We say they shall not have their way with us.
Let them get us right first. Then they can do other things.
What is our American temperament?
Here are a few American reflections.
The government of the next boys' school of importance in this country is going to determine the cuts and free hours, and privileges not by marks, but by its genius for seeing through boys.
And instead of making rules for two hundred pupils because just twenty pupils need them, they will make the rules for just twenty pupils.
Pupils who can use their souls and can do better by telling themselves what to do, will be allowed to do better. Why should two hundred boys who want to be men be bullied into being babies by twenty infants who can scare a school government into rules, i.e., scare their teachers into being small and mean and second-rate?
A government that goes on this principle with business men, and that does it in a spirit of mutual understanding for those who are not yet free from rules, and in a spirit of confidence and expectation and of talking it over, will be a government with an American temperament.
The first trait of a great government is going to be that it will recognize that the basis of a true government in a democracy is privilege and not treating all people alike. It is going to see that is it a cowardly, lazy, brutal, and mechanical-minded thing for a government which is trying to serve a great people—to treat all the people alike. The basis of a great government like the basis of a great man (or even the basis of a good digestion) is discrimination, and the habit of acting according to facts. We will have rules or laws for people who need them, and men in the same business who amount to enough and are American enough to be safe as laws to themselves, will continue to have their initiative and to make their business a profession, a mould, an art form into which they pour their lives. The pouring of the lives of men like this into their business is the one thing that the business and the government want.
Several things are going to happen when what a good government seeks each for a man's business, is to let him express himself in it.
When a man has proved conclusively that he has a higher level of motives, and a higher level of abilities to make his motives work, the government is going to give him a higher level of rights, liberties, and immunities. The government will give special liberties on a sliding scale and with shrewd provision for the future. The government will not give special liberties to the man with higher motives than other men have, who has not higher abilities to make his motives work, nor will it give special liberties to the man who has higher abilities which could make higher motives work, but who has not the higher motives.
Men who are new kinds and new sizes of men and who have proved that they can make new kinds and new sizes of bargains, that they can make (for the same money) new kinds and new sizes of goods, and who incidentally make new kinds and new sizes of people out of the people who buy the goods, men who have achieved all these supposed visionary feats by their own initiative, will be allowed by the government to have all the initiative they want, and immunities from fretful rules as long as they resemble themselves and keep on doing what they have shown they can do. The government will deal with each man according to the facts, the scientific facts, that he has proved about himself.
The government acts according to scientific facts in everything except men, in pure food, in cholera, and the next thing the government is going to do is to be equally efficient in dealing with scientific facts in men.
It is going to give some men inspected liberty. If these men say they can be more efficient, as a railroad sometimes is, by being a monopoly, by being a vast, self-visioned, self-controlled body the government will have enough character, expert courage and shrewdness about human nature to provide a way for them to try it.
When the other people come up and ask why they cannot have these special immunities and why they cannot be a monopoly, or nearly a monopoly, too, the government will tell them why.
Telling them why will be governing them.
When we once reckon with new kinds and new sizes of men, everything follows. The first man who organizes a true monopoly for public service and who does it better than any state could do it, because he thinks of it himself, glories in it and has a genius for it, will be given a peerage in England perhaps. But he would not really care. The thing itself would be a peerage enough and either in America or England he would rather be rewarded by being singled out by the government for special rights and distinctions in conducting his business. The best way a democracy can honour a man who has served it is not to give him a title or to make a frivolous, idle monument of bronze for him, but to let him have his own way.
The way to honour any artist or any creative man, any man a country is in need of especially, is to let him have his own way.
* * * * *
We are told that the way to govern trusts is to untrammel competition.
But the way to untrammel competition is not to try to untrammel it in its details with lists of things men shall not do.
This is cumbersome.
We would probably find it very much more convenient in specifying 979 detailed things trusts cannot do, if we could think of certain sum-totals of details.
Then we could deal with the details in a lump.
The best sum totals of details in this world that have ever been invented yet, are men.
We will pick out a man who has a definite, marked character, who is a fine, convenient sum-total that any one can see, of things not to do.
We will pick out another man in the same line of business who is a fine, convenient sum-total of things that people ought to do.
The government will find ways, as the Coach of Business as the Referee of the Game for the people, to stand by this man until he whips the other, drives him out of business or makes him play as good a game as he does.
* * * * *
When a child finds suddenly that his father is not merely keeping him from doing things, that his father has a soul, the father begins to get results out of the child.
As a rule a child discovers first that his father has a soul by noticing that he insists on treating him as if he had one.
Of course a corporation that has not a soul yet does not propose to be dictated to by a government that has not a soul yet. When corporations without souls see overwhelmingly that a government has a soul, they will be filled with a wholesome fear. They will always try at first to prevent it from having a soul if they can.
But the moment it gets one and shows it, they will be glad. They will feel on firm ground. They will know what they know. They will act.
In the hospital on the hill not far from my house, one often sees one attendant going out to walk with twelve insane men. One would think it would not be safe for twelve insane men to go out to walk with one sane man, with one man who has his soul on.
The reason it is safe, is, that the moment one insane man or man who has not his soul on, attacks the man who has a soul, all of the other eleven men throw themselves upon him and fling him to the ground. Men whose souls are not on, protect, every time, the man who has his soul on because the man who has a soul is the only defence they have from the men who have not.
It is going to be the same with governments. We believe in a government's having as much courage in America as a ten-dollar-a-week attendant in an insane asylum. We want a government that sees how courage works.
We are told in the New Testament that we are all members one of another.
If society has a soul and if every member of it has a soul, what is the relation of the social soul to the individual soul?
A man's soul is the faculty in him for seeing the Whole in relation to the part—his vision for others in relation to his vision for himself.
My forefinger's soul in writing with this fountain pen is the sense my forefinger has of its relation to my arm, my spinal column, and my brain. The ability and efficiency of my forefinger depends upon its soul, that is, its sense of relation to the other members of the body. If my forefinger tries to act like a brain all by itself, as it sometimes does, nobody reads my writing.
The government in a society is the soul of all the members and it treats them according to their souls.
The one compulsion a government will use if it has a soul, will be granting charters in business in such a way as to fix definite responsibility and definite publicity upon a few men.
If a corporation has a soul, it must show. It must have a face. Anybody can tell a face off-hand or while going by. Anybody can keep track of a corporation if it has a face.
The trouble with the average corporation is that all that anybody can see is its stomach. Even this is anonymous.
Whose Stomach is it? Who is responsible for it? If we hit it, whom will we hit? Let the government find out. If the time the government is now spending in making impossibly minute laws for impossibly minute men, were spent in finding out what size men were, and who they were and then giving them just as many rights from the people, as they are the right kind and the right size to handle for the people, it would be an American government.
If there is one thing rather than another that an American or an Englishman loves, it is asserting himself or expressing his character in what he does. The typical dominating Englishman or American is not as successful as a Frenchman or as an Italian in expressing other things, as he is in expressing his character.
He cares more about expressing his character and asserting it. If he is dealing with things, he makes them take the stamp of who he is. If he is dealing with people, he makes them see and acknowledge who he is. They must take in the facts about what he is like when they are with him. They must deal with him as he is.
This trait may have its disadvantages, but if an Englishman or an American is on this earth for anything, this is what he is for—to express his character in what he does—in strong, vigorous, manly lines draw a portrait of himself and show what he is like in what he does. This may be called on both sides of the sea to-day as we stand front to front with the more graceful nations, Anglo-Saxon Art.
It is because this particular art in the present crisis of human nature on this planet is the desperate, the almost reckless need of a world that the other nations of the world with all their dislike of us and their superiorities to us, with all our ugliness and heaviness and our galumphing in the arts, have been compelled in this huge, modern thicket of machines and crowds to give us the lead.
And now we are threading a way for nations through the moral wilderness of the earth.
This position has been accorded us because it goes with our temperament, because we can be depended upon to insist on asserting ourselves and on expressing ourselves in what we do. If the present impromptu industrial machinery which has been handed over to us thoughtlessly and in a hurry, does not express us, everybody knows that we can be depended on to assert ourselves and that we will insist on one that will. The nations that are more polite and that can dance and bow more nicely than we can in a crisis like this would be dangerous. It is known about us throughout a world that we are not going to be cowed by wood or by iron or by steel and that we are not going to be cowed by men who are all wood and iron and steel inside. If wood, iron, or steel does not express us, we are Englishmen and we are Americans. We will butt our character into it until it does.
