Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/136

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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Owen's nervousness increased as he continued:

'Now, they can't live in the air or in the sea. These people are land animals, therefore they must live on the land.'

'Wot do yer mean by animals?' demanded Slyme.

'A human bein' ain't a animal!' said Crass, indignantly.

'Yes we are!' cried Harlow, 'go into any chemist's shop you like and ask the bloke, and 'e'll tell you——'

'Oh, blow that!' interrupted Philpot. 'Let's 'ear wot Owen's sayin'.'

'They must live on the land, and that's the beginning of the trouble, because, under the present system, the majority of the people have really no right to be in the country at all! Under the present system the country belongs to a few—those who are here represented by this small black square. If it would pay them to do so, and if they felt so disposed, these few people have a perfect right, under the present system, to order everyone else to clear out!

'But they don't do that, they allow the majority to remain in the land on one condition; that is: they must pay rent to the few for the privilege of being permitted to live in the land of their birth.

'The amount of rent demanded by those who own this country is so large that, in order to pay it, the greater number of the majority have often to deprive themselves and their children not only of the comforts but even the necessaries of life. In the case of the working classes the rent absorbs, at the lowest possible estimate, about one third of their total earnings, for it must be remembered that the rent is an expense that goes on all the time, whether they are employed or not. If they get into arrears when out of work, they have to pay double when they get employment again.

'The majority work hard and live in poverty in order that the minority may live in luxury without working at all, and as the majority are mostly fools, they not only agree to pass their lives in incessant slavery and want, in order to pay this rent to those who own the country, but they say it is quite right that they should have to do so, and are very grateful to the little minority for allowing them to remain in the country at all.'

Owen paused, and immediately there arose a great clamour from his listeners.

'So it is right, ain't it?' shouted Crass, 'If you 'ad