A Modern Utopia

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Disregarding classes, cliques, sets, castes, and the like minor aggregations, concerned for the most part with details and minor aspects of life, one finds among the civilised peoples of the world certain broad types of aggregatory idea. There are, firstly, the national ideas, ideas which, in their perfection, require a uniformity of physical and mental type, a common idiom, a common religion, a distinctive style of costume, decoration, and thought, and a compact organisation acting with complete external unity. Like the Gothic cathedral, the national idea is never found complete with all its parts; but one has in Russia, with her insistence on political and religious orthodoxy, something approaching it pretty closely, and again in the inland and typical provinces of China, where even a strange pattern of hat arouses hostility. We had it in vigorous struggle to exist in England under the earlier Georges in the minds of those who supported the Established Church. The idea of the fundamental nature of nationality is so ingrained in thought, with all the usual exaggeration of implication, that no one laughs at talk about Swedish painting or American literature. And I will confess and point out that my own detachment from these delusions is so imperfect and discontinuous that in another passage I have committed myself to a short assertion of the exceptionally noble quality of the English imagination. [Footnote: Chapter the Seventh, § 6.] I am constantly gratified by flattering untruths about English superiority which I should reject indignantly were the application bluntly personal, and I am ever ready to believe the scenery of England, the poetry of England, even the decoration and music of England, in some mystic and impregnable way, the best. This habit of intensifying all class definitions, and particularly those in which one has a personal interest, is in the very constitution of man's mind. It is part of the defect of that instrument. We may watch against it and prevent it doing any great injustices, or leading us into follies, but to eradicate it is an altogether different matter. There it is, to be reckoned with, like the coccyx, the pineal eye, and the vermiform appendix. And a too consistent attack on it may lead simply to its inversion, to a vindictively pro-foreigner attitude that is equally unwise.

The second sort of aggregatory ideas, running very often across the boundaries of national ideas and in conflict with them, are religious ideas. In Western Europe true national ideas only emerged to their present hectic vigour after the shock of the Reformation had liberated men from the great tradition of a Latin-speaking Christendom, a tradition the Roman Catholic Church has sustained as its modification of the old Latin-speaking Imperialism in the rule of the pontifex maximus. There was, and there remains to this day, a profound disregard of local dialect and race in the Roman Catholic tradition, which has made that Church a persistently disintegrating influence in national life. Equally spacious and equally regardless of tongues and peoples is the great Arabic-speaking religion of Mahomet. Both Christendom and Islam are indeed on their secular sides imperfect realisations of a Utopian World State. But the secular side was the weaker side of these cults; they produced no sufficiently great statesmen to realise their spiritual forces, and it is not in Rome under pontifical rule, nor in Munster under the Anabaptists, but rather in Thomas à Kempis and Saint Augustin's City of God that we must seek for the Utopias of Christianity.

In the last hundred years a novel development of material forces, and especially of means of communication, has done very much to break up the isolations in which nationality perfected its prejudices and so to render possible the extension and consolidation of such a world-wide culture as mediæval Christendom and Islam foreshadowed. The first onset of these expansive developments has been marked in the world of mind by an expansion of political ideals—Comte's “Western Republic” (1848) was the first Utopia that involved the synthesis of numerous States—by the development of “Imperialisms” in the place of national policies, and by the search for a basis for wider political unions in racial traditions and linguistic affinities. Anglo-Saxonism, Pan-Germanism, and the like are such synthetic ideas. Until the eighties, the general tendency of progressive thought was at one with the older Christian tradition which ignored “race,” and the aim of the expansive liberalism movement, so far as it had a clear aim, was to Europeanise the world, to extend the franchise to negroes, put Polynesians into trousers, and train the teeming myriads of India to appreciate the exquisite lilt of The Lady of the Lake. There is always some absurdity mixed with human greatness, and we must not let the fact that the middle Victorians counted Scott, the suffrage and pantaloons among the supreme blessings of life, conceal from us the very real nobility of their dream of England's mission to the world… .

