"But I should have thought they would be so fatigued that you would lose as much as you gain, or more perhaps," I said.
"Oh no," he answered; "they are allowed one day's complete rest, which they must spend in bed; their diet is arranged, both during the time and for a month after. They must go to bed for two hours extra every night for the following month. The effect is most beneficial. They like it too, on the whole, for they get paid for all the extra product-- that is to say, it is added to their pension fund."
"But I thought the pension fund was so calculated," I said, "that it tallies exactly with what is required for the support of each man from the time he ceases to be able to work."
"Certainly," he replied. "After fifty-five most of our men work an hour a day less every two years, with variations according to their capacity, as tested by the medical examinations."
"Then how do they benefit," I asked, "by the product of the strenuous month, if it is only added to their pension and not paid at the time?"
"If it is added to the pension fund," he replied, "it is obvious that they must benefit."
I did not pursue the matter further. He asked me if I had been to the Annual Medical Exhibition. I said I had not heard of it, and did not suppose I should receive permission to see it, as I was not altogether well qualified to understand it. He said it was most interesting. He was not a medical man himself, of course; but as an officer in the army he had had to get some acquaintance with physiology.
"The medical menagerie gets more interesting every year," he said.
"The medical menagerie!" I exclaimed. "Whatever is that?"
"It is a wonderful collection of animals, not only domestic but wild animals too, upon which experiments have been carried out. There are goats with sheep's legs. There are cows with horses' hearts, and dogs with only hind-legs, and pigs without livers--oh, all sorts of things. The funniest is a pig with a tiger's skin."
"And what is the object of it all?" I said.
"Oh, just a regular part of medical research. The most valuable experiments are those with bacilli, of course; but only the experts can understand these, as a rule."
"But it is not safe to infer that the results of experiments on animals will be applicable to human beings," I said.
"Of course not, without further verification; but the Special Medical Board have ample powers to carry out research."
"What, upon human beings?" I exclaimed.
"People do not always know when they are being experimented upon," he remarked significantly. "Besides, if a man is already suffering from an incurable disease, what does it matter? Of course, we use anaesthetics, wherever possible at least; that goes without saying."
After dinner we drank wine for a little time, seated in little groups after the manner of a custom in some of the colleges in Luniland. Here, instead of being placed with the two gentlemen who had been my neighbours at table, I was one of a group of four, the others being two professors and a high official in the Sociological Department. One of the professors was Secret Councillor Sikofantis-Sauer, an Economist; the other was Church Councillor Muhgubb-Slimey, a Theologian. We talked of indifferent matters for some time until the High Official left us, when the idea occurred to me to try whether the Economist would enlighten me upon the subject of the ultimate destination of the phenomenal production of the Meccanian economic organisation.
I remarked that I had never seen in any country so few signs of discontent as in Meccania, and I asked if this was due to the great wealth that must necessarily be produced by the efficiency of the methods of production. Professor Sikofantis- Sauer, the Economist, said that my question betrayed that I was not acquainted with the Meccanian System of Ethics. I wondered why the Professor of Economics should begin talking of Ethics. He went on, "Social discontent was never really due to lack of wealth. Properly speaking, it has no relation to material wealth at all. This has been proved up to the hilt--if it needed any proof--by our researches in Economic and Social History. In a nutshell the proof is this. What was called poverty in the early nineteenth century would have been considered affluence in, let us say, the fifth or even the tenth century. The whole idea of wealth is subjective. Now anyone knows that, where wealth is allowed to become the main objective of the social activities of the people, the desire for individual wealth is insatiable. The notion that you can ever reach a state of contentment, by increasing the wealth of the people, is one of the greatest fallacies that even the economists of Luniland ever entertained--and that is saying a good deal. Consequently, if we have succeeded in eradicating discontent, it has not been by pursuing the mirage of a popular El Dorado. No, you must replace the insane desire for the gratification of individual indulgence by a conception of a truer kind of wellbeing. If the individual once grasps the fact that in himself, and by himself, he is little better than an arboreal ape, and that all he possesses, all he can possess, is the gift of the State--which gives him nourishment, language, ideas, knowledge; which trains him to use his powers, such as they are-- he will assume an entirely different attitude. Our system of education, far more than our system of production, is responsible for the eradication of social and of every other kind of discontent."
