This I Believe
Boothby, Robert John Graham, Baron
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Robert Boothby has been a member of the British Parliament for twenty-eight years. His forthrightness and originality brought him to the attention of Winston Churchill. From 1926 to 1929 he was Churchill’s parliamentary private secretary. He gained distinction when he severely criticized his government for failing to react to the Hitler menace. He is now vice-president of the Economic Committee in the Council of Europe. Here now is Robert Boothby.
“Man is born not to solve the problems of the universe but to find out where the problem applies and then to restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible. His faculties are not
sufficient to measure the actions of the universe, and an attempt to explain the outer world by reason is, with his narrow view, vain.” Thus Goethe, talking his usual good sense.
I find myself inhabiting a world which seems to me to have been singularly ill contrived. But I don’t presume to know the reason why, still less the purpose of it all if there be one. It is enough for me that I love life, that with my limited human vision I can conceive of no other purpose than the enjoyment of it, and that for most people the terms of life are not, at present, good enough.
I entered politics as a very young man with the sole purpose of doing what I could to improve these terms. As an ardent disciple of Keynes, I concentrated on the economics of expansion and fought as best
I could against the deflation that crippled the heavy industries of Europe in the ’20s, drove millions of workers off the land and out of work, doubled the burden of all debts, and culminated in the worst economic crisis known to history. I soon discovered that there were even graver threats to our 20th century civilization.
First, the advent of two purely materialist philosophies, communism and its antithesis, fascism, which denied the significance and the importance of the individual, and led directly to what Bertrand Russell has described as, “the intoxication of power.” Second, the existence in human nature of an aggressive and destructive instinct, which if it prevailed against the opposing life instinct, could easily and
quickly bring about the total destruction of the human race.
To planned economic expansion, I therefore added the achievement of individual freedom and of collective security derived from an organic union of the free world, as the keynotes of my political credo and philosophy. I sought and still seek for a satisfactory solution between the instinctive demands of the individual and the social claims of a civilized society.
I’m a buttress, rather than a pillar, of the church. But I believe, with the protagonists of orthodox religion, that the basic struggle of humanity is waged within each one of us. What the psychologists call the “life instinct,” the churches call God; and what the psychologists call the “death instinct,”
the churches call the Devil. But religion and psychology are now fighting on the same side for the survival of mankind.
Finally, I believe in the ultimate value of the individual human personality. To me, as to the late Professor Macneil Dixon, the most astonishing thing about the human being is not his intellect and bodily structure, profoundly mysterious as these are, but the range of his vision, his gaze into the infinite distance, his lonely passion for ideas and ideals for which he will endure suffering, privation, and death, in the profound conviction that if nothing is worth dying for, nothing is worth living for. In this affair, it seems to me the choice which confronts us is not obscure. You seek to
free or to imprison the human spirit, and therefore you were on the side of justice, liberty, decency, toleration, and humanity, or against them.
That was Robert Boothby, an Englishman and Member of Parliament, who has been described as the Friar Tuck of British Politics because of his unintellectual appearance and manner.