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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 85/August 1914/Ethnic Factors in International Relations

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 85‎ | August 1914

ETHNIC FACTORS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
By Professor MAURICE PARMELEE

COLLEGE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

THERE are many factors which influence international relations. Among the most important are language, culture, religion and commerce. If the peoples of two countries speak the same language intercourse between them is much easier and sympathetic relations are likely to exist between them. If two nations are of about the same culture with respect to the development of science and art, the diffusion of knowledge, moral standards, etc., this culture is likely to serve as a bond of union. But if the cultural differences are great they may give rise to a feeling of antipathy, or, to say the least, the one nation is almost certain to look down upon the other nation as being of a lower grade of culture. If two nations are of the same religion this may serve as a bond of union. But if they are of different religions this difference may give rise to hostility, especially if one or both of these religions are of a militant sort. If two nations have commercial relations which are to the mutual benefit of both they are almost certain to remain on friendly terms with each other. But if they are rivals in commerce such rivalry is very likely to lead to hostility and sometimes to war.

In this article we are to discuss the part played by ethnic factors in international relations. That is to say, we shall try to ascertain to what extent and how ethnic differences between the peoples of nations affect the relations of those nations towards each other. These differences are with respect to external anatomical characteristics such as stature, facial features, the color of the skin, the character of the hair, etc., and with respect to the internal organs, such as the brain, and the nervous system in general, the heart, lungs, etc., all of which play a part in determining the psychic characteristics of a people. It is, however, very difficult to segregate these factors and to study their effects because they are inextricably mingled with the other factors which have been mentioned. This is true, in the first place, because these ethnic characteristics have their influence in part indirectly through the other factors. That is to say, the language, culture, religion, etc., of a people are determined in varying degrees by these ethnic characteristics. But it is very difficult to determine in any specific case to what extent this is true as compared to the influence of physical environment and such chance circumstances as relations to other peoples.

It is also difficult to determine how ethnic differences influence international relations directly. These differences frequently give rise to feelings of antipathy, as when the color of the skin or the facial features of one ethnic stock are regarded as ugly, if not repulsive, by another, or when the odor of the skin of one ethnic type is unpleasant to another. But it is evident that in some, if not all, of these cases esthetic, and sometimes moral and religious, ideas as well are involved, so that these antipathies are due in part, and perhaps sometimes entirely, to cultural differences. It would, therefore, be difficult to say in the case of any one of these antipathies whether it would exist on the basis of the ethnic difference alone if the cultural differences were lacking.

It is now evident that this article must consist largely of a study of the degree and permanence of ethnic differences. Since our interest is mainly with respect to the future the discussion may take the form of an attempt to answer two questions. The first is as to whether ethnic differences are sufficiently great to keep the contrasted ethnic stocks permanently in different cultural statuses. The second is as to whether these differences are sufficiently great to prevent a final amalgamation of all the ethnic stocks. In a word it is a question of the possibility and probability of cultural and ethnic uniformity in the future.

There have been many theories as to the part played by ethnic characteristics in determining the culture of a people. At one extreme we find such a writer as Gobineau, who in his treatise on the inequality of the human races tried to prove that there is a great deal of difference between the ethnic stocks as to their capacity for culture. At the other extreme is Boas, who insists that there is practically no difference between the ethnic types in their capacity for culture. It is evident that many of the physical differences between the ethnic types do not imply mental differences. For example, color is in the truest sense only skin deep, and is a racial adaptation to climate. Stature, the shape of the nose, etc., do not in themselves involve specific mental characteristics. But great differences in the brain and the rest of the nervous system, and in certain other of the viscera, would necessarily involve important mental differences and therefore variation in the capacity for culture. Such differences would be in the instinctive, intellectual and emotional make-up of the representatives of the type. Let us see how probable it is that there are such great differences.