* * * * *
If the American workman were to insist upon butting his American temperament into his labour union machinery, what would his labour machinery in America soon begin to show that an American labourer was like?
I imagine it might work out something like this:
The thoughtful workman looks about him. He discovers that the workman pays at least two times as much for coal as he needs to because miners down in Pennsylvania work one third as hard as they might for the money.
When he comes to think of it, all the labouring men of America are paying high prices because they have to pay all the other workmen in America for working as little as they can. He is working one third less than he can and making his own class pay for it. He sees every workman about him paying high prices because every other workman in making things for him to eat and for him to wear, is cheating him—doing a third less a day for him than he ought.
At this point the capitalists pile in and help. They shove the prices up still higher because capital is not interested in an industry in which the workmen do six hours' work in nine. It demands extra profits. So while the workmen put up the prices by not working, the capitalists put up the prices because they are afraid the workmen will not work. Half work, high prices.
Then the American workman thinks. He begins to suppose.
Suppose that the millers' workmen and the workmen in the woollen mills in America see how prices of supplies for labouring men are going up and suppose they agree to work as hard as they can? Suppose the wool workers of the world want cheap bread. The flour mill workers want cheap clothes. We will say to the bread people, "We will bring down the price of wool for you if you will bring down the price of bread for us."
Then let Meat and Potatoes do the same for one another. Then two industries at a time, industries getting brains in pairs, until like the animals going into the ark, little by little (or rather very fast, almost piling in, in fact, after the first pair have tried it), at last our true, spirited, practical minded American workmen will have made their labour machines as natural and as human and as American as they are. They will stop trying to lower prices by not working, each workman joining (in a factory) the leisure classes and making the other workmen pay for it.
* * * * *
The American workman, as things are organized now, finds himself confronted with two main problems. One is himself. How can he get himself to work hard enough to make his food and clothes cheap? The other is his employer.
What will the American workman do to express his American temperament through his labour union to his employer? The American workmen will go to their employers and say: "Instead of doing six hours' work in nine hours, we will do nine hours' work in nine hours." The millers, for instance, will say to the flour mill owners: "We will do a third more work for you, make you a third more profit on our labour if you will divide your third more profit like this:
"First, by bringing down the price of flour to everybody;
"Second, by bringing up our wages. Third, by taking more money yourselves."
American labouring men who did this would be acting like Americans. It is the American temperament.
They will insist on it: The labour men will continue to say to their employers, "We will divide the proceeds of our extra work into three sums of money—ours, yours, and everybody's." In return we will soon find the employers saying the same thing to the labour men. Employers would like to arrange to be good. If they can get men who earn more, they want to pay them more.
The labourers would like to be good, i.e., work more for employers who want to pay them more.
But being good has to be arranged for.
Being good is a matter of mutual understanding, a matter of organization, a matter of butting our American temperament into our industrial machines.
All that is the matter with these industrial machines is that they are not like us.
Our machines are acting just now for all the world as if they were the Americans and as if we were the machines.
Are we for the machines, or are the machines for us?
All that the American labourers and that the American capitalists have to do is to show what they are really like, organize their news about themselves so that they get it through to one another, and our present great daily occupation in America (which each man calls his "business") all the workmen going down to the mills and all the employers going down to their offices, and then for six, eight, nine hours a day being chewed on by machines, will cease.
We make our industrial machines. We are Americans. Our machines must have our American temperament.
* * * * *
If an American employer were to insist on butting his American temperament into his industrial machine, what would his industrial machine, when it is well at work at last, show an American employer's temperament to be like?
The first thing that would show in his machine, I think, would be its courage, its acting with boldness and initiative, originality and freedom, without being cluttered up by precedents or running and asking Mama, its clear-headedness in what it wants, its short-cut in getting to it, and above all a kind of ruthless faith in human nature, in the American people, in its goods and in itself.
The typical American business man of the highest class—the man who is expressing his American temperament best in his business—is the one who is expressing in it the most courage for himself and for others and for his government. He has big beliefs every few minutes a day, and he acts on them with nonchalance.
If he is running a trust—our most characteristic, recklessly difficult American invention for a man to show through, and if he tries to get his American temperament to show through in it, tries to make his trust like a vast portrait, like a kind of countenance on a country, of what a big American business is like, what will he do?
He will take a little axiom like this and act as if it were so.
If in any given case the producers by collusion and combination can be efficient in lowering wages to employees and raising prices and cheating the public, this same combination or collusion would be efficient in raising the wages of employees, lowering prices and serving the public.
He will then, being an American, turn to his government and say "I am a certain sort of man. If I am allowed to be an exception and to combine in this matter, I can prove that I can raise wages, lower prices for a whole nation in these things that I make. I am a certain sort of man. Do you think I am, or do you think that I am not? I want to know."
The government looks noncommittally at him. It says it cannot discriminate.
He says nothing for a time, but he thinks in his heart that it is incompetent and cowardly to run a great government of a great nation as a vast national sweep or flourish of getting out of brains and of evading vision. It seems to him lazy and effeminate in a government to treat all combinations and all monopolies alike. He says: "Look me in the eyes! I demand of you as a citizen of this country the right to be looked by my government in the eyes. What sort of man am I? Here are all my doors open. My safes are your safes and my books are your books. Am I or am I not a man who can conduct his business as a great profession, one of the dignities and energies and joys of a great people?
"What am I like inside? Is what I am like inside—my having a small size or a big size of motive, my having a right kind or a wrong kind of ability of no consequence to this government? Does the government of this country really mean that the most important things a country like this can produce, the daily, ruling motives of the men who are living in it, have no weight with the government? Am I to understand that the government does not propose to avail itself of new sizes and new kinds of men and new sizes and new kinds of abilities in men? What I am trying to do in my product is to lower the prices and raise the wages for a nation. Will you let me do it? Will you watch me while I do it?"
This will be the American trust of to-morrow. The average trust of this country has not yet found itself, but the moral and spiritual history, the religious message to a government of The Trust That Has Found Itself will be something like this.
Perhaps when we have a trust that has found itself, we will have a government that has dared to find itself, that has the courage to use its insight, its sense of difference between men, as it means of getting what it wants for the people.
As it is now, the government has not found itself and it falls back on complex rules or machines for getting out of seeing through people.
Where courage is required, it proceeds as it proceeds with automobile speeding laws. Everybody knows that one man driving his car three miles an hour may be more dangerous than another kind of man who is driving his car thirty.
When our government begins to be a government, begins to express the American temperament, it will be a government that will devote its energy, its men, and its money to being expert in divining, and using differences between men. It will govern as any father, teacher, or competent business man does by treating some people in one way and others in another, by giving graded speed licenses in business, to labour unions, trusts, and business men.
The government will be able to do this by demanding, acquiring, and employing as the servants of the people, men who are experts in human nature, masters in not treating men alike—Crowbars, lemonade-straws, chisels, and marshmallows, powerhouses and AEolian harps by the people, for the people, and of the people, will be rated for what they are and will be used for what they are for.
This will be democracy. It will be the American temperament in government.
* * * * *
Is President Wilson or is he not going to fall back into a mere lawyer Moseslike way of getting people to be good, or is he going to be a man like David, half poet, half soldier, who got his way with the nation half by appreciating the men in it and being a fellow human being with them, and half by fighting them when they would not let him be a fellow human being with them, and would not let him appreciate them?
Almost any nation or government can get some kind of Moses to-day but the men that America is producing would not particularly notice a Moses probably now. A Moses might do for a Rockefeller, but he could not really do anything with a man like Theodore N. Vail who has the telephones and telegraphs of a country talking and ticking to us all, all night, all day, what kind of a man he is.
A big affirmative, inspirational man like David or even Napoleon who inspires people with one breath and fights hard with the next, a man who swings his hat for the world, a man who goes on ahead and says "Come!" is the only man who can be practical in America to-day in helping real live American men like McAdoo, like Edison and Acheson,—men who can express a people in a business—to express them.
The people have spoken. A man in the White House who cannot say "Come" goes.
We want a poet in the White House. If we can not have a poet for the White House soon, we want a poet who will make us a poet for the White House.
I do not believe it is too much to expect a President to be a poet. We have had a poet for President once in one supreme crisis of this nation and the crisis that is coming now is so much deeper, so much more human and world-wide than Lincoln's was that it would almost seem as if a place like the White House (where one's poetry could really work) would make a poet out of anybody.
A President who has not a kind of plain, still, homely poetry in him, a belief about people that sings, in the present appalling crisis of the world is impracticable or visionary.
