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- Nonsenseorship - 10/23 -

every Government teaches that it is good for you to be governed and for the world that it should govern. A few years ago we were told that we had to be organised and schooled and managed because the nation was at war, but the thing is fast becoming a habit, and we have now to be managed and schooled and organised because the nation is at peace.

It is indeed just here that censorship has gone mad. It must have been horribly unpleasant to burn at the stake, but at least you had the satisfaction of knowing that the man who lit the faggots had some shadow of reason behind him. He had at least an hypothesis. He acted reasonably in its application. He believed something; he believed it with some horse-sense; and he acted as the saviour of Society. But today our censors have nothing behind them. No one supposes them to be more moral, more charitable, more instructed than other men; still less does anyone suppose them to be more inspired or dowered with divine right. They do not defend a faith for which they, too, would die; they merely bolster up a position because in so doing they find bread and butter. They do not object to innovators because what they innovate is bad; they object to innovators because they innovate. They do not object to us because they believe that we tell lies; they object because they know that we tell the truth.

This, then, is all very well, but what is the end to be? The theologians have always said that Almighty God left man free to sin because He did not want automatons. It is exactly here, however, that your modern censors improve on the Deity. They do want automatons. Only automatons will face liquid fire and poison gas. Only automatons will live in a jerry-built cottage in a modern town and pay heavily for the privilege. Only automatons will vote correctly at elections and keep the political business going and allow everything to run on smoothly for the next war. Only automatons will agree to the lengthening of skirts from the knee to the ankle. And only automatons will acquiesce in a system of morality which is not built on divine revelation or even on social necessity, but on exploded superstitions and sex domination and the conventions of the propertied classes.

Thus the devil is coming surely hut steadily into his own. We have already half-accepted an inverted order, allowing that all the good tunes are his and attributing to him things which he knows well enough he has no right to call his own. In a few years we shall neither use tobacco nor the grape, gifts of the good God, nor dance nor choose our own clothes nor laugh nor think. We shall scurry hither and thither before the flick of the devil's tail and be ready for the burning. We shall have sold our birthright of daring for an insipid mess of pottage: sold our right to choose and to spare, to slay and to leave alive, to be glad and to be sorry, to be martyrs if we would be, to explore, to risk, to win. We shall be docile and respectable, and the standard of our docility and respectability will have been set by men no better and no worse than we are. We shall be sober by act of Parliament, and moral--if it be morality--because we have lost the notion of being anything else. We shall be of no use whatever to God, and precious small beer for the devil.

And is there no way of escape? There truly is, Let any man ask the first censor that he sees by what authority he is censoring and who gave him that authority. Let him ask by what standards he is judging and in whose interests, and let him tell him what he thinks of his standards and interests. Let him say BOO and see how foolish the goose can look. Laugh, for Neo-Puritanism cannot stand laughter. Much else it can stand, but not that. Don't argue; the old enemy is mighty good at words. Don't hit; there are few of you strong enough. But laugh, laugh honestly, and go on laughing, for it is the only invincible weapon in the world. There is no more merry music either, and it is the melody for--Men.


[Illustration: Helen Bullitt Lowry watching Puritanism set the Flapper free.]


Two generations ago the girl was "damned." One generation ago she was "ruined." Now, according to the best authorities and her own valuation, she has just played out of luck.

So that for the reformers and prohibitionists, the censors and the woman's club resolutionists! Their bi-product is Miss Twentieth Century Unlimited, the one uninhibited creature in a Volsteaded civilisation. Controls--of liquor and of birth--have given us The Flapper. The official reformers, reinforcing the sagging inhibitions and corsets of the nineteenth century, were just the final impetus needed to drive her out into the open.

The flapper is released from the strangle hold that is throttling the rest of us. If somebody makes a law for her, she promptly and blithely breaks it, the pocket flask for the moment being the outward and visible sign of the spirit--and spirits--of her wide-flung rebellion. It is the milepost between the time that was and the time that is, that flask, and to it we owe the single standard of drinking.

A half generation ago the sub-debs did not indulge in anything more relaxing than coca cola. And even first and second year debbies did their drinking from glasses issued by the hostess, not in triplicate. If a young man of the period imported a flask from the outside, that young man was promptly dropped from polite society, no matter how stringent was the shortage of dancing beaux. They called a flask a "bottle of whiskey" in those days.

