Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism, and Syndicalism

The great majority of men and women, in ordinary times, pass through life without ever contemplating
or criticizing, as a whole, either their own conditions or those of the world at large. They find themselves
born into a certain place in society, and they accept what each day brings forth, without any effort of
thought beyond what the immediate present requires. Almost as instinctively as the beasts of the field,
they seek the satisfaction of the needs of the moment, without much forethought, and without considering
that by sufficient effort the whole conditions of their lives could be changed. A certain percentage, guided
by personal ambition, make the effort of thought and will which is necessary to place themselves among
the more fortunate members of the community ; but very few among these are seriously concerned to secure
for all the advantages which they seek for themselves. It is only a few rare and exceptional men who have
that kind of love towards mankind at large that makes them unable to endure patiently the general mass
of evil and suffering, regardless of any relation it may have to their own lives. These few, driven
by sympathetic pain, will seek, first in thought and then in action, for some way of escape, some new
system of society by which life may become richer, more full of joy and less full of preventable evils than
it is at present. But in the past such men have, as a rule, failed to interest the very victims of the
injustices which they wished to remedy. The more unfortunate sections of the population have been
ignorant, apathetic from excess of toil and weariness, timorous through the imminent danger of immediate
punishment by the holders of power, and morally unreliable owing to the loss of self-respect resulting
from their degradation. To create among such classes any conscious, deliberate effort after general ameliora-
tion might have seemed a hopeless task, and indeed in the past it has generally proved so. But the
modern world, by the increase of education and the rise in the standard of comfort among wage-earners,
has produced new conditions, more favourable than ever before to the demand for radical reconstruction.
  • [url=]Bertrand Russell: Roads to Freedom[/url] (1918)