So we do not say, "Have we a President that can get our Bells, Edisons, McAdoos, Achesons to be good by toeing a line?"
We say, "Have we a President who can swing into step, who can join in the singing, who can catch up?"
Tunnel McAdoo, when he lifted up his will against the sea and against the seers of Wall Street, was singing. When he conceived those steel cars, those roaring yellow streaks of light ringing through rocks beneath the river, streets of people flashing through under the slime and under the fish and under the ships and under the wide sunshine on the water, he was singing! He raised millions of dollars singing.
Of course he sang the way Americans usually sing, and had to do as well as he could in talking to bankers and investors not to look as if he were singing, but there it all was singing inside him, the seven years of digging, the seven years of dull thundering on rocks under the city, and at last the happy steel cars all green and gold, the streams of people all yellow light hissing and pouring through—those vast pipes for people beneath the sea!
If we have a President, let him sing like McAdoo, or like Luther Burbank, or like Theodore N. Vail, or like Colonel Goethals, picking up a little isthmus like Panama, a string between two continents, playing on it as if it were a harp; or like Edward Ripley playing with the Santa Fe Railroad for all the world like Homer with a lute, all his seven thousand men, all his workmen, all their wives and their children, all the cities along the line striking up and joining in the chorus or like Carborundum Acheson, backed up by his little Niagara Falls oiling the wheels of a world, weaving diamonds into steel, hardening the bones of the earth into skyscrapers, into railroads, into the mighty thighs of flying locomotives....
Any man who is seen acting in this world with a thing, as if he believed in the thing, as if he believed in himself and believed in other people, is singing.
Moses striking out with a rod, as we are told, a path along the sea for his people may have done a more showy thing from a religious point of view, hitting the water on top so, making a great splash with an empty place in it for people to march through, but he was not essentially more religious than McAdoo, with all those modest but mighty columns of figures piling up behind him, with all those splendid, dumb, still glowing engineers behind him, lifting up his will against cities, lifting up his will against herds of politicians, haughty newspapers, against the flocks of silly complacent old ferry-boats waddling in the bay, against the wind and the rain and the cold on the water, and all the banks of Wall Street....
When we want to tell News to our President about ourselves in America, we point to William G. McAdoo.
The first news that we, the American people, must contrive to get into the White House about ourselves is that we do not want to be improved, and that we do not like an improving tone in our government. We want to be expressed the way McAdoos express us. We want a government that expresses our faith in one another, in what we are doing, and in ourselves, and in the world.
We are singing over here on this continent. We would not all of us put it in just this way. But our singing is the main thing we can do, and a government that is trying to improve us feebly, that is looking askance at us and looking askance at our money, and at our labour, and that does not believe in us and join in with us in our singing does not know what we are like.
Our next national business in America is to get the real news over to the President of what we are like.
It is news that we want in the White House. A missionary in the White House, be he ever so humble, will not do.
Mr. Roosevelt, himself, with the word Duty on every milepost as he whirled past, with suggestions of things for other people to do buzzing like bees about his head, acquired his tremendous and incredible power with us as a people because, in spite of his violent way of breaking out into a missionary every morning and every evening when he talked, it was not his talking but his singing that made him powerful—his singing, or doing things as if he believed in people, his I wills and I won'ts, his assuming every day, his acting every day, as if American men were men. He sang his way roughly, hoarsely, even a little comically at times into the hearts of people, stirred up in the nation a mighty heat, put a great crackling fire under it, put two great parties into the pot, boiled them, drew off all that was good in them, and at last, to-day, as I write (February 1913), the prospect of a good square meal in the White House (with some one else to say grace) is before the people.
The people are waiting to sit down once more in the White House and refresh themselves.
At least, the soup course is on the table.
Who did it, please? Who bullied the cook and got everybody ready?
Theodore Roosevelt, singing a little roughly, possibly hurrahing "I will, I will, I won't, I won't," and acting as if he believed in the world.
Bryan in the village of Chicago sitting by at a reporter's table saw him doing it.
Bryan saw how it worked.
Bryan had it in him too.
Bryan heard the shouts of the people across the land as they gloried in the fight. He saw the signals from the nations over the sea.
Then Armageddon moved to Baltimore.
* * * * *
And now table is about to be spread.
It is to be Mr. Wilson's soup.
But the soup will have a Roosevelt flavour or tang to it. And we will wait to see what Mr. Wilson will do with the other courses.
* * * * *
A poet in words, with two or three exceptions, America has not produced.
The only touch of poetry or art as yet that we have in America is—acting as if we believed in people. This particular art is ours. Other people may have it, but it is all we have.
This is what makes or may make any moment the common American a poet or artist.
Speaking in this sense, Mr. Roosevelt is the first poet America has produced that European peoples and European governments have noticed for forty years, or had any reason to notice. We respectfully place Mr. Roosevelt with Mr. McAdoo (and if Mr. Brandeis will pardon us, with Mr. Brandeis) as a typical American before the eyes of the new President. We ask him to take Mr. Roosevelt as a very important part of the latest news about us.
The true imaginative men of our modern life, the poets of crowds and cities are not to-day our authors, preachers, professors or lawyers or philosophers. The poets of crowds are our men like this, our vision-doers, the men who have seen visions and dreamed dreams in the real and daily things, the daring Governors like Wilson and like Hughes, the daring inventors of great business houses, the men who have invented the foundations on which nations can stand, on which railroads can run, the men whose imaginations, in the name of heaven, have played with the earth mightily, watered deserts, sailed cities on the seas, the men who have whistled and who have said "Come!" to empires, who have thought hundred-year thoughts, taken out nine hundred and ninety-nine year leases, who have thought of mighty ways for cities to live, for cities to be cool, to be light, to be dark, who have conceived ways for nations to talk, who have grasped the earth and the sky like music, like words, and put them in the hands of the people, and made the people say, "O earth," and "O sky, thou art great, but we also are great! Come earth and sky, thou shalt praise God with us!"
Who are these men?
Let the President catch up!
Who are these men? Here is Edward A. Filene, who takes up the pride, joy, beauty, self-respect, and righteousness of a city, swings it into a Store, and makes that Store sing about the city up and down the world! Here is Alexander Cassatt, imperturbable, irrepressible, and like a great Boy playing leapfrog with a Railroad—Cassatt who makes quick-hearted, dreamy Philadelphia duck under the Sea, bob up serenely in the middle of New York and leap across Hell Gate to get to Boston! Let the parliaments droning on their benches, the Congresses pile out of their doors and catch up.
Let the lawyers—the little swarms of dark-minded lawyers, wondering and running to and fro, creeping in offices, who have tried to run our world, blurred our governments, and buzzed, who have filled the world with piles of old paper, Congressional Records, with technicalities, words, droning, weariness, despair, and fear ... let them come out and look! Let them catch up!
Let a man in this day in the presence of men like these sing. If a man cannot sing, let him be silent. Only men who are singing things shall do them.
I go out into the street, I go out and look almost anywhere, listen anywhere, and the singing rises round me!
It was singing that spread the wireless telegraph like a great web across the sky.
It was singing that dug the subways under the streets in New York.
It was singing, a kind of iron gladness, hope and faith in men, that has flung up our skyscrapers into the lower stories of the clouds, and made them say, "I will! I will! I will!" to God.
Ah, how often have I seen them from the harbour, those flocking, crowded skyscrapers under that little heaven in New York, lifting themselves in the sunlight and in the starlight, lifting themselves before me, sometimes, it seems, like crowds of great states, like a great country piled up, like a nation reaching, like the plains and the hills and the cities of my people standing up against heaven day by day—all those flocks of the skyscrapers saying, "I will! I will! I will!" to God.
The skyscrapers are news about us to our President. He shall reckon with skyscraper men. He shall interpret men that belong with skyscrapers.
And as he does so, I shall watch the people answer him, now with a glad and mighty silence and now with a great solemn shout.
The skyscrapers are their skyscrapers.
The courage, the reaching-up, the steadfastness that is in them is in the hearts of the people.
If the President does not know us yet in America, does not know McAdoo as a representative American, we will thunder on the doors of the White House until he does.
My impression is he would be out in the yard by the gate asking us to come in.
We are America. We are expressing our joy in the world, our faith in God, and our love of the sun and the wind in the hearts of our people.
In America the free air breathes about us, and daily the great sun climbs our hillsides, swings daily past our work. There are ninety million men with this sun and this wind woven into their bodies, into their souls. They stand with us.
The skyscrapers stand with us.
