This is my news or vision. I say that this is where we are going in America. I compel no man to follow my news but I will pursue him with my news until he gives me his!
* * * * *
This news, I am telling, Gentle Reader, is perhaps news about you.
If it is not true news, say so. Say what is. We all have a right to know. The one compulsion of modern life is our right to know, our right to compel people who live on the same continent or who live in the same country with us, to open up their hearts, to furnish us with their share of the materials for a mutual understanding, or for a definite mutual misunderstanding, on which to live.
It is the one compulsion of which we will be guilty. All liberty is in it. These people who have to live with us and that we have to live with, these people who breathe the same moral air with us, drink the same water with us, these people who have their moral dumps, who throw away their moral garbage with us—these people who will not help provide some daily, mutual understanding for these common decencies for our souls to live together these people we defy and challenge! We will compel them to reveal themselves. We will drive them away, or we will drive them into driving us away, if they will not yield to us what is in their hearts—Mars, hell, anywhere we go, it matters not to us where we go, except that we cannot and we will not live with men about us who thrust down their true feelings and their real desires into a kind of manhole under them, and sit on the lid and smile. Some seem to have manholes and some have safes or spiritual banks, and there are others who have convenient, dim, beautiful clouds in the sky to hide their feelings in. But whatever their real feelings are, and wherever they keep them, they belong to us.
We insist on having or on making mutual arrangements to have, if we live in crowds, some kind of spiritual rapid transit system for getting our minds through to one another. We demand a system for having the streets of our souls decently lighted, some provision for moral sewers, for air or atmosphere—and all the common conveniences for having decent and self-respecting souls in crowds—all the intelligence-machines, the love-machines, the hope-machines, and the believing-machines that the crowds must have for living decently, for living with beauty, living with considerateness and respect in this awful daily sublime presence of one another's lives!
We shall still have our splendid isolations when we need them, some of us, and our little solitudes of meanness, but the main common fund of motives for living together, for growing up into a world together, the desires, motives, and intentions in men's hearts, their desires toward us and ours toward them, we are going to know and compel to be made known. We will fight men to the death to know them.
Have we not fought, you and I, Gentle Reader, all of us, each man of us, all our years, all our days, to drive through to some sort of mutual understanding with our own selves? Now we will fight through to some mutual understanding with one another and with the world.
We will knock on every door, make a house to house canvass of the souls of the world, pursue every man, sing under his windows. We will undergird his consciousness and his dreams. We will make the birds sing to him in the morning, "Where are you going?" We will put up a sign at the foot of his bed for his eyes to fall on when he awakes, "Where are you going?"
Whatever it is that works best, if we blow it out of you with dynamite or love or fear or draw it out of you with some mighty singing going past—ah, brother, we will have it out of you! You shall be our brother! We will be your brother though we die!
We will live together or we will die together.
What do you really want? What do you really like? Who are you?
We may pile together all our funny, fearful, little Dreadnoughts, our stodgy dead lumps of men called armies, and what are they? And what do they amount to and what can they do, as compared with truth, the real news about what people want in this world, and about where we are going?
I say—they shall be as nothing as a rending force, as a glory to tear down and rebuild a world, as compared with the truth, with the news about us, that shall come out at last (God hasten the day!) from the open—the pried-open hearts of men! And I have seen that men shall go forth with shouts in that day and with glad and solemn silence, to build a world!
* * * * *
I wonder if I have faced down the Goody-good Bug-a-boo.
I speak for five million men.
We have got this book written between us (under the name of one of us), because we want our own way. We are not improving people. We are not even trying to improve ourselves. Many of us started in on it once and the first improvement we thought of was not to try any more.
It is a great deal harder to try to live. Few people want us to—most people get in the way. And when people get in the way we lay about us a little—We hit them. We have written this book, because we want to hit a great many people at once. We find them everywhere about us, in monster cities, huge thoughtless anthills of them, and they will not let us live a larger and a richer life. We say to them, We resent your houses your shoes, your voices, your fears, your motives, your wills, the diseases you make us walk past every day, the rows of things you seem to think will do, and that you think we must get used to, and we do not propose, if we can help it, to get used to what you think will do for Churches; nor to what you think will do for a government or to the little lonely, scattered, toyschool-houses, that when you come into the world, fresh and strange and happy you all proceed solemnly to coop your souls in. Nor do we want to get used to your hem-and-haw parliaments and your funny little perfumed prophets—your prophets lying down or propped up with pillows or your poets wringing their hands. Nor will we be put off with all your gracefully feeble, watery, lovely little pastel religions for this grim and mighty modern world. We are American men. We do not propose to be driven out to sea, to stand face to face every day with what is true and full of beauty and magic, or to have skies and mountains and stars palmed off on us as companions instead of men!
