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The Real Revolt Against Civilization
Monotony and Industrial Unrest
The Greatest Genius in History
Bonds of Better Understanding-4
H. J. Cubberley
Entered as second class matter Oct. 4, 1922, at the
A Monthly Magazine Digest Service which circulates
THE READER'S DIGEST ASSOCIATION
Publication Office, Floral Park, New York
Editorial Office, Pleasantville, New York
Lila Bell Acheson
The Reader's Digest
The Little Magazine
The Real Revolt Against Civilization
Condensed from The Century Magazine
"Much has been written lately about the rising tide of color against white-world supremacy, and the revolt of the under man against Western civilization. We have long thought that a deeper revolt against Western civilization is under way a revolt that is inspired not so much by a hatred of the white man's power as by an utter disbelief in the white man's philosophy of life. If there is such a revolt, we should know about it. Mr. Peffer is an American who has become thoroughly Easternized. and his paper is the soul of the East become articulate. We may differ from him in many details, but we cannot read his paper without being shaken out of our complacency, our greatest besetting sin." Editor of The Century.
Tabout civilization is
present self-consciousness a good enough sign; better yet that it is gloomy. The dawning of the suspicion that God in His unfathomable purpose may have some higher design for the scheme of things than the Henry Fordization of all life ev
erywhere, and that the battleship. the missionary, and the commercial traveler are not His agents directthis is promise of the white man's coming of age. The promise would be greater, however, were it not that our melancholy is only in slight measure turned inward. There is a flood of literature on civilization, for instance, that which pictures the white peoples as awaiting doom and the non-white peoples as preparing to swarm over the earth; wherefore, civilization will pass from the earth, and darkness enfold us again. Or, according to others, sinister nonNordic peoples are arising to embase our Nordic purity and make us dwellers in barbarism.
In the Far East, in India, in Africa, in Turkey, and in the whole Near East the native races are indeed becoming self-assertive, restive, even threatening. You get the key to the meaning of most of this, however, in the fact that these are also subject peoples or at least imIn perialistically exploited peoples.
so far as there is any hostility to the white nation, it is against them, not as white people, but as conquerors guilty of political and economic
abuses. It is political, not racial; defensive, not aggressive. Yet this explanation alone is not sufficient. There is another factor, seen in its most dramatic form in the Gandhi movement in India, but also existing elsewhere. It is the widespread disenchantment with white superiority, the superiority of Western civilization. A reaction has set in against the blind worship and imitation of everything Western just because it is Western. The World War vealed the West naked of pretenses. It marked a turning-point in the attitude of the non-white peoples toward the white. There is now not only skepticism, but criticism of the Western system, and a cry for the arrest of its advance. This feeling is not racial or anti-white. It is against the concept of life we have brought into the world and insist on spreading. It is a challenge to our civilization and not a threat.
What is civilization? If a Chinese should say, "What is it you have that is superior to ours?" what answer should be made? Science first and principally; secondarily, because abstract and of smaller influence in men's lives, Christianity. All else art, literature, codifications of conduct, philosophical systems, all the refinements of life, in short older cultures had, too, and still have; it might even be argued successfully that theirs is superior. There is the distinction then, only of the stupendous material superstructure built with steam and steel and electricity. This distinction dates only from the industrial revolution, say a century and a half ago; that fact must not be looked: Up to that time the white race, measured even by material standards, was backward. By comparison with the cities of China in such matters as roads, pavement, cleanliness, sanitation, imposing buildings, fine shops, and business organization, European cities were rude and primitive. God, when taking the balance for His creation,
conceivably begins at the beginning One is not unjustified in assumir that if He ever grades the differe branches of His creation on th basis of their achievement throug all time, He will place the whit lower than the yellow and brown, and higher only than th black.
We Occidentals are all too a sorbed in the now and in thing Our material superstructure is st pendous, but put against it the ques tion, To what end? . . . Let us er amine, then, the boons of our ma chine age we are most eager hand on to others, by forcible co version if necessary. There are un versal education, sanitation, repre sentative government, and the press all but sanitation existing purely virtue of rapid communications.
Universal education, then. Bu where has there ever been univers education, or even education for a infinitesimal minority? I do no mean literacy. There is no mor common fallacy in Our thinking than that that illiteracy and igno ance are synonymous and that man who cannot read and write ne essarily cannot have more of wis dom, a surer perception of the rela tion of fundamentals, and a keene discrimination between truth an error than one who can read an write. No man could know peasan Russia or peasant Italy or China o Japan or India and suffer that de lusion. Given a human situation, should as soon trust a group of literate Chinese 'to find an intelli gent solution as a group of Colora high school graduate business me Or Harvard alumni, for that matte
This that passes in America fo education is only literacy. There no education yet. One finds the me chanical stuffing of a vast mass facts unrelated to one another, an a rigid body of dogma forever in durating the mind against new ideas or a new outlook. It is no too much to say that the main re sult in America of the educational
system and of the press has been to make more easy the implanting of prejudice and to increase the striking power of the mob. There is of course no higher good than education. To realize it a people are justified in remolding their whole society. Nor can it be realized without a remolding of society, because schools everywhere are impossible without east intercommunication of persons and ideas, which in turn is impossible without mechanization. I am only saying that there is no education and there are no educated men excepting always the minority that there is everywhere. I am only saying that literacy is not worth the price. For China and similar countries to adopt an educational program such as ours and produce a generation such as ours I should say would be a monstrous calamity.
