I'm in the process of writing a few disparate posts that are united by a common thread: a question that I find myself asking with greater frequency. Simply put, it is the question of the extent that nefarious intentions have played in human history. Have people directly manipulated others so as to remain better off? The answer on a general level must be yes. But I want to know more - and over a few posts will ask whether the founders and spreaders of religion and society, knew what they were doing? Have all the intentions been honourable, or is there no such thing as an honest public servant?
Fortuitously, I'm still ploughing through H.G Wells' excellent tome, 'The Work, Wealth & Happiness of Mankind' and Chapter 10, section 5 begins:
Do The Modern Rich Want the Poor to be Kept Poor?
...We can represent Professor Soddy as saying on behalf of physical science: "We men of science have abolished toil, and people are still toiling; we have created plenty, and everywhere there is want. What has got between us and them?" And then sharply: "What the devil are you money-fakers up to?" These are not his words, but his manifest temper.
Here, however, we are not dealing with his temper, but with a very vital issue he raises. He raises it as a side issue, but it is indeed a fundamental issue. What he says in the particular matter we now want to discuss, follows. It is a bold assertion of the malevolence of successful humanity. He says in effect that most energetic men live for power to triumph over their fellow creatures. Here is the passage:
"Now it is one thing for science to make some relatively much richer than others, and quite another, without even a by-your-leave, for science so insidiously to undermine the established order of human society as to put all beyond the persuasive influence of want. There are many neither unimportant nor over-scrupulous people in the community, who would probably quite openly side with no civilisation at all rather than a, to them, so thoroughly uninteresting and objectionable one. Some have, in fact, already scented the danger. It used to be that only the genuine artists and aesthetes who railed, quite ineffectively, at the growing mechanization of the age. But when the tide turns, and science by making the poor richer makes the rich relatively poorer, the movement to break up the machines and revert to hand and serf labour is likely to receive some very unexpected and effective recruits."
...In response to his indignant outcries we are enabled to underline the more deliberate impression our survey evokes. We do not believe that any large proportion of bankers are plotting to keep the world poor. There is a number of honestly perplexed men among then, men who are dismayed and distressed by the turn things are taking. They are often business men unaccustomed as yet to the scientific method of thought, but they are picking it up steadily.
And further, as to the rich generally. There are only a minority of rich people, we suggest, who clearly and definitely want the poor to be kept poor, and they are not among the "forceful and successful" types.
...The way to the new world economy, when everyone will be prosperous, is likely to be hard, difficult and dangerous. But the best brains will be on our side. They will not be against us. We may have to wade through morasses of foolishness and fight stampedes of boorish plutocrats, but that plotting of a "majority of the most forceful and successful people in the community" against progress is a nightmare of Professor Soddy's bad hours.
...If Professor Soddy is right and the interpretation of current fact in this book is wrong; if it is true that the majority of able spirits among the contemporary rich are, for the sake of power and preeminence, deliberately impoverishing a community which need not be impoverished, then the conception pervading this book of the progressive construction of a universally prosperous economic world community out of the current social order, is unsound. There is nothing to be hoped for along that line. There is nothing for it but, as the Marxists teach, a class war against the rich and the able, social insurrection, the breaking up of the whole contemporary organization of mankind in wrath and disgust, and beginning again upon a different ground plan, with whatever hope is left to us, amidst the ruins.
So Wells considered the possibility that the rich and powerful (with nefarious intentions) plot to keep the poor in their place, but dismissed it as a pessimistic view of humanity. Wells though was writing at a time when the great experiment that was the Soviet Union, was moving in directions to which he was very sympathetic. Wells' own hope was a unified socialist world, ruled by science and working for the greater good. He did not live to see the collapse of communism and the great failure all of the modern governments have become. Russia today is a good example of the corruption and failure of the communist dream (not necessarily because the idea is bad, but because humans seem incapable of working together to the extent that is required).
Slavery has existed for many thousands of years and still exists in some corners of the globe today. That one human can enslave another is undeniable. Whether there is a conspiracy by the rich and powerful to keep the poor in place, is impossible to say. I don't see a way of knowing for sure what the state of affairs actually is. For the first time in my life, I've begun to consider political science and history as sources from which to draw conclusions, but I am not naive enough to think we can ever know for sure the extent to which the modern world is contrived for the benefit of a minority.
For some reason, even these legitimate questions have a whiff of conspiracy theory about them, but how does the saying go? 'There's no smoke without fire'.Go Top