Sir Philip Joubert, Director of Public Relations in the Air Ministry, describes his beliefs in the goodness of humans, in the importance of self-sacrifice and duty, and in the uncertainty of believing in the simple faith of the past.
And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. During the war, I followed with great interest Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert's broadcast over the BBC. He is well-known in Britain for his distinguished career in the Royal Air Force, and was Director of Public Relations in the Air Ministry when he retired for the third time in 1947. He said then that he hoped to be able to devote more time to his writing and golf. Sir Philip Joubert now gives us some time and thought in the expression of his personal beliefs.
I am asked what it is in which I believe. First let me say that a man or woman who has no belief might just as well be dead for all the use they are in this world. Belief, and the faith that flows from it, has enabled humanity since
historical times to advance from savagery to civilization. Dogmas, fanaticism such as that of Hitler, have conspired against the onward movement of the peoples. But there has always been someone or something to direct sentiment and will into the right path. So I proclaim my personal faith in the essential goodness of human beings.
How was this personal faith born? First, in my family, where my parents were a shining example of that code of morality and sense of duty which was the strength of Victorian times. If a job had to be done, it was done regardless of discomfort, fatigue, or boredom. Was there someone in pain at midnight when rain and mud were making things most difficult? Then my father, a doctor, would be out of his bed to help and comfort. Was there a dreary piece of social service to be done? Then my mother was there to help the unhappy and lonely ones.
In this present day and age, it is common form to laugh at what has gone before: the formalities, the restrictions, the inhibitions. But underlying all these conventions was the principle of duty, which today is so often obscured by claims to rights. I believe that nobody has any rights until he or she has earned them by doing duty; and the sooner the people of this modern world—as indeed many of them do—appreciate this fact, the better for us all.
I’ve been reading a book on the campaign in Burma during the Hitler War. A hard fighting, hard hitting brigadier, one of General Wingate’s common commanders, comments on this point. When he wanted a difficult, almost impossible, job done, he called in one of the old Burma hands, a man trained in the Victorian principles of duty and sacrifice who, by his personal
probity and sense of responsibility, had gained the affection of the Burmans. Such a man would very quietly set about his task and, by his nature and quality, achieve success. I have spent forty years in the army and the Royal Air Force, and my experiences have taught me that people with a sense of duty are the salt of the Earth. Instinctively, one knows them. They ring true, and when things are going badly they are there to help.
Obviously, this pattern of good living cannot emerge from a purely human instinct. There must be some power behind it which, in our elementary comprehension of these matters, many of us call “God.” As knowledge advances, the oversimplified
faith of our fathers becomes modified and, indeed, shaken. Understanding more about material things, we are less sure of our spiritual conceptions. For example, astronomy’s teaching of limitless space is hard to reconcile with the Old Testament view of Heaven and Earth. But merely because our limited intelligence cannot reach an explanation of this vast problem, we should not disbelieve the existence of the unseen power of good. So, though I may not be a very satisfactory member of my church, I believe in man’s natural tendency towards the good and the power behind it.
That was my good friend Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert. He has combined a distinguished service career in the Royal Air Force, with a busy life as a writer, speaker and public relations expert.