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- Mankind in the Making - 4/49 -


Just as far as our light upon the general purpose goes, just so far goes our responsibility (whether we respect it or not) to shape and subdue our wills to the Making of Mankind.

Directly the man, who has found akin to himself and who has accepted and assimilated this new view, turns to the affairs of the political world, to the general professions of our great social and business undertakings, and to the broad conventions of human conduct, he will find, I think, a very wide discrepancy from the implications of this view. He will find--the New Republican finds--that the declared aims and principles of the larger amount of our social and political effort are astonishingly limited and unsatisfactory, astonishingly irrelevant to the broad reality of Life. He will find great masses of men embarked collectively upon enterprises that will seem to his eyes to have no definable relation to this real business of the world, or only the most accidental relationship, he will find others in partial lop-sided co- operation or unintelligently half helpful and half obstructive, and he will find still other movements and developments which set quite in the opposite direction, which make neither for sound births nor sound growth, but through the thinnest shams of excuse and purpose, through the most hypnotic and unreal of suggestions and motives, directly and even plainly towards waste, towards sterility, towards futility and death and extinction.

But not deliberately towards Death. It is only in the theoretical aspirations of Schopenhauer that he will find an expression of conscious and resolved opposition to the pervading will and purpose in things. In the common affairs of the world he will find neither deliberate opposition nor deliberate co-operation, chance opposition indeed and chance co-operation, but for the most part only a complete unconsciousness, a blind irrelevance or a purely accidental accordance to the essential aspect of Life.

Take, for example, the great enthusiasm that set all England waving bunting in June, 1902. It was made clear to the most unwilling observer that the great mass of English people consider themselves aggregated together in one nation mainly to support, honour, and obey a King, and that they rejoice in this conception of their national purpose. Great sums of money were spent to emphasize this purpose, public work of all sorts was dislocated, and the channels of public discussion clogged and choked. A discussion of the education of the next generation, a matter of supreme interest from the New Republican point of view, passed from public sight amidst the happy tumults and splendours of the time. The land was filled with poetry in the Monarch's praise, bad beyond any suspicion of insincerity. All that was certainly great in the land, all that has any hold upon the motives and confidence of the English, gathered itself into a respectful proximity, assumed attitudes of reverent subordination to the Monarch. All that was eminent in science and literature and art, the galaxy of the episcopate, the crowning intellectualities of the army, came to these rites, clad in robes and raiment that no sane person would ever voluntarily assume in public except under circumstances of extreme necessity. The whole business was conducted with a zest and gravity that absolutely forbids the theory that it was a mere formality, a curious survival of mediaevalism cherished by a country that makes no breaks with its past. The spirit and idea of the whole thing was intensely real and contemporary; one could believe only that those who took part in it regarded it as a matter of primary importance, as one of the cardinal things for which they existed. The alternative is to imagine that they believe nothing to be of primary importance in this world; a quite incredible levity of soul to ascribe to all those great and distinguished people.

But it reflects not at all upon the high intelligence, the unobtrusive but sterling moral qualities, the tact, dignity, and personal charm of the central figure in their pageantries, a charm the pathetic circumstances of his unseasonable illness very greatly enhanced, if the New Republican fails to consider these ceremonials of primary importance, if he declines to see them as of any necessary importance at all, until it has been conclusively shown that they do minister to the bettering of births and of the lives intervening between birth and birth. On the surface they do not do that. Unless they can be shown to do that they are dissipations of energy, they are irrelevant and wrong, from the New Republican point of view. The New Republican can take no part in these things, or only a very grudging and qualified part, on his way to real service. He may or he may not, after deliberate examination, leave these things on one side, unchallenged but ignored.

It may be urged that all the subserviences that distinguish our kingdom and that become so amazingly conspicuous about a coronation, the kissing of hands, the shambling upon knees, the crawling of body and mind, the systematic encouragement of that undignified noisiness that nowadays distinguishes the popular rejoicings of our imperial people, are simply a proof of the earnest preoccupation of our judges, bishops, and leaders and great officers of all sorts with remoter and nobler aims. The kingdom happens to exist, and it would be complex and troublesome to get rid of it. They stand these things, they get done with these things, and so are able to get to their work. The paraphernalia of a Court, the sham scale of honours, the submissions, the ceremonial subjection, are, it is argued, entirely irrelevant to the purpose and honour of our race, but then so would rebellion against these things be also irrelevant and secondary. To submit or to rebel is a diversion of our energies from the real purpose in things, and of the two it is infinitely less bother to submit. In private conversation, I find, this is the line nine out of ten of the King's servants will take. They will tell you the public understands; the thing is a mere excuse for festivity and colour; their loyalty is of a piece with their Fifth of November anti-popery. They will tell you the peers understand, the bishops understand, the coronating archbishop has his tongue in his cheek. They all understand--men of the world together. The King understands, a most admirable gentleman, who submits to these traditional things, but who admits his preference is for the simple, pure delight of the incognito, for being "plain Mr. Jones."

