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From the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew online

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anthem to get excited over, not having to its
credit the achievements of which they are the sym-
bols. We should earn our songs first and sing
them afterwards; redeem our country before glori-
fying its greatness. It is one of the most dis-
couraging features of Australian public life that,
when so much evil awaits remedy, and so much
good work is undone, the commonly proposed
method of reform is to sing something, or wear a
badge, or make a speech. That is aiming at the
flush of hysteria instead of the glow of health.

108



ON FLAG FLAPPING



Discourage it, my dear boy; discourage it all you
can.

And I don't sympathise to any great extent with
the glorification of the Australian native I mean
the white native.

There is, of course, a good reason of sentiment
why a citizen should take a personal pride in his
native country and city, glorying in its success, sor-
rowing in its reverses. The converse is also true
that there is some reason to look askance on a
citizen who takes no interest in his native country,
unless he is in the case of having, for good and suf-
ficient reasons, " adopted " some other nationality.
But it is logically absurd to argue that being born
in a certain spot makes for any particular virtue.
That contention is on a level with the absurd heredi-
tary monarchical system by which a man is sup-
posed to be made a ruler by being born in a royal
bed. The only reason for attaching any import-
ance to being born in Australia is that the assump-
tion is natural that the native will take a particular
pride in the progress of his country that he, in
short, will be a good Australian. Only so far as
that assumption is justified does Australian birth
deserve to be exalted. An immigrant to the coun-
try who proves to be a patriotic citizen is just as
useful, just as admirable. The essential is to be
a good Australian, not a born Australian.

109



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

I would define the ideal National Australian as
an adult enfranchised citizen of the Commonwealth,
of white blood, who knows the English language,
and is conversant with the main principles of the
constitutional government of Australia: and who
puts the interests of Australia first in all his public
actions. That is wide enough to include with native-
born Australians, Britishers, North Americans,
Frenchmen, Germans, Scandinavians, Russians, and
other Europeans who show that they have made
Australia their home and Australian progress their
aim, forgetting the countries which gave them birth,
recognising that a living is a better gift than birth.

It would be to the greatest degree absurd to seek
to limit the Australian National movement to the
native-born in this still-young country, where there
is necessarily a large proportion of the citizens born
abroad, but educated in Australia, whose whole
sympathies arc with Australia; and where there is
another large class, made up of men who have come
here in adult life, and, finding the land good, have
resolved to identify themselves with its aspirations.
These are, as a rule, exceptionally valuable citizens.
No section should be welcomed more eagerly by
Australian patriots, and any narrow, exclusive
society which seeks to make Australian birth a test
for worth makes a serious mistake in boycotting
them.

Your affectionate Uncle.

110



ON FOOD FADS



XIII.

ON FOOD FADS.

SYDNEY, 2/10/-.

My Poor Boy : So you are suffering from indiges-
tion, and you are inclined to follow Bernard Shaw,
and acquire all the ailments of a vegetarian mind.
My dear boy, don't!

'Tis just the late sittings of the House, the worry
of your task as Whip. Get on your horse an hour
a day and throw physic to the Opposition, and don't
worry. Hard work won't hurt you, but worry will.

We are, too many of us, these days joining the
order of the monks of Mount Athos, and spending
much time in the contemplation of our stomachs.
Even the youngest of us have livers and systems
of diet. Rich and poor alike are prone to poke an
interfering finger into the works of the watch, and
undertake to teach the stomach how to digest. The
poor have their pills and potions the innumerable
panaceas of the press advertisements all war-

113 i



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

ranted to train the food-bag not to have a sense of
fulness when it is full, and to make a crushing mill
do the work of an ore-dresser and a cyanide vat.
The rich, with more expensive advice, get to about
the same result, with trips to Spas, systems of diet,
and scientific drugging methods, by which the pig
is made to give up his juices for the digestion of
his brother hog's aldermanic banquets. It is the
age of food fads. Almost every eye is turned intro-
spectively to the stomach, and a vast library ac-
cumulates of books about food and feeding, and
chewing and digestion, and -well, the tale does not
stop there. Even the drama reflects the current
craze, and one whole play and bits of a hundred
others have food for their theme. Man's life
stretches from his breakfast food to his supper
or his stern denial of supper and is filled with the
digestions in between.