"Then I suppose," I said, "the lower classes, as we sometimes call them abroad--your Fifth and Sixth and Seventh Classes, for exampleaai never inquire whether they receive what they consider a fair share of the national product?"
Professor Sauer laughed aloud. "Pardon me," he said, "but you remind me of a story I used to hear when I was a boy, of a man who had slept in some cave or den for fifty years, or was it a century, and woke up to find a different world. Such a question belongs to the buried fossils of economic theory. Who can say what is a fair share? You might as well ask whether one musical composition is more just than another."
"Well, perhaps you can tell me this," I said. "Considering the superiority of your methods of production, I should have expected to find a much higher standard of individual wealth, or comfort, or leisure--you know what I mean--among not only the lower classes, but all classes. I cannot help wondering what becomes of all the surplus."
"We have all enough for our needs," he said, "and the requirements of the State are of far more importance than the gratification of the tastes of individuals."
"May I put in a word?" said Professor Slimey the Theologian. "In the modern world, the productive powers of man have outstripped his other powers. It is one of the mysteries of the ways of Providence. The discipline of labour is necessary for the development of the soul, but the devil has sought to seduce mankind by teaching him how to produce more than is good for him, in the hope that he will become corrupted by luxury. In other countries that corruption has already taken place. The strenuous life is the only life consistent with moral health. Under the Divine guidance our ruling classes--I am old-fashioned enough to use that expression, for in the eyes of God there are no First or Second Classes--have preserved the sense of duty; they are a discipline unto themselves. God's blessings have been multiplied unto them, and they have not forgotten the Divine injunctions. We cannot expect that the masses of mankind can discipline themselves, and for them the only safety lies in well-regulated and well-directed labour. There can be no greater curse for a people than idleness and luxury. Fortunately, we have been able to preserve them from the evil effects of superabundant wealth."
"I have sometimes wondered," I said, "whether the requirements of the State in regard to what is called National Defence were so great as to account for the surplus product."
"Undoubtedly the demands of the army are very considerable," replied Sauer. "You must remember that we have to protect ourselves against the whole world, so to speak."
"But no estimate has been made, I suppose, of what is required for such things?" I said.
"That is a matter of high policy," replied Sauer. "It would be impossible to estimate for it as a separate item in National expenditure. There again you betray your Lunilandish conceptions of National finance. No doubt they keep up this practice still in Luniland, but such a notion belongs to a bygone age. The State must be able to mobilise all its resources; that is the only logical policy, if you mean to conduct the affairs of the nation successfully, not only in time of war but in time of peace. Your asking how much National wealth is devoted to Defence is like asking a man how much of his dinner is devoted to sustaining his religion."
"But is it not important to be able to form some approximate idea, from the economic point of view?" I said. "For, in one sense, it represents so much waste."
"So much waste?" exclaimed Professor Slimey indignantly; "to what nobler purpose could the energies of the people be directed than to the defence of their Emperor, their God and their Fatherland?"
"I did not mean that it might not be necessary," I replied, "but it is like a man who has to build a dyke against floods. It may be necessary, but if he could be sure that the floods would not come, he could devote his energies to something more profitable."
Professor Slimey shook his head solemnly. "No, no," he said, "that is another of the fallacies current among foreign peoples. We should sink to their level if our people had not ever before them the duty of serving God by upholding the power of Meccania, his chosen nation. Indeed, I often think what a dispensation of Providence it is that it involves so much labour. Imagine the state of the common people if they could maintain themselves by the aid of a few hours' work a day!'
"Would there not be so much more scope for the spread of your Culture?" I said. "In fact, I had been given to understand that your Culture had reached such a high level that you could easily dispense with the discipline of long hours of labour."
"Our Culture," he replied, speaking with authority, "is not an individual culture at all. It must be understood as a unity. It includes this very discipline of which you seem to think so lightly. It includes the discipline of all classes. The monks of the Middle Ages knew that idleness would undermine even their ideal of life, for they knew that life is a discipline. Our National Culture is the nearest approach to the Christian ideal that any nation has ever put into practice."
"I cannot, of course, speak with confidence upon such a question," I replied, "but I thought the Christian ideal was the development of the individual soul, whereas the Meccanian ideal--I speak under correction--implies the elimination of the individual soul: everything must be sacrificed to the realisation of the glory of the Super-State."