This is what five million men are trying to express in writing this book. If people deny that I have the right to give the news about America for five million men; if they say that this is not true about American human nature, that this is not the news, then I will say, I am the news! I am this sort of an American! God helping me, I say it! "Look at me!" I am this sort of man of whom I am writing! If I am not this sort of man this afternoon, I will be in the morning! Though I go down as a hiss and as laughter and as a by-word and a mocking to the end of my days—I am this sort of man! I say, "Look at me!"
If you will not believe me—that this is an American, if you say that I cannot prove that there are five million of men like this in America, then I will still say, "Here is one! What will you do with ME?" Though I die in laughter, all my desires and all my professions in a tumult about my soul, I say it to this nation, "Your laws, your programs, your philosophies, your I wills, and I won'ts, I say, shall reckon with me! Your presidents and your legislatures shall reckon with Me!"
Here I am. The man is here. He is in this book!
I will break through to the five million men. I will make the five million men look at me until they recognize themselves. If no one else will attend to it for me, and if there shall be no other way, I will have a brass band go through the streets of New York and of a thousand cities, with banners and floats and great hymns to the people, and they shall go up and down the streets of the people with signs saying, "Have you read Crowds?" I will have the Boston Symphony Orchestra tour the country singing—singing from kettledrums to violins to a thousand silent audiences, "Have yon read 'CROWDS'?"
I live in a nation in which we are butting through into our sense of our national character, working our way up into a huge mutual working understanding. In our beautiful, vague, patriotic, muddleheadedness about what we want and whether we really want to be good, and about what being good is like and I say, for one, half-laughing, half-praying, God helping me—Look at ME!
I was much interested some time ago when I had not been long landed in England, and was still trying in the hopeful American way to understand it—to see the various attitudes of Englishmen toward the discussions which were going on at that time in the Spectator and elsewhere, of Mr. Cadbury's inconsistency; and while I had no reason, as an American, fresh-landed from New York, to be interested in Mr. Cadbury himself, I found that his inconsistency interested me very much. It insisted on coming back into my mind, in spite of what I would have thought, as a strangely important subject—not merely as regards Mr. Cadbury, which might or might not be important, but as regards England and as regards America, as regards the way a modern man struggling day by day with a huge, heavy machine civilization like ours, can still manage to be a live, useful, and possibly even a human, being in it.
There are two astonishing facts that stand face to face with all of us to-day, who are labouring with civilization.
The first fact is that almost without exception all the men in it who mean the most in it to us and to other people for good or for evil—who stir us deeply and do things—all fall into the inconsistent class.
The second fact is that this is a very small, select distinguished, and astonishingly capable class.
A man who is in a grim, serious business like being good, must expect to give up many of his little self-indulgences in the way of looking good. Looking inconsistent, possibly even inconsistency itself, may be sometimes, temporarily, a man's most important public service to his time.
One needs but a little glance at history, or even at one's own personal history. It is by being inconsistent that people grow, and without meaning to, give other people materials for growing. For the particular purpose of making the best things grow, of pointing up truths, of giving definite edges to right and wrong, an inconsistent man—a man who is trying to pry himself out a little at a time from an impossible situation in an impossible world, is likely to do the world more good than a very large crowd of angels who have made up their minds that they are going to be consistent and going to keep up a consistent look in this same world—whatever happens to it.
* * * * *
If one is marking people on consistency, and if one takes a scale of 100 as perfect, perhaps one should not always insist on 98. One does not always insist on 98 for one's self. And when one does and does not get it, one feels forgiving sometimes.
In dealing with public men and with other people that we know less than we know ourselves—if they really do things, it is well to make allowances, and let them off at 65.
