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- Mankind in the Making - 20/49 -


he, demonstrably, is not, and it has been suggested, I hope almost as convincingly, that in that complex apparatus of acquisition and expression, language, he is also needlessly deficient. And even upon this defective foundation, it is submitted, he still fails, morally, mentally, socially, aesthetically, to be as much as he might be. "As much as he might be," is far too ironically mild. The average citizen of our great state to-day is, I would respectfully submit, scarcely more than a dirty clout about his own buried talents.

I do not say he might not be infinitely worse, but can any one believe that, given better conditions, he might not have been infinitely better? Is it necessary to argue for a thing so obvious to all clear- sighted men? Is it necessary, even if it were possible, that I should borrow the mantle of Mr. George Gissing or the force of Mr. Arthur Morrison, and set myself in cold blood to measure the enormous defect of myself and my fellows by the standards of a remote perfection, to gauge the extent of this complex muddle of artificial and avoidable shortcomings through which we struggle? Must one, indeed, pass in review once more, bucolic stupidity, commercial cunning, urban vulgarity, religious hypocrisy, political clap-trap, and all the raw disorder of our incipient civilization before the point will be conceded? What benefit is there in any such revision? rather it may overwhelm us with the magnitude of what we seek to do. Let us not dwell on it, on all the average civilized man still fails to achieve; admit his imperfection, and for the rest let us keep steadfastly before us that fair, alluring and reasonable conception of all that, even now, the average man might be.

Yet one is tempted by the effective contrast to put against that clean and beautiful child some vivid presentation of the average thing, to sketch in a few simple lines the mean and graceless creature of our modern life, his ill-made clothes, his clumsy, half-fearful, half- brutal bearing, his coarse defective speech, his dreary unintelligent work, his shabby, impossible, bathless, artless, comfortless home; one is provoked to suggest him in some phase of typical activity, "enjoying himself" on a Bank Holiday, or rejoicing, peacock feather in hand, hat askew, and voice completely gone, on some occasion of public festivity --on the defeat of a numerically inferior enemy for example, or the decision of some great international issue at baseball or cricket. This, one would say, we have made out of that, and so point the New Republican question, "Cannot we do better?" But the thing has been done so often without ever the breath of a remedy. Our business is with remedies. We mean to do better, we live to do better, and with no more than a glance at our present failures we will set ourselves to that.

To do better we must begin with a careful analysis of the process of this man's making, of the great complex of circumstances which mould the vague possibilities of the average child into the reality of the citizen of the modern state.

We may begin upon this complex most hopefully by picking out a few of the conspicuous and typical elements and using them as a basis for an exhaustive classification. To begin with, of course, there is the home. For our present purpose it will be convenient to use "home" as a general expression for that limited group of human beings who share the board and lodging of the growing imperial citizen, and whose personalities are in constant, close contact with his until he reaches fifteen or sixteen. Typically, the chief figures of this group are mother, brothers and sisters, and father, to which are often added nursemaid, governess, and other servants. Beyond these are playmates again. Beyond these acquaintances figure. Home has indeed nowadays, in our world, no very definite boundaries--no such boundaries as it has, for example, on the veldt. In the case of a growing number of English upper middle-class children, moreover, and of the children of a growing element in the life of the eastern United States, the home functions are delegated in a very large degree to the preparatory school. It is a distinction that needs to be emphasized that many so-called schools are really homes, often very excellent homes, with which schools, often very inefficient schools, are united. All this we must lump together-- it is, indeed, woven together almost inextricably--when we speak of home as a formative factor. The home, so far as its hygienic conditions go, we have already dealt with, and we have dealt, too, with the great neglected necessity, the absolute necessity if our peoples are to keep together, of making and keeping the language of the home uniform throughout our world-wide community. Purely intellectual development beyond the matter of language we may leave for a space. There remains the distinctive mental and moral function of the home, the determination by precept, example, and implication of the cardinal habits of the developing citizen, his general demeanour, his fundamental beliefs about all the common and essential things of life.

This group of people, who constitute the home, will be in constant reaction upon him. If as a whole they bear themselves with grace and serenity, say and do kindly things, control rage, and occupy themselves constantly, they will do much to impose these qualities upon the new- comer. If they quarrel one with another, behave coarsely and spitefully, loiter and lounge abundantly, these things will also stamp the child. A raging father, a scared deceitful mother, vulgarly acting, vulgarly thinking friends, all leave an almost indelible impress. Precept may play a part in the home, but it is a small part, unless it is endorsed by conduct. What these people do, on the whole, believe in and act upon, the child will tend to believe in and act upon; what they believe they believe, but do not act upon, the child will acquire also as a non-operative belief; their practices, habits, and prejudices will be enormously prepotent in his life. If, for example, the parent talks constantly of the contemptible dirtiness of Boers and foreigners, and of the extreme beauty of cleanliness and--even obviously--rarely washes, the child will grow to the same professions and the same practical denial. This home circle it is that will describe what, in modified Herbartian phraseology, one may call the child's initial circle of thought; it is a circle many things will subsequently enlarge and modify, but of which they have the centering at least and the establishment of the radial trends, almost beyond redemption. The effect of home influence, indeed, constitutes with most of us a sort of secondary heredity, interweaving with, and sometimes almost indistinguishable from, the real unalterable primary heredity, a moral shaping by suggestion, example, and influence, that is a sort of spiritual parallel to physical procreation.

