Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction
Christian based service movement warning about threats to rights and freedom irrespective of the label, Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
Edmund Burke

Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

The Milk of Human Kindness

December 2004

By Dewi Hopkins, Poet, Bangor

What follows is an extract from Behold the Tears: One Twentieth-Century and Three Victorian Novels by Dewi Hopkins. The whole essay will be available in booklet form in December 2005. For details, contact the author, 15 Rhosfryn, Bangor LL57 2DL, United Kingdom.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
-Ecclesiastes 4:1

Other [post-Victorian] novelists have given evocations of poverty, trade unionism, and the dole but have not (to my knowledge at least) tackled the question that interests me [the root cause of poverty]; and the responses suggested to poverty are variations of "work harder," "tighten your belts," or "redistribute" by violent compulsion if need be.
The most exceptional near miss comes in the novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This was published in 1939, a date that most of us see as highly significant.
All of my selected novelists are considerable stylists. As you start to read The Grapes of Wrath, you might feel that you have cause to dispute this claim. Nearly all is simple, double, or multiple sentences with ands and buts. In chapter 2, where the story really gets going, we have this terse, laconic style almost exclusively:

In the restaurant the truck driver paid his bill and put his two nickels change in a slot machine. The whirling cylinders gave him no score. "They fix 'em so you can't win nothin', he said to the waitress.
    And she replied: "Guy took the jackpot not two hours ago. Thirty-eight he got. How soon you gonna be back by?"
    He held the screen door a little open. "Week - ten days," he said. "Got to make a run to Tulsa, an' I never get back soon as I think."
    She said crossly: "Don't let the flies in. Better go out or come in."

(It is not just because it is realistic dialogue: look at the little connecting pieces, too.) Incidentally, we learn later that the machines are fixed quite simply. The owner just watches them and has learned the sequence in which they pay out; so he feeds them with coins when this is about to happen and removes the jackpot: just a small, routine part of the dishonesty by which life is lived. The language and tone of the conversation are well conveyed in the style of the writing. Like Mrs. Gaskell, Steinbeck both reflects and respects the language of the people he is writing about.
If we return to chapter 1, however, we find something a little different:

To the red country and part of the grey country of Oklahoma the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The ploughs crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies along the sides of the roads so that the grey country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated. The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet.

Here the still apparently simple prose has been varied with a pattern of more complex sentences (grammatically complex, that is, with main and subordinate clauses) presenting a dignified picture of nature and its action: as one of the dominant, determining characters in the story; for the crops will fail and the land turn to dust that rises in a permanent, choking cloud.
Elsewhere we shall find something else again: long (pages long) passages of speech not assigned to particular speakers:

'F we can on'y get to California where the oranges grow before this ol' jug [jalopy] blows up. 'F we on'y can.
    And the tires - two layers of fabric worn through. On'y a four-ply wire. Might get a hundred miles more outa her if we don't hit a rock an' blow her. . . .
    We got to get a tire, but, Jesus, they want a lot for a ol' tire. They look a fella over. They know he got to go on. They know he can't wait. And the price goes up.
    Take it or leave it. I ain't in business for my health. I'm here a-sellin' tires. I ain't given 'em away. I can't help what happens to you. I got to think what happens to me. . . .
    Save that casin' to make boots.

It is not any particular exchange, but the sort of thing that is said all along the road from Oklahoma and neighboring states (but these people are all contemptuously called "Okies") to California -- the promised land that turns out to be a land of falsely raised, illusory hope.
And then again more passages that might seem (grammatically, that is, again) very simple:

The decay spreads over the State, and the sweet smell is a great sorrow in the land. . . . Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten.1 And the failure hangs over the state like a great sorrow. . . . And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit -- and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.
    And the smell of rot fills the country.

A strange mixture of elevated diction and grammatical simplicity with (to the pedantic grammarian) unnecessary ands -- even to start a paragraph. Some readers may wonder why I mention technicalities of grammar. It is because some American authors at this time, notably Hemmingway and Steinbeck, aimed at a new style of grammatical simplicity to replace the complex grammar of classical English prose. In my view, the way Steinbeck does this with such subtle variations is something to be greatly admired.
In this particular passage we are forced to realize that the style is biblical. It is the language of prophesy. When we put all these modulations of style into juxtaposition, what we find we have is angry, poetic, prophetic epic. Into this vast exodus of dispossessed farmers is woven the story of the Joad family to represent the whole in particular characters. Like so many others, once independent, they have bought seed on bank loans after persistent failure of their crops; the same failure is repeated; their land becomes the banks'; and they have to leave, making their way to California, where employment has been offered in a mass distribution of leaflets designed to bring far more hands than are needed and so cause their labor to be pitifully cheap. After an arduous journey in a broken-down and resuscitated vehicle, in the course of which journey little money becomes less money and finally no money, while the family decreases in number, they find the hope of work at decent wages is an illusion; the unwilling host population is full of hatred for the incomers; and at the end of it all the Joad family -- what has survived of it -- is fleeing on foot from the seasonal flooding.
At this point it might be worth noting that none of the four books in novel-form is a conventional novel after all. What we have is tales, moralities, something like fairy tale, melodrama, or even pantomime, and in this last one an epic and tragic work of prophesy. This remains true when we have remarked the vivid narrative and bold characterization in all of them; and there are many other similarities, as well as the ones I mention in this essay. Like Mrs. Gaskell's evocation of the condition of the nineteenth-century Manchester poor, Steinbeck's presentation of the miserable conditions of the Oklahoma migrants is harrowingly realistic, and the reader has to feel for these people who wanted nothing but honest hard work. The pity is concentrated on the Joads, but is wholly inadequate for the suffering of the vast numbers of people like them. In Mrs. Gaskell's book pigs were perceived as more valuable than people: in Steinbeck's the comparison is with horses. What makes Grapes of Wrath particularly valuable, however, is that where Mrs. Gaskell claims -- to some extent disingenuously -- not to understand political economy, Steinbeck gives a clear account of the mechanics of impoverishment.
In chapter 5 he shows an excellent understanding of the ownership of land. The first owners (that is, admittedly, after the Red Indians) from bad debts become mortgagers and then tenants. The new corporate owners in their turn become debtors to the bigger banks and lose the power of independent action. The ownership of the land becomes more and more remote from the reality of the land:

