Newsletter of the District
is Little Use In Knowing
and G.K. Chesterton
It is not so
many years ago that we donned earphones in a doubtful hope of being
able to hear something over the radio. It is the less surprising
that it was only in the last few years of his life that Gilbert
became first interested in the invention and presently one of the
broadcasters most in request by the B.B.C. He felt about the radio
as he did about most modern inventions: that they were splendid
opportunities that were not being taken - or else were being taken
to the harm of humanity by the wrong people. What was the use of
"calling all countries" if you had nothing to say to them?
much modern science fails to realise," he wrote, "is that
there is little use in knowing without thinking."
writing about the amazing discoveries of the day: "Nobody is
taking the smallest trouble to consider who in the future will be
in command of the electricity and capable of giving us the shocks.
With all the shouting about the new marvels, hardly anybody utters
a word or even a whisper about how they are to be prevented from
turning into the old abuses . ... People sometimes wonder why we
now infrequently refer to the old scandal covered by the word Marconi.
It is precisely because all these things are really covered by that
word. There could not be a shorter statement of the contradiction
than in men howling that word as a discovery and hushing it up as
For the thing
that really frightened him about the radio was its possibilities
as a new instrument of tyranny.
In an article
called "The Unseen Catastrophe" (G. K. 's Weekly, January
28, 1928) Gilbert wrote:
you had told some of the old Whigs, let alone Liberals, that there
was an entirely new type of printing press, eclipsing all others;
and that as this was to be given to the King, all printing would
henceforth be government printing. They would be roaring like rebels,
or even regicides, yet that is exactly what we have done with the
whole new invention of wireless (and T. V ‑Ed.). Suppose
it were proposed that the king's officers should search all private
houses to make sure there were no printing presses, they would be
ready for a new revolution. Yet that is exactly what is proposed
for the protection of the government monopoly of broadcasting...
There is really no protection against propaganda... being entirely
in the hands of the government; except indeed, the incredible empty-headedness
of those who govern... On that sort of thing at least, we are all
Socialists now. It is wicked to nationalize miners or railroads;
but we lose no time in nationalizing tongues and talk... We might
once have used, and we shall now never use, the twentieth century
science against the nineteenth century hypocrisy. It was prevented
by a swift, sweeping and intolerant State monopoly; a monster suddenly
swallowing all rivals, alternatives, discussions, or delays, with
one snap of its gigantic jaws. That is what I mean by saying: "We
cannot see the monsters that overcome us." But I suppose that
even Jonah, when once he was swallowed, could not see the whale."
(Gilbert Keith Chesterton, by Maisy Ward, London, 1944, pp.
The Fr. Brown Stories
anybody know anything about the Middle Ages? Do you know what a
Guild was? Have you ever heard of salvo managio suo? Do you know
what sort of people were Serui Regis?"
course I don't," said the lady, rather crossly. "What
a lot of Latin words!"
course," said Father Brown. "If it had been Tutankhamen
and a set of driedup Africans preserved, Heaven knows why, at the
other end of the world; if it had been Babylonia or China; if it
had been some race as remote and mysterious as the Man in the Moon,
your newspapers would have told you all about it, down to the last
discovery of a tooth-brush or a collar‑stud. But the men who
built your own parish churches, and gave the names to your own towns
and trades, and the very roads you walk on - it has never occurred
to you to know anything about them." (London, 1929, The Curse
of the Golden Cross, p.709.)