The breakfast-food fad begins the day. Break-
fast should be, above all meals, one of cheerfulness
and good humour, tinged with the rising hopes of
a day's achievement. In a bright room; roses trail-
ing over the table; magpies carolling outside; a hint
of perfume from some little pleasaunce stealing
through the open window; some food on the table.
That is breakfast. No matter much what food.
The breakfaster is fresh from his victory over what
is next to Death, he is full of thankfulness for the
night, full of hopes for the day. It is desecration

114



to allow thoughts to intrude, to dominate, of some-
body's patent breakfast food which is an infallible
remedy for dyspepsia, or somebody else's patent
nose-bag system of dry chewing which cures spots
before the eyes. The food really does not much
matter, so long as it is the sort of food that the
breakfaster feels that he likes and is decently
cooked. It is the breakfasting spirit that matters,
and of that spirit the essential is to banish all pes-
simistic doubts as to the possibility of digesting this
or that. Begin the day with doubts, and you end
it with dyspepsia.

Lunch is a meal anathema to many food faddists.
For the man who is late in opening his desk or tool-
box, and early in closing it, that is all very well.
For the man whose hours of work are eight or more,
it is, as a rule, ill. Lunch-time gives a chance to
pause in the march of work, to think over what has
been done and of what is yet to do. But with not
too serious thoughts of work; rather a sense of
interlude and the brisk enjoyment of a meal
frivolous for the light worker, substantial for the
man who is moving heavy things, be they stones,
political principles, or massive enterprises. Again,
only one rule to be observed: eat what you like, and
don't worry about its fate afterwards. The
stomach is a nervous worker, and hates to be
watched at its toil.

115



Not until dinner-time should civilised man think
seriously of what he is to eat or eating. Make
breakfast-time a quiet munch, to accompany rather
than disturb mental processes a chewing over the
end of good memories and better anticipations.
Make lunch-time an entr'acte between tasks. But
at dinner, dine. Give yourself up to the pleasure
of food. What your purse can buy and your taste
allow, enjoy.

"The pleasure of food" that's the rub. The
bad object of all food faddism is to make food a
weariness and a burden. Food is to be nasty, lest
we eat too much of it. Food is to be chewed to
extinction, so as to make a hard work of feeding.
Food is to be limited in quantity to the bare
amount necessary for sustenance, for that is
economy and tends to work-efficiency. All of which
is arrant nonsense and founded on the wholly
foolish idea, which is more and more obsessing
civilisation, that man is on earth to work. He is
on earth to be glad; if he doesn't believe that he
is mad. Religious fanatics in various lands and at
different times have preached that man should
groan through this life as a sort of dismal ante-
chamber to the next. That idea had barely won
general repudiation from the civilised white man,
before pseudo-scientists came and in the name of
wisdom! to preach something of the same doctrine,
with this difference only, that we must fast and

116



ON FOOD FADS



mortify, not for the sake of Heaven, but for the sake
of Stomach.

Reason should revolt at the idea of enthroning
the stomach as a jealous Deity. When one wise
man was told that by abjuring alcohol and tobacco,
and flesh and all other things that pleased his
palate, and by confining his stoking to sawdust
stuffs, he could live to be far greyer and more tooth-
less and more wrinkled than his compeers, he
retorted that for him better 50 years with cakes
and ale than 100 with grass and water. Similarly
wise was he to whom was recommended a singu-
larly nasty diet of some milk preparation warranted
to prolong his years; he reckoned that he would pre-
fer to die young. Rightly; Tithonus did not find
immortality all fun. It is the intensity of life that
counts, not its duration. If more years can be won
from Death by being consistently miserable, what
is the use, since it is only adding miserable years
to miserable years? Tobacco, wine, meat, spices,
sweets, all the things which tickle the palate
shorten life. Even so; if they sweeten it, the bar-
gain is a fair one.

