Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Commercial Helotry

We may say broadly that free thought is the best of all safeguards against freedom. Managed in a modern style, the emancipation of the slave's mind is the best way of preventing the emancipation of the slave. Teach him to worry about whether he wants to be free, and he will not free himself. Again, it may be said that this instance is remote or extreme. But again, it is exactly true of the men in the streets around us. It is true that the negro slave, being a debased barbarian, will probably have either a human affection of loyalty, or a human affection for liberty. But the man we see every day - the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office - he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzschite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day; and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with skeptical literature. And now, I come to think of it, of course, Gradgrind is famous for giving libraries. He shows his sense. All modern books are on his side. As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of Earth will be exactly the same. No idea will remain long enough to be realised. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.
G.K. Chesterton, "The Eternal Revolution"


  1. Interesting use of Gradgrind in this context. Sadly, accurate as well.

    A lot of people talk about revolution and read about it as well. But nothing ever gets moving.

  2. Interpassivity prevails. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.