There is a certain amount of variation in the size of the brain between the different ethnic types, but it is not at all certain that this variation is sufficiently great to cause any material difference in mental characteristics. This is indicated by the fact that as great variation is to be found in the brains of the members of the most civilized peoples and even among the ablest representatives of these peoples. In the structure of the brain and of its cells, also, there is probably no great variation, though such variations would be of even greater significance than variations in size. In similar fashion, in the rest of the nervous system there is probably no great variation between the ethnic types. When, however, we come to some of the other viscera, such as the heart and the lungs, controlling the circulatory and respiratory processes, the variations are probably somewhat greater as the necessary result of adaptation to climatic conditions. It is unfortunate that we do not have a larger amount of data, and more accurate data, as to ethnic differences. But what we do know seems to indicate that in the fundamental instinctive characteristics there can be no great differences between the ethnic types. In similar fashion it is doubtful if there can be very much variation in the intellectual capacity of these types. But in the emotional make-up there may be considerable variation, because, according to the prevalent psychological theory as to the nature of emotions, the emotions are determined in large part by the processes of certain of the viscera, such as the heart and lungs, and we have seen that there may be considerable variation in these viscera between the different ethnic types.

Let us now survey briefly the peoples of to-day with respect to this relation between ethnic characteristics and culture. If we take the primitive peoples the first and most important thing to be noted is that these peoples represent all the ethnic types. If there was a close correlation between ethnic characteristics and culture it would be expected that these primitive peoples would belong to one or only certain ethnic types, while the civilized peoples would belong to other types. Furthermore, studies which have been made of certain primitive peoples seem to indicate no great differences in mental characteristics from civilized people. For example, the Cambridge University Anthropological Expedition, which studied some of the most primitive peoples in the world in Australia and Melanesia, found no great differences in the senses and the mental processes of these savages. Dr. Myers, the psychologist of the expedition, came to the conclusion that so far as innate mental capacity is concerned these savages are of about the same grade as European peasants. These facts seem to indicate that the low culture of these primitive peoples is to be attributed principally to environment and to such circumstances as lack of contact with other social groups.

Turning now to the civilized peoples, we find a similar heterogeneity of ethnic type. For example, in Europe we find such heterogeneity in every nation. And yet it is popularly supposed that the culture of each people is due largely to peculiar ethnic characteristics. Thus we hear the culture of the French nation attributed to the "Gallic race," the culture of Germany attributed to the "Teutonic race," etc. But the researches of the ethnologists have revealed the fact that in France, for example, are represented all the principal European ethnic types. Thus in the north of France the Nordic race is predominant, in the central part the Alpine race is predominant, while in the southern part is to be found in large numbers the Mediterranean race. Thus it is evident how difficult it would be to trace the peculiar features of French culture to peculiar ethnic characteristics. In similar fashion in Germany the Nordic race is most prevalent in the north, while the Alpine race becomes predominant in the south. Such movements as the Pan-Germanic movement and the Pan-Slavic movement are frequently regarded as having a peculiar ethnic significance, but, for example, in the countries which constitute Pan-Slavism, namely, Russia and certain of the Balkan countries, all of the European ethnic types are represented, and also a considerable intermixture of Asiatic blood. The Jews present a similar example of this error. Most of the Jews themselves, as well as most non-Jews, regard the Jewish people as a distinct ethnic type. But ethnological research has shown that there is a great deal of variation between the Jews in different countries, so that it is evident that through intermixture the Jews have lost ethnic unity. The peculiar features of their culture are due to their history and social status rather than to these ethnic characteristics. So far as such movements as Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism, Zionism, etc., try to preserve characteristic cultures, they may be of great value. But when they give currency to mistaken ideas of ethnic unity they may do a great deal of harm.

Such mistaken ideas of racial identity have frequently furnished the basis for a national self-consciousness which has led to an assumption of superiority over and hostility towards other races. A realization of the fact that the cultural status of a people is frequently due mainly to its environment and circumstances rather than to its ethnic characteristics would ameliorate these hostile relations. Furthermore, these facts suggest the possibility of a uniformity of culture the world over, which possibility we shall discuss later in this article.

