top of page

The Holy Terror

H.G. Wells

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Dr. Chanter, in his brilliant History of Human Thought in the Twentieth Century, has made the suggestion that only a very small proportion of people are capable of acquiring new ideas of political or social behaviour after they are twenty-five years old. On the other hand, few people become directive in these matters until they are between forty and fifty. Then they prevail for twenty years or more. The conduct of public affairs therefore is necessarily twenty years or more behind the living thought of the times. This is what Dr. Chanter calls the "delayed realisation of ideas". In the less hurried past this had not been of any great importance, but in the violent crises of the Revolutionary Period it became a primary fact. It is evident now that whatever the emergency, however obvious the new problem before our species in the nineteen-twenties, it was necessary for the whole generation that had learned nothing and could learn nothing from the Great War and its sequelae, to die out before any rational handling of world affairs could even begin. The cream of the youth of the war years had been killed; a stratum of men already middle-aged remained in control, whose ideas had already set before the Great War. It was, says Chanter, an inescapable phase. The world of the Frightened Thirties and the Brigand Forties was under the dominion of a generation of unteachable, obstinately obstructive men, blinded men, miseducating, misleading the baffled younger people for completely superseded ends. If they could have had their way, they would have blinded the whole world for ever. But the blinding was inadequate, and by the Fifties all this generation and its teachings and traditions were passing away, like a smoke-screen blown aside. Before a few years had passed it was already incredible that in the twenties and thirties of the twentieth century the whole political life of the world was still running upon the idea of competitive sovereign empires and states. Men of quite outstanding intelligence were still planning and scheming for the "hegemony" of Britain or France or Germany or Japan; they were still moving their armies and navies and air forces and making their combinations and alliances upon the dissolving chess-board of terrestrial reality. Nothing happened as they had planned it; nothing worked out as they desired; but still with a stupefying inertia they persisted. They launched armies, they starved and massacred populations. They were like a veterinary surgeon who suddenly finds he is operating upon a human being, and with a sort of blind helplessness cuts and slashes more and more desperately, according to the best equestrian rules. The history of European diplomacy between 1914 and 1944 seems now so consistent a record of incredible insincerity that it stuns the modern mind. At the time it seemed rational behaviour. It did not seem insincere. The biographical material of the period -- and these governing-class people kept themselves in countenance very largely by writing and reading each other's biographies -- the collected letters, the collected speeches, the sapient observations of the leading figures make tedious reading, but they enable the intelligent student to realise the persistence of small-society values in that swiftly expanding scene. Those values had to die out. There was no other way of escaping from them, and so, slowly and horribly, that phase of the moribund sovereign states concluded.”

“Where there is no derision the people perish," said Chiffan. "Now who said that?" asked Steenhold, always anxious to check his quotations. "It sounds familiar." "I said it," said Chiffan. "Get on with your suggestions.”

“The history of mankind," said Dreed, "has been a history of betrayals, the perennial betrayal of the common man by the men he has trusted." "By the men the lazy, haphazard, childish oaf was too wilfully stupid to mistrust," said Bodisham. "The history of mankind from the very beginning has been a history of over-trusted trustees, corrupted by their unchecked opportunities.”

“Within he felt that faint stirring of derision for the whole business of life which is the salt of the American mentality. Outwardly they are sentimental and enthusiastic and inwardly they are profoundly cynical.”

“Well, anyhow, the practical outcome of all these damn democratic ideas, is that men of our quality -- yes, damn it! we have a quality -- excuse themselves from the hard and thankless service they owe -- not to the crowd, Dick, but to the race. (Much good it will do is to shirk like that in the long run.) We will not presume, we say, no. We shrug our shoulders and leave the geese, the hungry sheep, the born followers, call them what you will, to the leaders who haven't our scruples. The poor muts swallow those dead old religions no longer fit for human consumption, and we say 'let 'em.' They devour their silly newspapers. They let themselves be distracted from public affairs by games, by gambling, by shows and coronations and every soft of mass stupidity, while the stars in their courses plot against them. We say nothing. Nothing audible. We mustn't destroy the simple faith that is marching them to disaster. We mustn't question their decisions. That wouldn't be democratic. And then we sit here and say privately that the poor riff-raff are failing to adapt themselves to those terrible new conditions -- as if they had had half a chance of knowing how things stand with them. They are shoved about by patriotisms, by obsolete religious prejudices, by racial delusions, by incomprehensible economic forces. Amid a growth of frightful machinery...”

“We've got to escape from narrowness. We're a movement, not a conspiracy. We've got to radiate contacts, and have as many people aware of us as possible. That's living, modern common sense.”

