A POINT OF CRITICISM -|- Educational Philosophy Theory

A POINT OF CRITICISM

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A few pages back, I ventured to remark that in Utopia or the Millennium the women of the community would probably be supported in common by the labour of the men, and so be secured complete independence of choice and action. When these essays first appeared in a daily newspaper, a Leader among Women wrote to me in reply, "What a paradise you open up to us! Alas for the reality! The question is—could women ever be really independent if men supplied the means of existence? They would always feel they had the right to control us. The difference of the position of a woman in marriage when she has got a little fortune of her own is something miraculous. Men adore money, and the possession of it inspires them with an involuntary respect for the happy possessor."

Now I got a great many letters in answer to these Post-Prandials as they originally came out—some of them, strange to say, not wholly complimentary. As a rule, I am too busy a man to answer letters: and I take this opportunity of apologising to correspondents who write to tell me I am a knave or a fool, for not having acknowledged direct their courteous communications. But this friendly criticism seems to call for a reply, because it involves a question of principle which I have often noted in all discussions of Utopias and Millennia.

For my generous critic seems to take it for granted that women are not now dependent on the labour of men for their support—that some, or even most of them, are in a position of freedom. The plain truth of it is—almost all women depend for everything upon one man, who is or may be an absolute despot. A very small number of women have "money of their own," as we quaintly phrase it—that is to say, are supported by the labour of many among us, either in the form of rent or in the form of interest on capital bequeathed to them. A woman with five thousand a year from Consols, for example, is in the strictest sense supported by the united labour of all of us—she has a first mortgage to that amount upon the earnings of the community. You and I are taxed to pay her. But is she therefore more dependent than the woman who lives upon what she can get out of the scanty earnings of a drunken husband? Does the community therefore think it has a right to control her? Not a bit of it. She is in point of fact the only free woman among us. My dream was to see all women equally free—inheritors from the community of so much of its earnings; holders, as it were, of sufficient world-consols to secure their independence.

That, however, is not the main point to which I desire just now to direct attention. I want rather to suggest an underlying fallacy of all so-called individualists in dealing with schemes of so-called Socialism—for to me your Socialist is the true and only individualist. My correspondent's argument is written from the standpoint of the class in which women have or may have money. But most women have none; and schemes of reconstruction must be for the benefit of the many. So-called individualists seem to think that under a more organised social state they would not be so able to buy pictures as at present, not so free to run across to California or Kamschatka. I doubt their premiss, for I believe we should all of us be better off than we are to-day; but let that pass; 'tis a detail. The main thing is this: they forget that most of us are narrowly tied and circumscribed at present by endless monopolies and endless restrictions of land or capital. I should like to buy pictures; but I can't afford them. I long to see Japan; but I shall never get there. The man in the street may desire to till the ground: every acre is appropriated. He may wish to dig coal: Lord Masham prevents him. He may have a pretty taste in Venetian glass: the flints on the shore are private property; the furnace and the implements belong to a capitalist. Under the existing régime, the vast mass of us are hampered at every step in order that a few may enjoy huge monopolies. Most men have no land, so that one man may own a county. And they call this Individualism!

In considering any proposed change, whether imminent or distant, in practice or in day-dream, it is not fair to take as your standard of reference the most highly-favoured individuals under existing conditions. Nor is it fair to take the most unfortunate only. You should look at the average.

Now the average man, in the world as it wags, is a farm-labourer, an artisan, a mill-hand, a navvy. He has untrammelled freedom of contract to follow the plough on another man's land, or to work twelve hours a day in another man's factory, for that other man's benefit—provided always he can only induce the other man to employ him. If he can't, he is at perfect liberty to tramp the high road till he drops with fatigue, or to starve, unhindered, on the Thames Embankment. He may live where he likes, as far as his means permit; for example, in a convenient court off Seven Dials. He may make his own free bargain with grasping landlord or exacting sweater. He may walk over every inch of English soil, with the trifling exception of the millions of acres where trespassers will be prosecuted. Even travel is not denied him: Florence and Venice are out of his beat, it is true; but if he saves up his loose cash for a couple of months, he may revel in the Oriental luxury of a third-class excursion train to Brighton and back for three shillings. Such advantages does the régime of landlord-made individualism afford to the average run of British citizen. If he fails in the race, he may retire at seventy to the ease and comfort of the Union workhouse, and be buried inexpensively at the cost of his parish.

The average woman in turn is the wife of such a man, dependent upon him for what fraction of his earnings she can save from the public-house. Or she is a shop-girl, free to stand all day from eight in the morning till ten at night behind a counter, and to throw up her situation if it doesn't suit her. Or she is a domestic servant, enjoying the glorious liberty of a Sunday out every second week, and a walk with her young man every alternate Wednesday after eight in the evening. She has full leave to do her love-making in the open street, and to get as wet as she chooses in Regent's Park on rainy nights in November. Look the question in the face, and you will see for yourself that the mass of mothers in every community are dependent for support, not upon men in general, but upon a single man, their husband, against whose caprices and despotism they have no sort of protection. Even the few women who are, as we say, "independent," how are they supported, save by the labour of many men who work to keep them in comfort or luxury? They are landowners, let us put it; and then they are supported by the labour of their farmers and ploughmen. Or they hold North-Western shares; and then they are supported by the labour of colliers, and stokers, and guards, and engine-drivers. And so on throughout. The plain fact is, either a woman must earn her own livelihood by work, which, in the case of the mothers in a community, is bad public policy; or else she must be supported by a man or men, her husband, or her labourers.