It is not simply personalities that are operative in the home influence. There is also the implications of the various relations between one member of the home circle and another. I am inclined to think that the social conceptions, for example, that are accepted in a child's home world are very rarely shaken in afterlife. People who have been brought up in households where there is an organized under-world of servants are incurably different in their social outlook from those who have passed a servantless childhood. They never quite emancipate themselves from the conception of an essential class difference, of a class of beings inferior to themselves. They may theorise about equality--but theory is not belief. They will do a hundred things to servants that between equals would be, for various reasons, impossible. The Englishwoman and the Anglicised American woman of the more pretentious classes honestly regards a servant as physically, morally, and intellectually different from herself, capable of things that would be incredibly arduous to a lady, capable of things that would be incredibly disgraceful, under obligations of conduct no lady observes, incapable of the refinement to which every lady pretends. It is one of the most amazing aspects of contemporary life, to converse with some smart, affected, profoundly uneducated, flirtatious woman about her housemaid's followers. There is such an identity; there is such an abyss. But at present that contrast is not our concern. Our concern at present is with the fact that the social constitution of the home almost invariably shapes the fundamental social conceptions for life, just as its average temperament shapes manners and bearing and its moral tone begets moral predisposition. If the average sensual man of our civilization is noisy and undignified in his bearing, disposed to insult and despise those he believes to be his social inferiors, competitive and disobliging to his equals; abject, servile, and dishonest to those he regards as his betters; if his wife is a silly, shallow, gossiping spendthrift, unfit to rear the children she occasionally bears, perpetually snubbing social inferiors and perpetually cringing to social superiors, it is probable that we have to blame the home, not particularly any specific class of homes, but our general home atmosphere, for the great part of these characteristics. If we would make the average man of the coming years gentler in manner, more deliberate in judgment, steadier in purpose, upright, considerate, and free, we must look first to the possibility of improving the tone and quality of the average home.

Now the substance and constitution of the home, the relations and order of its various members, have been, and are, traditional. But it is a tradition that has always been capable of modification in each generation. In the unlettered, untravelling past, the factor of tradition was altogether dominant. Sons and daughters married and set up homes, morally, intellectually, economically, like those of their parents. Over great areas homogeneous traditions held, and it needed wars and conquests, or it needed missionaries and persecutors and conflicts, or it needed many generations of intercourse and filtration before a new tradition could replace or graft itself upon the old. But in the past hundred years or so the home conditions of the children of our English-speaking population have shown a disposition to break from tradition under influences that are increasing, and to become much more heterogeneous than were any home conditions before. The ways in which these modifications of the old home tradition have arisen will indicate the means and methods by which further modifications may be expected and attempted in the future.

Modification has come to the average home tradition through two distinct, though no doubt finally interdependent channels. The first of these channels is the channel of changing economic necessities, using the phrase to cover everything from domestic conveniences at the one extreme to the financial foundation of the home at the other, and the next is the influx of new systems of thought, of feeling, and of interpretation about the general issues of life.

There are in Great Britain three main interdependent systems of home tradition undergoing modification and readjustment. They date from the days before mechanism and science began their revolutionary intervention in human affairs, and they derive from the three main classes of the old aristocratic, agricultural, and trading state, namely, the aristocratic, the middle, and the labour class. There are local, there are even racial modifications, there are minor classes and subspecies, but the rough triple classification will serve. In America the dominant home tradition is that of the transplanted English middle class. The English aristocratic tradition has flourished and faded in the Southern States; the British servile and peasant tradition has never found any growth in America, and has, in the persons of the Irish chiefly, been imported in an imperfect condition, only to fade. The various home traditions of the nineteenth century immigrants have either, if widely different, succumbed, or if not very different assimilated themselves to the ruling tradition. The most marked non- British influence has been the intermixture of Teutonic Protestantism. In both countries now the old home traditions have been and are being adjusted to and modified by the new classes, with new relationships and new necessities, that the revolution in industrial organization and domestic conveniences has created.

The interplay of old tradition and new necessities becomes at times very curious. Consider, for example, the home influences of the child of a shopman in a large store, or those of the child of a skilled


Mankind in the Making - 20/49

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