This morning, I made the foolish (and probably wildly ruinous) decision to comment on an article on the Guardian website.
"Ruinous?" I hear you cry. "But surely it is a good thing to engage in the real world, to intercourse with other humans, to debate the issues that really matter?"
Well maybe, but the thing that scares me is the power of the online pulpit. How many ludicrous, pompous, boss-eyed, biased views of the world have we read being spouted by some twonk who knows that they are right? Exactly. I mean, this morning I also read a snatch of a website where the guy was claiming that to be a true Christian, one must arm oneself ('since God is the defender of widows – how are we to defend anything unless we have weapons?'). For Heavens' fricking sake.
I just don't want to be right (or at least, to believe that I am). I get so uncomfortable with things like that.
For salvation, I therefore turn to the happy world of GK Chesterton, a pulpit survivor, who set out his stall a hundred years ago to even-handedly laugh at everyone and everything (himself most of all). This is how to deal with serious issues.
It is the beginning of all true criticism of our time to realise that it has really nothing to say, at the very moment when it has invented so tremendous a trumpet for saying it.
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types – the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine.
But there is another strong objection which I, one of the laziest of all the children of Adam, have against the Leisure State. Those who think it could be done argue that a vast machinery using electricity, water-power, petrol, and so on, might reduce the work imposed on each of us to a minimum. It might, but it would also reduce our control to a minimum. We should ourselves become parts of a machine, even if the machine only used those parts once a week. The machine would be our master, for the machine would produce our food, and most of us could have no notion of how it was really being produced.
That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child.