In some cases, in fact, when men are doing something that no one else volunteers to do for a world, I find I get on very well with letting them off at 51. I have sometimes wished, when I have been in England, that Tories and Liberals and Socialists and the Wise and the Good would consider letting George Cadbury off at 51.
Perhaps people are being more safely educated by George Cadbury in his journals than they might be by other people in what seem to seem to many of us unfamiliar and dangerous ideas.
Perhaps posterity, in 1953, looking down this precipice of revolution England did not fall into in 1913, may mark George Cadbury 73—possibly 89.
If, in any way, in the crisis of England, George Cadbury can crowd in and can keep thousands and thousands of Englishmen and women from being educated by John Bottomley Bull or by Mrs. John Bottomley Bull and hosts of other would-be friends of the people—by Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, and Vernon Hartshorn, does it really seem after all a matter of grave national importance that George Cadbury—a professional non-better—in educating these people should allow them to keep on in his paper, having a betting column?
So long as he really helps stave off John Bottomley Bull and Mrs. John Bottomley Bull, let him slump into being a millionaire, if he cannot very well help it! We say, some of us, let him even make cocoa! or have family prayers! or be a Liberal!
At least this is the way one American visiting England feels about it, if he may be permitted.
Perhaps I would not, if I were an angel.
I do not want to be an angel.
I am more ambitious. I want my ideals to do things, and I want to stand by people who are doing things with their ideals, whether their ideals are my ideals or not.
* * * * *
Let us suppose. Suppose the reader were in Mr. Cadbury's place. What would he do? Here are two things, let us suppose, he wishes very much. He wishes a certain class of people would not bet, and he also wishes to convince these same people of certain important social and political ideas for which he stands. If he told them that he would have nothing to do with them unless they stopped betting, there would be no object in his publishing their paper at all. There would be nothing that they would let him tell them. If, on the other hand, he begins merely as one more humble, fellow-human being, and puts himself definitely on record as not betting himself, and still more definitely as wishing other people would not bet, and then admits honestly that these other people have as good a right to decide to bet as he has to decide not to; and if he then deliberately proceeds to do what every real gentleman who does not smoke and wishes other people did not, does without question—namely, offers them the facilities for doing it why should people call him inconsistent?
Perhaps a man's consistency consists in his relation to his own smoking and betting and not in his rushing his consistency over into the smoking and betting of other people. Perhaps being consistent does not need to mean being a little pharisaical, or using force, or cutting people off and having no argument with them, in one matter, because one cannot agree with them in another. Of course, I admit it would be better if Mr. Cadbury would publish in a parallel column (if he could get a genius to write it) an extremely tolerant, human, comrade-like series of objections to betting, which people could read alongside, and which would persuade people as much as possible not to read the best betting tips in the world in the column next door, but certainly the act of furnishing the tips in the meantime and of being sure that they are the best tips in the world, is a very real, human, courageous act. It even has a kind of rough and ready religion in it. It may be too much to expect, but even in our goodness perhaps we ought to do as we would be done by. We must be righteous, but on the whole, must we not be righteous toward others as we would have them righteous toward us?
What many of us find ourselves wishing most of all, when we come upon some specially attractive man is, that we could discover some way, or that he could discover some way, in which the idealist in him, and the realist in him could be got to act together.
There are some of us who have come to believe that in the dead earnest, daily, almost desperate struggle of modern life, the real solid idealist will have to care enough about his ideals to arrange to have two complete sets, one set which he calls his personal ideals, which are of such a nature that he can carry them out alone and rigidly and quite by himself, and another which he calls his bending or cooeperative ideals, geared a little lower and adjusted to more gradual usage, which he uses when he asks other men to act with him.
It may take a very single-hearted and strong man to keep before his own mind and before other people's his two sets of ideals, his "I" faiths, and his you-and-I faiths, keeping each in strict proportion, but it would certainly be a great human adventure to do it. Saying "God and I," and saying "God and you and I" are two different arts. And it is clear-headedness and not inconsistency in a man that keeps him so.
This is not a mere defence of Mr. Cadbury; it is a defence of a type of man, of a temperament in our modern life, of men like Edward A. Filene, of Boston, of a man like Hugh Mac Rae, one of the institutions of North Carolina, of Tom L. Johnson of Cleveland, of nine men out of ten of the bigger and more creative sort who are helping cities to get their way and nations to express themselves. I have believed that the principle at stake, the great principle for real life in England and in America, of letting a man be inconsistent if he knows how—must have a stand made for it.