All singing stands with us.
Ah, I have waked in the dawn and in the sun and the wind have I seen them!
That sun and that wind, I say before God, are America! They are the American temperament.
I will have laws for free men, laws with the sun and the wind in them!
I have waked in the dawn and my heart has been glad with the iron and poetry in the skyscrapers.
I will have laws for men and for American men, laws with iron and poetry in them!
The way for a government to get the poetry in is to say "Yes" to somebody.
The way for a government to get the iron in is not by saying "No." It is not American in a government to keep saying "No." The best way for our government in America to say "No" to a man, is to let him stand by and watch us saying "Yes" to some one else.
Then he will ask why.
Then he will stand face to face with America.
The most practical thing that could happen now in the economic world in America would be a sudden, a great national, contemporary literature.
America, unlike England, has no recognized cultured class, and has no aristocracy, so called, with which to keep mere rich men suitably miserable—at least a little humble and wistful. Our greatest need for a long time has been some big serene, easy way, without half trying, of snubbing rich men in America. All these overgrown, naughty fellows one sees everywhere like street boys on the corners or on the curbstones of society, calling society names and taking liberties with it, tripping people up; hoodlums with dollars, all these micks of money!—O, that society had some big, calm, serene way like some huge hearty London policeman, of taking hold of them—taking hold of them by the seats of their little trousers if need be, and taking them home to Mother—some way of setting them down hard in their chairs and making them thoughtful! Nothing but a national literature will do this. "Life," (which is, with one exception, perhaps, the only religious weekly we have left in America) succeeds a little and has some spiritual value because it succeeds in making American millionaires look funny, and in making them want to get away and live in Europe. But "Life" is not enough; it merely hitches us along from day to day and keeps our courage up. We want in America a literature, we want the thing done thoroughly and forever and once for all. We want an Aristophanes, a master who shall go gloriously laughing through our world, through our chimneys and blind machines, pot-bellied fortunes, empty successes, all these tiny, queer little men of wind and bladder, until we have a nation filled with a divine laughter, with strong, manful, happy visions of what men are for.
All we have to do is to have a News-book—a bookful of the kind of rich men we want, then we will have them. We will see men piling over each other all day to be them. Men have wanted to make money because making money has been supposed to mean certain things about a man. The moment it ceases to mean them, they will want to make other things.
Where is the news about what we really want?
——, when I took him to the train yesterday, spoke glowingly of the way the Standard Oil Trust had reduced oil from twenty-nine cents to eleven cents.
There was not time to say anything. I just thought a minute of how they did it.
Why is it that people—so many good people will speak of oil at eleven cents in this way, as if it were a kind of little kingdom of heaven?
I admit that eleven cents from twenty-nine cents leaves eighteen cents.
I do not deny that the Standard Oil Trust has saved me eighteen cents. But what have they taken away out of my life and taken out of my sense of the world and of the way things go in it and out of my faith in human nature to toss me eighteen cents?
If I could have for myself and others the sense of the world that I had before, would I not to-day, day after day, over and over, gallon by gallon, be handing them their eighteen cents back?
What difference does it make to us if we are in a world where we can buy oil for eleven cents a gallon instead of twenty-nine, if we do not care whether we are alive or dead in it and do not expect anything from ourselves or expect anything of anybody else? I submit it to your own common sense, Gentle Reader. Is it any comfort to buy oil to light a room in which you do not want to sit, in which you would rather not see anything, in which you would rather not remember who you are, what you do, and what your business is like, and what you are afraid your business is going to be like?
I have passed through all this during the last fifteen years and I have come out on the other side. But millions of lives of other men are passing through it now, passing through it daily, bitterly, as they go to their work and as they fall asleep at night.
The next thing in this world is not reducing the price of oil. It is raising the price of men and putting a market-value on life.
What makes a man a man is that he knows himself, knows who he is, what he is for and what he wants. Knowing who he is and knowing what he is about, he naturally acts like a man, knows what he is about like a man, and gets things done.
A nation that does not know itself shall not be itself.
A nation that has a muddle-headed literature, a nation that to say nothing of not being able to express what it has, has not even made a beginning at expressing what it wants; a nation that has not a great, eager, glowing literature, a sublime clear-headedness about what it is for—a nation that cannot put itself into a great book, a nation that cannot weave itself together even in words into a book that can be unfurled before the people like a flag where everybody can see it and everybody can share it, look up to it, live for it, sleep for it, get up in the morning and work for it—work for the vision of what it wants to be—cannot be a great nation.
A masterpiece is a book that has a thousand years in it. No man has a right to say where these thousand years in it shall lie, whether in the past or in the future. It is the thousand years' worth in it that makes a masterpiece a masterpiece. In America we may not have the literature of what we are or of what we have been, but the literature of what we are bound to be, the literature of what WE WILL, we will have, and we will have to have it before we can begin being it.
First the Specifications, then the House.
From the practical or literary point of view the one sign we have given in this country so far, that the stuff of masterpieces is in us and that we are capable of a great literature, is that America is bored by its own books.
We let a French parson write a book for us on the simple life. We let a poor suppressed Russian with one foot in hell reach over and write books for us about liberty which we greedily read and daily use. We let a sublimely obstinate Norwegian, breaking away with his life, pulling himself up out of the beautiful, gloomy, morose bog of romance he was born in—express our American outbreak for facts, for frank realism in human nature.
America is bored by its own books because every day it is demanding gloriously from its authors a literature—books that answer our real questions, the questions the people are asking every night as they go to sleep and every morning when they crowd out into the streets—Where are we going? Who are we? What are we like? What are we for?
* * * * *
A—— C——, the little stoopy cobbler on —— street in ——, bought some machines to help him last year before I went away and added two or three slaves to do the work. I find on coming back that he has moved and has two show windows now, one with the cobbling slaves in it cobbling, and the other (a kind of sudden, impromptu room with a show window in it) seems to be straining to be a shoe store. When you go in and show C—— in his shirt sleeves,—your old shoes hopefully, he slips over from his shining leather bench to the shoe-store side and shows you at the psychological moment a new pair of shoes.
He is in the train now with me this morning, across the aisle, looking out of the window for dear life, poor fellow, for all the world as if he could suck up dollars and customers—and people who need shoes—out of the fields as he goes by, the way the man does mists, by looking hard at them.
I watched him walking up and down the station platform before I got on, with that bent, concentrated, meek, ready-to-die-getting-on look. I saw his future while I looked. I saw, or thought I saw, windows full of bright black shoes, I saw the cobbler's shop moved out into the ell at the back, and two great show windows in front. A—— C—— looks like an edged tool.
Millions of Americans are like A—— C——, like chisels, adzes, saws, scoops. You talk with them, and if you talk about anything except scooping and adzing, you are not talking with just a man, but a man who is for something and who is not for anything else. He is not for being talked with certainly, and alas! not for being loved. At best he is a mere feminine convenience—a father or a cash secreter; until he wears out at last, buzzes softly into a grave.
An Englishman of this type is a little better, would be more like one of these screw-driver, cork-screw arrangements—a big hollow handle with all sorts of tools inside.
Is this man a typical American? Does he need to be?
What I want is news about us.
All an American like C—— needs is news. His eagerness is the making of him. He is merely eager for what he will not want.
All he needs is the world's news about people, about new inventions in human beings, news about the different and happier kinds of newly invented men, news about how they were thought of, and how they are made, and news about how they work.
I demand three things for A—— C——:
I want a novel that he will read which will make him see himself as I see him.
I want a moving picture of him that he will go to and like and go to again and again.
I want a play that will send him home from the theatre and keep him awake with what he might be all that night.
I want a news-book for A—— C——, a news-book for all of us.
* * * * *
I read a book some years ago that seemed a true news-book and which was the first suggestion I had ever received that a book can be an act of colossal statesmanship, the making or remaking of a people—a masterpiece of modern literature, laying the ground plan for the greatness of a nation.
When I had read it, I wanted to rush outdoors and go down the street stopping people I met and telling them about it. Once in a very great while one does come on a book like this. One wants to write letters to the reviews. One does not know what one would not do to go down the long aimless Midway Plaisance of the modern books, to call attention to it. One wishes there were a great bell up over the world.... One would reach up to it, and would say to all the men and the women and to the flocks of the smoking cities, "Where are you all?" The bell would boom out, "What are you doing? Why are you not reading this book?" One wonders if one could not get a coloured page in the middle of the Atlantic or the North American Review or Everybody's and at least make a great book as prominent as a great soap—almost make it loom up in a country like a Felt Mattress or a Toothbrush.