If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner-man said: The Bank -- or the company -- needs -- wants -- must have -- as through the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies2 because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbed at it long enough, God knows.
    The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew fingers in the dust,3 and yes, they know, God knows. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.4 . . .
    Well, it's too late. . . . crops fail one day and he has to borrow from the bank.
    But -- you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breath air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing but it is so. It is just so. . . .
    Can't we just hang on? Maybe the next year will be a good year. . . . Don't they make explosives out of cotton? And uniforms? Get enough wars and cotton'll hit the ceiling. Next year maybe?5
    The tenant system won't work any more. One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop. We have to do it. We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster.

Surely this is rather like the Enclosures in England, where a secure peasantry was turned off the land and drifted into the towns to find work as an impoverished proletariat. (Note that the word, as in ancient Rome, means the lowest class of propertyless laborer.) In the same chapter a tenant, about to be driven off his land, gives us a moving picture of what it is to have property: "I built it with my own hands. Straightened old nails to put the sheathing on. Rafters are wired to the stringers with bailing wire. It's mine. I built it." And he ponders:

"Funny thing how it is. If a man owns a little property, that property is him, it's part of him, and it's like him. If he owns property only so he can walk on it and be sad when it isn't doing well, and feel fine when the rain falls on it, that property is him, and some way he's bigger because he owns it. Even if he isn't successful he's big with his property. That is so."

There we have the ideal of distributed property just about as well expressed in the poor man's words as it could be put in philosophical or technical exposition: as is the case with his next musing, on the concentration of property, and therefore of power, in remote corporate hands:

"But let a man get property he doesn't see, or can't get time to get his fingers in, or can't be there to walk on it -- why, then the property is the man.6 He can't do what he wants. The property is the man, stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his possessions are big -- and he's the servant of his property. That is so too."

The man working for the corporate owners explains that violence will provide no defense for the tenant, because the man who has given him his orders

"got his orders from the bank. The bank told him: 'Clear these people out or it's your job [lost]."
    "Well, there's a president of the bank. There's a board of directors. I'll fill up the magazine [of my rifle] and go into the bank."
    The driver said: "Fellow was telling me the bank gets orders from the east. The orders were: 'Make the land show profit or we'll close you up'."
    "But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don't aim to starve to death before I kill the man who's starving me."
    "I don't know. Maybe there's nobody to shoot. Maybe the thing isn't men at all. Maybe, like you said, the property's doing it. Anyway, I told you my orders."

It is remarkable that in this novel we have such an effortless statement of the ideals of Distributism/Social Credit and of the means by which they are thwarted. The solution seems obvious: to quote Douglas, "First defeat the money power." But how defeat the faceless, implacable entity? To the simple-minded tenant it seemed straightforward, as it did to John Barton and his union associates -- find someone to shoot -- but as Barton found, that is not just evil but futile too. In the meantime millions starve in a world of plenty. As the tenant had noticed, the only prospect of temporary relief is war, which will use up the unconsumed product (and incidentally some of those millions of people): and that outcome is imminent as Steinbeck writes.
If anything to compare with these novels is being written now, it is not finding a publisher.
We can hardly help noticing that Steinbeck's people -- like Mrs. Gaskell's -- have a language heavily laced with religious vocabulary. Much of this is habitual cussing, of course, but by no means all of it; and reading attentively we see that there is a real sense of religious awareness, certain points expressed directly. For example, Casey, The Preacher, expresses his conviction that men should live in mutuality ("loving thy neighbor as thyself") when he says:

"I got thinkin' how we was holy when we was one thing, an' mankin' was holy when it was one thing. An' it only got unholy when one mis'able little fella got the bit in his teeth an' run off his own way, kickin' an' draggin' an' fightin'. Fella like that bust the holiness. But when they're all workin' together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang7 -- that's right, that's holy."

