The Chief Of The Martian Council Discusses The Social Conditions Of Our World And Mars
: To Mars Via The Moon
It was a most strange, and, in fact, embarrassing situation for me-an
insignificant and very retiring man in my own country-to be thus called
upon to address a large company of the most important inhabitants of
another world, and to try to make them understand the social and
political systems carried on by the nations on the earth. However, the
position had to be faced; so as clearly and concisely as I could I
lained to them our various systems of government-our political
systems and our social conditions; mentioning in connection with the
latter the extremes of wealth and the extremes of poverty which often
existed side by side.
I touched upon the rivalries between the various nations, the enormous
amounts of money expended in armaments for aggressive and defensive
purposes, our hereditary nobility, our land systems, trading, and also
the great and difficult problems of poverty, drink, and unemployment
with which we had to cope.
Whilst I was speaking, Merna, in a quiet tone of voice, translated to
the Martians sitting around us the purport of what I said; and I noticed
that often he only had to say a few words and the Martians' sense of
intuition enabled them to understand what was in his mind respecting my
address and to follow my statements.
Now and then the Chief, or one of the tutors, would put searching and
pertinent questions to me on various points, and these often brought out
answers which appeared to excite their surprise and interest.
When I had finished, Soranho then took up the theme, going fully and
thoroughly into the several matters I had dealt with; and he concluded
by saying, "We must, of course, make every allowance for the present
state of development of the terrestrials, but all the same I can
scarcely understand how it is they are unable to see that, speaking
broadly, their political and social systems are utterly wrong from
beginning to end, and must necessarily be disastrous to the welfare of
all. Of course, I speak from a Martian point of view.
"Here upon Mars the welfare of the whole community all over our planet
is the first and most important consideration. The whole adult
population, both male and female, have an equal voice in the discussion
of all matters with which the governing Council are concerned. My
office, as Chief of the Council, is held for a term of two Martian
years; and I am not a ruler imposing my own will upon the people, but
their trusted servant, appointed to supervise the carrying into effect
of the people's wishes, as expressed by their votes and by their own
"The whole of the land upon Mars belongs to the State, and is utilised
strictly in the interests of the whole community; no one can hold it as
a private possession, or use it for merely selfish purposes. A
necessary corollary to the private ownership of land is the overcrowding
of buildings upon small areas; and such general poverty and insanitary
conditions as those in which so many of your population have to live in
what you have termed your 'slums' are the inevitable outcome of such a
system. Private ownership of large areas of land really involves also
the practical ownership of the people upon it!
"I can assure you, Mr. Poynders, that no such overcrowding, poverty, or
insanitary conditions will be found upon our planet, go where you will.
Our people are well and comfortably housed, and you will find ample
air-space and light around every dwelling.
"On Mars no office, rank, or privilege is hereditary. It is true we have
amongst us persons of different ranks or grades, but such honours as
these can only be gained as the reward of meritorious and useful
services, and can only be held by the person who has earned them.
"We have no need of an army or navy, for we are all one united nation;
so all the enormous expenditure which is wasted in your world in
international rivalry and warfare is entirely avoided here, and schemes
for the general welfare of the people benefit instead. Ages ago we
abandoned war as a folly and a crime; and our world-wide system of
canals, which is a prime essential to our very existence, could never
have been accomplished or maintained if one section of our population
had been at war, or was likely to be at war, with another.
"Apart from all other considerations then, our vast canal system is a
guarantee of unity and of permanent universal peace upon our planet;
but, as I have said, we saw the folly of war, and abandoned it ages ago.
"Then, as regards the terrible curse of drink which you have mentioned;
if such ever existed on Mars, it must have been in the most dim and
distant past, for we have no records of such a dreadful state of affairs
as you have described as being even now one of your most difficult
problems to deal with. The absence of any excesses of this kind may,
perhaps, help to account for the fact that our population is strong and
healthy, and few die of anything but old age.
"There is no such thing here as poverty or lack of employment. There is
work for all who are able to do it; and those who, by reason of age or
infirmity, are unable to work, are all honourably provided for, so that
they can live in the same comfort as though they did work. This is not
charity or privilege, but the absolute right of all.
"Neither is there any over-working of any individual in our population,
for the ordinary working day here is only six hours-about equal to six
hours and ten minutes in your world. No one need work longer than this
except for his own pleasure; all the remainder of the time can be
devoted to rest or recreation. No one need work at all when his powers
are failing, as he will be amply provided for."