The book that has made me feel like this the most is Charles Ferguson's "Religion of Democracy." I have always wondered why only people here and there responded to it. The things it made me vaguely see, all those huge masses of real things, gigantic, half-godlike, looming like towers or mountains in a mist.... Well, it must have been a little like this that Columbus felt that first morning!
But as Columbus went on, what he struck after all was real land, some piece of real land in particular. The mist of vision did precipitate into something one could walk on, and I found as I went on with Mr. Ferguson's book that if there was going to be any real land, somebody would have to make some.
But for the time being Charles Ferguson's book—all those glorious generalizings in behalf of being individual, all those beautiful, intoned, chanted abstractions in behalf of being concrete—came to me in my speechless, happy gratitude as a kind of first sign in the heavens, as a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, up over the place in the waste of water where land, Land! At last! Land again! will have to be.
If we ever have a literature in America, it will be found somewhere when the mist rolls away, right under Charles Ferguson's book.
It may be too soon just now in this time of transition in our land of piles and of derricks against the sky, for the book. All we are competent for now is to say that we want such a book, that we see what it will do for us.
When we want it, we will get it. Let the American people put in their order now.
In the meantime the Piles and the Derricks.
All these young and mighty derricks against the sky, all these soaring steel girders with the blue through them—America!
Ah, my God! is it not a hoping nation? Three thousand miles of Hope, from Eastport, Maine, to San Francisco—does not the very sun itself racing across it take three hours to get one look at our Hope?
Here it is!—Our World.
Let me, for one, say what I want.
It is already as if I had seen it—one big, heroic imagination at work at last like a sea upon our world, poetry grappling with the great cities, with their labour, with their creative might, full of their vast joys and sorrows, full of their tussle with the sea and with the powers of the air and with the iron in the earth!—the big, speechless cities that no one has spoken for yet, so splendid, and so eager, and so silent about their souls!
It is true we are crude and young.
Behold the Derricks like mighty Youths!
In our glorious adolescence so sublime, so ugly, so believing, will no one sing a hymn to the Derricks?
Where are the dear little Poets? Where are they hiding?
Playing Indian perhaps, or making Parthenons out of blocks.
Perhaps they might begin faintly and modestly at first.
Some dear, hopeful, modest American poet might creep up from under them, out from under the great believing, dumb Derricks standing on tiptoe of faith against the sky, and write a book and call it "Beliefs American Poets Would Like to Believe if They Could."
A nation's religion is its shrewdness about its ideals, its genius for stating its ideals or news about itself, in the terms of its everyday life.
A nation's literature is its power of so stating its ideals that we will not need to be shrewd for them—its power of expressing its ideals in words, of tracing out ideals on white paper, so that ideals shall enthrall the people, so that ideals shall be contagious, shall breathe and be breathed into us, so that ideals shall be caught up in the voices of men and sung in the streets.
Ideals, intangible, electric, implacable irresistible, all-enfolding ideals, shall hold and grip a continent the way a climate grips a continent, like sunshine around a helpless thing, in the hollow of its hand, and possess the hearts of the people.
What our government needs now is a National band in Washington.
America is a Tune.
America is not a formula. America is not statistics, even graphic statistics. A great nation cannot be made, cannot be discovered, and then be laid coldly together like a census. America is a Tune. It must be sung together.
The next thing statesmen are going to learn in this country is that from a practical point of view in making a great nation only our Tune in America and only our singing our Tune can save us. A great nation can be made out of the truth about us. The truth may be—must be probably,—plain. But the truth must sing.
It will not be the government that first gets the truth that will govern us. The government that gets the truth big enough to sing first, and sings it, will be the government that will govern us. The political party in this country that will first be practical with the people, and that will first get what it wants, will be the political party that first takes Literature seriously. Our first great practical government is going to see how a great book, searching the heart of a nation, expressing and singing the men in it, governs a people. Being a President in a day like this, if it does not consist in being a poet, consists in being the kind of President who can be, at least, in partnership with a poet.
It is not every President who can be his own David, who can rule with one hand and write psalms and chants for his people with the other.
The call is out, the people have put in their order to the authors of America, to the boys in the colleges, and to the young women in the great schools—Our President wants a book.
Before much time has passed, he is going to have one.
Being a President in this country has never been expressed in a book.
The President is going to have a book that expresses him to the people and that says what he is trying to do. He will live confidentially with the book. It shall be in his times of trial and loneliness like a great people coming to him softly. He shall feel with such a book, be it day or night, the nation by him, by his desk, by his bedside, by his silence, by his questioning, standing by, and lifting.
In the book the people shall sing to the President. He shall be kept reminded that we are there. He shall feel daily what America is like. America shall be focussed into melody. We shall have a literature once more and the singers, as in Greece, as in all happy lands and in all great ages, shall go singing through the streets.
There is no singing for a President now. All a President can do when he is inaugurated, when he begins now, is to kiss helplessly some singing four thousand years old in a Bible by another nation.
When David sang to his people, he sang the news, the latest news, the news of what was happening to people about him from week to week.
Why is no one singing 1913, our own American 1913?
Why is no one stuttering out our Bible—one the President could have to refer to, our own Bible in our own tongue from morning to morning in the symbols that breathe to us out of the sounds in the street, out of the air, out of the fresh, bright American sky, and out of the new ground beneath our feet?
* * * * *
It is easy for a President to pile up three columns a morning of news about himself to us, show each man his face in the morning, but what is there he can do with twenty thousand newspapers at his breakfast table, to pick out the real news about us? Who shall paint the portrait of a people?
One could go about in the White House and study the portraits of the presidents, but where is the portrait of the people? The portrait of the people comes in little bits to the president like a puzzle picture. Each man brings in his little crooked piece, jig-sawed out from Iowa, South Dakota, Oklahoma or Aroostook County, Maine. This picture or vision of a nation, this wilderness of pieces, can be seen every day when one goes in, lying in heaps on the floor of the White House.
A literature is the expression on the face of a nation. A literature is the eyes of a great people looking at one.
It seems to be as we look, looking out of the past and faraway into the future.
A newspaper can set a nation's focus for a morning, adjusting it one way or the other. A President can set the focus for four years. But only a book can set the focus for a nation's next hundred years so that it can act intelligently and steadfastly on its main line from week to week and morning to morning. Only a book can make a vast, inspiring, steadfast, stage-setting for a nation. Only a book, strong, slow, reflective, alone with each man, and before all men, can set in vast still array the perspective, the vision of the people, can give that magnificent self-consciousness which alone makes a great nation, or a mighty man. At last humble, imperious, exalted, it shall see Itself, its vision of its daily life lying out before it, threading its way to God!
I went one day six months ago to the Mansion House and heard Lord Grey, and Lord Robert Cecil, and Mr. T.C. Taylor and others address the annual meeting of the Labour Copartnership Association.
I found myself in the presence of a body of men who believe that Englishmen are capable of bigger and better things than many men believe they are capable of. They refuse to evade the issue of the coal strike and to agree with the socialists who have given up believing that English employers can be competent and who merely believe that we will have to rely on our governments now to be employers, and they refuse to agree with the syndicalists, who believe in human nature still less and have given up on employers and on governments both.
I have retained three impressions as a result of the meeting.
The first was that it was the most significant and impressive event since the coal strike, that it brought the whole industrial issue to a point and summed the coal strike up.
The second impression was one of surprise that the hall was not full.
The third impression came the next day when I looked through the papers for accounts of what had been said and of what it stood for.
It was noted pleasantly and hurriedly as one of the day's events. It was just one more of those shadowy things that flicker on the big foolish, drifting, rolling attention of a world a second and are gone.
People were given a few inches.
I read in the papers that same day a quite long account of a discussion of nine bishops for five hours (meeting at the same time) on a matter of proper clothes for clergymen.
I would have said of that meeting of the Labour Copartnership Association—that it was a meeting of a Society for Defence and Protection of Longer Possible Religion on the Earth—but the clergy out of all the invitations, did not seem very largely to have had time to be there.
I wondered too a little about the papers, as I hunted through them.
It set one to thinking if anything serious to the nation would have happened, if possibly during the coal strike the London papers had devoted as much attention to T.C. Taylor—a mutual interest employer—and to how he runs his business—as to Horatio Bottomley?
Possibly too what Mr. Sandow prefers to have people drink is not so important—perhaps whole pages of it at a time—as Amos Mann and how he runs his shoe business without strikes, or as Joseph Bibby and how he makes oil cakes and loyal workmen together.