Most absurd of all food-fad arguments, and mark-
ing the extreme of this modern folly, is that recently
founded on a consideration of the Japanese war by
a leading London paper. The Jap is a highly
efficient soldier, partly because he needs but little
food, and that of the most easily carried and pre-
117



"FROM THE' OLD DOG."

pared kind. Therefore, the Britisher should adopt
a Japanese dietary and become more efficient. The
inherent fallacy of all such theories is the idea that
Life is an object, not a means. We have life so
that we may live. We do not live merely so that
we may continue life.

That many people eat too much is, of course, true.
The test is, does their feeding make them unhappy?
If so, their diet is unwise, and they should reform.
But that a comfortable man, whose Department of
the Interior is satisfactorily performing the tasks
which he sets it, should take thought of how much
less he should eat is an absurdity. That anybody
should abjure a rational use of the pleasures of food
is a folly almost a . wickedness. So far as the
study of food and feeding goes to promote the
comfort and pleasure of man and the cheapening of
good meals, it is a worthy inquiry. So soon as it
begins to theorise on the basis that we eat merely
to live, it stands condemned. And for the great
majority of men the one and only safe rule of diet
is to eat what their appetites dictate, irrespective
of proportions of proteids, and so on; and not to
worry. A diet of German sausage and bush tea,
minus a racking of the stomach with doubts and
inquiries, would be probably more wholesome than
the most perfectly-balance menu science could
devise, solemnly chewed over with doubts and dis-
mays, and watched anxiously through every inch

[18



ON FOOD FADS



of its progress back to primitive elements. There
is only one really essential order of etiquette with
"Little Mary," and that is, not to watch the lady at
her work. Like any other industrious female per-
son, she resents that, and becomes flurried. Eat
and don't worry.

Write in a week and tell me that you still can
enjoy a steak.

Your affectionate old Uncle.



119



ON SOCIALISM.



XIV.

ON SOCIALISM.

SYDNEY, 2/1/-.

My Dear Jack; Am I a Socialist? Of course I
am. And I am also on some points not a Socialist.
Let us define terms.

When the first prehistoric father began to sacri-
fice his own convenience to give a hand to the
mother of his child, Socialism dawned. It took a
long step forward when a group of our arboreal
ancestors found that by joint action the appetite of
the pterodactyl could be better eluded. As civilisa-
tion progressed, Socialism marched with it step
by step. The more complex life became, the more
the need arose of joint instead of individual control
of enterprises. Practically all the great European
civilisations were very markedly socialistic the
Greek democracies, the Hebrew theocracy, the
Roman Empire. In Asia and aboriginal America,
Socialism developed to an even greater extent with
the community growth. Peru's social system might
have been planned by Bellamy. Japan preserves
interesting relics in the shape of little communistic
settlements, here and there, of what was once, pro-
bably a wide-spread system of State Socialism, and

121



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

which was doubtless destroyed by the invasion of
war. Further, Socialism has been an essential
feature of all religious movements.

The description "Socialist" is therefore rather
vague. It may mean much or little. A more
exact definition is needed. "Nationalisation" of in-
dustries is, of course, the same as Socialism, and
the use of that word does not make for greater
clearness. The question again arises: How much
Nationalisation?

I favour a gradual direct absorption by the State
of all industries which have a tendency to become
monopolies, and a complete nationalisation of the
land, by methods disturbing as little as possible
to such existing interests as are worthy of sym-
pathetic consideration.

But there are some limitations to Socialism. Good
government has two aims the preservation of
individual liberty and the promotion of industrial
prosperity. Of the two, the first is the more impor-
tant. Better Liberty with a crust than serfdom
with luxury. The ruling principle of government
is to be best evolved from a consideration of these
two aims, which should be pursued by parallel
courses. Where any socialistic development would
interfere with Liberty it must stand condemned.
Such proposals (put forward by some Socialists) as
that for a phalanstery life, for compulsory collec-
tive feeding (as was the rule in Sparta), for inter-

122



ON SOCIALISM



ference with the marriage or parentage of the
healthy, or for a general State control of every call-
ing, cannot be supported. They may come, but it
would be deplorable if it were so, for they are
against the principle of human Liberty and "Liberty
is to be served whatever happens."