We of this generation have seen a flood of reaction against such universalism. The great intellectual developments that centre upon the work of Darwin have exacerbated the realisation that life is a conflict between superior and inferior types, it has underlined the idea that specific survival rates are of primary significance in the world's development, and a swarm of inferior intelligences has applied to human problems elaborated and exaggerated versions of these generalisations. These social and political followers of Darwin have fallen into an obvious confusion between race and nationality, and into the natural trap of patriotic conceit. The dissent of the Indian and Colonial governing class to the first crude applications of liberal propositions in India has found a voice of unparalleled penetration in Mr. Kipling, whose want of intellectual deliberation is only equalled by his poietic power. The search for a basis for a new political synthesis in adaptable sympathies based on linguistic affinities, was greatly influenced by Max Müller's unaccountable assumption that language indicated kindred, and led straight to wildly speculative ethnology, to the discovery that there was a Keltic race, a Teutonic race, an Indo-European race, and so forth. A book that has had enormous influence in this matter, because of its use in teaching, is J. R. Green's Short History of the English People, with its grotesque insistence upon Anglo-Saxonism. And just now, the world is in a sort of delirium about race and the racial struggle. The Briton forgetting his Defoe, [Footnote: The True-born Englishman.] the Jew forgetting the very word proselyte, the German forgetting his anthropometric variations, and the Italian forgetting everything, are obsessed by the singular purity of their blood, and the danger of contamination the mere continuance of other races involves. True to the law that all human aggregation involves the development of a spirit of opposition to whatever is external to the aggregation, extraordinary intensifications of racial definition are going on; the vileness, the inhumanity, the incompatibility of alien races is being steadily exaggerated. The natural tendency of every human being towards a stupid conceit in himself and his kind, a stupid depreciation of all unlikeness, is traded upon by this bastard science. With the weakening of national references, and with the pause before reconstruction in religious belief, these new arbitrary and unsubstantial race prejudices become daily more formidable. They are shaping policies and modifying laws, and they will certainly be responsible for a large proportion of the wars, hardships, and cruelties the immediate future holds in store for our earth.

No generalisations about race are too extravagant for the inflamed credulity of the present time. No attempt is ever made to distinguish differences in inherent quality—the true racial differences—from artificial differences due to culture. No lesson seems ever to be drawn from history of the fluctuating incidence of the civilising process first upon this race and then upon that. The politically ascendant peoples of the present phase are understood to be the superior races, including such types as the Sussex farm labourer, the Bowery tough, the London hooligan, and the Paris apache; the races not at present prospering politically, such as the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Spanish, the Moors, the Chinese, the Hindoos, the Peruvians, and all uncivilised people are represented as the inferior races, unfit to associate with the former on terms of equality, unfit to intermarry with them on any terms, unfit for any decisive voice in human affairs. In the popular imagination of Western Europe, the Chinese are becoming bright gamboge in colour, and unspeakably abominable in every respect; the people who are black—the people who have fuzzy hair and flattish noses, and no calves to speak of—are no longer held to be within the pale of humanity. These superstitions work out along the obvious lines of the popular logic. The depopulation of the Congo Free State by the Belgians, the horrible massacres of Chinese by European soldiery during the Pekin expedition, are condoned as a painful but necessary part of the civilising process of the world. The world-wide repudiation of slavery in the nineteenth century was done against a vast sullen force of ignorant pride, which, reinvigorated by the new delusions, swings back again to power.

“Science” is supposed to lend its sanction to race mania, but it is only “science” as it is understood by very illiterate people that does anything of the sort—“scientists'” science, in fact. What science has to tell about “The Races of Man” will be found compactly set forth by Doctor J. Deinker, in the book published under that title. [Footnote: See also an excellent paper in the American Journal of Sociology for March, 1904, The Psychology of Race Prejudice, by W. I. Thomas.] From that book one may learn the beginnings of race charity. Save for a few isolated pools of savage humanity, there is probably no pure race in the whole world. The great continental populations are all complex mixtures of numerous and fluctuating types. Even the Jews present every kind of skull that is supposed to be racially distinctive, a vast range of complexion—from blackness in Goa, to extreme fairness in Holland—and a vast mental and physical diversity. Were the Jews to discontinue all intermarriage with “other races” henceforth for ever, it would depend upon quite unknown laws of fecundity, prepotency, and variability, what their final type would be, or, indeed, whether any particular type would ever prevail over diversity. And, without going beyond the natives of the British Isles, one can discover an enormous range of types, tall and short, straight-haired and curly, fair and dark, supremely intelligent and unteachably stupid, straightforward, disingenuous, and what not. The natural tendency is to forget all this range directly “race” comes under discussion, to take either an average or some quite arbitrary ideal as the type, and think only of that. The more difficult thing to do, but the thing that must be done if we are to get just results in this discussion, is to do one's best to bear the range in mind.

Let us admit that the average Chinaman is probably different in complexion, and, indeed, in all his physical and psychical proportions, from the average Englishman. Does that render their association upon terms of equality in a World State impossible? What the average Chinaman or Englishman may be, is of no importance whatever to our plan of a World State. It is not averages that exist, but individuals. The average Chinaman will never meet the average Englishman anywhere; only individual Chinamen will meet individual Englishmen. Now among Chinamen will be found a range of variety as extensive as among Englishmen, and there is no single trait presented by all Chinamen and no Englishman, or vice versa. Even the oblique eye is not universal in China, and there are probably many Chinamen who might have been “changed at birth,” taken away and educated into quite passable Englishmen. Even after we have separated out and allowed for the differences in carriage, physique, moral prepossessions, and so forth, due to their entirely divergent cultures, there remains, no doubt, a very great difference between the average Chinaman and the average Englishman; but would that amount to a wider difference than is to be found between extreme types of Englishmen?