There is no one thing, whether in history, or literature, or science, or politics that can be more crucial in the fate of a nation to-day than the correct, just, and constructive judgment of Contemporary Inconsistent People.
If I could have managed it, I would have had this book printed and written—every page of it—in three parallel columns.
The first column would be for the reader who believes it, who keeps writing a book more or less like it as he goes along. I would put in one sentence at the top for him and then let him have the rest of the space to write in himself. In other words I would say 2 plus 2 equals 4 and drop it.
The second column would be for the reader who would like to believe it if he could, and I would branch out a little more—about half a column.
2 + 2 = 4
20 + 20 = 40
The third column would be for the reader who is not going to believe it if it can be helped. It would be in fine type, bitterly detailed and statistical and take nothing for granted.
2 + 2 = 4
20 + 20 = 40
200 + 200 = 400
2,000 + 2,000 = 4,000
20,000 + 20,000 = 40,000
This arrangement would make the book what might be called a Moving Sidewalk of Truth. First sidewalk rather quick (six miles an hour). Second, four miles an hour. Third, two miles an hour. People could move over from one sidewalk to the other in the middle of an idea any time, and go faster or slower as they liked to, needed to.
No one would accuse me—though I might like or need for my own personal use at one time or another, a slower sidewalk or a faster one than others—no one would accuse me of being inconsistent if I supplied extra sidewalks for people of different temperaments to move over to suddenly any time they wanted to. I have come to some of my truth by a bitterly slow sidewalk—slower than other people need, and sometimes I have come by a fast one (or what some would say was no sidewalk at all!) but it cannot fairly be claimed that there is anything inconsistent in my offering people every possible convenience I can think of—for believing me.
Mr. Cadbury is not inconsistent if he tells truth at a different rate to different people, or if he chooses to put truths before people in Indian file.
A man is not inconsistent who does not tell all the news he knows to all kinds of people, all at once, all the time.
There is nothing disingenuous about having an order for truth.
It is not considered compromising to have an order in moving railway trains. Why not allow an order in moving trains of thought? And why should a schedule for moving around people's bodies be considered any more reasonable than a schedule or timetable or order for moving around their souls?
Truth in action must always be in an order. Nine idealists out of ten who fight against News-men, or men who are trying to make the beautiful work, and who call them hypocrites, would not do it if they were trying desperately to make the beautiful work themselves. It is more comfortable and has a fine free look, to be blunt with the beautiful—the way a Poet is—to dump all one's ideals down before people and walk off. But it seems to some of us a cold, sentimental, lazy, and ignoble thing to do with ideals if one loves them—to give everybody all of them all the time without considering what becomes of the ideals or what becomes of the people.
MARCH 4, 1913.
As I write these words, I look out upon the great meadow. I see the poles and the wires in the sun, that long trail of poles and wires I am used to, stalking across the meadow. I know what they are doing.
They are telling a thousand cities and villages about our new President, the one they are making this minute, down in Washington, for these United States. With his hand lifted up he has just taken his oath, has sworn before God and before his people to serve the destinies of a nation. And now along a hundred thousand miles of wire on dumb wooden poles, a hope, a prayer, a kind of quiet, stern singing of a mighty people goes by. And I am sitting here in my study window wondering what he will be like, what he will think, and what he will believe about us.
What will our new President do with these hundreds of miles of prayer, of crying to God, stretched up to him out of the hills and out of the plains?
Does he really overhear it—that huge, dumb, half-helpless, half-defiant prayer going up past him, out of the eager, hoarse cities, out of the slow, patient fields, to God?
Does he overhear it, I wonder? What does he make out that we are like?
I should think it would sound like music to him.
It would come to seem, I should think, when he is alone with his God (and will he not please be alone with his God sometimes?), like some vast ocean of people singing, a kind of multitudinous, faraway singing, like the wind—ah, how often have I heard the wind like some strange and mighty people in the pine treetops go singing by!
I do not see how a President could help growing a little like a poet—down in his heart—as he listens.
If he does, he may do as he will with us.
We will let him be an artist in a nation.
