When men have nothing else to occupy their minds, they take to thinking. Having nothing better to do until B. arrived, I fell to musing.
What a wonderful piece of Socialism modern civilisation has become - not the Socialism of the so-called Socialists-a system modelled apparently upon the methods of the convict prison-a system under which each miserable sinner is to be compelled to labour, like a beast of burden, for no personal benefit to himself, but only for the good of the community-a world where there are to be no men, but only numbers-where there is to be no ambition and no hope and no fear,-but the Socialism of free men, working side by side in the common workshop, each one for the wage to which his skill and energy entitle him; the Socialism of responsible, thinking individuals, not of State-directed automata.
Here was I, in exchange for the result of some of my labour, going to be taken by Society for a treat, to the middle of Europe and back. Railway lines had been laid over the whole 700 or 800 miles to facilitate my progress; bridges had been built, and tunnels made; an army of engineers, and guards, and signal-men, and porters, and clerks were waiting to take charge of me, and to see to my comfort and safety. All I had to do was to tell Society (here represented by a railway booking-clerk) where I wanted to go, and to step into a carriage; all the rest would be done for me. Books and papers had been written and printed; so that if I wished to beguile the journey by reading, I could do so. At various places on the route, thoughtful Society had taken care to be ready for me with all kinds of refreshment (her sandwiches might be a little fresher, but maybe she thinks new bread injurious for me). When I am tired of travelling and want to rest, I find Society waiting for me with dinner and a comfortable bed, with hot and cold water to wash in and towels to wipe upon. Wherever I go, whatever I need, Society, like the enslaved genii of some Eastern tale, is ready and anxious to help me, to serve me, to do my bidding, to give me enjoyment and pleasure. Society will take me to Ober-Ammergau, will provide for all my wants on the way, and, when I am there, will show me the Passion Play, which she has arranged and rehearsed and will play for my instruction; will bring me back any way I like to come, explaining, by means of her guide-books and histories, everything upon the way that she thinks can interest me; will, while I am absent, carry my messages to those I have left behind me in England, and will bring me theirs in return; will look after me and take care of me and protect me like a mother-as no mother ever could.
All that she asks in return is, that I shall do the work she has given me to do. As a man works, so Society deals by him.
To me Society says: "You sit at your desk and write, that is all I want you to do. You are not good for much, but you can spin out yards of what you and your friends, I suppose, call literature; and some people seem to enjoy reading it. Very well: you sit there and write this literature, or whatever it is, and keep your mind fixed on that. I will see to everything else for you. I will provide you with writing materials, and books of wit and humour, and paste and scissors, and everything else that may be necessary to you in your trade; and I will feed you and clothe you and lodge you, and I will take you about to places that you wish to go to; and I will see that you have plenty of tobacco and all other things practicable that you may desire-provided that you work well. The more work you do, and the better work you do, the better I shall look after you. You write-that is all I want you to do."
"But," I say to Society, "I don't like work; I don't want to work. Why should I be a slave and work?"
"All right," answers Society, "don't work. I'm not forcing you. All I say is, that if you don't work for me, I shall not work for you. No work from you, no dinner from me-no holidays, no tobacco."
And I decide to be a slave, and work.
Society has no notion of paying all men equally. Her great object is to encourage brain. The man who merely works by his muscles she regards as very little superior to the horse or the ox, and provides for him just a little better. But the moment he begins to use his head, and from the labourer rises to the artisan, she begins to raise his wages.
Of course hers is a very imperfect method of encouraging thought. She is of the world, and takes a worldly standard of cleverness. To the shallow, showy writer, I fear, she generally pays far more than to the deep and brilliant thinker; and clever roguery seems often more to her liking than honest worth. But her scheme is a right and sound one; her aims and intentions are clear; her methods, on the whole, work fairly well; and every year she grows in judgment.
One day she will arrive at perfect wisdom, and will pay each man according to his deserts.
But do not be alarmed. This will not happen in our time.