Monday, February 17, 2020


A Dull Life

G.K. Chesterton, radio broadcast (The Listener, January 31, 1934):
Unless we can bring men back to enjoying the daily life which moderns call a dull life, our whole civilisation will be in ruins in about fifteen years. Whenever anybody proposes anything really practical, to solve the economic evil today, the answer always is that the solution would not work, because the modern town populations would think life dull. That is because they are entirely unacquainted with life. They know nothing but distractions from life; dreams which may be found in the cinema; that is, brief oblivions of life. I am not going to talk about the advantages of this or that social solution, but it is true that this is the standing difficulty of all social solutions. Some people, like the late Mr. Galsworthy, think that the English poor should be helped further to colonize the Colonies. Some, of whom I am one, have even dared to dream that the English might be allowed to colonize England. But to both the objection is always essentially this: that they would be six miles from a cinema. It is perhaps true; and another way of putting the same truth is that modern men have utterly lost the joy of life. They have to put up with the miserable substitute of the joy of life. And even these they seem less and less able to enjoy. Unless we can make ordinary men interested in ordinary life, we are under the vulgar despotism of those who cannot interest them, but can at least amuse them. Unless we can make daybreak and daily bread and the creative secrets of labour interesting in themselves, there will fall on our civilization a fatigue, which is the one disease from which civilizations do not recover. So died the great Pagan civilization, of bread and circuses and forgetfulness of the household gods.

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