"But," I asked, "how do you manage with regard to those who will not
work? They are our most difficult people to deal with, and constitute a
great burden upon the community."
Soranho seemed astounded at this question, and exclaimed, "Is it really
possible that such beings can exist? Here no one able to work would
dream of living an idle and useless life; their natural self-respect
"I must, as I said, make allowances for your slower rate of
development; but I cannot help thinking that for ages past our people
must always have been upon a higher plane than terrestrials.
"You have been deploring the decrease in the birth-rate in your country,
apparently because it places you, as regards population, in an inferior
position to other countries, the inhabitants of which may at some time
become your enemies. Yet, at the same time, you have told us that a very
large number of your people are living in poverty and misery, that the
population is too numerous for work to be found for all, and that many,
being unable to find a living in their own country, have gone out, or
been sent out, to distant lands.
"What a tragedy this all is! If you had universal peace and reasonable
hours of work, as we have, there would be no need for this striving to
effect an unnecessary and useless increase in the population; and, by
doing so, you are, in fact, only adding to your own poverty and other
difficulties. A healthy and hardy population, which can be properly
provided for and maintained, is what your country requires. On Mars you
will find very few families with more than three children!
"Then, as regards trade. Your international rivalries and systems of
what you term 'protection' seem specially designed to hinder trading,
and to make it as difficult as possible, instead of encouraging the free
interchange of commodities to the benefit of every one.
"You tell me," he continued, "that it is really the interest and desire
of your nations to trade with each other, and that immense sums are
spent in building ships and docks, and otherwise in facilitating trade.
Yet I learn that tariff barriers are erected between some of the
nations, and that tariffs are continually increased, for the purpose of
restricting trade! As a consequence, goods are either kept out of the
countries affected, or artificially increased in price; the poor being
half starved, or compelled to live upon inferior food!
"In addition, it appears that the collection of the tariffs involves the
upkeep of an army of customs officials, the performance of whose duties
is the cause of delay, harassment, and irritation to all who come within
the sphere of their powers.
"How much more useful it would be if that expenditure were devoted to
the extension of trade and the uplifting of the people!
"Really, Mr. Poynders, when I think of all these things, I can only say
you must not expect the Martians to admit your claim that terrestrials
are 'highly' civilised; for surely no 'highly' civilised people could
act so illogically and so unwisely, or be so wantonly cruel as to tax
the food of the poor!
"Such a policy must inevitably result in misery to the many, and reduce
the stamina of the present and future generations.
"Your people have attained a high degree of civilisation in some things,
but not in others; and as they become more advanced, they will look back
on their past policy with feelings of amazement, and will, I am sure,
regard it in exactly the same light as the Martians do now. I can only
express the hope that their enlightenment will soon come."
It is useful sometimes to be enabled to see ourselves as others see us,
and I was now learning how the Martians regarded us.
In defence of my own world and country, however, I pointed out that
many of our thinkers and workers saw these matters in much the same
light as he did, and were endeavouring to educate their fellows in the
same views. Many were opposed to wars, and to the social conditions now
prevailing; but it would be vain to look for any great change in the
near future. An alteration in human nature must first be effected, and
that must necessarily be a matter of very slow growth.
I went on to inform him that one of our great poets had written a
splendid "vision of the world and all the wonder that would be," in
which he described our world as progressing:
"Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of Man; the federation of the world."
"Mars," I remarked, "had already reached this ideal state of affairs;
but it could not possibly be brought about in our world until a far
distant future: for it must be the result of slow development and
gradual education of the people to see its necessity and practicability.
"Any attempt to make a sudden change would only result in tumult and
worse disasters than we were exposed to at present. Any changes in
regard to our land system must also be carried out by degrees, and after
the most careful consideration, with the view of preventing any
injustice being done to the present holders.
"Our poet," I further said, "evidently had in mind the probability that,
before this consummation of universal peace could be reached, wars of a
more terrible nature than we have ever known would take place, for he
'A rain of ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue.'
"It is not unlikely that the possibility, or the actual occurrence, of
such horrors as these may eventually bring about the cessation of war
between the more civilised nations; and, as the uncivilised are
gradually brought under control, there may be federations-not
necessarily amalgamations-of two or more nations. In the slow process
of time these may unite in larger and more comprehensive federations,
until at last the whole world will be embraced within them. This, of
course, is looking ages ahead of our present times.
"Few thinking people amongst us can regard war as anything but a direful
necessity arising out of our present conditions; only the thoughtless
and those who batten upon such disasters can rejoice in the idea of what
I have heard termed 'a jolly good war!'