For my own part I do not think that it would. But it is evident that any precise answer can be made only when anthropology has adopted much more exact and exhaustive methods of inquiry, and a far more precise analysis than its present resources permit.

Be it remembered how doubtful and tainted is the bulk of our evidence in these matters. These are extraordinarily subtle inquiries, from which few men succeed in disentangling the threads of their personal associations—the curiously interwoven strands of self-love and self-interest that affect their inquiries. One might almost say that instinct fights against such investigations, as it does undoubtedly against many necessary medical researches. But while a long special training, a high tradition and the possibility of reward and distinction, enable the medical student to face many tasks that are at once undignified and physically repulsive, the people from whom we get our anthropological information are rarely men of more than average intelligence, and of no mental training at all. And the problems are far more elusive. It surely needs at least the gifts and training of a first-class novelist, combined with a sedulous patience that probably cannot be hoped for in combination with these, to gauge the all-round differences between man and man. Even where there are no barriers of language and colour, understanding may be nearly impossible. How few educated people seem to understand the servant class in England, or the working men! Except for Mr. Bart Kennedy's A Man Adrift, I know of scarcely any book that shows a really sympathetic and living understanding of the navvy, the longshore sailor man, the rough chap of our own race. Caricatures, luridly tragic or gaily comic, in which the misconceptions of the author blend with the preconceptions of the reader and achieve success, are, of course, common enough. And then consider the sort of people who pronounce judgments on the moral and intellectual capacity of the negro, the Malay, or the Chinaman. You have missionaries, native schoolmasters, employers of coolies, traders, simple downright men, who scarcely suspect the existence of any sources of error in their verdicts, who are incapable of understanding the difference between what is innate and what is acquired, much less of distinguishing them in their interplay. Now and then one seems to have a glimpse of something really living—in Mary Kingsley's buoyant work, for instance—and even that may be no more than my illusion.

For my own part I am disposed to discount all adverse judgments and all statements of insurmountable differences between race and race. I talk upon racial qualities to all men who have had opportunities of close observation, and I find that their insistence upon these differences is usually in inverse proportion to their intelligence. It may be the chance of my encounters, but that is my clear impression. Common sailors will generalise in the profoundest way about Irishmen, and Scotchmen, and Yankees, and Nova Scotians, and “Dutchies,” until one might think one talked of different species of animal, but the educated explorer flings clear of all these delusions. To him men present themselves individualised, and if they classify it is by some skin-deep accident of tint, some trick of the tongue, or habit of gesture, or such-like superficiality. And after all there exists to-day available one kind at least of unbiassed anthropological evidence. There are photographs. Let the reader turn over the pages of some such copiously illustrated work as The Living Races of Mankind, [Footnote: The Living Races of Mankind, by H. N. Hutchinson, J. W. Gregory, and R. Lydekker. (Hutchinson.)] and look into the eyes of one alien face after another. Are they not very like the people one knows? For the most part, one finds it hard to believe that, with a common language and common social traditions, one would not get on very well with these people. Here or there is a brutish or evil face, but you can find as brutish and evil in the Strand on any afternoon. There are differences no doubt, but fundamental incompatibilities—no! And very many of them send out a ray of special resemblance and remind one more strongly of this friend or that, than they do of their own kind. One notes with surprise that one's good friend and neighbour X and an anonymous naked Gold Coast negro belong to one type, as distinguished from one's dear friend Y and a beaming individual from Somaliland, who as certainly belong to another.

In one matter the careless and prejudiced nature of accepted racial generalisations is particularly marked. A great and increasing number of people are persuaded that “half-breeds” are peculiarly evil creatures—as hunchbacks and bastards were supposed to be in the middle ages. The full legend of the wickedness of the half-breed is best to be learnt from a drunken mean white from Virginia or the Cape. The half-breed, one hears, combines all the vices of either parent, he is wretchedly poor in health and spirit, but vindictive, powerful, and dangerous to an extreme degree, his morals—the mean white has high and exacting standards—are indescribable even in whispers in a saloon, and so on, and so on. There is really not an atom of evidence an unprejudiced mind would accept to sustain any belief of the sort. There is nothing to show that the children of racial admixture are, as a class, inherently either better or worse in any respect than either parent. There is an equally baseless theory that they are better, a theory displayed to a fine degree of foolishness in the article on Shakespeare in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Both theories belong to the vast edifice of sham science that smothers the realities of modern knowledge. It may be that most “half-breeds” are failures in life, but that proves nothing. They are, in an enormous number of cases, illegitimate and outcast from the normal education of either race; they are brought up in homes that are the battle-grounds of conflicting cultures; they labour under a heavy premium of disadvantage. There is, of course, a passing suggestion of Darwin's to account for atavism that might go to support the theory of the vileness of half-breeds, if it had ever been proved. But, then, it never has been proved. There is no proof in the matter at all.

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