40.4 What this World Might be were it under One Law and Justice¶
There can be little question that the attainment of a federation of all humanity, together with a sufficient measure of social justice, to ensure health, education, and a rough equality of opportunity to most of the children born into the world, would mean such a release and increase of human energy as to open a new phase in human history. The enormous waste caused by military preparation and the mutual annoyance of competing great powers, and the still more enormous waste due to the under-productiveness of great masses of people, either because they are too wealthy for stimulus or too poor for efficiency, would cease. There would be a vast increase in the supply of human necessities, a rise in the standard of life and in what is considered a necessity, a development of transport and every kind of convenience and a multitude of people would be transferred from low-grade production to such higher work as art of all kinds, teaching; scientific research, and the like. All over the world there would be a setting free of human capacity, such as has occurred hitherto only in small, places and through precious limited phases of prosperity and security. Unless we are to suppose that spontaneous outbreaks of supermen have occurred in the past, it is reasonable to conclude that the Athens of Pericles, the Florence of the Medici, Elizabethan England, the great deeds of Asoka, the Tang and Ming periods in art, are but samples of what a whole world of sustained security would yield continuously and cumulatively. Without supposing any change in human quality, but merely its release from the present system of inordinate waste, history justifies this expectation.
We have seen how, since the liberation of human thought in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a comparatively few curious and intelligent men, chiefly in western Europe, have produced a vision of the world and a body of science that is now, on the material side, revolutionizing life. Mostly these men have worked against great discouragement, with insufficient funds and small help or support from the mass of mankind. It is impossible to believe that these men were the maximum intellectual harvest of their generation. England alone in the last three centuries must have produced scores of Newtons who never learnt to read, hundreds of Daltons, Darwins, Bacons, and Huxleys who died stunted in hovels, or never got a chance of proving their quality. All the world over, there must have been myriads, of potential first-class investigators, splendid artists, creative minds, who never caught a gleam of inspiration or opportunity, for every one of that kind who has left his mark upon the world. In the trenches of the Western front alone during the late war thousands of potential great men died unfulfilled. But a world with something like a secure international peace and something like social justice, will fish for capacity with the fine net of universal education, and may expect a yield beyond comparison greater than any yield of able and brilliant men that the world has known hitherto.
It is such considerations as this indeed which justify the concentration of effort in the near future upon the making of a new world state of righteousness out of our present confusions. War is a horrible thing, and constantly more horrible and dreadful, so that unless it is ended it will certainly end human society; social injustice, and the sight of the limited and cramped human beings it produces, torment the soul; but the strongest incentive to constructive political and social work for an imaginative spirit lies not so much in the mere hope of escaping evils as in the opportunity for great adventures that their suppression will open to our race. We want to get rid of the militarist not simply because he hurts and kills, but because he is an intolerable thick-voiced blockhead who stands hectoring and blustering in our way to achievement. We want to abolish many extravagances of private ownership just as we should want to abolish some idiot guardian who refused us admission to a studio in which there were fine things to do.
There are people who seem to imagine that a world order and one universal law of justice would end human adventure. It would but begin it. But instead of the adventure of the past, the «romance» of the cinematograph world, the perpetual reiterated harping upon the trite reactions of sex and combat find the hunt for gold, it would be an unending exploration upon the edge of experience. Hitherto man has been living in a. slum, amidst quarrels, revenges, vanities, shames and taints, hot desires and urgent appetites. He has scarcely tasted sweet air yet and the great freedoms of the world that science has enlarged for him.
To picture to ourselves something of the wider life that world unity would open to men is a very attractive speculation. Life will certainly go with a stronger pulse, it will breathe a deeper breath, because it will have dispelled and conquered a hundred infections of body and mind that now reduce it to invalidism and squalor. We have already laid stress on the vast elimination of drudgery from human life through the creation of a new race of slaves, the machines. This and the disappearance of war and the smoothing out of endless restraints and contentions by juster social and economic arrangements will lift the burthen of toilsome work and routine work that has been the price of human security since the dawn of the first civilizations, from the shoulders of our children. Which does not mean that they will cease to work, but that they will cease to do irksome work under pressure, and will work freely, planning, making, creating, according to their gifts and instincts. They will fight nature no longer as dull conscripts of the pick and plough, but for a splendid conquest. Only the spiritlessness of our, present depression blinds us to the clear intimations of our reason that in the course of a few generations every little country town could become an Athens, every human being could be gentle in breeding and healthy in body and mind, the whole solid earth man’s mine and its uttermost regions his playground.
