A cheery whistle is unlikely to dispel the shadows of a creeping despair, but at least it raises the sound of that apt spirit which feels duty-bound to stand fast and not let the buggers grind him down; for I should not like to give myself up to gloominess, preferring such whistles and cheerfulness that life can still foster; nor should I like to bring some gloom upon you; and yet after all this I must say that I find the prospects for England bleak.
In our crass and coarse land, even the mediocrity of a hundred years ago appears vaunted and out of the reach. Baseness has become the order of the day, and conformity thereto an imperative; for the herd can brook no extraordinariness when its sentiments rule; and now they begin to rule. There are few persons nowadays who do not share the herd’s mentality, and it is rarer still to meet a man who dares speak against it; for cowardice in the face of this vast multitude abounds, and any nobility of character that a man might still possess stands as an object for ridicule, and, if not brought to heel thereby, becomes an object for hatred.
But it is by a rank artifice that the herd’s base sentiments and resentments rule at all; for it was by provocation of such sentiments that the herd was first mustered and by which its continuing movement is maintained, carrying the careers and power-ambitions of nefarious persons.
Against this mass movement, little headway can be made. As Kierkegaard wrote, “To battle against princes and popes . . . is easy compared with struggling against the masses, the tyranny of equality, against the grin of shallowness, nonsense, baseness and bestiality.” (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, tr. & ed. by A. Dru, (London: Fontana Books, 1958), journal for 1854, p.234.) Few can or will struggle against this herd, the ease of conformity and the perverse sense of righteousness derived therefrom being too tempting to resist; and thus whatever the herd wreaks, whether it be ugliness, baseness or tyranny, it wreaks almost irresistibly.
Still, there’s no use blubbing and besnotting one’s blouse. One could do worse than heed an ancient exhortation: Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.