Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/743

This page has been validated.




OCTOBER, 1899.

By the Right Reverend HENRY C. POTTER.

THE analogies between the life of an individual and that other organism which we call civilized society are as interesting as for any other reason because of their inexhaustible and ever-fresh variety. The wants, the blunders, the growth, the perils of the individual are matched at every step by those other wants and dangers and developments which rise in complexity and in variety as the individual and the social organism rise in intelligence, in numbers, and in wealth. It ought to interest us, if it never has, to consider from how much that is mischievous and dangerous we should be delivered if we could revert from the civilized to the savage state; and it is undoubtedly true that serious minds have sometimes been tempted to question whether civilization is quite worth all that it has cost us in its manifold departures from a simple and more primitive condition.

Such a question may, at any rate, not unnaturally arise when we ask ourselves the question. What, on the whole, is the influence upon manhood—by which I mean, here and for my present purpose, the qualities that make courage, self-reliance, self-respect, industry, initiative—in fact, those independent and aggressive characteristics by which great races, like great men, have climbed up out of earlier obscurity and inferiority into power, leadership, and distinction; what is the influence upon these of conditions which tend, apparently by an inevitable law, to beget or to encourage indolence, inertia, parasitic dependence?

One can not but be moved to such a question by either of two papers which have recently appeared in these pages: I mean that