Source: Zimmermann, Heiko, ed.  Aspects of E.M. Forster.  1 Mar. 2000 - 19 Oct. 2017. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://emforster.de/>.

"Notes on the Way"

Synopsis

In November 1935, E. M. Forster contributed four texts to the column "Notes on the Way" of Time and Tide: The Independent Weekly Review. They deal with various then recent topics as the effect of progress on humanity, the value and the idea of a pastoral England, the tradition of culture and the treat of war.

In the first text, Forster argues about the necessity of a supranational council, the League of Nations. He maintains that,

if the League fails they [politics] may become unmanageable, civilization may be destroyed by flames and bacteria, and the historian of the future may look back to 1935 as the date on which the human race finally collapsed under its own inventions. (1571)

The acceleration of progress in science is the main target of Forster's argumentation. By acquiring more time, one could achieve peace, the author hopes. However, following his creed of honest interpersonal relationships and his conviction in the relief by resolving bi-polarities, he aims at leading an 'actual life' equipped with a better heart.

In the second essay of the series, he mourns for a pastoral England, lost some three hundred years back. He recommends the reader to join a body like the National Trust in order to help to preserve the last spots of rural countryside within Britain.

One major topic for him was culture in general. In the third text of the series, he describes how the transfer of culture through time works. In a state of tension between popular culture on the one hand and high culture on the other, he maintains that it is crucial to hand down to coming generations not only the 'stuff' of culture, but also the power to enjoy and understand it; lest it becomes an artefact for museums only or a caricature of itself.

The last essay is very much influenced by the very current and pressing issues of the time: war. E. M. Forster sees three way of action. The first, the way of the government, is to have adequate armed forces, which are as powerful as the forces of the enemy, Germany or Italy. This choice is seen as being rather questionable, since it would mean an enduring race of arms up to the point at which one of the opponents is not able to go any further, and at which a war would necessarily have to break out. The second choice Forster sees is to have inadequate forces to minimize the casualties of a war. This way, as well as the first and the third, communism, is not acceptable to Forster. The only reasonably solution for him is the project of humanism, an improvement of the human nature. Taking examples from history, he agues in favour--he does not follow him entirely--of the idea of Gerald Heard that not violence but sensitiveness and tenderness are the sources of civilization, and thus a rise of the spiritual may save humankind.

(h.z.)

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