Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is Big Bad?

I am currently trying to educate myself about Distributism, and one of the works I have been perusing is Chesterton's Utopia of Usurers. I sometimes think Chesterton attacks the right thing in the wrong way, as in this excerpt:

But this strange poetry of plutocracy prevails over people against their very senses. You write to one of the great London stores or emporia, asking, let us say, for an umbrella. A month or two afterwards you receive a very elaborately constructed parcel, containing a broken parasol. You are very pleased. You are gratified to reflect on what a vast number of assistants and employees had combined to break that parasol. You luxuriate in the memory of all those long rooms and departments and wonder in which of them the parasol that you never ordered was broken. Or you want a toy elephant for your child on Christmas Day; as children, like all nice and healthy people, are very ritualistic. Some week or so after Twelfth Night, let us say, you have the pleasure of removing three layers of pasteboards, five layers of brown paper, and fifteen layers of tissue paper and discovering the fragments of an artificial crocodile. You smile in an expansive spirit. You feel that your soul has been broadened by the vision of incompetence conducted on so large a scale. You admire all the more the colossal and Omnipresent Brain of the Organiser of Industry, who amid all his multitudinous cares did not disdain to remember his duty of smashing even the smallest toy of the smallest child. Or, supposing you have asked him to send you some two rolls of cocoa-nut matting: and supposing (after a due interval for reflection) he duly delivers to you the five rolls of wire netting. You take pleasure in the consideration of a mystery: which coarse minds might have called a mistake. It consoles you to know how big the business is: and what an enormous number people were needed to make such a mistake.

Now perhaps the big stores were this inefficient in Chesterton's day. Perhaps they still are. But it seems to me that big business is not better for being more efficient. In fact, I think it is all the worse for being efficient, since that can only make it more dominant. I also think that-- except in the cases of hospitals and policing and other life-sustaining services-- there is such a thing as too much efficiency, and that modern society has already reached that point. The more deadlines and service standards become sacred, the more society becomes plagued with pressure and rudeness and sky-high expectations. It does a man good to wait now and again; to be frustrated now and again; to make do now and again. Convenience is the enemy of civilization.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A question for readers...

How many of you are CS Lewis fans, and which other writers do you read?

I often wonder just how many Chesterton enthusiasts are also Lewis enthusiasts, and vice versa. It's hard to imagine loving one without loving the other. They share not only religious and cultural convictions, but a whole spiritual atmosphere, so to speak; an atmosphere of hearty male laughter, public house firesides, jovial singing and rolling rhythms in prose and verse.

And what other authors do Chestertonians take into the bath or onto the train?