Where I see a grave danger to the socialistic ideal
is in the tendency to make the treatment of Govern-
ment employees a matter of political "smooging.''
This eats into the fibre of the democracy with
flatteries and concessions, sets up a false standard
of popularity the old "bread and circuses" standard
which finished the ruin of another democracy; dis-
credits by maladministration the idea of State
enterprise; and lays the foundation of a great re-
action. And all this is done with a foolish good-
nature which does much to disarm criticism. Every-
one likes to see the worker earning good wages,
likes to think that the toiler is to the fullest extent
protected against any arbitrary tyranny on the part
of his "boss," hears with pleasure of the ancient
allowed to potter away still at his job when all real
capacity for work has left him. On the other hand,
it is necessary to run the risk of being reproached
with inhumanity if a critic takes, even for the most
valid reasons, the opposite side, and objects to un-
deserved wage increases, to the subversion of all
order and discipline, to the coddling of veterans on
State works.

123



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

If the State's enterprises are not carried out on
business lines, they must either fail altogether or
continue to exist only as an intolerable and unneces-
sary burden on the mass of the people. They
should be conducted on such lines as to ensure to
every employee a decent living wage; and also
a rate of pay at least as high, and, if possible,
higher than rules in private employment; further,
their management should keep always in view the
equal civic rights of labourer and overseer, treating
every employee with justice. But loafing, favourit-
ism, over-payment, extravagance, lack of discipline,
should be as carefully guarded against as in a well-
managed private enterprise. For the community to
defraud its employee is no worse than for the em-
ployee to defraud the community.

If the State enterprise is such that it enters into
competition with private undertakings, the faults
due to inefficiency are quickly discovered, and in
time the State goes out of that field. If the in-
dustry concerned is a State monopoly, it has a
longer course to run, but in time must come to an
end, either in the exhaustion of the State, or in its
resolve to rid itself of the burden by invoking the
aid of the private capitalist.

The system of social democracy is one presenting
great difficulties of administration. A State
Socialism with a despotic or semi-despotic head is
a type of Government familiar enough and generally

124



ON SOCIALISM



successful enough. Ancient Peru was a Socialism
of that sort; Russia (which is far more socialistic
than Australia) is a modern example of a move-
ment towards the Peruvian system. A despotic
Government finds itself helped rather than hindered
by the extension of its enterprises, for every new
employee is a new functionary vitally interested in
the maintenance of the despotism which governs
and employs him. But when a State progresses
toward Socialism owns its railways, waterworks,
telegraphs, docks, and, to some extent, its factories
and at the same time wishes to be a free demo-
cracy, the difficulty at once arises that the employees
of the State are also, in a measure, the governors
of the State, and can, if they are foolish enough,
and if the Government is foolish enough to permit it,
use their political influence to cover up extravagance,
laziness, and incapacity. The issue is then directly
raised as to whether the State can continue at once
its democracy and its Socialism, whether it will
not have to give up one or the other, resort to the
tyranny of disfranchising its servants, or give' up its
enterprises altogether.

To sum up I want to see Socialism go as far as
it can; but it musn't run counter to democracy, and
the two essentials of democracy are honesty and
Liberty.

Your affectionate old Uncle.



125



THE WOMAN QUESTION



XV.

THE WOMAN QUESTION.

SYDNEY, 1/10/-.

My Dear Jack: Woman isn't "a question." She
is Life. But if you want to know my "views"

Generalising broadly, and asking leave to ignore
occasional isolated circumstances which may seem
to conflict with the theory, I would say that woman's
progress and achievement up to the ipth century
were on the lines suggested by man's ideal of
woman; that the 2Oth century may see the experi-
ment of woman developing along woman's idea of
herself.

Literature is the one faithful mirror in which the
facts as to past ages can be seen reflected through
the centuries. Looking therein, it is plain enough
that at no period of which mankind has any certain
cognisance did woman fail to win, with the advance
of civilisation, certain very valuable "rights" or,
rather, "privileges." The Homeric gallery contains
many pictures of women Penelope, Helen, Andro-
mache, the nurse Eurycleia, Nausicaa who, in

127



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

exalted or humble stations, received a high respect
and a marked deference; whose opinions were often
sought and followed; whose position in life was one
of dignity and power. The Hebrew chronicles are
no less rich in instances of women being allowed to
take an active' and respectable part in the affairs of
the nation. The more dim and uncertain Asiatic
and Germanic records disclose here and there a
woman, or women, sharing to a very large extent
in the control of social and national matters; and
the position of women in the Egyptian civilisation
was a very high one. In the more modern Grecian
and Roman times, woman's "progress" continued,
and the occurrence of an Aspasia shows that there
was no objection on the part of man to permitting
an occasional woman even to share his political
power.