"The Super-State," answered Slimey, "is itself the Great Soul of Meccania; it includes all the individual souls. What you call the sacrifice of the individual soul is no real sacrifice; it is merely a losing oneself to find oneself in the larger soul of Meccania. And just as the individual soul may inflict suffering on itself for the sake of higher selfrealisation, so the Super-Soul of Meccania may inflict suffering on the individual souls within itself for the sake of the higher self-realisation. The soul of Meccania is as wonderful in the spiritual world as the material manifestation of Meccania is in the material world."
"I am sure you are right," I said, "although it never struck me in that light before. The soul of Meccania is the most wonderful phenomenon in the history of the world."
"No," replied Professor Slimey, with his solemn air, "it is not phenomenon: it is the thing in itself." Here he paused to drink a liqueur. Then he went on, "It is purely spiritual. It has existed from eternity and has become clothed and manifest through the outward and inward development of the Super-State. You foreigners see only the outward forms, which are merely symbols. It is the Super-Soul of Meccania that is destined to absorb the world of spirit, as the Super-State is destined to conquer the material world."
Professor Sikofantis-Sauer gazed with his fishy eyes, as if he had heard all this before. "Some day," I said, "I should like to hear more of the Super-Soul, but while I have the privilege of talking to both of you I should like to learn some things which probably only a Professor of Economics can tell me. You, as Meccanians, will pardon me, I know, for seeking to acquire knowledge." They nodded assent. "I know something of the economic ideas of other nations in Europe," I said, "but your conditions are so different that I am quite at sea with regard to the economic doctrines of Meccania. What Economic Laws are there within the Super-State?"
"A very profound question," answered Sauer, "and yet the answer is simple. What you have studied in other countries is merely the economics of free exchange, as carried on among peoples of a low culture. Our Economics have hardly anything in common. Some of the laws of large-scale production are similar, but beyond that, our science rests upon other principles. Our science is based upon Meccanian Ethics. The laws of demand have quite a different meaning with us. The State determines the whole character and volume of demand, and entirely upon ethical grounds."
"And distribution too, I suppose?"
"Naturally. That is implied in the regulation of demand. The State determines what each class may spend, and in so doing determines both demand and distribution."
"But I was under the impression that the wellto-do--the Third and higher classes generally-- had much more latitude than the lower classes in these respects," I said.
"Quite so. That again is part of our national ethical system. Just as our Economics are National Economics, so our Ethics are National Ethics. The higher functions discharged by the higher classes demand a higher degree and quality of consumption. You will find some most interesting researches upon this subject in the reports of the Sociological Department. Dr. Greasey's monograph on the Sociological Function of the Third Class is also a masterpiece in its way."
"And the Second Class?" I said. "They will require still more latitude?"
"The Second Class, like the First," replied Sauer, "stands outside and above the purely Economic aspect of Society. Their function is to determine what the National-Social Structure shall be. Our business as economists is to provide ways and means. No doubt they are unconsciously guided, or shall I say inspired, by the workings of the Meccanian spirit, of which they are the highest depositaries; and all the organs of the State are at their service, to give effect to their interpretation of the will of the Super-State."
"You do not find any tendency on their part, I suppose, to make large demands for themselves in the shape of what we non-Meccanians persist in calling' wealth '?" I said.
"Such a question," answered Sauer, "does not admit of any answer, because it involves a conception of wealth which we have entirely discarded. The Second Class--and with them, of course, I include the First Class, for they are indivisible in their functions and spirit--exists for the Super-State. Whatever they consume is consumed in the discharge of the highest duties of the State. Whatever is required by them is simply part of the necessary expenditure of the State. But although no limit is set--and who would presume to set any limit?--it is remarkable how little of this expenditure assumes the form of personal consumption. For the sake of the dignity of the State, their life must be conducted--collectively--on a magnificent scale. But, as you know, a dignitary like the Pope may live in the finest palace in Europe and yet be a man of simple tastes and habits; so our noble class-- and no nobler class has ever existed--may represent the glory of the Super-State and yet be the embodiment of the purest virtues."