Wild oats were reserved for the boys at college. If you were of Eve's sheltered sex, you really had to become a member of the Fast Young Married Crowd before you could get a look in. That Fast Young Married Crowd was the first to come out of the biological fastnesses of the Mid-Victorian era into the cocktails and jazz of our Mid-Victrolian period.

Moral: You had to keep yourself the kind of a girl you'd been told a man wanted to marry, if you ever wanted to join in a cocktail party and slide down the banisters uninhibited--as rumor had it the Fast Young Married Crowd was doing on its orgies. Over the border of matrimony lay the mysteries of the gay wild life.

In that era before our morals were legislated, being "that kind of a girl" was a trying responsibility. There was an approved technique that every wise virgin had to master. It consisted of letting each man, on whom she conferred her favors, think that she really was in love with him. She called it "being engaged." And,--if perchance she came to possess a harem of fiancÚs,--remember that the young things of the period were not so well able to conduct their own courtings as our present-day emancipated flappers. They still had to depend on what the tide washed in. They still did their picking from those that picked them--and sorted 'em over at their leisure.

Then, too, a half generation ago, we had not read our Freud. We did not know the jargon of sex. Both man and girl were apt to call "in love" the emotion which our present-day young things frankly call something else. Thus came it that the petting parties of the period operated under the left wing of a near-engagement.

Yet there was a weakness to the system. Each fiance had the lordly impression that he "possessed" the lady of his choice. And the minute the male feels that he possesses a woman, he can get all the psychology of "riding away" and leaving her. Our Freudian flappers are better strategians. Man simply can't labor under the impression that he possesses a young person, if her lingo is calling the once sacred kiss just a "flash of pash." Applied slang is a great leveller of romance.

For times have changed since it was good form for a maid to avoid the crass mention of sex. With prohibition has come such an outburst of Get Moral Quick legislation that the reaction is now being felt throughout the length and breadth of the flapper. The legislators would lengthen the skirts to protect the defenceless male from a chance thought of legs and the like. Whereat the flapper retaliates by conversing pretty ceaselessly about--well, say associated subjects.

Last season the writer, being of the genus Successfully Single, woke up with a start to realize that two desirables had toyed with her hook--and retreated. One of them had even exited, uttering a fatal accusation about a "trammelled soul." Such a warning calls for a taking of stock. And this is what I found: Because of the flappers and the way they run shop, the whole technique of the man game has changed. My method, alas, had become as out of style as a pompadour Gibson hat. Where once girls pretended to know less and to have experienced less than they actually had, now they pretend to more. Therein lie all the law and the social profits. Therefore Rule One of these dauntless rebels reads: It is not an insult but a compliment for an admirer to explain that his intentions are frankly carnivorous.

To my ten-year-old technique had still been clinging the cobwebs of the past, when even Launcelot's intentions were painted as slightly honorable. But now--the shades of Alfred Lord Tennyson help us!--it has become the smart procedure to take Man's bold bad intentions right out into the conversation and pretend to be tempted by them.

The truth of the matter is that those pseudo-engagements of the fox-trot decade really were furnishing a charge account psychology. Man could close his eyes and whisper, "Some day, my own," and still go nicely on a _Ladies' Home Journal_ cover design of "Under the Mistletoe." But, when our flapper is not even pretending to him that she is going to marry him, and when he is not even pretending to himself that he is going to marry her--well, the whole sex game has then been put on a frank cash and carry basis.

Mark well, however, these worldly-wise young things of this the third year of our Prohibition are not necessarily less virtuous technically than their own crinolined grandmothers. Only these days they are not bragging about their virtue.

"And have all the men afraid of you, for fear they'll be responsible for teaching you something," explains one practical miss. "Men like to find you in stock, ready-taught. We know how to take care of ourselves--so we let them think what they want." In short, the whole new game, as the earnest disciple from the half generation ago learned it, is not to reveal the dark secret that you abide by the Ten Commandments. Man must not suspect that you are unattainable. He must just think that he has not attained you--yet. If you want to compete with the flappers, you've got to play by the flapper rules. Check your conversational inhibitions!

And if by chance there be any inhibitions left over, Prohibition has obligingly introduced new opportunities for privacy, that will help you check them too. When a couple strays off now from group formation, there's a perfectly good alibi available of finding a sheltered spot for a drink. Where once it really wasn't good form to go to a man's hotel room, now it is the national custom for the owner of hootch to

Nonsenseorship - 10/23

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