As Winslow Homer takes the sea, as Millet takes the peasants in the fields, as Frank Brangwyn lifts up the labour in the mills and makes it colossal and sublime, the President is an artist, in touching the crowd's imagination with itself—in making a nation self-conscious.
He shall be the artist, the composer, the portrait painter of the people—their faith, their cry, their anger, and their love shall be in him. In him shall be seen the panorama of the crowd, focused into a single face. In him there shall be put in the foreground of this nation's countenance the things that belong in the foreground. And the things that belong in the background shall be put in the background, and the little ideas and little men shall look little in it, and the big ones shall look big.
They do not look so now. This is the one thing that is the matter with America. The countenence of the nation is not a composed countenance. All that we want is latent in us, everything is there in our Washington face. The face merely lacks features and an expression.
This is what a President is for—to give at last the Face of the United States an expression!
If he is a shrewd poet and believes in us, we shall accept him as the official mind reader of the nation. He focuses our desires. In the weariness of the day he looks away—he looks up—he leans his head upon his hand—through the corridors of his brain, that little silent Main street of America, the thoughts and the crowds and the jostling wills of the people go.
If he is a shrewd poet about us, he becomes the organic function, the organizer of the news about our people to ourselves. He is the public made visible, the public made one. He is a moving picture of us. He speaks and gestures the United States—if he is a poet about us—when he beckons or points or when he puts his finger on his lips, or when he says, "Hush!" or when he says, "Wait a moment!" he is the voice of the people of the United States.
* * * * *
I am sitting and correcting, one by one, as they are brought to me, these last page proofs in the factory. The low thunder on the floors of the mighty presses, crashing down into paper words I can never cross out—rises around me. In a minute more—minute by minute that I am counting, that low thunder will overtake me, will roar down and fold away these last guilty, hopeful, tucked-in words with you, Gentle Reader, and you will get away! And the book will get away!
There is no time to try to hold up that low thunder now, and to say what I have meant to say about false simplicity and democracy, and about our all being bullied into being little old faded Thomas Jeffersons a hundred years after he is dead.
But I will try to suggest what I hope that some one who has no printing-presses rolling over him—will say:
One cannot help wishing that our socialists to-day would outgrow Karl Marx, and that our individualists would outgrow Emerson. Democrats by this time ought to grow a little, too, and outgrow Jefferson, and Republicans ought to be able by this time to outgrow Hamilton.
Why not drop Karl Marx and Emerson and run the gamut of both of them, on a continent 3,000 miles wide? Why should we live Thomas Jefferson's and Alexander Hamilton's lives? Why not drop Jefferson and Hamilton and live ours?
The last thing that Jefferson would do, if he were here, would be to be Jefferson over again. It is not fair to Jefferson for anybody to take the liberty of being like him, when he would not even do it himself. If Jefferson were here, he would break away from everybody, lawyers, statesmen and Congress and go outdoors and look at 1913 for himself.
I like to imagine how it would strike him. I am not troubled about what he would do. Let Jefferson go out and listen to that vast machine, to the New York Central Railway smoothing out and roaring down crowds, rolling and rolling and rolling men all day and all night into machines. Let Jefferson go out and face the New York Central Railway! Jefferson in his time had not faced nor looked down through those great fissures or chasms of inefficiency in what he chose to call democracy, the haughty, tyrannical aimlessness and meaninglessness of crowds, too mean-spirited and full of fear and machines to dare to have leaders!
He had not faced that blank staring hell of anonymousness, that bottomless, weak, watery muck of irresponsibility—that terrific, devilish vagueness which a crowd is and which a crowd has to be without leaders.
Jefferson did not know about or reckon with Inventors, as a means of governing, as a means of getting the will of the people.
A whole new age of invention, of creation, has flooded the world since Jefferson. This is the main fact about the modern man, that he is gloriously self-made. He is practising democracy, inventing his own life, making his own soul before our eyes.
If we have a poet in the White House, this is the main fact he is going to reckon with: He will not be seen taking sides with the Alexander Hamilton model or with the Thomas Jefferson model or with Karl Marx or Emerson. We will see him taking Karl Marx and Emerson and Hamilton and Jefferson and melting them down, glowing them and fusing them together into one man—the Crowd-Man—who shall be more aristocratic than Hamilton ever dreamed, and be filled with a genius for democracy that Jefferson never guessed. America to-day, on the face of the earth and in the hearts of men, is a new democracy, as new as Radium, Copernicus, the Wireless Telegraph, as new and just beginning to be noticed and guessed at as Jesus Christ!