Let us now consider the second question proposed, namely, with regard to the possibility of a final racial amalgamation. This is, of course, largely a question of the feasibility of crossing between the principal ethnic types. There are three of these types, namely, the white or Caucasian, the yellow or Mongolian, and the black or Negro. We have already discussed how antipathies may arise between ethnic types. We have seen these antipathies may arise from cultural differences such as different esthetic ideas. Thus where antipathy is based upon difference in skin color or facial features it is largely, but not entirely, an esthetic matter. Where an antipathy is based upon such a thing as difference in odor it may seem to be innate in its origin and therefore permanent. But even such an antipathy may be partly or largely the result of a difference of taste and therefore due to cultural differences. In fact, it is very difficult to determine whether any antipathy is innate and therefore an insuperable barrier between races. If there is no such innate antipathy, with uniformity of culture all antipathies should disappear. Such a final racial amalgamation would then seem to be possible. However, there may be other obstacles in the way, and in any case it is not necessarily advisable to work for such an end. This is a question I will discuss a little later.

Let us now consider what have been and are the actual relations between these ethnic types. The whites and the yellows have already mingled to a large extent, so that a considerable proportion of the population of Asia is a cross between the white and yellow races. They have also mixed to a slight extent in Europe. These facts seem to indicate that there is no very serious antipathy between these two types. It is true that at present there is a good deal of hostility between these two races, but this is undoubtedly due in large part to cultural differences and political difficulties.

In his relation to the black, the white has shown a good deal more antipathy. The reasons for this are very evident, since the differences' between the white and the black are much more striking in appearance and much more obvious. And yet even between the white and the black there has been a good deal of mixture. In northern Africa the two races have been mixing for thousands of years, and even in Europe we find traces of a slight amount of mixture in the past. In America we find curious differences in the extent to which the white and the black has mixed. In North America, the Anglo-Saxon has, to a large extent, stood proudly aloof from the black, though he has frequently condescended to illegitimate relations with women of color. But in the southern part of North America, in Central and South America, the Portuguese and Spaniards have mixed very largely with the blacks and have displayed comparatively little of the usual antipathy. These facts suggest that this antipathy of the white to the black may not be as fundamental as it appears, and is due to esthetic ideas and cultural differences and also perhaps to the consciousness of the fact that the blacks until very recently were uncivilized and slaves.

Between the yellows and the blacks also there has been some display of antipathy, though it may not be as great as between the whites and the blacks.

I have said nothing about the American aboriginal type. In Latin America this type has been assimilated very largely by the white, while in Anglo-Saxon America it has become almost extinct.

These facts seem to indicate that these racial antipathies are not as innate or as permanent as they seem to be. But this does not mean that there are no other obstacles in the way of racial amalgamation. Each of the ethnic types evolved in a more or less characteristic physical environment, and is, therefore, adapted to such an environment. Thus the negro is adapted in his color, physiological processes and temperament, which is due largely to emotional characteristics, to a tropical climate. In similar fashion the white is adapted to a temperate climate. Now it may be that neither of these types can become permanently adapted to another climate. The evidence as to this is as yet inconclusive and rather conflicting. But even if such adaptation could finally take place it may hardly be worth while to attempt it, since the process of readjustment would be rather painful. So that for these climatic reasons it may be preferable for the principal ethnic types to remain distinct.

If these types do remain distinct, the very important question arises as to whether they can persist side by side on an equality with each other, or whether some will necessarily remain permanently subject to others. This will probably depend, in part, upon the relative prolificness of these races. That is to say, the more prolific races will, in the long run, have the advantage so far as numbers are concerned, but it will also depend, in part, upon the possibility of a uniform world-wide culture. That is to say, if a race proves incapable of attaining to as high a culture as other races, however prolific it may be, it may still remain subject to another race because of the advantage that a higher culture gives that other race. It is believed by many that this may prove to be the case for the negro race. However, we have seen that there is probably no great difference in intellectual capacity between the different ethnic types. There may, however, be a good deal of difference in emotional characteristics, which play an important part in determining temperament, so that if the negro or any other race remains subject permanently to another race it will probably be due to such emotional characteristics.

