education -- in other words, being open-minded to the insights of other people, other religions, and other civilizations.
There is a marvelous passage in Mahatma Gandhi's writing about the nature of religion which emphasizes that all religions are a reflection of the fundamental truth, but, as they pass through the human medium, they take different forms. "Even as a tree has a single trunk, but many branches and leaves, so there is one true and perfect religion, but it becomes many as it passes through the human medium.
"The one religion is beyond all speech. Imperfect men put it into such language as they can command, and their words are interpreted by other men equally imperfect. Whose interpretation is to be held to be the right one? Everybody is right from his own standpoint, but it is not possible that everybody is wrong. Hence the necessity of tolerance, which does not mean indifference to one's own faith, but a more intelligent and purer love for it.Tolerance gives us spiritual insight, which is as far from fanaticism as the North Pole from the South. True knowledge of religion breaks down the barriers between faith and faith."
If we do not take immense trouble in the educational procees to "lighten our darkness" we shall indeed foster a nation based on mediocrity and bred in the clogging atmosphere of collectivity, in which the concept of the human being is founded less and less on living individuals and more and more on statistics. Already we tend to be ruled by a statistical average of man, and the average man , like the average rainfall (which is the one rain that never falls), is something that doesn't exist in fact.
The very nature of modern industrialized society tends to impose a kind of totalitarianism of production and work upon modern man, which in itself is the consequence of the creation of ever larger factories and monopolies where the worker is more and more a mechanical member and not an individual entity. And what is more the educational process seems to be geared to produce the kind of person who is designed to fit into this scheme of things, but now the unrest is beginning to make itself felt in the large numbers of school leavers who will have nothing to do with industry -- even at a time of high unemployment when such as the electronics industry is crying out for skilled and trained engineers. . . .
The point I am trying to make is the true reappraisal of our existence is vitally necessary because there is always the danger that what is now a vague and unfocused unrest in the mind of man will become a great uncontrollable anger that couldm overwhelm all that is good in the life of our time. Such a reappraisal can only begin by recognizing again the importance of the individual and his lone individual needs, however humble and small.
In other words, recognizing that man, in order to be successful and productive in a group needs to be motivated in a deeper sense than mere pay and conditions of work. Reappraisal can only begin again by rediscovery of the reverence for all natural forms of life, by the rediscovery of the importance of the small and vulnerable as opposed to the materially vast and physically great, and by realizing that only in a remobilization of the energies of man in smaller units, where everyone is recognizable as an individual and contributes as an individual, can those creative energies be realized to renew modern society and prevent the life of our time coming to at worst a dead, if not mediocre, end in the repetition of described patterns of itself.
To my mind one of the chief causes of our problem today is this one of lack of human motivation. In many ways it is the result of having done very little to get at the root of the problem since those great 19th-century thinkers issued their warnings and postulated their theories. In Britain we may have reached a phase, earlier than anyone else, where we will be forced to make a reappraisal of our industrial life in order to survive. In that sense we have a chance of once again leading the world -- ifm we have the courage to go to the root of the problem in the understanding of man's basic needs. In my view it is necessary to put yourself in somebody else's position and to consider how youm would like to be treated if you were in that position. That way you will very quickly see the kind of organization that is required to satisfy human beings' needs, since I believe that fundamentally, did we but realize it, we all have the same basic impulses, the same need for motivation, for information, for understanding, for concern and above all for being included as part of the organization, in the sense of contributing something to it in a personal rather than an impersonal way. . . .
This, of course, is by no means the entire argument, but I hope I have succeeded in indicating to some extent the ways in which meaning and motivation could be put back into people's lives. . . .
The great problem, inevitably,m is to find leaders of sufficient inspiration to lead the way and to indicate the path in a more detailed manner, but perhaps there is in some ways an unconscious shift in the imagination of modern man that the leadership he needs is to come somewhere from within himself, and to find this leadership within oneself is what our future is all about. . . .
Perhaps one day we will indeed learn to guide the state -- that would be true civilization -- but to do so we must learn to understand ourselves. I can only end by quoting a letter that Carl Jung wrote to Laurens van der Post: "I cannot prove for you that God exists, but my work has proved empirically that the pattern of God exists in every man and that this pattern in the individual has at its disposal the greatest transforming energies of which life is capable. Find this pattern in your own individual self and life is transformed."