Copernicus, Marconi, Wilbur Wright, and Christianity have turned men's hearts outward. Men live for the first time in a wide daily consciousness of one another.
Alexander Hamilton, had really a rather timid and polite idea of what an aristocrat was and Jefferson had merely sketched out a ground plan for a democrat. If Hamilton had been aristocratic in the modern sense, he would have devoted half his career to expressing a man like Jefferson; and if Jefferson had been more of a democrat, he would have had room in himself to tuck in several Alexander Hamiltons. Either one of them would have been a Crowd-Man.
By a Crowd-Man I do not mean a pull-and-haul man, a balance of equilibrium between these two men, I mean a fusion, a glowed together interpenetration of them both. They did not either of them believe in the people as much as a man made out of both of them would—a really wrought-through aristocrat, a really wrought-through democrat or Crowd-Man, or Hero or Saviour.
* * * * *
I am afraid that some of us do not like the word Saviour as people think we ought to. There seems to be something about the way many people use the word Saviour which makes it seem as if it had been dropped off over the edge of the world—of a real world, of a man's world.
I do not believe that Christ spent five minutes in His whole life in feeling like a Saviour. He would have felt hurt if He had found any one saying He was a Saviour in the tone people often use. He wanted people to feel as if they were like Him. And the way He served them was by making them feel that they were.
I do not believe that Thomas Jefferson, if he were here to-day, would object to a hero, or aristocrat, a special expert or a genius in expressing crowds, if he lived and wrought in this spirit.
The final objection that people commonly make to heroes or to men of marked and special vision or courage is that they are not good for people, because people put them on pedestals and worship them. They look up at them wistfully. And then they look down on themselves.
But I have never seen a hero on a pedestal.
It is only the Carlyle kind of hero who could ever be put on a pedestal, or who would stay there if put there.
And Carlyle—with all honour be it said—never quite knew what a hero was. A hero is either a gentleman, or a philosopher, or an inventor.
The gentleman—on a pedestal—feels hurt and slips down.
The philosopher laughs.
The inventor thinks up some way of having somebody else get up so that it will not really be a pedestal at all.
I agree with all the socialists' objections to heroes, if they mean by a hero the kind of man that Thomas Carlyle, with all his little glorious hells, all his little cold, lonesome, select heavens, his thunderclub view of life, and his Old Testament imagination, called a hero. There is always something a little strained and competitive about Carlyle's heroes as he conceives them except possibly one or two.
Being a hero with Carlyle consisted in conquering and displacing other heroes. Even if you were a poet, being a hero consisted in a kind of spiritual standing on some other poet's neck. According to Carlyle, one must always be a hero against other men. Modern heroism consists in being a hero with other men. The hero Against comes in the Twentieth Century to be the hero With, and the modern hero is known, not by cutting his enemies down, but by his absorbing and understanding them. He drinks up what they wish they could do into what he does, or he states what they believe better than they can state it. Combination or cooeperation is the tremendous heroism of our present life.
I admit that I would be afraid of Carlyle's heroes having pedestals. They have already—many of them—done a good deal of harm because they have had pedestals, and because they would not get down from them.
But mine would.
With a man who is being a hero by cooeperation, getting down is part of the heroism. And there is never any real danger in allowing a pedestal for a real hero. He never has time to sit on it.
One sees him always over and over again kicking his pedestal out from under him and using it to batter a world with. As the world does not take to enjoying its heroes' pedestals in this way, a pedestal is quite safe. Most people feel the same about a hero's halo. They prefer to have him wear it like a kind of glare around his head, and if he uses it as a searchlight upon them, if he makes his halo really practical and lights up the world a little around him instead, he is not likely to be spoiled, is almost always safe from any danger of having any more halo crowded upon him than he wants, or than anybody wants him to have. One might put it down as a motto for heroes, "Keep your halo busy and it won't hurt you." Modern democracy will never have a chance of being what it wants to be as long as it keeps on throwing away great natural forces like halos and pedestals. There is no reason why we should not believe in halos and pedestals, not to wear or stand on, but when used strictly for butting and seeing purposes.