In this Outline we have sought to show two great systems of development interacting in the story of human society. We have seen, growing out of that later special neolithic culture, the heliolithic, culture in the warmer alluvial parts of the world, the great primordial civilizations, fecund systems of subjugation and obedience, vast multiplications of industrious and subservient men. We have shown the necessary relationship of these early civilizations to the early temples and to king-gods, and god-kings. At the same time we have traced the development from a simpler neolithic level of the wanderer peoples, who became the nomadic peoples, in those great groups the Aryans and the Hun-Mongol peoples of the north-west and the north-east and (from a heliolithic phase) the Semites of the Arabian deserts. Our history has told of a repeated overrunning and refreshment of the originally brunet civilizations by these hardier, bolder, free-spirited peoples of the steppes and desert. We have pointed out how these constantly recurring nomadic, injections have steadily altered the primordial civilizations both in blood and in spirit; and how the world religions of to-day, and what we now call democracy, the boldness of modern scientific inquiry and a universal restlessness, are due to this «nomadization» of civilization. The old civilizations created tradition and lived by tradition. To-day the power of tradition is destroyed. The body of our state is civilization still, but its spirit is the spirit of the nomadic world. It is the spirit of the great plains and the high seas.
So that it is difficult to resist the persuasion that so soon as one law, runs in the earth and the fierceness of frontiers ceases to distress us, that urgency in our nature that stirs us in spring and autumn to be up and travelling, will have its way with us. We shall obey the call of the summer pastures and the winter pastures in our blood, the call of the mountains, the desert, and the sea. For some of us also, who may be of a different lineage, there is the call of the forest, and there are those who would hunt in the summer and return to the fields for the harvest and the plough. But this does not mean that men will have become homeless and all adrift. The normal nomadic life is not a homeless one, but a movement between homes. The Kalmucks to-day, like the swallows, go yearly a thousand miles from one home to another. The beautiful and convenient cities of the coming age, we conclude, will have their seasons when they will be full of life, and seasons when they will seem asleep. Life will ebb and flow to and from every region seasonally as the interest of that region rises or declines.
There will be little drudgery in this better-ordered world. Natural power harnessed in machines will be the general drudge. What drudgery is inevitable will be done as a service and duty for a few years or months out of each life; it will not consume nor degrade the whole life of anyone. And not only drudges, but many other sorts of men and ways of living which loom large in the current social scheme will necessarily have dwindled in importance or passed away altogether. There will be few professional fighting men or none at all, no customhouse officers; the increased multitude of teachers will have abolished large police forces and large jail staffs, mad-houses will be rare or non-existent; a world-wide sanitation will have diminished the proportion of hospitals, nurses, sick-room attendants, and the like; a world-wide economic justice, the floating population of cheats, sharpers, gamblers, forestallers, parasites, and speculators generally. But there will be no diminution of adventure or romance in this world of the days to come. Sea fisheries and the incessant insurrection of the sea, for example, will call for their own Stalwart types of men; the high air will clamour for manhood, the deep and dangerous secret places of nature. Men will turn again with renewed interest to the animal world. In these disordered days a stupid, uncontrollable massacre of animal species goes on-from certain angles of vision, it is a thing almost more tragic than human miseries; in the nineteenth century dozens of animal species, and some of them very interesting species, were exterminated; but one of the first fruits of an effective world state would be the better protection of what are now wild beasts. It is a strange thing in human history to note how little has been done since the Bronze Age in taming, using, befriending, and appreciating the animal life about us. But that mere witless killing, which is called sport to-day would inevitably give place in a better-educated world community to a modification of the primitive instincts, that find expression in this way, changing them into an interest not in the deaths, but in the lives of beasts, and leading to fresh and perhaps very strange and beautiful attempts to befriend these pathetic, kindred lower creatures we no longer fear as enemies, hate as rivals, or need as slaves. And a world state and universal justice does not mean the imprisonment of our race in any bleak institutional orderliness. There will still be mountains and the sea, there will be jungles and great forests, cared for indeed and treasured and protected; the great plains will still spread before us and the wild winds blow. But men will not hate so much, fear so much, nor cheat so desperately—and they will keep their minds and bodies cleaner.
