Great minds

Anthony Eden at a United Nations Association rally at the Albert Hall, 1 March 1947:

Mr. EDEN and M. JAN MASARYK, Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, were the other principal speakers. Of international affairs, Mr. EDEN said: "Our planet has become very small. We are nearer to San Francisco to-day than we were to Paris 100 years ago. We are all so closely interdependent; we have to rub shoulders whether we would or no.

"Can we learn this lesson of interdependence? If we can there is no limit to the standard of material prosperity and, I believe, of human happiness to which mankind can attain. If we cannot learn it, then a future conflict, with the added horror of modern weapons, may seal the doom of the human race. The choice is as simple as that. Suspicions, jealousies, even hostility, are as easy to engender between nations as between neighbours. Sometimes I think the people of this distracted planet will never really get together until they find someone in [sic] Mars to get mad against."

Governments, Mr. Eden added, were not much wiser than the peoples they led. If the peoples would reach understanding the Governments would reach it, too.1

I can't resist pointing out that nearly a decade later, Eden went on to prove that his own government, at least, was not very wise! The 'added horror of modern weapons' refers, of course, the atom bomb (Masaryk's message was that 'unless we were very careful we could slip back from the Atomic to the Stone Age in a matter of a few weeks'); and the reason why the world was so small was, in part, the aeroplane.

Eden's suggestion that the people of Earth needed a Martian threat to set aside their differences brings to mind Ronald Reagan's much later musings along the same lines (source):

I doubt Eden inspired Reagan, but he did apparently inspire the author of the first book to use the term "flying saucer" in the title: Bernard Newman, whose The Flying Saucer was published by Victor Gollancz in 1948. I haven't read it, but judging from a summary in a Magonia article by Philip Taylor, it's about a group of scientists who fake flying saucer crashes in order to fool governments into believing that there is indeed an extraterrestrial threat:

An international league of scientists springs into action and with remarkable speed the differences between the world's governments dissolve under the 'Martian' threat. The final chapter sees every international political problem speedily resolved, from the Middle East to Northern Ireland. This 1948 fantasy is very much of its time: it was published in the very month of the Russian blockade of Berlin. Newman's heroes find a way around the frustrating limitations of the new United Nations, with, in the background, the emergence of the super-power blocs and the omniscience of the atomic scientists all playing their part.

As it happens, I own another book by Newman (who wrote many), Armoured Doves: A Peace Novel (London: Jarrolds, 1937 [1931]), as it's relevant to my thesis research. I haven't read it yet, but it seems to share at least one theme with The Flying Saucer, namely that of a group of pacifist scientists imposing peace upon the world, though in this case by use of a death ray rather than a disinformation campaign.

Incidentally, the Magonia article is also worth reading for the account of Gerald Heard's theory for the origins of flying saucers -- that they were spacecraft piloted by giant bees from Mars! Yes, I said giant bees. Heard was an unconventional thinker (obviously) and a pacifist, who hung out with Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood in California. But in the early 1930s, he was well-known as the BBC's first science commentator. And, inevitably it seems, he's also a person of interest to me, contributing an essay entitled "And suppose we fail? After the next war" to Challenge to Death (London: Constable & Co., 1934), about the depths British society would sink into after a knock-out blow. It's all one seamless tapestry, isn't it.

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  1. The Times, 3 March 1947, p. 6. []

7 thoughts on “Great minds

  1. Christine Keeler

    "An international league of scientists springs into action and with remarkable speed..."

    Sorry. I'm still rolling around the floor engulfed in laughter.

  2. Post author

    Yeah, doesn't sound like Newman actually knew any scientists, does it? Still, it was a beguiling idea to some. Scientists got us into this mess, so scientists can get us out of it ... also the idea that science was above nationalism and ideology, somewhat optimistically as it turned out.

  3. Christine Keeler

    I know, but it's a compelling idea. Like a secret cabal of stout, do-gooding chaps in lab coats who look like any other member of the community.

    Sadly, though, the ninja masks are a dead giveaway.

  4. Nabakov

    Just in case you missed this response to your latest comment at LP., here it is again.

    "I was meaning to email you Brett. During my spring cleaning I came across an old video of a vintage 90 minute long docu about the 1936 RAF Hendon Pageant.

    B&W. Chipper clipped narration. RAF recruits marching around. A Hawker Fury squadron scramble and formation flying. Handley Page Heyfords droning over the Home counties. Mock bombing raids on fake native vilages erected on the greensward of the London Aerodome. And much more.

    Interested in acquiring this videotape Brett? If so, it's gonna you cost several drinks in early January and a thank you in the book you should spin off from your thesis."

    And I reckon Christine Keeler should perhaps join us for drinks too then as someone else who is obviously charmed, intrigued and occasionaly horrified by the dark yet sunlit promise of wings over the world.

  5. Post author

    Well, if you're going to twist my arm then! David T. mentioned something along similar lines too, though without the added incentive of a RAF Pageant documentary ...

  6. Christine Keeler

    ...wherein all and sundry can coo over the classic lines and terrifying potential of the Armstrong Whitworth bomber. Germany, your fate is sealed!

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