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409
CIVILIZATION

all men will be brought to a dead level of equality of body and mind, nor that individual competition will cease; but the average physical mental status of the race will be raised immeasurably through the virtual elimination of that vast company of defectives which to-day constitutes so threatening an obstacle to racial progress. There are millions of men in Europe and America to-day whose whole mental equipment—despite the fact that they have been taught to read and write—is far more closely akin to the average of the Upper Period of Barbarism than to the highest standards of their own time; and these undeveloped or atavistic persons have on the average more offspring than are produced by the more highly cultured and intelligent among their contemporaries. “Race suicide” is thereby prevented, but the progress of civilization is no less surely handicapped. We may well believe that the cosmopolite of the future, aided by science, will find rational means to remedy this strange illogicality. In so doing he will exercise a more consciously purposeful function, and perhaps a more directly potent influence, in determining the line of human progress than he has hitherto attempted to assume, notwithstanding the almost infinitely varied character of the experiments through which he has worked his way from savagery to civilization.

All these considerations tend to define yet more clearly the ultimate goal towards which the progressive civilization of past and present appears to be trending. The contemplation of this goal brings into view the outlines of a vastly suggestive evolutionary cycle. For it appears that Ethical evolution. the social condition of cosmopolite man, so far as the present-day view can predict it, will represent a state of things, magnified to world-dimensions, that was curiously adumbrated by the social system of the earliest savage. At the very beginning of the journey through savagery, mankind, we may well believe, consisted of a limited tribe, representing no great range or variety of capacity, and an almost absolute identity of interests. Thanks to this community of interests,—which was fortified by the recognition of blood-relationship among all members of the tribe,—a principle which we now define as “the greatest ultimate good to the greatest number” found practical, even if unwitting, recognition; and therein lay the germs of all the moral development of the future. But obvious identity of interests could be recognized only so long as the tribe remained very small. So soon as its numbers became large, patent diversities of interest, based on individual selfishness, must appear, to obscure the larger harmony. And as savage man migrated hither and thither, occupying new regions and thus developing new tribes and ultimately a diversity of “races,” all idea of community of interests, as between race and race, must have been absolutely banished. It was the obvious and patent fact that each race was more or less at rivalry, in disharmony, with all the others. In the hard struggle for subsistence, the expansion of one race meant the downfall of another. So far as any principle of “greatest good” remained in evidence, it applied solely to the members of one’s own community, or even to one’s particular phratry or gens.

Barbaric man, thanks to his conquest of animal and vegetable nature, was able to extend the size of the unified community, and hence to develop through diverse and intricate channels the application of the principle of “greatest good” out of which the idea of right and wrong was elaborated. But quite as little as the savage did he think of extending the application of the principle beyond the bounds of his own race. The laws with which he gave expression to his ethical conceptions applied, of necessity, to his own people alone. The gods with which his imagination peopled the world were local in habitat, devoted to the interests of his race only, and at enmity with the gods of rival peoples. As between nation and nation, the only principle of ethics that ever occurred to him was that might makes right. Civilized man for a long time advanced but slowly upon this view of international morality. No Egyptian or Babylonian or Hebrew or Greek or Roman ever hesitated to attack a weaker nation on the ground that it would be wrong to do so. And few indeed are the instances in which even a modern nation has judged an international question on any other basis than that of self-interest. It was not till towards the close of the 19th century that an International Peace Conference gave tangible witness that the idea of fellowship of nations was finding recognition; and in the same recent period history has recorded the first instance of a powerful nation vanquishing a weaker one without attempting to exact at least an “indemnifying” tribute.

But the citizen of the future, if the auguries of the present prove true, will be able to apply principles of right and wrong without reference to national boundaries. He will understand that the interests of the entire human family are, in the last analysis, common interests. The census through which he attempts to estimate “the greatest good of the greatest number” must include, not his own nation merely, but the remotest member of the human race. On this universal basis must be founded that absolute standard of ethics which will determine the relations of cosmopolite man with his fellows. When this ideal is attained, mankind will again represent a single family, as it did in the day when our primeval ancestors first entered on the pathway of progress; but it will be a family whose habitat has been extended from the narrow glade of some tropical forest to the utmost habitable confines of the globe. Each member of this family will be permitted to enjoy the greatest amount of liberty consistent with the like liberty of every other member; but the interests of the few will everywhere be recognized as subservient to the interests of the many, and such recognition of mutual interests will establish the practical criterion for the interpretation of international affairs.

But such an extension of the altruistic principle by no means presupposes the elimination of egoistic impulses—of individualism. On the contrary, we must suppose that man at the highest stages of culture will be, even as was the savage, a seeker after the greatest attainable degree of comfort Progress and efficiency.for the least necessary expenditure of energy. The pursuit of this ideal has been from first to last the ultimate impelling force in nature urging man forward. The only change has been a change in the interpretation of the ideal, an altered estimate as to what manner of things are most worth the purchase-price of toil and self-denial. That the things most worth the having cannot, generally speaking, be secured without such toil and self-denial, is a lesson that began to be inculcated while man was a savage, and that has never ceased to be reiterated generation after generation. It is the final test of progressive civilization that a given effort shall produce a larger and larger modicum of average individual comfort. That is why the great inventions that have increased man’s efficiency as a worker have been the necessary prerequisites to racial progress. Stated otherwise, that is why the industrial factor is everywhere the most powerful factor in civilization; and why the economic interpretation is the most searching interpretation of history at its every stage. It is the basal fact that progress implies increased average working efficiency—a growing ratio between average effort and average achievement—that gives sure warrant for such a prognostication as has just been attempted concerning the future industrial unification of our race. The efforts of civilized man provide him, on the average, with a marvellous range of comforts, as contrasted with those that rewarded the most strenuous efforts of savage or barbarian, to whom present-day necessaries would have been undreamed-of luxuries. But the ideal ratio between effort and result has by no means been achieved; nor will it have been until the inventive brain of man has provided a civilization in which a far higher percentage of citizens will find the life-vocations to which they are best adapted by nature, and in which, therefore, the efforts of the average worker may be directed with such vigour, enthusiasm and interest as can alone make for true efficiency; a civilization adjusted to such an economic balance that the average man may live in reasonable comfort without heart-breaking strain, and yet accumulate a sufficient surplus to ensure ease and serenity for his declining days. Such, seemingly, should be the normal goal of progressive civilization. Doubtless mankind in advancing towards that goal will institute many changes that could by no possibility be