It may be so. Though the psychologist will tell you that a man who behaves consistently as though he believed in a thing, will end in believing it. Assuredly whatever these others do, the New Republican must understand. In his inmost soul there must be no loyalty or submission to any king or colour, save only if it conduces to the service of the future of the race. In the New Republic all kings are provisional, if, indeed--and this I shall discuss in a later paper-- they can be regarded as serviceable at all.

And just as kingship is a secondary and debatable thing to the New Republican, to every man, that is, whom the spirit of the new knowledge has taken for its work, so also are the loyalties of nationality, and all our local and party adhesions.

Much that passes for patriotism is no more than a generalized jealousy rather gorgeously clad. Amidst the collapse of the old Individualistic Humanitarianism, the Rights of Man, Human Equality, and the rest of those broad generalizations that served to keep together so many men of good intention in the age that has come to its end, there has been much hasty running to obvious shelters, and many men have been forced to take refuge under this echoing patriotism--for want of a better gathering place. It is like an incident during an earthquake, when men who have abandoned a cleft fortress will shelter in a drinking bothy. But the very upheavals that have shattered the old fastnesses of altruistic men, will be found presently to be taking the shape of a new gathering place--and of this the New Republic presents an early guess and anticipation. I do not see how men, save in the most unexpected emergency, can be content to accept such an artificial convention as modern patriotism for one moment. On the one hand there are the patriots of nationality who would have us believe that the miscellany of European squatters in the Transvaal are one nation and those in Cape Colony another, and on the other the patriots of Empire who would have me, for example, hail as my fellow-subjects and collaborators in man- making a host of Tamil-speaking, Tamil-thinking Dravadians, while separating me from every English-speaking, English-thinking person who lives south of the Great Lakes. So long as men are content to work in the grooves set for them by dead men, to derive all their significances from the past, to accept whatever is as right and to drive along before the compulsions of these acquiescences, they may do so. But directly they take to themselves the New Republican idea, directly they realize that life is something more than passing the time, that it is constructive with its direction in the future, then these things slip from them as Christian's burthen fell from him at the very outset of his journey. Until grave cause has been shown to the contrary, there is every reason why all men who speak the same language, think the same literature, and are akin in blood and spirit, and who have arrived at the great constructive conception that so many minds nowadays are reaching, should entirely disregard these old separations. If the old traditions do no harm there is no reason to touch them, any more than there is to abolish the boundary between this ancient and invincible kingdom of Kent in which I write and that extremely inferior country, England, which was conquered by the Normans and brought under the feudal system. But so soon as these old traditions obstruct sound action, so soon as it is necessary to be rid of them, we must be prepared to sacrifice our archaeological emotions ruthlessly and entirely.

And these repudiations extend also to the political parties that struggle to realize themselves within the forms of our established state. There is not in Great Britain, and I understand there is not in America, any party, any section, any group, any single politician even, based upon the manifest trend and purpose of life as it appears in the modern view. The necessities of continuity in public activity and of a glaring consistency in public profession, have so far prevented any such fundamental reconstruction as the new generation requires. One hears of Liberty, of Compromise, of Imperial Destinies and Imperial Unity, one hears of undying loyalty to the Memory of Mr. Gladstone and the inalienable right of Ireland to a separate national existence. One hears, too, of the sacred principle of Free Trade, of Empires and Zollvereins, and the Rights of the Parent to blockade the education of his children, but one hears nothing of the greater end. At the best all the objects of our political activity can be but means to that end, their only claim to our recognition can be their adequacy to that end, and none of these vociferated "cries," these party labels, these programme items, are ever propounded to us in that way. I cannot see how, in England at any rate, a serious and perfectly honest man, holding as true that ampler view of life I have suggested, can attach himself loyally to any existing party or faction. At the utmost he may find their faction-fighting may be turned for a time towards his remoter ends. These parties derive from that past when the new view of life had yet to establish itself, they carry faded and obliterated banners that the glare and dust of conflict, the vote-storms of great campaigns, have robbed long since of any colour of reality they once possessed. They express no creative purpose now, whatever they did in their inception, they point towards no constructive ideals. Essentially they are things for the museum or the bonfire, whatever momentary expediency may hold back the New Republican from an unqualified advocacy of such a destination. The old party fabrics are no more than dead rotting things, upon which a great tangle of personal jealousies, old grudges, thorny nicknames, prickly memories, family curses, Judas betrayals and sacred pledges, a horrible rubbish thicket, maintains a saprophytic vitality.

It is quite possible I misjudge the thing altogether. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, for example, may hide the profoundest and most wide-reaching aims beneath his superficial effect of utter superficiality. His impersonation of an amiable, spirited, self-


Mankind in the Making - 4/49

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