A Modern Utopia

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5.

What gives the botanist so great an advantage in all his Anti-Utopian utterances is his unconsciousness of his own limitations. He thinks in little pieces that lie about loose, and nothing has any necessary link with anything else in his mind. So that I cannot retort upon him by asking him, if he objects to this synthesis of all nations, tongues and peoples in a World State, what alternative ideal he proposes.

People of this sort do not even feel the need of alternatives. Beyond the scope of a few personal projects, meeting Her again, and things like that, they do not feel that there is a future. They are unencumbered by any baggage of convictions whatever, in relation to that. That, at least, is the only way in which I can explain our friend's high intellectual mobility. Attempts to correlate statesmanship, which they regard with interest as a dramatic interplay of personalities, with any secular movement of humanity, they class with the differential calculus and Darwinism, as things far too difficult to be anything but finally and subtly wrong.

So the argument must pass into a direct address to the reader.

If you are not prepared to regard a world-wide synthesis of all cultures and polities and races into one World State as the desirable end upon which all civilising efforts converge, what do you regard as the desirable end? Synthesis, one may remark in passing, does not necessarily mean fusion, nor does it mean uniformity.

The alternatives fall roughly under three headings. The first is to assume there is a best race, to define as well as one can that best race, and to regard all other races as material for extermination. This has a fine, modern, biological air (“Survival of the Fittest”). If you are one of those queer German professors who write insanity about Welt-Politik, you assume the best race is the “Teutonic”; Cecil Rhodes affected that triumph of creative imagination, the “Anglo-Saxon race”; my friend, Moses Cohen, thinks there is much to be said for the Jew. On its premises, this is a perfectly sound and reasonable policy, and it opens out a brilliant prospect for the scientific inventor for what one might call Welt-Apparat in the future, for national harrowing and reaping machines, and race-destroying fumigations. The great plain of China (“Yellow Peril”) lends itself particularly to some striking wholesale undertaking; it might, for example, be flooded for a few days, and then disinfected with volcanic chlorine. Whether, when all the inferior races have been stamped out, the superior race would not proceed at once, or after a brief millennial period of social harmony, to divide itself into sub-classes, and begin the business over again at a higher level, is an interesting residual question into which we need not now penetrate.

That complete development of a scientific Welt-Politik is not, however, very widely advocated at present, no doubt from a want of confidence in the public imagination. We have, however, a very audible and influential school, the Modern Imperialist school, which distinguishes its own race—there is a German, a British, and an Anglo-Saxon section in the school, and a wider teaching which embraces the whole “white race” in one remarkable tolerance—as the superior race, as one, indeed, superior enough to own slaves, collectively, if not individually; and the exponents of this doctrine look with a resolute, truculent, but slightly indistinct eye to a future in which all the rest of the world will be in subjection to these elect. The ideals of this type are set forth pretty clearly in Mr. Kidd's Control of the Tropics. The whole world is to be administered by the “white” Powers—Mr. Kidd did not anticipate Japan—who will see to it that their subjects do not “prevent the utilisation of the immense natural resources which they have in charge.” Those other races are to be regarded as children, recalcitrant children at times, and without any of the tender emotions of paternity. It is a little doubtful whether the races lacking “in the elementary qualities of social efficiency” are expected to acquire them under the chastening hands of those races which, through “strength and energy of character, humanity, probity, and integrity, and a single-minded devotion to conceptions of duty,” are developing “the resources of the richest regions of the earth” over their heads, or whether this is the ultimate ideal.

Next comes the rather incoherent alternative that one associates in England with official Liberalism.

