October 9th, 1929
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The modern world is always appalling to some people, as it was in 1929 to one TN Bateman, the auditor of the Zion Literary and Debating Society, in Rathgar, who described the era thus. –
IN THE Forsyte Chronicles, said the lecturer, John Galsworthy had described the present age as one which did not know what it wanted, but was intensely preoccupied in getting it. All around they saw the gods of their fathers tumbling down from their pedestals and the conventions being overthrown.
There was graft in public life and a general loosening of the moral fibres in private life. It was a time of feverish excitement, in which people were living at high tension. The philosophy of a great number could be summed up in the phrase: “Eat, drink and be merry for to-morrow we die.”
There was a general deadening of the senses and of feelings for the finer and more beautiful things of life. A wave of materialism, due to loss of faith, spread over the land, and a spirit of restlessness and discontent with the old order of things set in.
There was a general desire to break away from the paths of former generations. Nothing was held sacred – religion itself was voted out of date. They were like a rudderless ship on a storm-tossed sea, waiting to get somewhere, but not knowing where, when, or how.
The lecturer referred to the craze for such pleasures as dog racing, roller skating, dirt track racing. They saw the restlessness of the age in the senseless craving for record breaking.
Then they had the supreme craze of the moment – the craze for speed. They appeared to be arriving at the stage where it was impossible to go slow. People bowed down before and worshipped speed in all its forms.
The statues of their illustrious forbears were taken down and consigned to the rubbish heap to make way for the road hogs. Their beautiful landscapes were destroyed and made garish with petrol pumps and garages. The songs of birds and the hum of life was silenced by the roar of traffic.
In literature they saw the same spirit of restlessness, accompanied by a desire to belittle the past. There was a tendency to drag down from their niches of fame the great figures of bygone times. Their novelists, or a number of them at any rate, spent their time depicting all that was bad and rotten in life.
The majority of the reading public did not deserve any better food, because, if not devouring the racing news, they were more than probably reading blood-curdling murder stories.
Even those of the reading public who did read good literature were too lazy to choose for themselves, but depended upon the Book of the Month Club to keep them abreast of fashion.
In art one noticed the same restless spirit. The fashion in letter writing had departed and the Macaulay of the future would have no masses of private correspondence to fall back upon to help him paint a picture of the life of the people of this age. Oratory was also, with few exceptions, a dead art.