“Things were rather larger, more obvious and rougher on the American side, but the issues were essentially the same. The general public voted and demonstrated, but its voting seemed to lead to nothing. It felt that things were done behind its back and over its head but it could never understand clearly how. It never seemed able to get sound news out of its newspapers nor good faith out of its politicians. It resisted, it fumbled, it was becoming more and more suspicious and sceptical, but it was profoundly confused and ill-informed.”

“They despite and hate the government more and more, but they don't know how to set about changing it. The country is dying for some sort of lead, and so far all it is getting is a crowd of fresh professional leaders. Who never get anywhere. Who do not seem to be aiming anywhere. We are living in a world of jaded politics. Poverty increases, prices rise, unemployment spreads, mines, factories stagnate, and nothing is done.”

“That City of yours is a morbid excrescence. Wall Street is a morbid excrescence. Plainly it's a thing that has grown out upon the social body rather like -- what do you call it? -- an embolism, thrombosis, something of that sort. A sort of heart in the wrong place, isn't it? Anyhow -- there it is. Everything seems obliged to go through it now; it can hold up things, stimulate things, give the world fever or pain, and yet all the same -- is it necessary, Irwell? Is it inevitable? Couldn't we function economically quite as well without it? Has the world got to carry that kind of thing for ever? "What real strength is there in a secondary system of that sort? It's secondary, it's parasitic. It's only a sort of hypertrophied, uncontrolled counting-house which has become dominant by falsifying the entries and intercepting payment. It's a growth that eats us up and rots everything like cancer. Financiers make nothing, they are not a productive department. They control nothing. They might do so, but they don't. They don't even control Westminster and Washington. They just watch things in order to make speculative anticipations. They've got minds that lie in wait like spiders, until the fly flies wrong. Then comes the debt entanglement. Which you can break, like the cobweb it is, if only you insist on playing the wasp. I ask you again what real strength has Finance if you tackle Finance? You can tax it, regulate its operations, print money over it without limit, cancel its claims. You can make moratoriums and jubilees. The little chaps will dodge and cheat and run about, but they won't fight. It is an artificial system upheld by the law and those who make the laws. It's an aristocracy of pickpocket area-sneaks. The Money Power isn't a Power. It's respectable as long as you respect it, and not a moment longer. If it struggles you can strangle it if you have the grip...You and I worked that out long ago, Chiffan... "When we're through with our revolution, there will be no money in the world but pay. Obviously. We'll pay the young to learn, the grown-ups to function, everybody for holidays, and the old to make remarks, and we'll have a deuce of a lot to pay them with. We'll own every real thing; we, the common men. We'll have the whole of the human output in the market. Earn what you will and buy what you like, we'll say, but don't try to use money to get power over your fellow-creatures. No squeeze. The better the economic machine, the less finance it will need. Profit and interest are nasty ideas, artificial ideas, perversions, all mixed up with betting and playing games for money. We'll clean all that up..." "It's been going on a long time," said Irwell. "All the more reason for a change," said Rud.”

“And suddenly he became almost lyric. "For three thousand years the Common Man has been fended off from the full and glorious life he might have had, by Make Believe. For three thousand years in one form or another he has been asking for an unrestricted share in the universal welfare. He has been asking for a fair dividend from civilisation. For all that time, and still it goes on, the advantaged people, the satisfied people, the kings and priests, the owners and traders, the gentlefolk and the leaders he trusted, have been cheating him tacitly or deliberately, out of his proper share and contribution in the common life. Sometimes almost consciously, sometimes subconsciously, cheating themselves about it as well. When he called upon God, they said 'We'll take care of your God for you', and they gave him organised religion. When he calls for Justice, they say 'Everything decently and in order', and give him a nice expensive Law Court beyond his means. When he calls for order and safety too loudly they hit him on the head with a policeman's truncheon. When he sought knowledge, they told him what was good for him. And to protect him from the foreigner, so they said, they got him bombed to hell, trained him to disembowel his fellow common men with bayonets and learn what love of King and Country really means. "All with the best intentions in the world, mind you. "Most of these people, I tell you, have acted in perfect good faith. They manage to believe that in sustaining this idiot's muddle they are doing tremendous things -- stupendous things -- for the Common Man. They can live lives of quiet pride and die quite edifyingly in an undernourished, sweated, driven and frustrated world. Useful public servants! Righteous self-applause! Read their bloody biographies!”

Except where otherwise noted, all rights reserved to the author(s) of this book (mentioned above). The content of this page serves as promotional material only. If you enjoyed these quotes, you can support the author(s) by acquiring the full book from Amazon.

Book Keywords:

trust, corruption, regulation, leaders, justice, fairness, power, democracy, protest, age, politicans, the-city, derision, change, money, americans, society, stagnation, order, history, enthusiasm, sentiment, personality, humankind, news, finance, humanity, ideas, political-movements, humans, newspapers, cynicism, wall-street, war, government, free-speech, politics, betrayal

bottom of page