Story type: Essay
But I sometimes wonder if this indifference towards the facts which are “big” to so many people and ought, perhaps, to be “big” to everybody, be a sign of national weakness or of national strength. Personally, I longed, metaphorically speaking, to tear that female limb from limb and send that young man to a village under bombardment, there to make him stay a week in the very hottest portion of Hell’s Corner. But had I done so, I realised that I should not have accomplished the very slightest good. The moment that you take a crank seriously, from that very moment he imagines that his “crankiness” is divinely inspired. Far better laugh at him and let him alone. Laughter is the one unanswerable contradiction, and ridicule is a far more deadly thing to fight against than fury, no matter if fury wields a hatchet. Perhaps this utter indifference to the firebrand is our national strength–even though it comes from a too-sluggish imagination, a too great imperviousness to new dangers. English people possess too great a sense of humour ever to become Bolshevik. They may not be witty and vivacious and effervescingly bright, but they possess an innate sense of the ridiculous which is their national safeguard against any very bloody form of revolution. So we suffer infuriated cranks–if not gladly, at least, in the same manner as we suffer baboons in the Zoo–interesting, and even amusing in their proper place, but to be shot at sight should they venture to play the “baboon” amid those hideous red-brick villas which have been termed an Englishman’s castle and his home. After all, every new system has its ridiculous side, and strangely enough, it is this ridiculous side which is most apparent at the outset. Only after you have delved below the “comic froth” do you begin to realise that there is a very vital truth hidden beneath. Well, a sense of humour blows away that froth in time, and then–as for example after the Suffragette antics–the real argument behind the capers and the words becomes known. Thus in England all revolutions are gradual, and in their very slowness lies their incalculable strength of purpose.