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THE DULLNESS OF IMPERIALISM., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 85, 10 April 1909
THE DULLNESS OF IMPERIALISM.
A PROTEST. (Special London Correspondent.) The gospel of Imperialism is suffering in this country from a blight of dullness, and it is time that someone ventured a protest. Here is a great idea languishing under a crushing burden of dreary verbiage. It has come to such a pass that whenever I see an article or a speech on Imperialism of the orthodox brand I avoid it with an alacrity which has now become instinctive.
Let it not be inferred that I am opposed to the Imperial idea. I believe in the British Empire. I regard the alliance of England and of her independent daughter States as a great instrument of world-progress. I come from one of the most flourishing of tbe overseas dominions, where every evidence of happiness, prosperity and smiling peace is a tribute to the colonising genius, the hardihood and enterprise of the British race. I know -nhat the Empire has meant to the great self-governing States, and I realise their golden possibilities of growth and advancement, material and intellectual, under the Imperial aegis. In regard to the true Imperialism, I am no heretic.
It is with the exponents of Imperialism that my quarrel lies. They suffer from the dreadful blight of dullness, and they have made Imperialism dull. They lack imagination, and they lack humour. •Many of them bave served their country well in other walks of life, and deserve well of their country. But is that any reason why they sbould make the expounding of Imperialism a sort of hobby in their old age? If the Imperial idea is to be a living force, if tbe Empire is to be something more than a mei-c abstraction in the minds of homedwelling Englishmen, its greatness must be preached with the fire and enthusiasm of youth. It is essentially a young man's mission. But youth holds aloof, deterred and chilled by the dullness of the old stagers who monopolise the limelight.
In London especially one cannot fail to be struck with the way in which the subject of Imperialism is left in the hands of a circle of elderly gentlemen, very worthy, serious and earnest-mind-ed gentlemen, but almost all of them suffering from this deadly, paralysing dullness. A certain Institute with a high sounding title prides itself on.being the very home of Imperialism, and once a month or so it sits in solemn conclave to debate some theme of Imperial concern. These debates are amongst the dullest functions to be found in the metropolis. An audience of dear old gentlemen, amongst whom anyone under 50 is regarded as a more or less irresponsible youth, sit in solemn silence while a solemn gentleman reads a painfully solemn paper on the natural resources of this, that, or the other portion of the Empire. When he has finished an elderly gentleman gets up and congratulates him on his extremely able and interesting paper, and goes on to add a few platitudes on his own account about "our great Empire." Then another elderly gentlemen will contribute a few more platitudes, and another and another. Of criticism there is practically none—indeed, there is seldom anything in the paper to criticise, seeing that it is usually only a painfully informative collection of facts and figures. Anything in the nature of controversy is almost unknown. One has the impression that it would be regarded as shockingly bad taste. On very rare occasions some rash visitor will venture to dispute some proposition laid down by the lecturer, and the whole audience receives a painful i shock in consequence. The unpleasantness is at once slurred over with as little comment as possible, and one of the old hands is promptly put up to wipe out all traces of the controversy with the old familiar flow of platitudes and compliments. But shocks like these are few and far between. As all politics are rigorously ruled out oi order, there is little chance of the debates ever being galvanised into life. They just flow on placidly and prosily to their appointed end. It is the acme oi dullness.
As with the spoken, so with the written word. How comes it that Imperialism and dullness go hand in hand in the reviews and the newspapers? If it be a living cause, why is it pleaded with so little life? Why are the dullest reviews and the heaviest newspapers allowed to have almost monopoly of the subject? Why are articles on Imperialism so conspicuous for their ponderous verbiage and their lack of humour and imagination? Why do they make so little appeal to youth?
Why. indeed? Yet everyone who is repelled by the dullness of the exponents of Imperialism runs the risk of being branded a Little Englander, or an antiImperialist. And as nine readers out of ten are so repelled, dt would appear that the Empire is in a pretty bad way. Fortunately, things are not so bad in this case as they seem. The writer or speaker on Imperialism has a pleasant little habit of assuming that he is the mouthpiece of his fellow countrymen, and, therefore, that those who do not agree with him, or who are openly bored
by his dullness, are enemies of their country and a public danger,. This is an
assumption which, needless to say. is quite unjustified. Almost all the Englishmen with whom I am well acquainted
are friendly to the Imperial idea. Their notions of what the Empire means may sometimes be a little hazy, but -they wish
it well. But -they never read the articles or listen ifco the speeches on Imperialism, if they can avoid them. They know better. And I for one cannot find it in. my very heart to blame them. I said that Imperialism was very largely a hobby of elderly gentlemen on the retired list; but some of its exponents are not quite so disinterested. To a colonial it is certainly a matter for annoyance to find the colonies bein<* used as a weapon dn the battle of party politics in this country. I mistrust the kind of patriot who, when he happens to want a thing, demands it on the plea that "the Empire" wants it. The advantage of that method is, of course, that whoever disagrees with the ''patriot" in question can then be accused of antiImperial leanings and a lack of sympathy with the colonies. This may" ba good tactics, but it is poor sportsmanship. Too many of the exponents of Imperialism in England have axes to grind, and protest all the while that these are Imperial axes. Perhaps it is just as well that most of them are such deadly 'bores. They are not dangerous so much as merely dull.
If Imperial ideals are to be fostered they must be raised above the plane oi somnolent debating societies, and they must be kept out of the market place. They must be preached by men ol imagination and force, inspired with 3 whole-hearted desire to serve the Empire. Imperialism must be freed from the motley swarm of tuft-hunters, divi-dend-seekers, land-grabbers, Jingoes, and political reactionaries, who dishonour its cause. Not till then will it exert what a South African statesman has called "the strong pressure of a big ideal always determinedly, ceaselessly going onward and onward.''
THE DULLNESS OF IMPERIALISM., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 85, 10 April 1909
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