Sunday, December 26, 2010

Then and now

In my view, the Britain of 1912 was more democratic than the Britain of 1932. And every succeeding year up to the outbreak of war saw us retreating farther and farther away. It was of course mainly the fault of the people themselves. Too few of them took a critical interest in public affairs. Too many allowed themselves to be gulled by any nonsense, chiefly appearing in newspapers that could no longer be regarded as serious organs of opinion but were simply a mixture of propaganda sheets and comic turns.

(It is typical of this period that the very newspaper that told its readers every day that there would be no war was making elaborate arrangements in secret to cope with war conditions.)

It was possible to form an inner ring, centralising power, because public opinion was weak and uncritical. Let it be admitted, once and for all, that you cannot have a democratic government long, cannot make a democracy function properly, if you have an apathetic and passive people.

"Out of the People", J B Priestley, 1941.