The same principle applies to railways, and other means of travel. I do not see why wisdom or enjoyment or the higher life is in any way proportional to distance covered or speed. It was not impossible to travel before A. D. 1800. The difference is only in speed and ease. Does one who has visited a hundred cities understand them a hundred times as well or even one city twice as well as one who has seen five? And has he assimilated more who travels sixty miles an hour than one who travels six miles? Or ask whether the wiping out of distance has made for greater mutual understanding among peoples. If anything, the facilitation of communication has been the greatest single factor making for war especially when international trade is considered.
With respect to the press, the same is true as of education. We now have news; but what news, and put to what purpose? We now fly. We telephone and telegraph and use wireless. We have representative government whereby the suffrage of the people places in power the oligarchic groups who also wielded it
before representative government. We have neither greater depth nor more understanding nor a wider play for the faculties. The Hindu describes through his life a circle with a certain diameter and circumference slowly once, and then dies; the New Yorker travels the same circle, with the same diameter and circumference many, many times very rapidly, and then dies. The same circle exactly!
I do not minimize what has been gained by sanitation, public cleanliness, the conquest of disease, prevention of famine and flood. Yet not without point has been said that the white race has surpassed others only in music and plumbing. The only question that may be raised against this good is whether a people may not pay too much for comfort and cleanliness and health. As fatuous as the confusion of illiteracy and ignorance is the platitude: "Cleanliness is next to godliness." That is nonsense. Athens was filthy; its population more nearly approximated His image than Detroit's. I should rather live in Peking, thrice as filthy, because it is interesting and touched with beauty and romance, than in New York, clean, because it is ugly and dull and blatant.
Just as sanitation is good, so is larger production of wealth and the saving of labor by machinery. It shocks one in China to see the tragic waste of time and labor and the pitifully small return. A farmer slaves all day in the rice paddy doing what an agricultural implement could do in thirty minutes. Housing is primitive. Food is scant. Formal amusements and recreation are almost non-existent. Here, on the other hand, are wealth and ease and comfort and health and a wide variety of interests. Truly, is this not a better, higher, fuller life? Materially, yes. But one may legitimately question whether it is in yield of happiness. It is proper to question whether the Oriental at his
harsh labor and in his primitive home does not derive as full a satisfaction as the American shopkeeper and factory worker. If he works hard and long, his work is not deadening. He is a craftsman, not a tender of machines. He has a personal relation to his work, his fellow-workers, and the product. He makes something in which he can express himself. He chats as he works, takes a cup of tea, stops to regard the passing excitement in the street, or greet a friend, his workshop being his home. If he has not so much leisure measured in hours, he has more of leisureliness. He has not the harried look seen on faces in American cities. He smiles easily. He does not need a multitude of sensations to give him enjoyment. He takes his ease at a little tea-shop, listening to a professional tale-teller, or in the temple courtyard gossiping with his cronies. When you have seen one of his cities you have not seen them all; he does not model the street of his little hamlet in imitation of the metropolis. His life has not been standardized, dulled, and ironed out of every element of individuality until he is one pea in a huge pod differing from the other peas in external variations, but identical with them in flavor, taste and texture.
For the material benefits brought to mankind through industrialism there have been compensating evils. The price may be too large for the good, it may not. My own belief is
that it is too large. If I were a Hindu, a Turk, an Egyptian, a Chinese, or a Siberian, I should inoculate my social system against industrialism as I should against plague. For there is a still greater price exacted by industrialism. The newspaper records of the last twenty years, of the last twenty months even, are warrant for the question whether the one sure, clear result of the white man's discoveries in science will not be his extermination. One more world war if it comes, it will be on a larger scale and more terrible in its destruction than the last and the white race will be left a fragment to huddle around its memories. There are potentialities in industrialism for greater good; out of it may come a better, more scientific, and more rational ordering of human affairs, and a liberation of energies from all lower forms of labor for finer pursuits. There are also its potentialities in armament and imperialistic rivalry. It is not unfair to say that the first proceeds by arithmetic progression, the second by geometric progression. Is it unfair to say
that, as world forces are driving now, the chances are that the end will be suicide? This is the aspect uppermost in the minds of the nonwhite peoples today. This accounts for their stiffening resistance to Westernization. We are asking them not only to take industrialism, but suicide.