My day-dream was, then, to make every woman independent, in precisely the same sense that women of property are independent at present. Would it give them a consciousness of being unduly controlled if they derived their support from the general funds of the body politic, of which they would be free and equal members and voters? Well, look at similar cases in our own England. The Dukes of Marlborough derive a heavy pension from the taxes of the country; but I have never observed that any Duke of Marlborough of my time felt himself a slave to the imperious taxpayer. Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace is justly the recipient of a Civil List annuity; but that hasn't prevented his active and essentially individualist brain from inventing Land Nationalisation. Mr. Robert Buchanan very rightly draws another such annuity for good work done; but Mr. Buchanan's name is not quite the first that rises naturally to my lips as an example of cowed and cringing sycophancy to the ideas and ideals of his fellow-citizens. No, no; be sure of it, this terror is a phantom. One master is real, realisable, instant; but to be dependent upon ten million is just what we always describe as independence.

 
This Post has 40 Comments Add your own!
ll - 21 Ocak 2010 21:34
皮東 - 11 Şubat 2010 06:40

喜樂的心是健康良藥,憂傷的靈使骨枯乾。........................................

陽台 - 6 Mart 2010 21:37

凡走過必留下痕跡!不留言對不起你!........................................

都一樣 - 23 Mart 2010 02:28

我們這一代最偉大的發現是,人類可以藉由改變心中的態度來改變人生。 ..................................................

婉婷婉婷 - 2 Nisan 2010 05:46

生活盡可低,志氣當高潔.................................................

佳芳佳芳 - 12 Nisan 2010 19:39

Care killed the cat. take care yourself.........................................

PorshaCoghlan梁子珠 - 20 Nisan 2010 02:44
蘇pet0701em_halvorsen - 7 Mayıs 2010 18:10

Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

峻帆 - 14 Mayıs 2010 21:13

愛情不是慈善事業,不能隨便施捨。...............................................................

皮皮 - 25 Mayıs 2010 00:43

噴泉的高度,不會超過它的源頭。一個人的事業也是如此,它的成就絕不會超過自己的信念。.............................................

雅婷 - 5 Haziran 2010 15:23

珍惜當下..活在當下..祝大家都平平安安健健康康!........................................

ElwoodK_Rank佳玲 - 9 Haziran 2010 02:19

真正的朋友不會把友誼掛在嘴巴上 ............................................................

adkinsra - 12 Haziran 2010 15:17

成功等於目前,其他都是這句話的註解。........................................

聖妃 - 16 Haziran 2010 00:44
建月 - 20 Haziran 2010 01:07
陳芳 - 28 Haziran 2010 03:44

一棵樹除非在春天開了花,否則難望在秋天結果。....................................................................

思翰思翰 - 2 Temmuz 2010 00:30

河水永遠是相同的,可是每一剎那又都是新的。.................................................................

于庭 - 5 Temmuz 2010 04:18

人有兩眼一舌,是為了觀察倍於說話的緣故。............................................................

玉婷良DGFHFJ瑋黃吳 - 11 Temmuz 2010 00:13

脾氣與嘴巴不好,就算心地再好,也不算好人~~~..................................................

舜佳 - 13 Temmuz 2010 01:27
倫惟倫惟 - 15 Temmuz 2010 15:23

人生中最重要的是要自尊、自愛、自立、自強、自信。..................................................

陳倩江陳倩江 - 18 Temmuz 2010 00:45

聽著音樂逛BLOG~~享受!!我不想上班了啦…..................................................................

ju吳phe宇te佳ns - 20 Temmuz 2010 17:02

人們不缺少力量,他們缺少意志。.......................................................

紹函紹函 - 23 Temmuz 2010 02:37

良好的開端,已是成功的一半。..................................................

周伯啟江彥璋 - 25 Temmuz 2010 23:51

值得一看再看的格子,多謝分享.................................................................

黃惠雯 - 28 Temmuz 2010 23:17

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。......................................................................

謝翁穎翰毓珍 - 31 Temmuz 2010 23:44

良言一句三冬暖,惡語傷人六月寒。......................................................................

家唐銘 - 4 Ağustos 2010 01:51

一棵樹除非在春天開了花,否則難望在秋天結果。............................................................

瑞陳彥 - 11 Ağustos 2010 22:53
惠邱邱邱邱雯 - 14 Ağustos 2010 04:46

回應是最大的支持^^y~~~甘吧嗲............................................................

怡靜怡靜怡靜怡雯 - 18 Ağustos 2010 18:20

善言能贏得聽眾,善聽才能贏得朋友。......................................................................

石JaquelynS_Whitesi白 - 21 Ağustos 2010 04:07

說「吃虧就是便宜的人」,多半不是吃虧的人。......................................................................

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