Freedom begins with breakfast. Otherwise, free people wake up to find themselves just as sick, just as hungry, and just as poor as the day before.
03 July 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
Predictions about the future are obviously hit-or-miss. But sometimes we run across a notion so simple and all-encompassing that it might stop us in our tracks.
So it is with the clip below. Freedom begins with breakfast. Lord Ritchie-Calder appears to have coined this term around 1966 (‘Freedom Begins with Breakfast’, by Ritchie Calder, Sir Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, University of Edinburgh, delivered at the Oxfam National Supporters’ Conference, St. John’s College, York, 1 April 1966).
Below, he broaches the topic in a short excerpt from the TV program The 21st Century. You will find a link to the full documentary below.
James Porteous | Clipper Media News
HANSARD: HL Deb 25 January 1968 vol 288 cc443-65443
LORD RITCHIE-CALDER rose to call attention to Britain’s role in the United Nations Organisation and the United Nations Special Agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and the United Nations Development Programme;
…my Lords, flags are not enough. Freedom is not enough. The morning after independence free people wake up to find themselves just as sick, just as hungry, just as poor, just as illiterate and just as miserable.
Freedom begins with breakfast. Independence is an aspiration. What I am talking about are the expectations which are implicit in what we call “independence” and “freedom”.
Without the substance of freedom, which it is the purpose of the United Nations and its Agencies to provide, the expectations, that total awareness which I am sure exists throughout the world—the awareness of a better life—are frustrated.
§I believe that at the moment there are some 35 countries now under military government. My Lords, generals are the official receivers in political bankruptcy—and I include some quite near here.
When democratic Governments cannot deliver the goods and unrest follows, when the frustration of expectation becomes apparent, the military take over and the new-found freedom is put into pawn. Human rights—and I would 449remind your Lordships that this is Human Rights Year—are cynically travestied. People are sent to Ionian Islands.
Some noble Lords may say, “That just goes to prove that the subject peoples were not ripe for self-government”. That begs a lot of questions, but I submit to the House that it is quite irrelevant.
I do not believe that procrastination, repression, apartheid or any other device can in fact withstand the winds of change. What is profoundly relevant is the growing disparity between the highly, developed countries and the developing countries, with all the implications of racial conflicts and exploitable frustrations.
That is where the interfering powers come in—the exploitable frustrations. The rich countries are the heirs of the first Industrial Revolution. The poor countries had no share in that Revolution, except as the hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Science and technology, which in this context we are discussing to-day, dates back to James Watt’s steam engine, produced industrial wealth. Industrial wealth produced more science and technology—produced education, research, and the means to transfer laboratory discoveries to the factory floor, to produce more wealth, to produce more science, to produce more wealth.
It took Britain, the first and foremost of the industrial countries, 200 years from James Watt to achieve the Welfare State. It took the United States of America 100 years of technology to achieve the affluent society. It took Japan, with its commercial Sumurai, 80 years to reach its industrial prosperity of to-day. It took the Soviet Union 40 years of consumer denial and duress savings to put up Sputnik. The developing countries, two-thirds of the world’s population, have to make a leap across the centuries.
The quicksands of poverty do not provide such a springboard.
Peter Ritchie Ritchie-Calder, Baron Ritchie-Calder of Balmashannar
(1906-1982), Journalist and peace advocate
Ritchie-Calder Dead; British Science Writer
Obituary – New York Times Feb. 3, 1982
Lord Ritchie-Calder, an explorer, professor and former journalist who is credited with developing science reporting in Britain, died Sunday at the age of 75.
A Labor peer, Lord Ritchie-Calder was a former professor of international relations at Edinburgh University.
He was an explorer whose trips took him across the Sahara and to the Arctic.
Born in Scotland in 1906, he left school at the age of 15 and joined The Dundee Gazette as a police court reporter. He soon went to London where he worked for a succession of major dailies and where, on the staff of The Daily Herald, he devoted his full attention to reporting of science.
In the 1950’s Lord Ritchie-Calder served as a special adviser to United Nations conferences and researched the extent of hunger in the world.
He was appointed to a chair of international relations at Edinburgh University in 1961. He was the author of more than 30 books, many of them popular histories of scientific disciplines or graphic accounts of his travels.
A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 3, 1982, Section A, Page 22 of the National edition with the headline: Ritchie-Calder Dead; British Science Writer.
Why bother with reason and evidence to make predictions when you can put your faith in a chance roll of the dice? These two methods could be said to represent the vastly divergent ways of science and superstition, two realms that rarely intersect except, perhaps, when it comes to fortune-telling — or, in the argot of the 20th century’s soothsayers, “Futurism,” where predictions seem to rely as much on wishful thinking as they do on intuition and intellect.
In the 1967 short documentary film, The Futurists, above, scientists and visionaries quite literally combine the scientific method with random chance operation to make predictions about the 21st century. Host Walter Cronkite explains:
A panel of experts has studied a list of possible 21st century developments, from personality controlled drugs to household robots. They have estimated the numerical probability of each, from zero to 100 percent. The twenty sided dice are then rolled to simulate these probabilities. A use of random numbers known as the Monte Carlo technique, often used in thinktank games. All of this is highly speculative.
Indeed. The glimpse we get of the future — of our present, as it were — is very optimistic, “and so very, very wrong,” writes Billy Ingram at TV Party — at least in some respects. “Sadly, those past futurists forgot to factor in human greed and the refashioning of Americans’ way to be less communal and more self-centered.” The very medium on which the documentary appeared helped to center selfishness as a cardinal American virtue.
Yet in 1967, the federal government still required major networks to run educational content, even if “network executives understood these programs would end up at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings.” Hence, The Futurists, which aired on primetime on CBS “when the 3 networks would occasionally preempt popular programs with a news feature/documentary.” Despite low expectations at the time, the short film now proves to be a fascinating document.
The rolls of the dice with which it opens are not, it turns out, a “crap game,” but a “serious game at the University of Pittsburgh,” Cronkite tells us before introducing the august panel of experts. We see a number of scenarios predicted for the coming century. These include the vague “increased importance of human concerns,” sci-fi “teaching by direct recording on the brain,” and ominous “tactical behavior control devices.”
Buckminster Fuller even predicts bodily teleportation by radio waves, something like the technology then featured in a brand-new TV show, Star Trek, but not scientifically probable in any sense, either then or now. Nonetheless, there is surprising prescience in The Futurists, as its opening panel of futuristic experts announces their conclusions:
We wind up with a world which has the following features: fertility control, 100-year lifespan, controlled thermal nuclear power, continued automation, genetic control, man-machine symbiosis, household robots, wideband communications, opinion control, and continued organization.
Apparently, in 1967, all the Futurists worth talking to — or so it seemed to the film’s producer McGraw Hill — were men. Theirs was the only perspective offered to home viewers and to the students who saw this film in schools across the country. Those men include not only Fuller, who gives his full interview at 14:30, but also frequent maker of accurate futuristic predictions Isaac Asimov, who appears at the 20:50 mark. Aside from the exclusion of 50% of the population’s perspective, and an overly rosy view of human nature, however, The Futurists is often an uncannily accurate vision of life as we now know it — or at least one far more accurate than most 21st century futurisms of the past.