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Science and modern workers

How is the position or quality of the modern industrial worker to be defined? In the first place the answer is that the world of the workers is a wholly artificial creation due to machines and the popular diffusion of scientific information connected with their use; in other words machines infallibly create the artificial human type called 'proletarian', or rather they create a proletariat, for here it is essentially a question of a quantitative collectivity and not of a natural caste, a caste, that is based on a particular individual nature.

If machines could be suppressed and the ancient crafts restored with all their aspects of art and dignity, the 'problem of the workers' would cease to exist; this is true even as regards purely servile functions or more or less quantitative occupations for the simple reason that machines are in themselves inhuman and anti-spiritual. Machines kill not only the soul of the worker, but the soul as such and so also the soul of the exploiter: the coexistence of exploiter and worker is inseparable from mechanization; the crafts by their human and spiritual quality prevent this gross alternative. Mechanization of the world, after all, means the triumph of ponderous and treacherous iron-mongery; it is the victory of metal over wood, of matter over man, of cunning over intelligence;(1) expressions such as 'mass', 'block' and 'shock' that occur so commonly in the vocabulary of industrialized man, are very significant in a world more proper to termites than to humans.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that the workers' world, with its mechanico-scientific and materialistic psychology, is particularly impermeable to spiritual realities, for it presupposes a surrounding reality which is quite artificial: it requires machinery and therefore metal, din, hidden and treacherous forces, a nightmare environment, incomprehensible comings and goings - in a word an insect-like existence carried on in the midst of ugliness and triviality. In such a world, or rather in such a stage-set, spiritual reality comes to be regarded as an all too obvious illusion or a luxury to be despised. In no matter what traditional environment, on the contrary, it is the problem of the workers, and so also of mechanization, which is devoid of persuasive force: in order to make it convincing a stage world corresponding to it had first to be created, in which the very forms suggested the absence of God; Heaven had to be made to seem improbable and any talk of God to sound false.(2) When the industrial worker says he has no time to pray he is not far wrong.

(1) Somewhere we have read that only the advances in technology can explain the new and catastrophic character of the first world war, and this is very true. Here it is machines that have made history, just as elsewhere they are making men, ideas and an entire world.

(2) The great mistake of those who in Europe seek to lead the industrial masses back to the fold of the Church is that they confirm the worker in his dehumanization by accepting the world of machines as a real and legitimate world and even believing themselves obliged to 'love that world for its own sake'. To translate the Gospels into slang or to travesty the Holy Family in the guise of proletarians is to make a mock not only of religion but of the workers themselves; it is in any case base demagogy or, let us say, weakmindedness, for all these attempts betray the inferiority complex of intellectuals when they meet the sort of brutal realism characteristic of the industrial worker.

This realism becomes the more easy the more its field is limited, gross and so also unreal, for in this way he is merely expressing what is inhuman or, one might say, subhuman in his condition. The ancient crafts were eminently intelligible and did not deprive man of his human quality, which by definition implies the opportunity to think of God.

Some will doubtless object that industrialism is a fact and must be accepted as such, as though the character of being a fact took precedence over truth. People easily mistake for courage and realism what is their exact opposite: that is to say, because some calamity cannot be prevented, people call it a 'benefit' and make a virtue of their own inability to escape from it. Error is deemed truth simply because it exists and this fits in well with the dynamism and existentialism of the mentality of a machine age; everything that exists, thanks to the blindness of men, is called 'our time', just as if this fact by itself constituted a categorical imperative. It is all too clear that the impossibility of escaping from an ill does not prevent that ill from being what it is; in order to find a remedy it is necessary to consider the ill quite apart from our chance of escape or our desire not to perceive it, for no good can arise in opposition to truth.

There is a common mistake, and one characteristic of the positivist or existentialist mentality of our times, which consists in believing that the establishing of a fact depends on knowing its causes or the remedies for it as the case may be, as if man had not a right to see things he can neither explain nor modify; people call it 'barren criticism' merely to point out an evil and they forget that the first step towards an ultimate cure is to establish the nature of the disease. In any case every situation offers the possibility, if not of an objective solution, at least of a subjective evaluation, a liberation by the spirit; whoever fathoms the real nature of machinery will at the same time escape from psychological enslavement to machines, and this is already a great gain.

We say this without any optimism and without losing sight of the fact that the present world is a necessary evil the metaphysical root of which in the last analysis is to be sought in the infinity of Divine Possibility. [Castes and Races, p. 19-21].