But it will be seen on close examination that in
all these cases woman developed and progressed
as man's woman, not as herself. Helen is glorious
because she is the acme of man's desire; Andro-
mache, as mother of the hero's child; Penelope,
because of her faithfulness to her husband's in-
terests; Nausicaa, because of her maiden care for
household duties and her frank aspiration for
marriage with a hero; Aspasia, as the consort
whose mental gifts enable her to aid the ambitions
of Pericles. Every privilege or right that woman
was conceded was given by man as the admiring

128



THE WOMAN QUESTION

reward of her fidelity to him, of her good service
to him, of her recognition that her mission was to
minister to him. Even when a woman mounted the
throne it was because she had been daughter or
consort to some great man, and promised to con-
tinue his policy better than any male available.
Whenever woman sought to depart from what man
regarded as the proper aim (and that was "to play
for his hand"),* her presumption was as sternly
punished as was the misdoing of the maids of
Ithaca, who were "strung up to the rafters, like so
many sparrows, to dry."

Christianity, it has often been argued, changed
all that, and woman and man, with equal soul value,
came to be considered as with equal earth-rights.
But, notwithstanding any such soul-value theory,
there is no proof that, either in teaching or in prac-
tice, the new religion of civilisation made the
slightest difference in woman's position. What
there is of positive evidence seems to suggest that
Christianity accentuated the idea that woman was
for man and not for herself. From the Adam-and-
Eve incident to the direct injunction of Paul, "wives
be subject to your husbands," there is much in the
Bible to discourage and prohibit the idea of sex-
equality. Nor did the Age of Chivalry, which pro-
duced "the Romance of the Rose," and represented
humble love of a woman as the chief glory of a man,
make any real difference in woman's position. She

j 129



"FROM THE OLD DOG"

was set up for adoration certainly, and knights did
most curious penances for her favour, but man's
idol was of the man's own making, worshipped with
much mystic sensuousness merely to give a sharper,
finer zest to his love affairs, and most unceremoni-
ously dethroned if she departed one whit from the
rules of the game as man wanted it played.

It would have been not natural if it had been
otherwise. Man evolved from lower types mainly
through the subjection of the female to the fostering
protection of the male. If in any of the pre-Homo
types the females tried to play a lone hand, those
types certainly disappeared; the mother could not
survive in the struggle for existence without some
protection from the male. Those types flourished
best wherein the male was most careful of the female
during motherhood, until Man was evolved with his
chivalry, the very essence of which was the idea of
female subjection and helplessness. The Middle
Age was certainly too early a date to expect the
instinct implanted by evolution to be nullified by any
arguments of abstract reasoning.

Very recently, indeed, was the claim for sex-
equality made that claim which marks an entirely
new step in the history of the human race. Almost
as soon as made it has been conceded here, by the
granting of the franchise to women, a concession
which will probably mean nothing practical for years
to come, but yet which has a startling racial signifi-

130



THE WOMAN QUESTION

cance. Woman now is given the right to shape her
own destinies. Hitherto she has only had the right
to consider the means by which she could make her-
self most pleasant to man. Now, with full political
independence, she has the right (whether she exer-
cises it or not) to make herself unpleasant to man,
not only as an individual, but as a class. This
marks a complete revolution in human thought on
the sex question, and a sublime confidence that the
tendencies implanted by thousands of centuries of
evolution have at last been destroyed. Whether it
is to have any real effect on the world's social rela-
tions is a point which I strongly doubt. Probably
the suffrage will not be used by woman (as it might
be used) to assert in a practical way her independ-
ence of man. Woman will at the polling booth, as


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Online LibraryFrank FoxFrom the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew → online text (page 6 of 8)