Monday, September 22, 2014

065. Rule Of The Road And Liberty. A G Gardiner Essay. Reintroduced By P S Remesh Chandran


Rule Of The Road And Liberty. A G Gardiner Essay. Reintroduced 
By P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books Online, Trivandrum

First published: 21st Sep 2014

Once there was a time in England when a trio of writers created very interesting articles on the daily life of people and amused the English-reading world. Whatever was happening around them in people’s lives became the subject of their stories and essays. E.V.Lucas, A.G.Gardiner and Robert Lynd were the trio. They penned down so many articles before they left the world, and we now have hundreds of beautiful such passages to read and read again and learn what we are, and how we behave.

Liberty is not personal affair but accommodation of the interests of others. Personal liberty has to be sacrificed for the security and safety of the society.

A G Gardiner Photo. By Unknown 

It is a pleasure to observe good rules. The British writer A.G.Gardiner wrote an interesting article on The Rule Of The Road, in which he presented his observations and thoughts on what Liberty in reality is, and explained and defined the distinction between individual liberty and social liberty. And he also explained when one should be sacrificed for the other. This essay was part of his book Leaves in the Wind, a brilliant and illustrative lecture on Liberty. Liberty is not a personal affair but the accommodation and tolerance of the interests of others. Personal liberty has to be sacrificed for the security and safety of society. Gardiner’s essays are natural, easy and light. His essays remind us of laughter, sunshine, peace and other such pleasant things. A.G.Gardiner, E.V.Lucas and Robert Lynd led the revival in English essays. Alpha of the Plough was the pen name Gardiner used often.

A traffic policeman is not a nuisance but promise of liberty, safety and security on the road. 

A G Gardiner, The Editor. By Unknown 

Had there been no rules on the road, everyone would have walked and driven as he wished and no one would have reached anywhere. Streets then could never have been crossed at all. Accidents and deaths would have become frequent and common and every journey would have been to the other world. It is social order that makes liberty possible, a reality. Order on the road reflects the liberty in individual lives. When we ride on the road, most people consider traffic policemen as an annoyance, checking their freedom to move. A traffic policeman is not a nuisance but promise of liberty, safety and security on the road. 

The expertise in driving is not in speeding up but in applying brakes in time. 

If No Others, Then No Roads. By Sarah777 

The pleasure and freedom of driving is not in obstructing others’ right to drive. The expertise in driving is proven not in speeding up but in applying brakes in time. We cannot drive the roads as if we own them. When somebody in uniform asks us to stop, it is the assurance that we can drive on safely again. In many countries, people rarely dim their headlights at night for drivers coming from the opposite direction to see the road clearly, and that is what causes most night time accidents. Certainly we are not entitled to such liberties on the road. We cannot apply Newton’s laws of motion on the road which states that an object in motion will continue in its motion perpetually, unless and until acted upon by an equal and opposite external force. We do have to stop at signals, slow near hospitals and schools and turn one hundred and eighty degrees back at U-Turns. 

In Russia, after revolution, an old lady with a basket on her head walked through the middle of the road without minding the oncoming traffic, yelling that she has got freedom and liberty!

Announce Our Coming Like Gentlemen. By Mariordo 

People sometimes will get liberty-drunk and forget rules. In Russia, after the revolution, an old lady with a basket on her head walked through the middle of the road without minding the oncoming traffic, yelling that she has got freedom and liberty! Even though it was a brief respite for her like letting-out her breath after holding it for a long time, letting out steam after generations of suppression by the Tsars, such individual liberty should be restricted indeed, for the safety of the society, at least on the road. Too much individual freedom will lead to social anarchy. It is interesting to note here that Jean Paul Sartre, the ultimate apostle of individual freedom, in France did exactly the same thing in crowded Paris city streets. He won’t wait for motor vehicles to pass when he crossed a street; the motor vehicles on either side had wait for him to cross! What can the famous and efficient French police do to such an eminent and world famous personage? The usually efficient Sûreté Nationale complained, and finally President Charles De Gaul ordered French National Police not to arrest Sartre for violating road rules. 

We have seen motorists using aggressive horns: cannot he announce his coming like a gentleman?

Liberty Or Sound Pollution? By ADBalasubramaniyan 

One certainly has the liberty to behave and conduct himself as he likes, in matters that do not affect anyone else. ‘We do not need anyone’s permission to be a Catholic or a Protestant, or to marry a dark lady or a fair lady.’ In all these things, and in a thousand other things, we can do what we like. We have a whole kingdom in which we can rule alone. But one certainly has not the liberty to play a piano, trumpet or gramophone anywhere or at any time of the day, disturbing others. Others also have their liberty to sleep in peace. We have seen motorists using aggressive horns: Cannot he announce his coming like a gentleman? The German state Prussia freely bullied and attacked its neighbours, and collapsed in the Second World War, to the world’s satisfaction. The drivers of such vehicles appear to Gardiner like the spirit of militant Prussia reborn, which is an ugly spectacle in a civilized world. Therefore it is necessary for us to preserve both our individual liberty and social liberty.

