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Lila Bell Acheson
Entered as second class matter Oct. 4, 1922, at the
Digest Association, Pleasantville, N. Y.
Condensed from The Century Magazine
erywhere, and that the battleship. “Much has been written lately
the missionary, and the commercial about the rising tide of color against
traveler are not His agents direct white-world supremacy, and the re
this is promise of the white man's volt of the under man against West- coming of age. The promise would
civilization. We have long be greater, however, were it not thought that a deeper revolt against that our melancholy is only in slight Western civilization is under way
measure turned inward. There is a revolt that is inspired not so much a flood of literature on civilization, by a hatred of the white man's power for instance, that which pictures the as by an utter disbelief in the white white peoples as awaiting doom and man's philosophy of life. If there is
the non-white peoples as preparing such a revolt, we should know about
to swarm over the earth; wherefore, it. Mr. Peffer is an American who
civilization will pass from the earth, has become thoroughly Easternized.
and darkness enfold us again. Or, and his paper is the soul of the East
according to others, sinister nonbecome articulate, We may differ
Nordic peoples are arising to omfrom him in many details, but we can.
base our Nordic purity and make us not read his paper without being
dwellers in barbarism. shaken out of our complacency, our greatest besetting sin." Editor of
In the Far East, in India, in AlThe Century.
rica, in Turkey, and in the whole Near East the native races are indeed becoming self-assertive, rest
ive, even threatening. You get the HE present self-consciousness key to the meaning of most of this, about civilization is good however, in the fact that these are
enough sign; better yet that it also subject peoples or at least im. is gloomy. The dawning of the sus- perialistically exploited peoples. In picion that God in His unfathomable so far as there is any hostility tr purpose may have some higher de- the white nation, it is against them, sign for the scheme of things than not as white people, but as conquerthe Henry Fordization of all life ev- ors 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 against the blind worship and imitation of everything Western just because it is Western. The World War revealed 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 overlooked: 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 differes branches of His creation
on ti basis of their achievement throug all time, He will place the whit lower than the yellow and brown, and higher only than til black.
We Occidentals are all too ai sorbed in the now and in things Our material superstructure is sti pendous, but put against it the ques tion, To what end? ... Let us ex amine, then, the boons of our me chine age we are most eager hand on to others, by forcible coi version if necessary. There are un versal education, sanitation, repre sentative government, and the press all but sanitation existing purely b virtue of rapid communications.
Universal education, then. Bu where has there ever been universe education, or even education for infinitesimal minority? I
do 10 mean literacy. There is
mo common fallacy in our thinking than that that illiteracy and ignor ance are synonymous and that man who cannot read and write ned essarily cannot have more of wis dom, a surer perception of the rela tion of fundamentals, and a keene discrimination between truth error than one who can
read an write. No man could know peasa Russia or peasant Italy or China 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 Colorai high school graduate business mer Or Harvard alumni, for that matter
This that passes in America for education is only literacy. There no education yet. One finds the me chanical stuffing of a vast mass o facts unrelated to one another, an a rigid body of dogma forever in durating the mind against nem ideas or a new outlook. It is not 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 everyw! re 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 а. 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 communi. cation has been the greatest single factor making for war especial. ly 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 legiti. mately question whether it is in yield of happiness. It is proper to question whether the Oriental at his
harsh labor and in his primitive that it is too large. If I were & home does not derive as full a satis- Hindu, a Turk, an Egyptian, a Chi. faction as the American shopkeeper
nese, or a Siberian, I should inocuand factory worker. If he works
late my social system against indushard and long, his work is not dead.
trialism as I should against ening. He is a craftsman, not a
plague. For there is a still greater tender of machines. He has a per
price exacted by industrialism. The sonal relation to his work, his fel.
newspaper records of the last twen. low-workers, and the product. He
ty years, of the last twenty months makes something in which he can express himself. He chats as he
even, are warrant for the question works, takes a cup of tea, stops to
whether the one sure, clear result regard the passing excitement in the
of the white man's discoveries in street, or greet a friend, his work science will not be his extermina- | shop being his home. If he has not
tion. One more world war if it so much leisure measured in hours, comes, it will be on a larger scale he has more of leisureliness. He
and more terrible in its destruction has not the harried look seen on
than the last and the white race faces in American cities. He smiles will be left a fragment to huddle easily. He does not need a multi- around its memories. There are tude of sensations to give him en
potentialities in industrialism for joyment. He takes his ease at a
greater good; out of it may come a little tea-shop, listening to a profes- better, more scientific, and more ra. sional tale-teller, or in the temple tional ordering of human affairs, courtyard gossiping with his cronies. and a liberation of energies from When you have seen one of his cit- all lower forms of labor for finer ies you have not seen them all; he pursuits. There are also its potendoes not model the street of his lit- tialities in armament and imperialtle hamlet in imitation of the me. istic rivalry. It is not unfair to say tropolis. His life has not been that the first proceeds by arithmetic standardized, dulled, and ironed out progression, the second by geometof every element of individuality ric progression. Is it unfair to say until he is one pea in a huge pod . that, as world forces are driving differing from the other peas in ex- now, the chances are that the end ternal variations, but identical with will be suicide? This is the aspect them in flavor, taste and texture. uppermost in the minds of the non
For the material benefits brought white peoples today. This accounts to mankind through industrialism for their stiffening resistance to there have been compensating evils. Westernization. We
asking The price may be too large for the them not only to take industrialism, good, it may not. My own belief is but suicide.