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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:53:17
Typefacelarge in Small
The twofold aim of the forwards was to explore the highest capacities of the human spirit and to impart their findings to the world. They were very widely respected, but not universally. There were some intellectuals of sceptical temper and also some hard-headed men of affairs who regarded the whole enterprise of the forwards as futile. These critics pointed out that in the perfecting of society and the raising of average intelligence and the endless developing of intellectual culture the race would be able to occupy itself fully for centuries to come, and probably for ever. There was no need, they said, to peer into the black fog of mystery.

Beyond the frontiers the rebellions organized by the servants of the light had long since been crushed. Tibet now faced the world alone. The only hope was that, since the victory of the imperial powers seemed now certain, they would begin to quarrel with one another and use their armaments for mutual destruction. But the Russian and Chinese ruling classes now regarded Tibet with unreasoning, obsessive terror and hate. Consciously believing in their own righteousness and their social usefulness, they were at the same time unconsciously tormented by a guilt which they dared not confess to themselves, a guilt which was both social and spiritual. Against a community which had purged itself of that guilt, and demanded a world-wide purge, they felt bitter resentment and loathing. Moreover the Tibetan community had manifested strange powers which the imperialists in their own hearts knew to be the powers of light, but which consciously they condemned as diabolical. Thus their action against Tibet showed all the persistence of one who, discovering on his body the first minute pustule of some frightful disease, believes it to be the fruit of his own sin, and resolves to cut out the infected part.

Once more it seemed to me possible that from this utter debasement man might now once more take the first step on the long journey towards lucidity. The whole lethal social order which had hitherto frustrated it had now vanished. Reduced once more to the primitive family, surely men would rediscover their essential humanity. But this could not be. The dead hand of the past still gripped even their most intimate relationships. Debased intelligence, debased self-consciousness, debased sensibility towards others made it impossible for the new sub-men to realize the folly and cruelty that they were constantly perpetrating. No individual was ever treated with respect even for such rudiments of personality as he might possess. Every man and woman was merely the node of a number of formal social relations. Everyone was either a chieftain or a slave or a free hunter, either a husband or bachelor, a wife or a virgin, and so on. And for each relationship there was an intricate pattern of conventional conduct, which must never be infringed. These patterns were in the main not expressions of existing circumstances but confused survivals of a past culture, in many cases cruelly frustrating to the individual. This state of affairs was damaging to everyone, not only because of the discrepancy between his actual circumstances and the behaviour imposed by convention, but also because in everyone there still lurked a tortured and bewildered germ of that spirit which in the past had flowered as Jesus, Socrates, Gautama, and the hosts of the wise and the good.

The world-wide missionary effort would have been far less effective if the missionaries had not been able to point to the example of Tibet’s actual achievement. ‘In Tibet the police are few and unarmed,’ they said. ‘In Tibet no doors need be locked. In Tibet no one feels any need of the debauch of cruelty. We have neither rich nor poor. Our prisons have been destroyed or turned into laboratories and art galleries. We know how to live, and we have the means.’ Visitors to Tibet were welcomed and could see for themselves that these claims were true. At last the imperial governments adopted drastic measures. Realizing that ‘the roof of the world’ was becoming a Mecca where the seditious gathered to study and plan revolution, they forbade all travel to Tibet, and made a great effort to round up and destroy all the missionaries. But intercourse with Tibet continued. In spite of all restrictions, hosts of daring enthusiasts managed to slip through into ‘the fortunate country’ for mental and spiritual fortification; and to slip out again to spread the gospel. And the stream of native Tibetan missionaries was restricted not by the imperial attempt to put an end to it but by the needs of the home country to organize a desperate military defence.

So effective was the defence put up by the Tibetan air force that the repeated waves of attack became more and more infrequent and finally ceased for several years. During this period the Tibetans maintained themselves in complete isolation from the rest of the world, save by radio and occasional daring excursions by planes to foment revolution or seize some much needed commodity. Meanwhile the imperialists were preparing so great an air-fleet and so numerous a population of pilots that effective resistance by the shrunken Tibetan air force would be impossible.

I CANNOT BE sure how long the Celestial World Empire endured. Its life must certainly be counted in centuries, and possibly it lasted for a couple of thousand years. Though the world empire was at heart a diseased society and bound to disintegrate, it inherited from earlier societies a certain toughness of fibre, and its structure was such that it could carry on in a sort of living death so long as conditions remained unchanged. While its material resources were unimpaired it functioned automatically and without change.

The perfection of the system of social control was reached by means of a further triumph of inventive genius. After much laborious experiment a method was devised by which the impulses and desires of the individual could be either stimulated or suppressed by radio. Thus it was possible for the officials in a distant government office to force upon a man an irresistible craving to carry out a prescribed course of action. Like one under hypnotic influence, but with full consciousness of the enormity of his action, he might find himself compelled to betray his friend, to murder his wife, to torture his child or himself, to work himself to death, to fight against impossible odds.


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