The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 4 (September 1, 1931.)
A Loin Cloth in London—Do East and West Meet?—Western Materialism Creaks—Britain Off Gold Standard.
Dark-Skinned potentates often went to Old Rome in chains to adorn a Roman triumph, but never was there such an entry into Rome, ancient or modern, as the entry of Gandhi into London. He of the loin cloth—“a self-made shawl” was added at Marseilles—came in what is now his habitual simplicity of attire, strange contrast to the evening dress he wore in London about the end of the last century. But if there is a limit to his wardrobe, there seems to be little limit to the moral authority he claims. It may be that the calibre of prophets is still estimated to be in inverse proportion to their raiment. Actually Gandhi will speak at the India Round Table Conference on behalf of the Indian Congress, an Assembly which claims to represent some of India's many millions. But, over and above such political credentials, his whole demeanour impresses the plea that he moves on spiritual tides. He comes West to champion Eastern culture and spirituality in a way that even Kipling, brilliant as he was in picturing the Indian mind, could not (would not!) have conceived.
Nothing could indeed be stranger—nothing, perhaps, more symbolic—than this impact of the apostle of simplicity upon the elaborate materialism of the West. Gandhi's asceticism implies at once an Oriental rebuke to Occidental pride in tawdry wealth and temporal power. “What are all your costly trappings really worth?” asks, in effect, the Indian in the loin cloth. It thus happens that, while he will be negotiating in terms of temporal politics, the wise man from India will do so as a superior spirit challenging the altruism of the Western World to live up to its cultural aims, and to admit the higher life of the unhurrying East. Gandhi need not say these things specifically. His loin cloth, and the atmosphere he carries with him, will say them. There is an implied moral detachment that makes him a difficult person for ordinary political negotiators to tackle. And the implication, whether valid or not, will be noted by millions of people, watching for signs and portents.
Gandhi Finds New Cabinet.
The watchfulness of the white world—the gold world—will be enhanced by the crisis into which Britain, Europe, and America have so suddenly and completely been plunged. The wider effect of this crisis is economic, but the deeper effect is moral, or even moral-religious (as indicated by the widespread revival of the study of prophecy). Gandhi's arrival in London could have had no more vivid back-ground than this near-breakdown of the gold world's page 50 economic system, including grave perils to the finance of the British money-centre. Events have moved so rapidly that imagination might easily read destiny into them. Gandhi was invited by one Government. He is received by another. For at a moment's notice the Prime Minister of Britain and his ablest lieutenant have had to cut themselves off from The Lahour Party in order to head a National Government to ward off economic blows aimed even at the financial citadel.
The White Man's Burden.
Such a conjunction of dramatic events—in party politics, in national and world finance, and again in the clash of colours, creeds, castes, and civilisations—will surely be seized on by the historian of the future when he endeavours to focus the post-war cross-currents and their confusing effects. But to-day we live too close to the trees to see the wood. We are only dimly conscious that many things are in the melting pot. We know that men like Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Philip Snowden do not break party ties and imperil their political and personal careers without compelling cause. The mere “disagreeable task” of putting extra taxation on incomes, beer, and tobacco, of reducing unemployment pay, salaries, and services, would not be shouldered by a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer unless he felt that the whole standard of living was imperilled. “The white man's burden” has become a burden indeed.
Shock for the Gold World.
How much the standard of living was imperilled was not revealed till two or three weeks after the MacDonald-Snowden-Conservative-Liberal Government had been formed. The issue between the Labour units in the Cabinet, and the Labour body from which they have been cut off, was at first simple. Messrs. MacDonald and Snow-den stood for a balanced Budget and for the gold standard; therefore, they said, unemployment relief and social services must be cut down. Labour as a body replied that Budgetary and gold standard principles could be made to fit; and that in any case, if it came to be a choice between a balanced Budget and relief expenditure, the latter should stand. Briefly put, that was the issue on which Labour and its leaders parted in August. But, before September was three parts spent, international finance had followed such courses that the Bank of England rate rose from 41/2 to 6 per cent., and Britain went off the gold standard.
A Flash of Force.
As if this ominous series of happenings was not enough, the world was at the same time startled by breaches of discipline in the Atlantic Fleet, intended as a demonstration against reduced pay (such reductions being regarded as part of the price paid for the new Government's balanced Budget), and by Japan's armed intervention in Manchuria. The naval incident was luridly represented on the Continent, and added to the strain of the sterling crisis. It is still somewhat veiled in mystery; so is the Japanese-Chinese clash and its reactions upon the Nanking and Manchurian Administrations and upon the League of Nations. But so quickly had the financial and military clouds gathered that for the moment India was almost forgotten. It looked as if the wise men from the East had gathered in London to listen to the rumbles of Western materialism, engrossed with its own peculiar evils.
Much Water is Flowing.
At this stage one must leave the thread of the main story to touch on other manifestations of Westernism, such as air speed. But it is patent that the air is full of change and rumours of change. While invention marches ahead, while machines of all sorts grow better and better, the cry of discontent with the distribution of wealth, with the whole working of the economic-industrial system, refuses to die down. The world is marching to a new international outlook, of which the Hoover moratorium is one sign. It is marching also to a new structure of social relationship within each country. There was never a stream of events more puzzling than that of August-September. A rapid flowing stream it is, full of interest and possibility.
Where Westerners Excel.
The ability of an aeroplane to fly at over 400 miles an hour—and to average nearly 380 miles over several “runs”—without killing its pilot, was demonstrated in the uncontested Schneider Cup flight over the Solent. The deaths, not long before, of two members of Schneider Cup teams—one Englishman and one Italian—had revived the question whether the capacity of the speed machines was beginning to exceed the capacity of man. It was suggested that the Italian, who crashed fatally in an aeroplane, credited with being equal to over 400, had simply lost consciousness, through speed or fumes or both. But the British pilots, Stain-forth and Boothman, who won the Schneider Cup for Britain in the absence of France and Italy, survived in good order, though Boothman needed arm massage. Under the rules, it seems, Britain now wins the Cup outright, but Lady Houston's money may again become instrumental in continuing the competition with the Continent. Her Ladyship doec not believe in aeroplanes rusting or in airmen resting.
On the Cricket Map.
The New Zealand cricket team having completed all its British matches save one, it is possible to sum up the tour. The team won less matches, and lost less, than the 1927 team. The 1931 team won six, while the 1927 team won seven; the former lost three, while the latter lost five. On the whole, the batting is adjudged stronger than the bowling. At the same time, the batting was inconsistent. Merritt got most wickets, but at one stage of the tour was much hit by the best bats. Vivian, the colt, has a good allround record, and Dempster is, of course, top batsman. In 1927, the number of New Zealand three-figure scores was 19, and in 1931 (with six more matches) 23. Twenby years ago it would have been thought that first-class bowling was more within New Zealand's reach than first-class batting. The batting advance is therefore most encouraging. The bowlers will come. Climate is rather on their side.page 52 page 53