We have now discussed very briefly some of the facts and probabilities as to the part played by ethnic factors in international relations. We must now consider what practical deductions may be drawn as to international relations in the future, especially with respect to war. In the first place, a dissemination of knowledge as to the theory of evolution and of the ethnic relations between peoples ought to have much effect in lessening racial prejudice, removing many international antipathies, and promoting international comity. If it were generally known that all the ethnic types have a common ancestry, and that many nations are similar in their ethnic make-up, it should have a good deal of effect towards accomplishing these ends. For example, to take a concrete illustration, if it were generally known that northern France is more like northern Germany ethnically than it is to southern France, and that southern Germany is more like central France ethnically than it is to northern Germany, this knowledge ought to have a good deal of influence in promoting international good feeling between France and Germany.

In the second place, it will probably on the whole and in the long run be well to develop as fast as possible a world-wide cultural uniformity. I am well aware of the objections that some have to this. They fear that such a dissemination of culture will deprive the whites of their power over many subject races, and may in course of time even give these races the ascendency over the whites. It is true that such uniformity of culture will quite probably lead to the emancipation of these subject races, but this will in all probability be to the benefit of these races and may also prove to be to the benefit of the whites as well. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that such uniformity of culture could ever lead to the subjection of the whites, because the very fact of uniformity would imply equality between the races of the world.

When we turn to the question of a final racial amalgamation, it is hard indeed to draw any practical deductions. There is a great deal of difference of opinion as to the advisability of miscegenation or the crossing of races. It is, of course, to a considerable extent a question of whether the races being crossed are equal in capacity or whether the one is superior to the other. If they are equal it would appear as if there should be no loss as a result of the crossing and if anything a gain. If the one is superior to the other it may lose as a result of the crossing but, on the other hand, the inferior one ought to gain so that the loss ought not to be greater than the gain. However, we have seen that it is hard to determine whether any race is materially superior or inferior to the other races biologically and psychologically so that it may be that the races should be regarded as being practically on an equality for purposes of crossing. But regardless of the question as to whether the races being crossed are equal or not there is the further consideration as to whether their characteristics are such as to make a happy combination. We can not judge very well as to that now but Mendelian investigation may furnish us a basis for judging in course of time.

Non-biological writers usually regard human hybridism as a bad thing when it is the result of a crossing between a so-called superior and a so-called inferior race. Their opinion is based upon the fact that these half-breeds are frequently failures in society. But such failure is usually due to social factors though these writers attribute it to the inborn traits of the half-breeds. Biologists regard hybridism in general as a good thing in the animate world at large and as an important factor in organic evolution. Biologists who have discussed human problems and anthropologists who are well grounded in biology have usually regarded human hybridism as a good thing and as an important factor in human mental and social evolution. So that it is probably true that human hybridism in general is a good thing. However it would not be safe to argue from such a general principle in every specific case. It may be that under some conditions such as have been suggested above miscegenation is not a good thing. Furthermore it is true that if a general movement towards a final racial amalgamation began many difficulties would arise as a result of the intimate contact of the races during the long period which this process would take and it might be questioned whether the benefits to be gained by a final amalgamation would more than counterbalance the difficulties of the transition period. And in any case, as we have seen, for climatic reasons such amalgamation may never be possible.

It is now evident that there are three possibilities as to ethnic relations in the future. The ethnic types may always remain distinct, though there will always be a certain amount of crossing between them as there always has been, while the different cultures will also remain distinct. Or the ethnic types may remain distinct but culture will become uniform the world over. Or a final racial amalgamation may take place with a uniform world-wide culture. Uniformity of culture would be the almost inevitable accompaniment of racial amalgamation so that we need not recognize the possibility of such amalgamation with a diversity of culture. I would not dare to express an opinion as to which of these possibilities is most likely to take place. But it is to be hoped in the interests of international peace that in the course of time there will be more or less uniformity of culture at least so far as political organization, moral ideas and systems of law are concerned.

The preceding has necessarily been a very brief discussion of a great subject and I regret very much that I have not the space to apply the broad generalizations which have been suggested to concrete examples. But I hope the discussion has been sufficient to indicate the importance of taking into consideration the ethnic factors in all international relations, as, for example, in the relations of two great European nations such as France and Germany, in the relations of a powerful nation to its subject peoples as the British in India, and in the relations of a great Occidental and a great Oriental country such as the United States and Japan.