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ASSOCIATIONSby@hgwells
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ASSOCIATIONS

by H.G. WellsDecember 21st, 2022
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In the previous section I have dealt with the single individual’s duty in relation to the general community and to law and generally received institutions. But there is a new set of questions now to be considered. Let us take up the modifications that arise when it is not one isolated individual but a group of individuals who find themselves in disagreement with contemporary rule or usage and disposed to find a rightness in things not established or not conceded. They too live in the world as it is and not in the world as it ought to be, but their association opens up quite new possibilities of anticipating coming developments of living, and of protecting and guaranteeing one another from what for a single unprotected individual would be the inevitable consequences of a particular line of conduct, conduct which happened to be unorthodox or only, in the face of existing conditions, unwise.
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First and Last Things by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. ASSOCIATIONS

ASSOCIATIONS.

In the previous section I have dealt with the single individual’s duty in relation to the general community and to law and generally received institutions. But there is a new set of questions now to be considered. Let us take up the modifications that arise when it is not one isolated individual but a group of individuals who find themselves in disagreement with contemporary rule or usage and disposed to find a rightness in things not established or not conceded. They too live in the world as it is and not in the world as it ought to be, but their association opens up quite new possibilities of anticipating coming developments of living, and of protecting and guaranteeing one another from what for a single unprotected individual would be the inevitable consequences of a particular line of conduct, conduct which happened to be unorthodox or only, in the face of existing conditions, unwise.

For example, a friend of mine who had read a copy of the preceding section wrote as follows:—

“I can see no reason why even to-day a number of persons avowedly united in the same ‘Belief’ and recognizing each other as the self-constituted social vanguard should not form a recognized spiritual community centering round some kind of ‘religious’ edifice and ritual, and agree to register and consecrate the union of any couples of the members according to a contract which the whole community should have voted acceptable. The community would be the guardian of money deposited or paid in gradually as insurance for the children. And the fact of the whole business being regular, open and connected with a common intellectual and moral ritual and a common name, such for example as your name of ‘The Samurai,’ would secure the respect of outsiders, so that eventually these new marriage arrangements would modify the old ones. People would ask, ‘Were you married before the registrar?’ and the answer would be, ‘No, we are Samurai and were united before the Elders.’ In Catholic countries those who use only the civil marriage are considered outcasts by the religiously minded, which shows that recognition by the State is not as potent as recognition by the community to which one belongs. The religious marriage is considered the only one binding by Catholics, and the civil ceremony is respected merely because the State has brute force behind it.”

There is in this passage one particularly valuable idea, the idea of an association of people to guarantee the welfare of their children in common. I will follow that a little, though it takes me away from my main line of thought. It seems to me that such an association might be found in many cases a practicable way of easing the conflict that so many men and women experience, between their individual public service and their duty to their own families. Many people of exceptional gifts, whose gifts are not necessarily remunerative, are forced by these personal considerations to direct them more or less askew, to divert them from their best application to some inferior but money-making use; and many more are given the disagreeable alternative of evading parentage or losing the freedom of mind needed for socially beneficial work. This is particularly the case with many scientific investigators, many sociological and philosophical workers, many artists, teachers and the like. Even when such people are fairly prosperous personally they do not care to incur the obligation to keep prosperous at any cost to their work that a family in our competitive system involves. It gives great ease of mind to any sort of artistic or intellectual worker to feel free to become poor. I do not see why a group of such people should not attempt a merger of their family anxieties and family adventures, insure all its members, and while each retains a sufficient personal independence for freedom of word and movement, pool their family solicitudes and resources, organize a collective school and a common maintenance fund for all the children born of members of the association. I do not see why they should not in fact develop a permanent trust to maintain, educate and send out all their children into the world, a trust to which their childless friends and associates could contribute by gift and bequest, and to which the irregular good fortune that is not uncommon in the careers of these exceptional types could be devoted. I do not mean any sort of charity but an enlarged family basis.

Such an idea passes very readily into the form of a Eugenic association. It would be quite possible and very interesting for prosperous people interested in Eugenics to create a trust for the offspring of a selected band of beneficiaries, and with increasing resources to admit new members and so build up within the present social system a special strain of chosen people. So far people with eugenic ideas and people with conceptions of associated and consolidated families have been too various and too dispersed for such associations to be practicable, but as such views of life become more common, the chance of a number of sufficiently homogeneous and congenial people working out the method of such a grouping increases steadily.

Moreover, I can imagine no reason to prevent any women who are in agreement with the moral standards of the “Woman who Did” (standards I will not discuss at this present point but defer for a later section) combining for mutual protection and social support and the welfare of such children as they may bear. Then certainly, to the extent that this succeeds, the objections that arise from the evil effects upon the children of social isolation disappear. This isolation would be at worst a group isolation, and there can be no doubt that my friend is right in pointing out that there is much more social toleration for an act committed under the sanction of a group than for an isolated act that may be merely impulsive misbehaviour masquerading as high principle.

It seems to me remarkable that, to the best of my knowledge, so obvious a form of combination has never yet been put in practice. It is remarkable but not inexplicable. The first people to develop novel ideas, more particularly of this type, are usually people in isolated circumstances and temperamentally incapable of disciplined cooperation.

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This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2009). First and Last Things: A Confession of Faith and Rule of Life. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4225/4225-h/4225-h.htm

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org, located at https://www.gutenberg.org/policy/license.html.