I read the other day of a clergyman in New Jersey—who was organizing a league of all the left-handed men in the world. Everything is being organized, whether or no. Some one has financed him. There will be some one very soon now who will pay the bill for organizing the attention of a world and for deciding the fate of human nature. It would be worth while spending possibly one fortune on getting human nature to settle decisively and once for all whether it has any reason to believe in itself or not. Why have a world at all—one like this? Do we want it? Who wants it? What do we want instead? We will advertise and find out. We will spend millions of pounds and Dreadnoughts, even national beer-bills on it, if necessary, on making everybody know that mentally competent business men—mutual-interest employers, and mentally competent workmen—mutual-interest workmen, can be produced by the human race. When everybody knows that this is true, nine out of ten Parliamentary questions would be settled, the Churches would again have a chance to be noticed, and education and even religion could be taken seriously. There would be some object in being a teacher perhaps once more and in making teaching again a great profession. There would be some object perhaps in even being an artist. The world would start off on a decent, self-respecting theory or vision about itself. Things could begin to be done in society once more, soundly, permanently, humanly and from the bottom up.
We would go out on the streets again—rich and poor—and look in each other's faces. We would take up our morning papers without a sinking at the heart.
And the men who have stopped believing in men and who merely believe in machines would be indicted before the bar of mankind. We would see them slowly filing back, one by one, to where they belong—on the back seats of the world.
The newspapers in England and America seem to think that in their business of rolling the world along, what they find themselves confronted with just now is an economic problem.
The problem that the newspapers are really confronted with, as a matter of fact, is one with which newspaper men big and little are more competent to deal than they would be with an expert problem in economics. The real problem that newspapers are confronted with every night, every morning, to-day, is a problem in human nature.
Some people believe that human nature can be believed in, and others do not. The socialists, the syndicalists, the trades unionists, as a class, and the capitalists as a class, are acting as if they did not. A great many inventors, and a great many workmen, all the more bold and inventive workmen, and many capitalists and great organizers of facts and of men, are acting as if they believed in human nature.
Which are right? Can a mutual-interest employer, can a mutual-interest worker, be produced by the human race? There are some of us who answer that this is a matter of fact, that this type of man can be produced, is already produced, and is about to be reproduced indefinitely.
The moment we can convince trades unions and convince employers that this is true we will change the face of the earth.
Why not change the face of the earth now?
In this connection I respectfully submit three considerations:
1st. If all employers of the world to-morrow morning knew what Lord Grey (as President of the Labour Copartnership Association) knows to-day about copartnership—the hard facts about the way copartnership works in calling out human nature—in nerving and organizing labour, every employer in the world to-morrow would begin to take an attitude toward labour which would result in making strikes and lockouts as impracticable, as incredible, as moony, as visionary forever as ideals of a world without strikes look now.
2nd. If all the workmen of the world to-morrow morning knew what Frederick Taylor (the American engineer) knows about planning workmen's work so that they receive, for the same expenditure of strength, a third more wages every day, the whole attitude of labour in every nation and of the trades unions of the world—the attitude of doing as little work as possible, of labouring and studying and slaving away to discover ways of not being of any use to employers—would face about in a day.
3rd. What Lord Grey knows about copartnership and the way it works is in the form of ascertainable, communicable, and demonstrable facts. What Frederick Taylor knows and what he has been doing with human beings and with steel and pig iron and with bricks and other real things is in the form of history that has been making for thirty years—and that can be looked up and proved.
Why should not everybody who employs labour know what Lord Grey knows?
And why should not all workmen know what a few thousand workmen who have been trained under Frederick Taylor to work under better conditions and with more wages, know?
If I were an inspired millionaire the first thing I would do to-morrow would be to supply the funds and find the men who should take up what Lord Grey knows about employers, and what Frederick Taylor knows about workmen, and put it where all who live shall see it and know it. I would spend my fortune in proving to the world, in making everybody know and believe that the mutual-interest business man and the mutual-interest workman have been produced and can be produced and shall be produced by the human race.
The problem of the fate of the world in its essential nature and in its spiritual elements and gifts—has come to be in this age of the press a huge advertising problem—a great adventure in human attention.
The most characteristic and human and natural way, and the only profound and permanent way to handle the quarrel between Capital and Labour is by placing certain facts—certain rights-of-all-men-to-know, into the hands of some disinterested and powerful statesman of publicity—some great organizer of the attention of a world. He would have to be a practical passionate psychologist, a man gifted with a bird's-eye view of publics—a discoverer of geniuses and crowds, a natural diviner or reader of the hearts of men. He shall search out and employ twenty men to write as many books addressed to as many classes and types of employers and workers. He shall arrange pamphlets for every dooryard that cannot help being read.
He shall reach trades unions by using the cinema, by having some master of human appeal take the fate of labour, study it out in pictures—and the truth shall be thrown night after night and day after day on a hundred thousand screens around a world. He shall organize and employ wide publicity or rely on secret and careful means on different aspects of the issue according to the nature of the issue, human nature and common sense, and organize his campaign to reach every type of person, every temperament, and order of circumstance, each in its own way.
What Lord Grey knows and what Frederick Taylor's workmen know shall be put where all who live shall see it where every employer, every workman, every workman's wife and every growing boy and girl that is passing by, as on some vast billboard above the world, shall see it—shall see and know and believe that employers that are worth believing in—and that workmen who can work and who are skilled and clever enough to love to work—can still be produced by the human race.
If I were a newspaper man I would start what might be called Pull Together Clubs in every community, men in all walks of life, little groups of crowdmen or men in the community who could not bear not to see a town do team work.
I would use these Pull Together Clubs in every community as means of gathering and distributing news—as local committees on the national campaign of touching the imagination of labour and touching the imagination of capital.
"Without Vision the People perish."
I would begin with spending five million dollars on a vision for the people.
What would I do with a five-million-dollar fund for touching the imagination of labour and touching the imagination of capital?
First: preliminary announcement in all papers and in all public ways, asking names and addresses of workmen who have already proved and established their belief in copartnership.
Names and addresses of employers in the same way.
Second: names and addresses of workmen who would believe in it if they could; who believe in the principle theoretically and would be interested in seeing how it could be practically and technically proved.
Names and addresses of employers in the same way.
Third: selection of one firm in each industry, the best and most strategically placed to carry it out in that industry, and placing the facts before them.
Selection of the leading workmen out of all the workmen in the nation employed in that industry, who would be willing to work with such a firm.
Fourth: a selection of travelling secretaries to visit trades unions and get provisional permission and toleration for these workmen so that they can take copartnership places under such a firm with the consent of their fellows and he set one side for experimental purposes, under the protection of the trades union rules.
Fifth: I would find the most promising trades-union branch in each industry and I would try to get this branch to take it up with the other branches until all trades unions were brought to admit copartnership members on special terms.
Sixth: after getting copartnership tolerated for certain workmen employed in certain firms I would try to make copartnership a trades-union movement.
I would then let the trades unions educate the employers.
Seventh: I would prepare a list of apparent exceptions to copartnership as a working principle. I would investigate and try to see why they were exceptions and why copartnership would not work, and I would find and set inventors at work, and find in what way the spirit that is back of copartnership could be applied.
We want to be good and the one thing we need to do is to tell each other. Then we will be good. Our conveniences for being good in crowds are not finished yet.
We have invented machines for crowds to see one another with and to use in getting about in the dark. One engine whirls round and round all night so that half a million people can be going about anywhere after sunset without running into each other.
Crowds have vast machines for being somewhere else—run in somewhat the same way all from one unpretentious building they put up called a Power House.
A great many of our machines for allowing crowds of people to move their bodies around with have been attended to, but our Intelligence-Machine, our machine for knowing what other people really think, and what they are like in their hearts so that we can know enough to be good to them, and have brains enough to get them to be good to us, is not finished and set up yet.
The industrial problem instead of being primarily an economic problem is a news problem.
If a President were to appoint a Secretary of Labour and were to give him as one of his conveniences, a news engineer—an expert at attracting and holding the attention of labour unions and driving through news to them about themselves that they do not know yet, who would be practically at the head of the department in two years? The Secretary or the Secretary's news engineer? News is all there is to such a department, finding out what it is and distributing it. Any one can think of scores of labour-union fallacies, news they do not know about themselves that they will want to know at once when their attention is called to it.
If nine members of the President's Cabinet were national news agents, experts in nationalizing news, one member could do with his subordinates all the other things that Cabinet members do.
