H.G. Wells is best known for his fiction. This little book is non-fiction. It’s essentially a very long essay on the subject of globalisation, something that is highly relevant in today’s world, where we see so much centralisation of power underway, as corporations merge into bigger corporations, and governments become collectivised into unions. When reading this book, which was published in 1940, it’s important to remember that the term “New World Order” didn’t carry the same sinister significance that it has in the minds of many conspiracy believers today. What I’m saying is, let’s not call Wells a bad guy on the grounds of the title alone. There’s much in the book to commend it.
Here are three quotes that I find particularly impressive. I don’t know how much these will strike you, but I personally went through an awakening about eight or nine months ago, where I became aware of how much my mind was being manipulated by the dogma of religion and the false assumptions of science. In my eyes, these quotes are as fresh and relevant today as they ever were.
On religion and its resistance to criticism:
Most of our belief systems rest upon rotten foundations, and generally these foundations are made sacred to preserve them from attack. They become dogmas in a sort of holy of holies. It is shockingly uncivil to say “But that is nonsense.” The defenders of all the dogmatic religions fly into rage and indignation when one touches on the absurdity of their foundations. Especially if one laughs. That is blasphemy. This avoidance of fundamental criticism is one of the greatest dangers to any general human understanding.
On our planet-wrecking consumer mentality:
Natural resources are being exhausted at a great rate, and the increased output goes into war munitions whose purpose is destruction, and into sterile indulgences no better than waste. Man, “heir of the ages,” is a demoralised spendthrift, in a state of galloping consumption, living on stimulants.
On the false assumptions of science that turn us into know-it-alls:
“Science” comes to us from those academic Dark Ages when men had to console themselves for their ignorance by pretending that there was a limited amount of knowledge in the world, and little chaps in caps and gowns strutted about, bachelors who knew all that there was to be known. Now it is manifest that none of us know very much, and the more we look into what we think we know, the more hitherto undetected things we shall find lurking in our assumptions.
The thrust of the book is this: Wells believes the world must become collectivised under a single leadership, or else the world is doomed to destruction by inevitable war. He bases this conviction on something he calls “the abolition of distance.” War, in olden times, was fought by travelling on foot or horseback to your destination, but in the modern world of technology, it is now possible to attack any part of the world very quickly. Everyone is neighbour to everyone else, in that sense. It begs the question, how do you defend your border? You can’t. The abolition of distance, Wells argues, creates too many possibilities for devastating war scenarios, and makes the end of the world inevitable.
Much of the book theorises about what sort of world government could function to be fair to all people. This was tough stuff to understand for me personally, because my political knowledge is not good. The overarching question I kept asking myself was, “If there’s one force at the top of the tree to which all others are subservient, how do you stop it turning into a global tyranny somewhere down the line?” It seems naive to suppose that a single centralised world government would simply stay good and fair over time. And if there are no powerful independent countries (which is the idea) to call upon for help to release you from such tyranny, what can you do? Nothing. In my mind, centralisation of world power is one way to world peace and a very short step from permanent tyranny. The book didn’t give me answers to that objection. Wells was firmly locked into the mentality that the world as it stands is doomed unless we centralise power. I’m not sure if the present world system really does need to collectivise, and I certainly don’t think a single world government is the answer. We’re almost seventy years past the writing of this book, we’re in possession of far more destructive technology, and we’re still here.
In any case, this book is an illuminating, thought-provoking read.