Liberalism in England is not quite the same thing as Liberalism in the rest of the world; it is woven of two strands. There is Whiggism, the powerful tradition of seventeenth-century Protestant and republican England, with its great debt to republican Rome, its strong constructive and disciplinary bias, its broad and originally very living and intelligent outlook; and interwoven with this there is the sentimental and logical Liberalism that sprang from the stresses of the eighteenth century, that finds its early scarce differentiated expression in Harrington's Oceana, and after fresh draughts of the tradition of Brutus and Cato and some elegant trifling with noble savages, budded in La Cité Morellyste, flowered in the emotional democratic naturalism of Rousseau, and bore abundant fruit in the French Revolution. These are two very distinct strands. Directly they were freed in America from the grip of conflict with British Toryism, they came apart as the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. Their continued union in Great Britain is a political accident. Because of this mixture, the whole career of English-speaking Liberalism, though it has gone to one unbroken strain of eloquence, has never produced a clear statement of policy in relation to other peoples politically less fortunate. It has developed no definite ideas at all about the future of mankind. The Whig disposition, which once had some play in India, was certainly to attempt to anglicise the “native,” to assimilate his culture, and then to assimilate his political status with that of his temporary ruler. But interwoven with this anglicising tendency, which was also, by the bye, a Christianising tendency, was a strong disposition, derived from the Rousseau strand, to leave other peoples alone, to facilitate even the separation and autonomy of detached portions of our own peoples, to disintegrate finally into perfect, because lawless, individuals. The official exposition of British “Liberalism” to-day still wriggles unstably because of these conflicting constituents, but on the whole the Whig strand now seems the weaker. The contemporary Liberal politician offers cogent criticism upon the brutality and conceit of modern imperialisms, but that seems to be the limit of his service. Taking what they do not say and do not propose as an indication of Liberal intentions, it would seem that the ideal of the British Liberals and of the American Democrats is to favour the existence of just as many petty, loosely allied, or quite independent nationalities as possible, just as many languages as possible, to deprecate armies and all controls, and to trust to the innate goodness of disorder and the powers of an ardent sentimentality to keep the world clean and sweet. The Liberals will not face the plain consequence that such a state of affairs is hopelessly unstable, that it involves the maximum risk of war with the minimum of permanent benefit and public order. They will not reflect that the stars in their courses rule inexorably against it. It is a vague, impossible ideal, with a rude sort of unworldly moral beauty, like the gospel of the Doukhobors. Besides that charm it has this most seductive quality to an official British Liberal, that it does not exact intellectual activity nor indeed activity of any sort whatever. It is, by virtue of that alone, a far less mischievous doctrine than the crude and violent Imperialism of the popular Press.

Neither of these two schools of policy, neither the international laisser faire of the Liberals, nor “hustle to the top” Imperialism, promise any reality of permanent progress for the world of men. They are the resort, the moral reference, of those who will not think frankly and exhaustively over the whole field of this question. Do that, insist upon solutions of more than accidental applicability, and you emerge with one or other of two contrasted solutions, as the consciousness of kind or the consciousness of individuality prevails in your mind. In the former case you will adopt aggressive Imperialism, but you will carry it out to its “thorough” degree of extermination. You will seek to develop the culture and power of your kind of men and women to the utmost in order to shoulder all other kinds from the earth. If on the other hand you appreciate the unique, you will aim at such a synthesis as this Utopia displays, a synthesis far more credible and possible than any other Welt-Politik. In spite of all the pageant of modern war, synthesis is in the trend of the world. To aid and develop it, could be made the open and secure policy of any great modern empire now. Modern war, modern international hostility is, I believe, possible only through the stupid illiteracy of the mass of men and the conceit and intellectual indolence of rulers and those who feed the public mind. Were the will of the mass of men lit and conscious, I am firmly convinced it would now burn steadily for synthesis and peace.

It would be so easy to bring about a world peace within a few decades, was there but the will for it among men! The great empires that exist need but a little speech and frankness one with another. Within, the riddles of social order are already half solved in books and thought, there are the common people and the subject peoples to be educated and drilled, to be led to a common speech and a common literature, to be assimilated and made citizens; without, there is the possibility of treaties. Why, for example, should Britain and France, or either and the United States, or Sweden and Norway, or Holland, or Denmark, or Italy, fight any more for ever? And if there is no reason, how foolish and dangerous it is still to sustain linguistic differences and custom houses, and all sorts of foolish and irritating distinctions between their various citizens! Why should not all these peoples agree to teach some common language, French, for example, in their common schools, or to teach each other's languages reciprocally? Why should they not aim at a common literature, and bring their various common laws, their marriage laws, and so on, into uniformity? Why should they not work for a uniform minimum of labour conditions through all their communities? Why, then, should they not—except in the interests of a few rascal plutocrats—trade freely and exchange their citizenship freely throughout their common boundaries? No doubt there are difficulties to be found, but they are quite finite difficulties. What is there to prevent a parallel movement of all the civilised Powers in the world towards a common ideal and assimilation?

Stupidity—nothing but stupidity, a stupid brute jealousy, aimless and unjustifiable.

The coarser conceptions of aggregation are at hand, the hostile, jealous patriotisms, the blare of trumpets and the pride of fools; they serve the daily need though they lead towards disaster. The real and the immediate has us in its grip, the accidental personal thing. The little effort of thought, the brief sustained effort of will, is too much for the contemporary mind. Such treaties, such sympathetic international movements, are but dream stuff yet on earth, though Utopia has realised them long since and already passed them by.

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