The temptation not to write this article is almost overwhelming. I am seated on the verandah of a wooden bungalow overlooking a lovely valley of Queensland and within a few miles of what is surely one of the finest beaches in the world. The fruits of the earth are here available in an abundance that is staggering to one who spent the war years in Europe. It is a hot, lazy day. It is moreover the holiday season and a prosperous care-free people are taking their ease.
It seems a dismal if not an immoral act to sit down at a typewriter deliberately to suggest that the end of all this is almost certain to come upon us before our children are grown up. And yet it is becoming more and more apparent that nothing short of a miracle can save the world from another war, and one so frightful in its consequences that all the values we now profess to cherish in our civilization would disappear. No matter which side we may stand on in the contest the result will be the same, for war today means defeat and destruction for all. Moreover history has proved, and is proving again, that the politician can no more avert the disaster than a picket fence can avert a tidal wave, so that even so uninformed a person as the ‘common man’ can see that only some acts of great vision-some gesture that will completely transcend all politics and all international diplomacies—can offer any hope of salvation. But although ordinary people everywhere can see this they feel powerless to do anything about it. In almost every country in the world men now only middle-aged have twice already in their lifetime found themselves committed to a war that was none of their seeking. Once again they see the danger and dread it, but feeling completely frustrated and helpless they now seek only to live for the present.
In his remoteness from the scene of the contest and enjoying the lavish abundance of his own wealth, it is perhaps understandable that the average Australian should give the impression of apathy in the matter, so that a casual observer might suppose that he thinks little and cares less about the impending disaster. If that supposition were wholly correct then the writing of this article would be as futile as a whisper to the deaf. But I do not believe it to be true. When a man feels helpless he will easily assume an indifference, but I believe there are very many Australians who think far more deeply and more clearly than is generally supposed. He may be inarticulate where his deeper convictions are concerned, but I believe the Australian has a sanity and a true generosity of spirit that is seldom reflected in the utterances of those who represent him, no matter to what political group they may belong. It is on that absolute conviction that this article is based.
The Australian is perfectly well aware that, with the exception of America, his country suffered less material damage in the two world wars than in any of the other contending countries. But America is more closely involved in world problems, not only because of her great wealth and her geographical situation, but also because she has within her own borders a colour problem and also a vast admixture of races which ensure that she is always bound up with the feuds and national differences that divide the peoples of Europe.
Before the end of the first world war the present grouping of mankind under the two banners of Communism and Capitalism began to manifest itself. The eyes of men were turned either towards Russia or towards America as being the country they believed would ultimately save the world from disaster. Lenin or Woodrow Wilson, Stalin or Roosevelt, Russia or America. Communism or Capitalism. That has seemed to be the first and fundamental issue, so that it is a source of dismay and despair that these two champions should now stand armed against each other. For this is not the way to save mankind from anything. It is the road to certain destruction for all. And the real problem facing us today is not so much what the governments of these two countries may or may not do, but it is rather a question of whether the individual man or woman is capable of attaining in time to a sanity of outlook hitherto denied to us. Can we grow up in time? That really is the problem. You and I and all the welI-meaning, easy-going folk sunbathing and surfing and holidaying in Australia today—can we take a jump forward in our intellectual awareness and in our moral courage? For intellectually the world is in its infancy. Can we assume a leadership? For it is certain that the people who first take a bold step, and with both feet, in giving a new direction to man-kind, wiII get instant recognition and response from the rest of the world. Man is ready for such a lead. More, he is desperately in need of it.
Many of the great thinkers of today, the scientists and philosophers, may be divided into two groups. The first group beIieves that war (whether atomic or bacteriological or both) between a) Communism and Capitalism, and then later b) between East and West is inevitable and unavoidable. The second group believes that man is capable of attaining to an understanding of truth which will enable him to short-circuit both these wars by establishing NOW what must certainly come sooner or later, and that is some form of central world government; some central authority that shall be absolute over all, and thus strong enough to tolerate and indeed to encourage the preservation of national characteristics and all the variegated pattern that can so enrich the life of man on earth.
The first group base their belief that war is inevitable on the conviction that a man is so far away from a condition of intellectual enlightenment that to expect any sudden jump forward is absurd. The second group believes that man is not only capable of attaining a greater sanity but is everywhere ready for it. What is lacking is some means of expressing what most men know already. How can we become articulate? How give effect to what all men want?
Already there exists a crusade for the establishment of world government, launched by the representatives of twenty nations at Montreux, Switzerland, in 1947. This plan envisages a world government to be established by the year 1955.
The present writer is not connected with that plan in any way and is concerned only to mention its existence, and to suggest that perhaps the greatest obstacle to its achievement is the suspicion and hostility that always greets any plan that seems to be Utopian and that is put forward by some rather vaguely constituted ‘group’. The time required to overcome such suspicion and to gain the confidence and understanding of men is fast running out. The date suggested (1955) is not a month too soon, but to have the slightest chance of success the basic principle involved must be accepted and approved by a whole people—by some one nation that can then speak as advocate to the rest of the world. A number of scientists and philosophers of different nationalities, no matter how eminent they may be individually, will never stir the imagination of men to the extent that will be achieved by a great power speaking out of its own unity and strength to the rest of humanity.
Let there be no mistake about this. The position and the strength of Australia in the world today is unique. It is something that is not to be measured in terms of population and might of armaments. The people of Australia are less divided by racial hatreds, less deeply rooted in creeds and customs, less blindly submissive to ancient faiths and outmoded traditions than any race on earth. They are a people who, having cut away from their own roots, have not yet had time to develop an entirely new race of men. They are still in a state of transition; still sufficiently plastic in outlook and bold in spirit to be the pioneers of a new direction in the affairs of men, just as their ancestors were bold enough to tackle the rigours and hostilities of an unknown land.