The Shape of Things to Come

Book the Fourth
The Modern State Militant

1. Gap in the Text

H.G. Wells

SO FAR I have been transcribing, with very little correction and no alteration, the text of Raven’s dream book as he left it fully written out. But at this point, that fully written out history breaks off. The record of the next seventy or eighty years is represented only by an untidy mass of notes in the perfectly abominable private shorthand Raven used. Then comes the concluding chapter fully written out again.

I cannot say with any certainty why Raven left this very vital part of his story obscure and confused while he went on to the very last part of all. But I have my own ideas of what happened in his brain. In the first place he had a very human impulse to realize the issue of this world revolution that was unfolding in these notes, and it was easier, therefore, because it was more attractive, for him to write out the later part first. And in the next the intervening matter was really much more intricate for him to handle. It had, if I may use the expression, “come through his mind” with difficulty and against resistances. His general ideas had been prepared for the new wars, for the post-war breakdown and for a world rule based on air power, and they had also been prepared for the steadily progressive World-State of the final phase. But they had not been prepared for the profound and complex mental and spiritual struggles of three-quarters of a century which inaugurated the new order. Those he had not thought out.

Whether it was really a clairvoyant vision he had of a real future text book of history, or whether all this matter was an eruption from his subconscious mind, hardly affects the manifest fact that all this part came against the grain. One of the strongest arguments for the view that this Outline of the Future was evolved by Raven from his inner consciousness is the fact that there are several passages in which he seems to argue with himself, and that the quiet unhurrying assurance of the earlier and later narratives is not sustained in these middle parts.

I do not think it was mere chance that pulled him up precisely at the point when he came to the gassing of the Pope and the martyrdom of Saint Odet of Ostia. I think that this incident struck him as cardinal, as marking a supremely significant corner which humanity was turning. It was something that had to happen and it was something he had never let his mind dwell upon. It ended a practical truce that had endured for nearly three centuries in the matter of moral teaching, in the organization of motive, in what was then understood as religion. It was the first killing in a new religious conflict. The new government meant to rule not only the planet but the human will. One thing meant the other. It had realized that to its own surprise. And Raven, with an equal surprise, had realized that so it had to be.

Nearly a year earlier the One World-State had been declared at Basra. There already it had been asserted plainly that a new order must insist upon its own specific education, and that it could not tolerate any other forms of training for the world-wide lives it contemplated. But to say a thing like that is not to realize its meaning. Things of that sort had been said before, and passed like musical flourishes across the minds of men. The new government did not apprehend the fullness of its own intentions until this unpremeditated act of supreme sacrilege forced decision upon it. But now it had struck down the very head of Catholic Christianity and killed an officiating priest in the midst of his ministrations. It had gripped that vast world organization, the Catholic Church, and told it in effect to be still for evermore. It was now awake to its own purpose. It might have retreated or compromised. It decided to go on.

Ten days later air guards descended upon Mecca and closed the chief holy places. A number of religious observances were suppressed in India, and the slaughter-houses in which kosher food was prepared in an antiquated and unpleasant manner for orthodox Jews were closed throughout the world. An Act of Uniformity came into operation everywhere. There was now to be one faith only in the world, the moral expression of the one world community.

Raven was taken unawares, as the world of 1978 was taken unawares, by this swift unfolding of a transport monopoly into a government, a social order and a universal faith. And yet the experiment of Soviet Russia and the practical suppression of any other religion than the so-called communism that had been forced upon it might well have prepared his mind for the realization that for any new social order there must be a new education of all who were to live willingly and helpfully in it, and that the core of an education is a religion. Plainly he had not thought out all that such a statement means. Like almost all the liberal-minded people of our time, he had disbelieved in every form of contemporary religion, and he had tolerated them all. It had seemed to him entirely reasonable that minds could be left to take the mould of any pattern and interpretation of life that chanced upon them without any serious effect upon their social and political reactions. It is extraordinary how such contradictory conceptions of living still exist side by side in our present world with only a little mutual nagging. But very evidently that is not going to be accepted by the generations that are coming. They are going to realize that there can be only one right way of looking at the world for a normal human being and only one conception of a proper scheme of social reactions, and that all others must be wrong and misleading and involve destructive distortions of conduct.

Raven’s dream book, as it unfolded the history of the last great revolution in human affairs to him, shattered all the evasive optimism, all the kindly disastrous toleration and good fellowship of our time, in his mind. If there was to be peace on earth and any further welfare for mankind, if there was to be an end to wars, plunderings, poverty and bitter universal frustration, not only the collective organization of the race but the moral making of the individual had to begin anew. The formal revolution that had taken place was only the prelude to the real revolution; it provided only the frame, the Provisional Government, within which the essential thing, mental reconstruction, had now to begin.

That precarious first world government with its few millions of imperfectly assimilated adherents, which now clutched the earth, had to immobilize or destroy every facile system of errors, misinterpretations, compensations and self-consolations that still survived to confuse the minds of men; it had to fight a battle against fear, indolence, greed and jealousy in every soul in the world, the souls of its own people most of all, and win. Or it had to lapse. It had to do that within a definite time. If it did not win within that time, then dissension and relapse were inevitable and one more century of blundering and futility would have to be added to the long record of man’s martyrdom. This new régime had to clean up the racial mind or fail, and if it failed then in all probability it would leave the race to drift back again to animal individualism, and so through chaos to extinction. Failures in the past had been possible without general disaster, because they were partial and local, but this was the decisive world effort.

The Shape of Things to Come - Contents    |     Book 4 - 2. Melodramatic Interlude

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