Like Praising God

From the brilliant and vital novel by Miles Franklin – written in 1902, published in 1946 – My Career Goes Bung:

[Publisher:] “As for that notion of the brotherhood of man that you have, and loving the unwashed, anything in that direction is sheer drivel, drivel! Propaganda is fatal to any artist.”

[Young Author:] “What does propaganda mean?” I enquired. I knew the word only as a joke to couple with improper geese.

“Aw!” he said impatiently, “it’s any of those luny ideas about the underdogs being superior because they have nothing, and the theory that their bettors should support them in a velvet cage.”

“I see. It’s propaganda to advocate justice for the weak and helpless. What is it to uphold the rich?”

“Ha! Ha!” he chuckled. “It’s darned good business. It pays.”

“I see,” I repeated with a chill down my spine. “When you propagand for the top dogs it’s not propaganda: it’s like praising God: and God must be praised all the time or you’ll go to hell.”

Mr. Hardy laughed, but rather grimly. “See here, a man must take pride in his breed, and uphold the Empire.”

“Of course, but couldn’t there be different ways of upholding it?”

“Now don’t spring any more of that socialist rot about the young men’s dreams, and the old men being able to rest, or you’re a goner as a writer. Editors would scent you a mile off. See here, the biggest literary success, the greatest artist today is the most rousing imperialist. Gad, if only I could write like Kipling!”

To succeed by his recipe I should have to deny what I honestly felt. I should have to keep my inner self hidden from Mr. Hardy or it would be bruised and sore…

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