Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Passing Show: Scientology nonsense (1965)

The Passing Show Column from the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Scientology nonsense
It's a far cry from the day when the American L. Ron Hubbard set down his early psychological theories in a slim book under the name Dianetics. Since then his organisation has opened centres in many parts of the world and the general body of his ideas is now called Scientology (The "Science of Wisdom" whatever that may mean), but the proposition of the Engram (harmful mental impression gained during extreme pain, exhaustion or other crisis) remains the basis of his methods. He claims. and perhaps in some cases has achieved, great success for his mental "processing" as it is called, although as far as I know, no independent assessment of Scientology has yet been made, and we have to accept Hubbard's word for it. However, to say that is one thing, but quite another to hear it said that the engram is at the bottom of all our problems, from illness to war and back again. Even a fall on the ice has an engram lurking around somewhere to explain it, I was once told. That the night was dark and the ice slippery, just would not satisfy scientologists.

Over the years the Hubbard organisation has tacked onto other and wilder concepts. There was for instance the "Church of Scientology" in support of the God idea, and attempts to prove the theory or reincarnation by discovering engrams carried over from a previous life. One of their spokesmen even assured me once that we can take on different forms in different lives if we wish it—so think of this the next time you are tempted to envy your cat stretched lazily by the fire without a care in the world.

In the political sphere, Hubbard has remained implacably "anti-communist." We don't know just how much engrams Stalin or Khrushchev are supposed to have had—the Scientology people were never allowed behind the iron curtain to find out. Apart from this, Hubbard's ventures into politics seem to have been rare, which is just as well, because on these occasions he doesn't add anything useful to our knowledge . . . quite the reverse if the Nov. 1964 issue of his journal Certainty is any guide.

Three of its four pages are given over to an essay in nonsense called "Socialism and Scientology" dedicated to "our friend the late Hugh Gaitskell." It contains various gems of unwisdom, such as:
The primary danger of Socialism . . . is that it seeks to remove all dangers from the environment, which it cannot do without a huge bureaucracy . . .
The degrees of Socialism are measured by the extent to which they arrange to deny reward for individual or group contribution . . .
And how's this for a bit of double-think:
So we have no quarrel with charity, we wave no quarrel with a state devoted to it. We quarrel only with the end product . . .
There are plenty more where these came from, but they are enough to show how little Mr. Hubbard really knows about Socialism. He equates it with just about everything except what it really is, and says really so little that we wonder why he bothered at all. But the last few lines may give us a clue.
Can the great dream of Socialism succeed this time? It can if it itself accepts the help of Scientology . . . 
Can it then be a thinly veiled attempt to "sell" Scientology to the Labour Party? Just think of the fillip to his organisation if he could claim the support of such a massive body. Good for Scientology; good perhaps for the Labour Party, but absolutely useless for Socialism.

The lunatic fringe
Perhaps we are better known than you'd think. What I mean to say is, we get all sorts of letters from all sorts of people and places. Some of them (the letters I mean) are sympathetic, some are hostile and some are frankly baffling, like those we used to get from one God-fearing old lady in Canada who hated all the Royal Family except Prince Phillip, and who never used a dot or comma, probably because she was unaware of their existence. "Why doesn't he come and live amongst us Canadians who would know how to look after him not like that lot back at Buckingham Palace from yours Mrs. A M."

Well we never did work out an answer to that one and perhaps the lady got tired of waiting, because she hasn't written for some time now. Or perhaps she managed to work out for herself the answers to the posers she set us with such vigour and regularity, and decided to save the postage. But at least she was not afraid to tell us her name and address, which is more than can be said for some of the other not-so-harmless nut cases.

A package was handed to me the other day. Attached to a variety of cuttings from such high quality newspapers as the News of the World and The People was a brief unsigned message, noteworthy again for its lack of punctuation: "HERES THE ANSWER TO THE COLOURED GUYS LET THEM GET INTO BATTLE AS BRITAINS GLORIOUS HEROES DID AND WE'LL HEAR NO MORE NONSENSE FROM THEM." So look no further for the solution to the racial problem—our correspondent has found it for us, and the heroes he has in mind are the boys who disappeared by the million in the 1914-18 trenches.

He's a bit out of date in his choice of wars, of course. Few people try to pretend now that the heroism of those days did any good or solved any problems. Since then, we have had another world war and some smaller ones too, with no shortage of workers—including "coloured guys"—to fight and die. Does our nut case think that the problems of capitalism are any less pressing because of this second lot of senseless heroism? If he does, he had better think again.

In the future, capitalism will develop the African states and they will have their own armies, coloured workers trained to kill in the interests of their ruling classes. The Congo is only a foretaste of what is to come, and it will not be a very pretty story. What is needed is a great deal less heroism and a great deal more hard thinking about the Socialist answer.

Jumble sales
A recent small article in The Guardian about the decline of jumble sales took me back a few years to my schooldays. It was the period just before the outbreak of the second world war when unemployment was much greater and every penny was precious; and so it was considered particularly daring of our headmaster to decide on a jumble sale as a means of raising funds for a new radio for the school. Useless to try and squeeze the money out of the education authorities in those days, anyway.

The sale was, I remember, a great success and the school got its radio; but wandering around the building seeing the heaps of accumulated junk, I can remember wondering just where it all came from and where it would all go to. At the end of the evening the helpers tried to give away the remains of their stalls, but with limited success—nobody wanted the stuff even as a gift—and eventually it was bought by a job lot dealer.

The jumble sale is perhaps symbolic not only of working class poverty—for who would buy but those unable to afford better—but of another horror of capitalism, the veritable mountain of rubbish which it throws up. Most of it is of poor quality even when new and even the jumble sale often does not mark the end of its life. Since the end of the war, production has increased in many fields and with it the incidence of trash ("built in obsolescence" is the modern euphemism for it); ironically this has assisted in the decline in the jumble sales because the stuff is so poor after a short life that it wouldn't grace even a rickety trellis table in a musty church hall. So the faint chance of a bargain buy is even fainter now, and workers are looking elsewhere.

In this little snippet of news is a lesson we should never forget. Trash is one of the many objectionable facets of capitalist society, and even the best it can give workers is not worthy of human beings. In fact it is trash for most of us, and a trashy existence to match. 
E. T. C.

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