"I would go further," said Professor Slimey at this point. "Our noble Second Class--and of course I associate the First Class with them, for in reality they are all one--are the true Protectors of the State: they are the guardians of us all. Have you not noticed throughout all history that, after a successful war, the people are ready to bestow all manner of honours and benefits upon those who have saved their country? Well, I say those who have given us all the glory and honour, ay, and the spoils of victory too, without going to war, are as deserving of the rewards as if they had come back from a long campaign. We cannot honour them too much. Besides, it is good for the people to feel that there is a class upon whom they can bestow the natural warmth of their affection and their admiration. The desire to bow down in reverent admiration, the desire to do honour to the worthiest of our race, is a God-given impulse, and should be encouraged, not checked. Our people feel this. We do not bargain with them as to what share they shall have: we do not lay aside a tenth, or some such absurd proportion: we say, take our wealth, take whatever we can give, it is all yours, you are the fathers of the State, you are our saviours."
"And you think this spirit prevails throughout Meccania?" I said.
"I am perfectly sure of it," replied Slimey. "All our greatest artists offer their works freely to the members of the Second Class; all the most gifted scientists compete for places in the colleges for the training of the Military; the services of our best writers are at their disposal: we withhold nothing from them."
"Then it is true, I gather, that the custom I have heard of, by which wives and daughters of other classes, if they are thought worthy by the Eugenics Board, are--shall I say--dedicated to the service of the Second Class, arouses no feeling of indignation?"
"Indignation!" exclaimed the Professor of Theology. "It is a duty and a privilege."
"But is it not contrary to the principles of the Christian religion? I confess I speak with some hesitation, as I do not belong to the Christian communion; but I have been told by some of the strictest of the Christian sects in other countries that such a practice is a violation of the Christian code."
Professor Slimey refreshed himself, and I could see another long speech was coming. "That is a sample of the uncharitable criticism which is constantly being aimed at us, by those who cloak their envy and spite under the name of Christian doctrine. Yet they are utterly inconsistent with themselves. They admit the Doctrine of Development, yet they deny its application, except to suit their own purposes. Take Usury, for example. Christian doctrine, as expounded by the Fathers, regarded usury as sinful. Yet usury is practised in all so-called Christian countries without protest. Why? Because their system of Economics cannot work without it. I might give other illustrations, but that will suffice. Now Ethics must undergo development if there is to be progress in morals. The supreme well-being of the State gives the key to all progress in Ethics. If the custom you refer to were due to private concupiscence, we--and I speak for all Meccanian theologians--would be the first to denounce it. The sin of adultery is a spiritual sin, and exists only where carnal desire is the motive. Every theologian knows that the same physical act may be performed in conformity with the behests of the Mosaic law, or in direct disobedience of it. The one is a sacred duty, the other is sin. It is like the alleged obligation to speak the truth upon all occasions. There is no such obligation. We must look to the end in view. Where the supreme needs of the State demand concealment or even deception, the private ethical impulse to speak the truth to an enemy is superseded by the greater obligation to the State. The virtue of Chastity is not violated; it is raised, if I may say so, to its transcendent degree, by an act of sacrifice which implies the surrender of merely private virtue to the interests of the State; for you must remember that the State as developed by the Meccanian spirit is the highest embodiment of the will of God upon earth."
"We seem to have been carried rather a long way from Meccanian Economics," I remarked, turning to Professor Sauer by way of apology for having carried on the conversation for so long with Professor Slimey.
"Not at all," he answered. "Meccanian Ethics and Meccanian Economics cannot be separated."
"It must make the science of Economics much more difficult in one sense; but, on the other hand, what a relief it must be to have got rid of all those old troublesome theories of value!" I observed.
"We have not got rid of theories of value," answered Sauer; "they too have only been developed. The basis of our theory of value is to be found in Meccanian Ethics."
"In other words," I said, laughing, "the value of a pair of boots in Meccania is determined by the theologians!"
"How do you mean?" asked Sauer.
"I mean that the remuneration of an artisan in the Fifth Class will purchase so many pairs of boots; and the remuneration of the artisan is determined by what the State thinks good for him; and what the State thinks good for him is determined by Meccanian Ethics; and I suppose the theologians determine the system of Meccanian Ethics."
At that point our conversation was interrupted by an announcement that the toast of the evening would be drunk. This was the signal for the party to break up. We drank to the success of the Meccanian Empire and the confounding of all its enemies, and I went home to the hotel to find a message from Kwang asking me to see him the following day. I spent the morning as usual with Lickrod, who was initiating me into the method of using the catalogues in the Great Library of Mecco. It was indeed a marvel of' librarianship.' There was a bibliography upon every conceivable subject. There was a complete catalogue of every book according to author, and another according to subject. There was a complete catalogue of the books issued in each separate year for the last twenty-five years. There were courses of study with brief notes upon all the books. Lickrod was in his element. As we came away, about lunchtime, I said to him, "Suppose I want to take back with me, when I leave the country, a dozen books to read for pure pleasure, what would you recommend me to take?"