The real problem before each Cabinet member is a problem of news. If the Secretary of Commerce, for instance, could get people to know certain things, he would not need to do at all most of the things that he is doing now. Neither would the Attorney General.
If everything in a Cabinet position turns on getting people to know things, why not get them to know them? Why not take that job instead? Why not take the job of throwing one's self out of a job? Every powerful man has done it—thrown himself out of what he was doing, by making up something bigger to do from the beginning of the world.
In every business it is the man who can recognize, focus, organize, and apply news, and who can get news through to people, who soon becomes the head of the business.
The man who can get news through to directors and to employees and make them see themselves and see one another and the facts as they are, soon gets to be Head of the factory.
The man who can get news through to the public, the salesman of news to people about what they want to buy and about how they are to spend their money—very personal, intimate news to every man—soon rises to be Head of the Head of the factory and of the entire business.
It will probably be the same in a cabinet or in a government. If the Secretary of the Department of Commerce has a news engineer as a subordinate in his department and begins to study and observe how to do his work best, how to solve his problem in the nation, we will soon see the head of the department, if he really is the head of the department, quietly taking over his news engineer's job and letting his news engineer have his.
It is a news engineering job, being a Secretary of Commerce.
Every member of the Cabinet has a news engineering job.
And the fact seems to be that the moment the news is attended to in each member's department—applied news, special and private news, turned on and set to work where it is called for—most members of cabinets, secretaries of making people do things, and for that matter, the Presidents of making people do things will be thrown out of employment. The Secretaries of What People Think, and the President of What People Think—the engineers of the news in this nation—will be the men who govern it.
I have tried to express in the last chapter, some kind of tentative working vision or hope of what authors and of what newspaper men can do in governing a country.
This chapter is for anybody, any plain human being.
Governments all over the world to-day are groping to find out what plain human beings are like.
It does not matter very long what other things a government gets wrong, if it gets the people right.
This suggests something that each of us can do.
I was calling on ——, Treasurer of ——, in his new bank, not long ago—a hushed, reverent place with a dome up over it and no windows on this wicked world—a kind of heavenly minded way of being lighted from above. It seemed to be a kind of Church for Money.
"This is new," I said, "since I've been away. Who built it?"
—— mentioned the name of Non-Gregarious as if I had never heard of him.
I said nothing. And he began to tell me how Non built the bank. He said he had wanted Non from the first, but that the directors had been set against it.
And the more he told the directors about Non, he said, the more set they were. They kept offering a good many rather vague objections, and for a long time he could not really make them out.
Finally he got it. All the objections boiled down to one.
Non was too good to be true. If there was a man like Non in this world, they said, they would have heard about it before.
* * * * *
When I was telling ex-Mayor ——, in ——, about Non, the first time, he interrupted me and asked me if I would mind his ringing for his stenographer. He was a trustee and responsible, either directly or indirectly, for hundreds of buildings, and he wanted the news in writing.
Of course there must be something the matter with it, he said, but he wanted it to be true, if it could, and as the bare chance of its being true would be very important to him, he was going to have it looked up.
Now ex-Mayor —— is precisely the kind of man (as half the world knows) who, if he had been a contractor, instead of what he had happened to be, would have been precisely the kind of contractor Non is. He has the same difficult, heroic blend of shrewd faiths in him, of high motives and getting what he wants.
But the moment ex-Mayor —— found these same motives put up to be believed in at one remove, and in somebody else, he thought they were too good to be true.
I have found myself constantly confronted in the last few years of observation with a very singular and interesting fact about business men.
Nine business men out of ten I know, who have high motives, (in a rather bluff simple way, without particularly thinking about it, one way or the other) seem to feel a little superior to other people. They begin, as a rule, apparently, by feeling a little superior to themselves, by trying to keep from seeing how high their motives are, and when, in the stern scuffle of life, they are unable any longer to keep from suspecting how high their motives are themselves, they fall back on trying to keep other people from suspecting it.
In ——'s factory in ——, the workers in brass, a few years ago, could not be kept alive more than two years because they breathed brass filings. When —— installed, at great expense, suction machines to place beside the men to keep them from breathing brass, some one said, "Well surely you will admit this time, that this is philanthropy?"
"Not at all."
The saving in brass air alone, gathered up from in front of the men's mouths, paid for the machines. What is more he said that after he had gone to the expense of educating some fine workmen, if a mere little sucking machine like that could make the best workmen he had, work for him twenty years instead of two years, it was poor economy to let them die.
Nearly all of the really creative business men make it a point, until they get a bit intimate with people, to talk in this tone about business. One can talk with them for hours, for days at a time, about their business—some of them, without being able a single time to corner them into being decent or into admitting that they care about anybody.
Now I will not yield an inch to —— or to anybody else in my desire to displace and crowd out altruism in our modern life. I believe that altruism is a feeble and discouraged thing from a religious point of view. I have believed that the big, difficult and glorious thing in religion is mutualism, a spiritual genius for finding identities, for putting people's interests together-you-and-I-ness, and we-ness, letting people crowd in and help themselves.
And why not believe this and drop it? Why should nearly every business man one meets to-day, try to keep up this desperate show, of avoiding the appearance of good, of not wanting to seem mixed up in any way with goodness—either his own or other people's?
In the present desperate crisis of the world, when all our governments everywhere are groping to find out what business men are really like and what they propose to be like, if a man is good (far more than if he is bad) everybody has a right to know it. The President has a right to know it. The party leaders have a right to know it.
It is a big businesslike thing for a man to make goodness pay, but what is the man's real, deep, happy, creative, achieving motive in making goodness pay? What is it in the man that fills him with this fierce desire, this almost business-fanaticism for making goodness pay?
It is a big daily grim love of human nature in him, his love of being in a human world, his passion for human economy, for world efficiency and world-self-respect. This is what it is in him that makes him force goodness to pay.
The business men of the bigger type who let themselves talk in this tone to-day, do not mean it, they are letting themselves be insensibly drawn into the tone of the men around them.
We have gone skulking about with our virtues so long, saying that we have none, that we have believed it. We all know men finer than we are who say they have none. So we have not, probably.
And so it goes on. I grow more and more tired every year of going about the business world, at boards of trade and at clubs and at dinners, and finding all this otherwise plain and manly world, all dotted over everywhere with all these simple, good, self-deceived blundering prigs of evil, putting on airs before everybody day and night, of being worse than they are!
It is not exactly a lie. It is a Humdrum. People do not deliberately lie about human nature. They merely say pianola-minded things.
One goes down any business street, Oxford Street, Bond Street, or Broadway. One hears the same great ragtime tune of business, dinging like a kind of street piano, through men's minds, "Sh-sh-sh-sh-Oh, SH-SH! Oh, do not let anybody know I'm being good!"
I am not going to try any longer to worm out of my virtues or to keep up an appearance of having as low motives as other people are trying to make me believe they have.
They have lied long enough.
I have lied long enough.
My motives are really rather high and I am going to admit it.
And the higher they are (when I have hustled about and got the necessary brains to go with them) the better they have worked.
Nine times out of ten when they have not worked, it has been my fault.
Sometimes it is John Doe's fault.
I am going to speak to John Doe about it. I am going to tell him what I am driving at. I have turned over a new leaf. In the crisis of a great nation and as an act of last desperate patriotism, I am going to give up looking modest.
For a long time now I have wanted to dare to come out and stand up before this Modesty Bug-a-boo and have it out with it and say what I think of it, as one of the great, still, sinister threats against our having or getting a real national life in America.
I knew a boy once who grew so fast that his mother always kept him wearing shoes three sizes too large, and big, hopeful-looking coats and trousers. Except for a few moments a year he never caught up. Nobody ever saw that boy and his long shoes when he was not butting bravely about, stubbing his toes on the world and turning up his sleeves.
It was a great relief to him and everybody, finally, when he grew up.
I am going to let myself go around, for a while now, at least until our present national crisis is over in business and in politics, like that boy.
There are millions of other men in this country who want to be like that boy. Nations may smile at us if they want to. We will smile too—rather stiffly and soberly, but for better or worse we propose from to-day on, to let people see what we are trying to be daily, grimly, right along side of what we are!
I have come to the conclusion that the only way, for me, at least, to keep modest and kind, is to have my ideals all on. When one is going around in sight of everybody with one's moral sleeves rolled up, and one's great wistful, broad trousers that do not look as if they would ever get filled out, it is awkward to find fault with other people for not filling out their moral clothes. It may be a severe measure to take with one's self hut the surest way to be kind is to live an exposed life.
