Once in a blue moon a book comes along that totally rocks my world. Back in 2014 it was Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm, and just recently it was What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton.
I discovered this book via the comment section of Return of Kings (I know, I can’t believe it either). But I looked into it, and found this free version on Kindle so I went ahead and downloaded it along with 5 of his other books (all for free!).
I’ll admit, after the first few pages or so I felt like giving up. It didn’t peak my interest whatsoever, but regardless, I kept reading; I’m glad I did.
What’s Wrong With the World now ranks up there with some of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. His thoughts are so lucid and well put, with plenty of wit scattered about.
Instead of doing a regular review, here are some choice quotes from the various sections:
On Women, Feminism and Marriage
“Numberless modern women have rebelled against domesticity in the theory because they have never known it in practice. Hosts of the poor are driven to the workhouse without ever having known the house. Generally speaking, the cultured class is shrieking to be let of the decent home, just as the working class is shouting to be let into it.”
“The woman does not work because the man tells her to work and she obeys. On the contrary, the woman works because she has told the man to work and he hasn’t obeyed.”
“In all legends men have thought of women as sublime separately but horrible in a herd.”
“Why should woman be economically dependent upon man?” The answer is that among poor and practical people she isn’t; except in the sense in which he is dependent upon her. A hunter has to tear his clothes; there must be somebody to mend them. A fisher has to catch fish; there must be somebody to cook them. It is surely quite clear that this modern notion that woman is a mere “pretty clinging parasite,” “a plaything,” etc., arose through the somber contemplation of some rich banking family, in which the banker, at least, went to the city and pretended to do something, while the banker’s wife went to the Park and did not pretend to do anything at all. A poor man and his wife are a business partnership.”
“But of all the modern notions generated by mere wealth the worst is this: the notion that domesticity is dull and tame. Inside the home (they say) is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. This is indeed a rich man’s opinion.”
“I have known many happy marriages, but never compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant wen incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”
“The great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
“Men have not got tired of Christianity; they have never found enough Christianity to get tired of. Men have never wearied of political justice; they have wearied of waiting for it.”
On Conservative Ideals
“There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.”
“It is quaint that people talk about separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It IS education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.”
On Masculinity and the Behavior of Man
“The future is a blank wall on which every man can write own name a large a he likes; the past I find already covered with illegible scribbles, such as Plato, Isaiah, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Napoleon. I can make the future as narrow as myself; the pat is obliged to be as broad and turbulent as humanity. And the upshot of this modern attitude is really thus that men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.”
Men often wish to make their mark on humanity by looking forward, but never try looking to the past for answers.
On Freedom and Politics
“Is there anyone… who will maintain that the Party System could have been created by people particularly fond of truth?”
“There are two things, and two things only, for the human mind, a dogma and a prejudice.”
“So the great mediaeval revival was a memory of the Roman Empire. So the Reformation looked back to the Bible and Biblical Times… but hat modern movement which many would count he most anarchic of all is in this sense the most conservative of all.”
“…that wealth will be a protection against political corruption. The English statesmen is bribed not to be bribed. He is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, so that he may never afterwards be found with the silver spoons in his pocket. So strong is our faith in this protection by plutocracy, that we are more and more and more trusting our empire in the hands of families which inherit wealth without either blood or manners.”
“Even where the press is free for criticism it is only used for adulation.”
Things clearly haven’t changed.
“Property is merely the art of the democracy. It means that every man should have something that he can shape in his own image, as he is shape din the image of heaven.”
I had a lot more quotes to share, but both of us only have so much time. But for your sake, this is a must-read book.