No matter how compelling your articles of faith may be, or your advertisements, or your campaign platform, or your morals or principles or beliefs — Reality will always continue to do as she damn well pleases. The hard sciences are exceptional in that they are interesting because and only if they provide a more and more precise model of reality, not because they are comforting or comfortable (they are generally neither). The Gods of the Market-Place (or of any other field which revolves around telling people that which they want to hear) are inevitably constrained by the irritating consistency of Reality — or as Kipling puts it, by the Gods of the Copybook Headings. The question is never whether slick idealism of any stripe will triumph over reality: the question is only how many people will die before we (re)discover that, as usual, Reality Is Always Right.
“The Gods of the Copybook Headings”
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul; But, though we had
plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not God that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four-
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man- There are only
four things certain since Social Progress began:-
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!