"Whatever our ideals may be, we must, as sensible people, act in
accordance with the demands of existing circumstances. It has been well
said that while we have a large criminal population we must protect our
persons and property by means of bolts and bars, and the maintenance of
a police force; and in a like manner, whilst we are exposed to risk of
war breaking out-perhaps through no fault of our own-we must maintain
sufficient forces and armaments to cope with any forces which might be
likely to be arrayed against us. This, however, does not afford us any
excuse for not trying to do all we can to remove the causes which tend
to manufacture criminals, or to bring about wars.
"If only as much energy and effort were used with the object of averting
wars by smoothing away difficulties and removing causes of friction
between the nations as there is effort and persistency on the other side
to aggravate, and even invent, conditions likely to cause mutual
irritation, distrust, and dislike, much good would accrue. Nations
depend largely for their prosperity upon their trade with other nations,
and peace is the greatest interest to all; yet the actions of some noisy
and hysterical sections amongst them are a constant source of danger,
and are calculated to bring about wars which must inevitably prove most
disastrous to all concerned.
"Our religion," I told him, "inculcated peace and goodwill to all men;
all of us professed to believe in that. It is a good sign that there is
a strong tendency amongst the religious teachers of various bodies to
unite in the endeavour to promote peace amongst the nations, and many of
them have done much to call attention to the urgent need of social
reforms, and have sacrificed their lives in arduous work for the benefit
of their fellows.
"On the other hand, some of them are very militant, whilst others seem
to regard it as their special mission to keep social matters as they
are. If this is the case amongst the teachers, it is no wonder that the
people themselves are so slow in progressing!"
The Chief here expressed the hope that I was unduly pessimistic in
regard to our rate of progress, and remarked that "He thought a great
advance would be made much earlier than I seemed to anticipate. Events,"
he added, "were evidently likely to move very rapidly indeed in several
parts of our world; and he was certain that a great upward movement
would soon follow."
I replied that "I sincerely hoped that such was the case, and that the
great experience of the Martians with regard to the progress of ideas
certainly enabled him to express a truer and more prophetic opinion than
I could possibly venture upon. At the same time I knew how difficult it
was to bring about changes of ideas and systems amongst large masses of
the people; but notwithstanding all these things, I was of the same
opinion as a great poetical countryman of my friend M'Allister's, who
long ago wrote:
'It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the whole world o'er,
Shall brothers be, and a' that.'"
Eleeta showed her interest in her own sex by asking what part our women
took in the endeavour to improve our social and political conditions;
and seemed very surprised when I said they had no voice in the election
of members of our Imperial Parliament, although many of them took an
active part in any work for the amelioration of our social conditions.
I then gave a short account of the women's suffrage movement, and was
speaking of certain unwise actions of the militant party, when she
suddenly interrupted me by throwing up her hands and exclaiming-
"Oh, Mr. Poynders, do not say any more upon that point! I wish to think
well of your women and to make all allowances for them, but no Martian
women could possibly behave in the manner you have described; their
innate self-respect is too great to allow such conduct.
"We should all feel degraded in the eyes of our husbands, brothers, and
sisters, if any such things occurred here; but they are quite
"Your women are entitled to a full share of the responsibilities
connected with the election of members of your state councils, just the
same as we have; but surely there are other and proper means of
obtaining their rights and privileges without resorting to such childish
and unwomanly tactics as chaining themselves up, pestering high officers
of state, and forcing their way into your council chambers."
I assured her that the majority of our women, both rich and poor, took
exactly the same view as she did on this matter, and were utterly
opposed to the methods adopted by the few, even where they themselves
were in favour of the franchise. Many, however, were so distressed by
the conduct of militant women that they opposed the franchise
altogether. The pity of it all was that the militant suffragettes seemed
to glory in shocking their sisters' susceptibilities.
Eleeta then said that "For the sake of her sex she was glad to learn
that such behaviour did not meet with general approval; still, she hoped
that before long our women would be enabled to take up their proper
position in connection with the election of our state councils."
After a little more desultory conversation, the Chief thanked me for
what he was pleased to term "the interesting statement with which I had
The meeting then broke up, but I observed that John, who had been
sitting with Siloni all the time, seemed to find himself in very
congenial company, which he was not at all anxious to quit.
On our way home Merna took me fully into his confidence and told me of
his hopes respecting Eleeta, at the same time giving me many particulars
concerning the beautiful young lady upon whom he had bestowed his