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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:15:17
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The new monastic orders were at first tolerated and even encouraged by the Lhasa oligarchy, but presently they were reprimanded for stirring up unrest. For though each had its headquarters in some craggy monastery, the inmates travelled periodically, exhorting the people. They were in fact something between monks, friars, and revolutionaries. They preached a sort of religious communism, and demanded the abdication of the ruling class, the wealthy monastic orders. The crisis came when the new Lamas renounced the celibacy which for centuries had been accepted by the monastic class. The motive of this change was a thoroughly modernistic motive. It was realized in the new monasteries that the two most precious innate social capacities were the disposition for genuine community and the capacity for intelligent action. It was realized also that, although the average level of intelligence had not sunk so far in Tibet as in more advanced countries, there was a steady drain of the more intelligent into the celibate monastic orders. This, said the servants of the light, must stop. Recognizing the importance of self-denial for spiritual discipline, they recognized also the importance of propagating intelligence. They therefore boldly affirmed their intention of striving for complete spiritual discipline and insight though ‘unsupported by the prop of celibacy’. Biological responsibility, they said, must not be shirked by the servants of the light, even though they must assume other weighty responsibilities. Not only so, but the experience of family life, with all its trials and all its mental enrichment, must not be shirked by those who undertook to lead and govern the people. They recognized that family life must not be allowed to absorb too much attention, but to avoid this they advocated that the state should assume the final responsibility for the upbringing of all children.

The aim of the leaders of the new world was a high degree not only of national but of provincial self-sufficiency. Thus in Britain, where economic organization centred on the tidal generators of the west coast of Scotland, industry was not allowed to concentrate in that district. Improved transmission made it possible to take the electric current into every part of the island, and to scatter the new bright factories and workers’ dwellings throughout the agricultural regions. On the other hand much of the former congested industrial area of Lancashire and Yorkshire and the Midlands was once more largely agricultural. In consequence, not only the Scottish and Welsh nations but the new-old English provinces of Wessex, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, and so on, developed each its own limited but vigorous autonomy, and made its own contribution to the English culture. England in turn was becoming far more self-sufficient than of old. Improved agriculture and reduced population made it possible for the three British peoples to feed themselves, though there was always a large import of luxury foods from abroad. Britain had long ago ceased to be ‘the workshop of the world’, since every country was in the main its own workshop, but Britain’s imports were ‘paid for’ by the export of the special lines of high-quality machinery and fabrics for which the British were becoming famous. Trade, in fact, was becoming more and more an exchange not of necessities, but of products which local genius produced for the amplification and embellishment of life throughout the world. Each people aimed at being basically self-sufficient but also at producing for the world economy some special class of goods which could be produced with unique success by its local tradition and skill. Each also prided itself both on its cosmopolitan and on its national culture, both on its insight into the common human tradition and on its peculiar contribution to that ever-exfoliating culture.

While the Russian Empire was busy digesting America and Africa, the Chinese would-be empire was consolidating itself throughout eastern Asia. In the north, Japan, Korea, Manchuria and Mongolia, in the south, Assam, Siam, Burma and the East Indies, were one by one brought within the new empire. Tibet, which had formerly been part of the ancient Chinese Empire, was able to maintain a precarious independence by playing off each of its formidable neighbours against the other.

But there was another reason for increasing self-sufficiency. At first sight it seemed a reason pointing in the opposite direction. The aim of the world government was the development of the world as a whole, not of any one people. Local cultural differences were therefore to be fostered, since it was realized that mental diversity was the breath of life. This, it might seem, would involve fostering economic specialization in each country, since economic diversity should produce mental diversity. But extreme psychological specialization was now recognized to be very dangerous. The highly specialized factory worker of the past had been but the caricature of a real man. The agricultural worker who knew of nothing but turnips had been equally limited. For a people to be capable of significant cultural variation it must have within its range a great diversity of activities. Persons in each walk of life must be open to the direct and constant influence of persons whose occupations, and therefore their mentalities, are different. A highly specialized national economy breeds a lop-sided mental culture. In a world of highly specialized nations this danger can be partly avoided by the insistence on foreign travel; but not effectively; for travel is either a holiday occupation, in which case its effect though valuable, is not far-reaching; or a way of life, in which case the traveller is mentally uprooted from his native culture.

Certain luxury foods, and every villager demanded his share of luxury, had to be procured from the local or national factory, and some specially choice articles from foreign lands. But any village with any pretension to taste and local pride could produce characteristic local variants of the essential synthetic ‘meats’, ‘breads’, ‘cheeses’, ‘fruits’, and drinks. Many an isolated homestead, if its food-making was managed with intelligence and artistry, could produce a simple but elegant meal to delight the most fastidious traveller.

Entirely careless of their lives, the revolutionaries advanced in thousands on the machine-guns of their masters. Before effective help could come from China the régime was broken, and a people’s government was in command. The rulers of China were at this time much occupied with the danger from Russia. They refrained from sending an expeditionary force against Japan, and contented themselves with a very strict blockade. The new Japanese government set about slaughtering all who were suspected of implication in the former regime, and all who disobeyed its orders. Food was the supreme problem. The more people were killed, the more hope for the survivors. The death penalty was therefore inflicted for the most venial offences, and whenever guilt seemed at all plausible. Everything feasible was done to stimulate agriculture. The peasants were forced, under threat of death, to cultivate vast tracts of poor land, for which, owing to the blockade, fertilizer were lacking. It was promised, however, that though in the coming year famine was inevitable, next season would see a plentiful harvest. Loyalty towards the future of Japan and the human race, it was said, demanded the utmost sacrifice from the present generation. But the new land produced a miserable crop; and the people, enfeebled by famine and disease, harassed by brutal treatment, and utterly without the religious stiffening that had fortified Tibet, became incapable of effort, and too physically weak for hard agricultural work. The régime was impotent. The more desperate its plight, the more it killed and tortured. The new rulers knew well that any relaxation of discipline would have brought immediate destruction to themselves; and most of them still sincerely believed that their survival was necessary to the state. In the end the Chinese government, choosing its own time, quietly recovered possession of the Japanese islands.

Hence arose the challenge which the forwards laid before mankind. It was a call to action. It was a call to all individuals throughout the world to live wholly for the common task, to give up everything but the spirit, to discard not only mundane ends but also the vanity of science and art and intellectual exploration, to detach themselves absolutely even from the gentle bondage of personal love, to refrain from procreation, to drain the whole energy of the race to the last drop for the supreme spiritual task.


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