Other people’s rights are continually denied in buses, trains and queues, by people who have no social sense.

Queues Reflect Discipline And Breeding. By ŠJů 

The school, club and social lives of a person and the games he plays, train him in good social conduct. They put him in the broad current of the world’s life and enable him to consider the rights of others as well. Gardiner observes that women are far behind in this aspect of social conduct, as they are only beginning to enjoy actual social life. It is not the man but the well-dressed woman who breaks the queue. Another scene of offending the social liberty of others is seen in trains. If you are reading a very interesting book for pleasure, nothing happening around will affect you. ‘You can enjoy such adventure stories as Treasure Island even in the midst of an earthquake.’ But to read a book of facts and figures in a crowded train in the middle of loud talk is an impossible thing to do. On one such occasion he was compelled to close his book as many others have to do in trains. One person in the train continued to talk to his friend in a loud noise on a wide variety of subjects as if he was a very learned man. He left the carriage convinced that everyone had a very illuminating journey with him and would carry away to their homes a pleasing impression of his encyclopedic range of knowledge. The defect of this man was he had no social sense. 

What will happen if all are interested in breaking queue and none are in keeping queue?

First Come First Board. By Leonard V Carlson

Queuing up is a common sight today which we can see in bus stands, bus stops, post offices, railway stations, post offices, hospitals, cinema theatres and there are bread lines, pizza lines and relief lines too. What will happen if all are interested in breaking queue and none are in keeping queue? Even in disciplined and organized countries and societies also we can see an odd man or woman out in such queues. While travelling in buses, in modern day age, someone next to your seat will speak continuously onto his mobile phone, not to any single friend but to a number of his friends, one after the other, relaying where he has reached, at each stop. You will be forced to snatch the phone and throw it out through the window, whatever be the consequences resulting from the act.

One does not have the liberty to send his son to Mr. Fagin’s Academy in London and bring him up as a pick pocket. There is society to be considered.

Either Queues Or Chaos. By Petr Vilgus 

Brow-beating, side-stepping, pestering and disturbing others are taken as personal liberties by many. Personal liberties should be harmoniously fused with social liberties. That is the success of social sense. One cannot say that his child shall have no education, that he will be brought up as a savage or that he will be sent to Mr. Fagin’s Academy of Pick Pockets in London for professional training. Then society will interfere. One of course cannot have the liberty to become a nuisance to his neighbours and make his child grow up as a burden and a threat to the commonwealth. One can easily be judged to be civilized or uncivilized from his little acts of social behaviour. Little acts of good social conduct make up the great sum of life and sweeten the journey onwards. The extent to which one can indulge in the pleasures of his personal liberties is, they shall not disturb the liberty of others.

People have not really understood the meaning of his pen name Alpha of the Plough; it has connotation of the ABCD of the Farmer besides the brightest star in the cluster.

Commuters Keep Their Own Worlds. By David Shankbone

A.G.Gardiner’s most famous books are Prophets, Priests And Kings, Pillars Of Society, The War Lords, Pebbles On The Shore, Windfalls, Leaves In The Wind, The Anglo-American Future and What I Saw In Germany, in chronological order of first appearance. He used the pen name Alpha of the Plough for most of his writings- books, essays and editorial articles. Most people associate this name with Alpha, the brightest star in the Plough cluster in space, thinking that he assumed himself the qualification of ‘the brightest star in the cluster’, given the choice. But we also know that his England was a farmers’ England and Alpha in Greek also meant the first letter, making us believe that he assumed the pen name Alpha of the Plough to qualify himself as the ‘ABCD of the Farmers’ which is more meaningful and apt, considering what he stood for and whom he supported in his writings.

From the boy journalist from the wood-worker’s family, to the spit-fire editor of Daily News and The Star!

Decently Engaged. By Travis Ruse

Gardiner had humble beginnings in his life, born in a wood-worker’s family and boyhood experiences in journalism and magazine production at the Chelmsford Chronicle, Bournemouth Directory, Northern Daily Telegraph and Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, before he became the famous editor of Daily News who relentlessly fought against social evils and multiplied its circulation five times within seven years. Not that he continued in this paper. When David Lloyd George, the barrister who became the Prime Minister of England after World War First, partitioned Ireland and introduced state financial help to the poor and the sick by heavy taxation of the rich, there were disagreements between editors and owners and Gardiner silently moved on to The Star. We lost Alfred George Gardiner who delighted us through simple, truthful and amusing essays in 1946, at the age of 81.

(Prepared as a lecture delivered to literature students in 1995. Slight modifications made since then)

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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A G Gardiner, Alpha Of The Plough, Appreciations, British Writers, English Essayists, English Language And Literature, Freedom, Individual Liberty, Leaves In The Wind, Liberty, On The Rule Of The Road, P S Remesh Chandran, Re-Introductions, Reviews, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Social Liberty

Meet the author


Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of 'Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book'. Unmarried and single. Born and brought up in Nanniyode, a little village in the Sahya Mountain Valley in Kerala.


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