There are unhopeful prophets who see in the gathering together of men into one community the possibility of violent race conflicts, conflicts for «ascendancy», but that is to suppose that civilization is incapable of adjustments by which men of different qualities and temperaments and appearances will live side by side, following different rules and contributing diverse gifts. The weaving of mankind into, one community does not imply the creation of a homogeneous community, but rather the reverse; the welcome and the adequate utilization of distinctive quality in an atmosphere of, understanding. It is the almost universal bad manners of the present age, which make race intolerable to race. The community to which we may be moving will be more mixed—which does not necessarily mean more interbred—more various and more interesting than any existing community. Communities all to one pattern, like boxes of toy soldiers, are things of the past rather than the future.
But one of the hardest, most impossible tasks a writer can set himself, is to picture the life of people better educated, happier in their circumstances, more free and more healthy than he is himself. We know enough to-day to know that there is infinite room for betterment in every human concern. Nothing is needed but collective effort. Our poverty, our restraints, our infections and indigestions, our quarrels and misunderstandings, are all things controllable and removable by concerted human action, but we know as little how life would feel without them as some poor dirty ill-treated, fierce-souled creature born and bred amidst the cruel and dingy surroundings of a European back street can know what it is to bathe every day, always to be clad beautifully, to climb mountains for pleasure, to fly, to meet none but agreeable, well-mannered people, to conduct researches or make delightful things. Yet a time when all such good things will be for all men may be coming more nearly than we think. Each one who believes that brings the good time nearer; each heart that fails delays it.
One cannot foretell the surprises or disappointments the future has in store. Before this chapter of the World State can begin fairly in our histories, other chapters as yet unsuspected may still need to be written, as long and as full of conflict as our account of the growth and rivalries of the Great Powers. There may be tragic economic struggles, grim grapplings, of race with race and class with class. It may be that «private enterprise» will refuse to learn the lesson of service without some quite catastrophic revolution, and that a phase of confiscation and amateurish socialistic government lies before us. We do not know; we cannot tell. These are unnecessary disasters, but they may be unavoidable disasters. Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. Against the unifying effort of Christendom and against the unifying influence of the mechanical revolution, catastrophe won—at least to the extent of achieving the Great War. We cannot tell yet how much of the winnings of catastrophe still remain to be gathered in. New falsities may arise and hold men in some unrighteous and fated scheme of order for a time, before they collapse amidst the miser and slaughter of generations.
Yet, clumsily or smoothly, the world, it seems, progresses and will progress. In this Outline in our account of palaeolithic men, we have borrowed a description from Mr. Worthington Smith of the very highest life in the world some fifty thousand years ago. It was a bestial life. We have sketched, too, the gathering for a human sacrifice, some fifteen thousand years ago. That scene again is almost incredibly cruel to a modern civilized reader.
Yet it is not more than five hundred years since the great empire of the Aztecs still believed that it could live only by the shedding of blood. Every year in Mexico hundreds of human victims died in this fashion: The body was bent like a bow over the curved stone of sacrifice, the breast was slashed open with a knife of obsidian, and the priest tore out the beating heart of the still living victim. The day may be close at hand when we shall no longer tear out the hearts of men, even for the sake of our national gods. Let the reader but refer to the earlier time charts we have given in this history, and he will see the true measure and transitoriness of all the conflicts, deprivations, and miseries of this present period of painful and yet hopeful change.