Granma Joad supplies the responses to this prophetic utterance with her Pu-raise Gawd!, Amen, and Hallelujah. Casey presents himself as not a real -- or no longer a -- preacher but only a poor, baffled, sinful man, but we are made to see him as a genuine religious figure: first by his sacrifice of himself for another; secondly by his words when he is brutally murdered -- killed with a pick-handle -- "You don't know what you're doing"; and third by something the hunted Tom tells his Ma he remembers Casey once told him (though he has not previously realized that he even listened):

"Goes, 'Two are better than one, because they have a reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lif' up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up'. That's part of her."
    "Go on," Ma said. "Go on, Tom."
    "Jus' a little bit more. 'Again if two lie together, then they have heart: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him, and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken'."
    "An' that's Scripture?"
    "Casey said it was. Called it The Preacher."

It might also be called the Increment of Association; the original principle behind trade unionism (too often perverted into the coercive power of a majority); or many other instances of collective or associative strength used for good or corrupted to evil. But Casey was certainly quoting from chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, The Preacher.
So we can be in no doubt that Steinbeck meant all the questions posed by his novel to be seen as religious ones just as much as Mrs. Gaskell did -- and, of course, Dickens and Trollope -- and as to what is to be done, again it is like Mrs. Gaskell. There is some suggestion of trade union activism, but when it comes to the bottom line (for Tom fades from the story, and what he subsequently does is unknown), all that is left is neighborly concern, mutuality, human kindness. When Ma is shown a small kindness by the clerk of the company store, she observes (as Mary Barton found in Liverpool) that it is the poor that help the poor. The same thing is found at many turns in the story, and on the last page of the book is presented in such extreme form that I suppose some readers must find it distasteful.
A stranger starving to death in a barn above the flood is suckled by the Joad daughter, Rose of Sharon, whose baby was stillborn, illustrating that in a wicked and suffering world all that is left to many people is faith, mutuality (Ma has persuaded the young woman that it will be good for her, too), and the milk of human kindness.

Though not one of my four authors gives us the full truth -- or the answer to my question -- taken together they give us a pretty full and convincing compilation of truths. The relation of people with people should be one of mutuality, or interdependence, known to some as Christian love or (to distinguish it from other loves) Caritas, Charity. This mutuality should extend not only between man and man, nation and nation, but also to the material environment. In an imperfect world, if the whole thing is not got right, we should at least fall back upon this disinterested love, Charity. Where there is poverty through natural causes, it should be alleviated. Where it is caused by a mere shortage of money, it should be supplied. Banks are founded on nothing but belief. The poverty of honest -- but not feckless -- people has discoverable causes and is brought about by an apparently implacable process, which should be halted and replaced by a better system. My authors have all seen through some of the mistakes and deceptions of this world and glimpsed the possibility of something better, which may or may not some day be brought into being. Their very consideration of such questions gives to their work a seriousness now lacking in literature. It remains surprising, however, that none of them (though there is a hint from Dickens) answers directly the question, What is the cause of poverty, i.e., of a chronic shortage of money? and (the same question really) Where does the bank get its money? It is a little more surprising that Steinbeck didn't pursue this line of questioning to a conclusion, for he had a brilliant and objective -- in fact, a scientific -- mind.
I find the question not only asked but actually answered in C. S. Lewis's fantasy That Hideous Strength (about which I have written elsewhere). The N.I.C.E. -- ostensibly a scientific research body, but in reality the power behind the Government -- has no problem with money because "It's we that make money" -- out of nothing. Since I am myself much influenced by the work of C. H. Douglas, it is natural that a number of my readers are Social Crediters.8 It does appear to me that they might do well to consider that the vision underlying their movement might be regarded as simply a version of the Kingdom of God, and perhaps not to be outwardly achieved in this world in historical time. This is a conclusion that I have heard privately acknowledged in conversation by a leading Social Crediter at the end of a long life. It is entirely reasonable and may be seen, I think, as the real point of my fourth choice of novelist: individual acts of initiative taking the place of, not just preparing the ground for, a bright new dawning.


1. In this passage Steinbeck gets very close to the heart of human tragedy and folly. It seems inconceivable that by system Steinbeck means anything other than a way of relating finance to economy, that is, to reality, in order to achieve proper distribution of real goods, really in existence, to real people really wanting them. (If no one wants them, they should not have been produced.) If this seems too predisposed an interpretation, it should be understood -- what many people realize today -- that when this book was being written, C. H. Douglas and his work were well known to educated people all over the world. The blanket of obscurity had not yet been thrown over them.
2. Notice the varying use of capital letters: as the passage goes on, the lack of them brings the financial institutions down to size when they are regarded more rationally.
3. Isn't there a religious allusion here?
4. So there is an element of inappropriate agriculture here: the Indians their grandfathers had displaced had not had this problem, and now lived securely on reservations.
5. This was written in 1938. Had Steinbeck read Douglas on the economics that leads to war?
6. Whereas with distributed property, the man is the property: he is not only in control of it but at one with it.
7. That is, not employer and employed but free people cooperating.
8. This spelling is often questioned, but Social Crediters commonly use it to identify themselves as members of a movement, not as creditors.