"Upon what subject?" he asked.
"Upon anything, no matter what. What I am thinking of are books which are just works of art in themselves, pieces of pure literature either in poetry or prose."
"A book must be about something," he said; "it must fall into some category or other."
"Is there no imaginative literature?" I asked.
"Oh, certainly, we have scores of treatises on the imagination."
"But I mean books that are the work of the imagination."
"I see. You want them for your children, perhaps: they would be found in the juvenile departments; fables and parables, and that sort of thing."
"No, I mean books without any serious purpose, but for grown-up people. I seem to remember such works in the old Meccanian literature."
"How very odd," answered Lickrod, "that you should express a wish to see works of that kind."
"Why?" I asked, in some surprise.
"Because we find works of that kind in great demand in the asylums for the mentally afflicted. You see, we treat the inmates as humanely as possible, and our pathologists tell us that they cannot read the books by modern authors. We have to let them read for a few hours a day, and they beg, really rather piteously, for the old books. It is always old books they ask for. I suppose in a way they are cases of a kind of arrested development. At any rate, they have not been able to keep pace with the developments of our ideas. Doctor Barm reported only last year that the only books that seem to have a soothing effect on these patients are those written, oh, two hundred years ago, and of the very kind you probably have in mind."
THE LATEST INSTITUTION.
I WENT to see Kwang in the afternoon, and found him in a state of suppressed excitement--at least I could not help having that impression. After a little time, when I had given him some brief account of my experience at the dinner-party, he said, "I told you the other day that I had some thoughts of returning home. I shall be off in a fortnight."
"This is rather sudden," I said; "have you received bad news from home?"
"No," he said; "I told you I had practically completed my work. The fact is, that things are beginning to develop rather fast here. I see signs of preparation for a' forward move.' "
"Oh!" I said. "Not another war?"
"Not necessarily," he replied. "Light your cigar and I will tell you all you need know." I did so and waited.
"The next war," he said, "will be a chemical war."
"A chemical war? What on earth is that?" I said.
"They have been experimenting for thirty years and more, and they think they have discovered what they want. It may take them several years to perfect their arrangements; it will certainly take them a year or two, and may take six or seven. But one never knows. I suppose you never heard of the three days' war, did you?"
"No," I replied; "what was it?"
"The State of Lugrabia, with which the Meccanians are in permanent alliance, refused to ratify a new treaty that seemed unfavourable to them in some respects, and feeling ran so high that there was some talk in Lugrabia of putting an end to the alliance. Without any declaration of war the Meccanian Government dispatched a small fleet of air-vessels, planted about a dozen chemical 'Distributors,' as they are euphemistically called, and warned the Lugrabian State that, unless their terms were complied with, the twelve chief cities would be wiped out. The war was over in three days. And to this day the outside world has never heard of the event."
"How can it have been kept secret?" I said.
"Ask rather how could it leak out," replied Kwang.
"Anyhow," he went on, "they think they have got something that will enable them to defeat any combination. There is no question in dispute with any foreign power. The political' horizon' is perfectly clear. But it is time for me to go home."
"Do you think this idea of theirs is really dangerous?" I asked.
"But can it not be counteracted in any way?"
"If it can't it will be a bad look out for the rest of us," he said.
"But do you see any means of meeting it?"
"There is, if I can get the Governments to act. But they are at a tremendous disadvantage."
"Why?" I said.
"Because everything they do will be proclaimed from the housetops. However, what I wanted to do immediately was to arrange with you about leaving the country. Of course you will stay as long as you like, but I should advise you not to stay too long. I shall not announce that I am going away permanently, and I shall leave nearly all my things here to avoid suspicion; but within three months they will know that I am not likely to come back, and then they may want to look you up if you are still here."
"I shall go as soon as you think it is advisable for me to go," I said. "The only thing I wanted to make sure of was the thing you have apparently found out. Once or twice since I came I have felt sceptical about the Machiavellian designs attributed to the Meccanian Government by all these neighbours. Naturally they see a robber in every bush.