I propose to live the next few years in a glass house. There are millions of other men who want to. We want to see if we cannot at last live confidentially with a world, live naively and simply with a world like boys and like great men and like dogs!
What I have written, I have written. I propose to run the risk of being good. When driven to it, I will run the risk of saying I am good.
My motives are fairly high. See! here is my scale of one hundred! I had rather stand forty-five on my scale than ninety-eight on yours!
If there is any discrepancy between my vision and my action, I am not going to be bullied out of my life and out of living my life the way I want to, by the way I look. Though it mock me, I will not haul down my flag. I will haul up my life!
Here it is right here in this paragraph, in black and white. I take it up and look at it, I read it once more and lay it down.
What I have written, I have written.
People do not seem to agree in the present crisis of our American industrial and national life, about the necessity of getting at the facts and at the real news in this country about how good we are.
Last November in the national election, four and a half million men (Republicans) said to Theodore Roosevelt, "Theodore! do not be good so loud!"
Four and a half million other men, also Republicans, told him not to mind what anybody said, but to keep right on being good as loud as he liked, for as long as it seemed necessary.
They wanted to be sure our goodness in America such as we had, was being loud enough to be heard, believed in, and acted on in public.
The other set of men, last November (who were really very good too, of course), were more sedate and liked to see goodness modulated more. They stood out for what might be called a kind of moral elegance.
The governing difference between the Roosevelt type and the Taft type in America has not been a mere difference of temperament but a difference in news-sense, in a sense of crisis in the nation.
Thousands of men of all parties, with the nicest, easiest stand-pat Taft temperaments in the world, with soft, low voices and with the most beautiful moral manners, have let themselves join in a national attempt to shock this nation into seeing how good it is. A great temporary crisis can only be met by a great temporary loudness.
This is what has been happening in America during the last six months. At last, all men in all parties are engaged in trying to find out: Is it true or not true that we want to be good?
We are trying to get the news through. It may not be very becoming to us and we know as well as any one, that loudness, except when morally deaf people drive us to it is in bad taste. We are looking forward, every one of us, to being as elegant as any one is, and the very first minute we get the morally deaf people out of office where we will not have to go about shouting out at them we will tone down in our goodness. We will modulate beautifully!
There are three other bug-a-boos, besides the Modesty Bug-a-boo that America will have to face and drive out of the way before it can be truly said to have a national character or to have grown up and found itself. There is the Goody-good Bug-a-boo, the Consistency Bug-a-boo, and the Bug-a-boo that Thomas Jefferson if he were living now, would never never ride in a carriage.
Each of these bug-a-boos in the general mistiness and muddle-headiness of the time can be seen going about, saying, "Boo! Boo!" to this democracy from day to day and year to year, keeping it scared into not getting what it wants.
There is not one of them that will not evaporate in ten minutes the first morning we get some real news through in this country about ourselves and about what we are like.
What is the real news about us, for instance, as regards being goody-good?
I can only begin with the news for one.
For years, I have held myself back from taking a plain or possibly loud stand for goodness as a shrewd, worldly-wise program for American business and public life, because I was afraid of people, and afraid people would think I was trying to improve them.
What was worse, I was afraid of myself too. I was afraid I really would.
I am afraid now, or rather I would be, if I had not drilled through to the news about myself and about other people and about human nature that I am putting into this chapter.
* * * * *
I have written five hundred pages in this book on an awkward and dangerous subject like the Golden Rule, and I appeal to the reader—I ask him humbly, hopefully, gratefully if he can honestly say (except for a minute here and there when I have been tired and slipped up), if he has really felt improved or felt that I was trying to improve him in this book.
On your honour, Gentle Reader—you who have been with me five hundred pages!
You say "Yes"?
Then I appeal to your sense of fairness. If you truly feel I have been trying to improve you in this book, turn this leaf down here and stop. It is only fair to me. Close the book with your improved and being improved feeling and never open it again until it passes over. You have no right to go on page after page calling me names, as it were, right in the middle of my own book in this way behind my back, you!—hundreds and thousands of miles away from me, by your own lamp, by your own window—you come to me here between these two helpless pasteboard covers where I cannot get out at you, where I cannot answer back, and you say that I am trying to improve you!
Ah, Gentle Reader, forgive me! God forgive me! Believe me, I never meant, not if it could possibly be helped, to improve you! If you insist on it and keep saying that I have been improving you, all I can say is that I was merely looking as if I were improving you. You did it. I did not. God help me if I am trying to improve you! I am trying to find out in this book who I am. If, incidentally, while I am quietly working away on this for five hundred pages, you find out who you are yourself, and then drop into a gentle glowing improved feeling all by yourself, do not mix me up in it. I deny that I have tried to improve you or anybody. I have written this book to get my own way, to express my America. I have written it to say "i," to say "I," to say (the first minute you let me), "you and I," to say we, WE about America—to drive the news through to a President of what America is like.
I am not improving you. I am telling you what may or may not be news about you.
Take it or leave it.
I want to be good.
I do not feel superior to other men.
And I do not propose, if there is anything I can do about it, to be compelled to feel superior.
I believe we all want to be good.
The one thing I want in this world is to prove it. I want my own way.
I am not going to slump into being a beautiful character. I have written this book to get my own way.
I have said I will not be mixed up in the fate of people who do not know where they are going, who have not decided what they are like, who do not know who they are. What do the people want? Some people tell me they want nothing. They tell me it would only make things worse and stir things up for me to want to be good.
Or perhaps they think it is beautiful to lower the price of oil. They want oil at seven cents a gallon.
Do they? Do you? Do I?
I say no. Let oil wait. I want to raise the price of men and to put a market value on human life. I find as I look about me that there are two classes of statesmen offering to be helpful in making life worth living in America.
There are the statesmen who think we are going to be good and who believe in a program which trusts and exalts the people and the leaders of the people.
There are the statesmen who seem to believe that American human nature does not amount to enough to be good. They are planning a program on the principle that the best that can be done with human nature in America in business and public life is to have it expurgated.
Which class of statesmen do we want?
In some of our state prisons men who are not considered fit to reproduce themselves are sterilized. The question that is now up before this country is, Do we or do we not want American business sterilized? Are we or are we not going to put a national penalty on all initiative in all business men because some men abuse it?
There is but one thing that can save us, namely, proving to one another and to our public men, that we are good, that we are going to be good and that we know how. We face the issue to-day. Two definite programs are before the country.
Those who have put their faith in being afraid of one another as a national policy have devised several By-laws for an Expurgated America.
They say, eliminate the right of a man to do wrong. Deny him the right of moral experiment because some of his experiments do not work. We say let him try. We can look out for ourselves or we will have bigger men than he is, to look out for us.
They say, eliminate the right of a man to be an owner, because nobody has the courage to believe that a man can express his best self in property. We say that property may express a man's religion, and that the way a man has of being rich or of being poor may be an art-form.
Most men can express themselves better in property than in anything else.
They say, eliminate all monopoly indiscriminately and the occasional logical efficiency of monopoly because it has not worked well for the people the first few times and because we have not learned how to handle it. We say learn how to handle it.
They say eliminate the middleman. They say that the one strategic man in every industry who can represent everybody if he wants to, who can be a great man and who can make a great industry serve everybody, must be eliminated because nobody believes America can produce a middleman. We say instead of weakly and helplessly giving up a great spiritual and morally-engineering institution like the middleman because the average middleman does not know his job, we say: Exalt the middleman raise him to the n-th power, make him—well—do you remember, Gentle Reader, the walking beams on the old sidewheel steamers? We say do not eliminate him—lift him up—make him what he naturally is and is in position to be—the walking beam of Business!
If the average middleman does not know how to be a real middleman we will make one who does.
And all the other eliminations that we have watched people being scared into, one by one, we will turn into exaltations—each in its own kind and place. There is not one of our fears that is not the suggestion, the mighty outline, the inspiration for the world's next new size and new kind of American man. We say place the position before the man—with its fears, with its songs, with its challenge. We say, tell him what we expect of him and demand of him. Put him in a high place on a platform before the world! There with the truth about him written on his forehead in the sight of all the people, call him by name, glorify him or behead him! We are men and we are Americans. We will stand up to each of our dangers one by one. Each and every danger of them is a romance, a sublime adventure, a nation-maker. Our threats, our very by-words and despairs, we will take up, and, in the sight of the world, forge them into shrewd faiths and into mighty men!