We may know a real hero by the fact that we always have to keep rediscovering him. One knows the real hero by the fact that in his relation to people who put him on a pedestal he is always kicking his pedestal away and substituting his vision.
There is something about any real heroism that we see to-day which makes heroes out of the people who see it, A real hero has his back to the people and the crowd looks over his shoulders with him at his work and he feels behind him daily, with joy and strength, thousands of heroes pressing up to take his place. And he is daily happy with a strange, mighty, impersonal joy in all these other people who could do it, too. He lives with a great hurrah for the world in his heart. The hero he worships is the hero he sees in others. A man like this would feel cramped if he were merely being himself, or if he were being imprisoned by the people in his own glory, or were being cooped up into a hero.
It is in this sense that I have finally come again to believe that hero worship is safe, that in some form as one of the great elemental energies in human nature it must be saved, that it must be regulated and used, that it has an incalculable power which was meant to be turned on to run a nation with.
And I believe that Thomas Jefferson, confronted in this desperate, sublime 1913, with the new socialized spirit of our time, placed face to face at last with a Christian aristocrat or Crowd-Man, would want him saved and emphasized too.
It is because in democracies saviours are being kept by crowds and by millionaires and by machines very largely in the position of hired men, or of ordered about men, that ninety-nine one-hundredths of the saving or of the man-inventing and man-freeing in crowds, is not being attended to.
I have wanted to suggest in this book that the moment the Saviours in any nation will organize quietly and save themselves first, the less difficult thing (with men to attend to it) like saving the rest of us, will be a mere matter of detail.
The only thing that stands in the way is the Thomas Jefferson bug-a-boo. People seem to have a kind of left-over fear that the moment these saviours or experts or inventors or heroes, call them what you will, get the chance that they have been working to get to save us, they will not want to use it.
It does not seem to me that anything will be allowed to interfere with it—with their saving us, or making detailed arrangements for our saving ourselves.
Being a great man (if as democracies seem to think being a great man is a disease) is at least a self-limiting disease. Inventors when they get their first chance are going to save us, because they could not endure living with us unless we were saved.
Inventors could not enjoy inventing—inventing their greater, more noble inventions, until they had attended to a little rudimentary thing in the world like having people half alive on it to live with and to invent for.
It does not interest a really inspired man—inventing flying machines for people who have not time to notice the sky, wireless telegraph for people who have nothing to say, symphonies for tone-deaf crowds, or ambrosia for people who prefer potatoes.
This is the whole issue in a nutshell. When people say that our inventors, or Crowd-Men or saviours, when they have fulfilled or saved themselves, cannot be trusted to save us, the reply that will have to be made is that only people who do not know how inventors feel or how they are made or what it is in them that drives them to do things, or how they do them, will be afraid to let men who give us worlds and who express worlds for us and who make us express ourselves in worlds the freedom to help shape them and run them.
Men who have the automatic courage, the helpless bigness and disinterestedness that always goes with invention, with creative power, can be trusted by crowds.
The prejudice against the hero is due to the fact that heroes in days gone by have been by a very large majority fighters, expressing themselves against the world, or expressing one part of the world against another.
The moment the hero becomes the artist and begins expressing himself and expressing the crowd together, the crowd will no longer be touched with fear and driven back upon itself by the Thomas Jefferson bug-a-boo.
France is threatened by her childless women, Germany by her machines, Russia is beginning the Nineteenth Century. It is to England and America, struggling still sublimely with their sins, the nations look—for the time being—for the next big free lift upon the world.
Looked at in the large, in their historic import and their effect on the time, the English temperament and the American temperament are essentially the same. As between ourselves, England and America are apt to seem different, but as between us and the world, we blend together. One could go through in what I have been saying about Oxford Street and the House of Commons in this book, strike out all after Oxford Street and read Broadway, and all after the House of Commons and read Congress, and it would be essentially true with the necessary English or American modulation. In the same way it would be possible to go through and strike out all after the President and read Prime Minister or the Government.
England and America have the individualistic temperament, and if we cannot make a self-expressive individualism noble, and if we are not men enough to sing up our individualism into the social and the universal, we perish.
It is our native way. We are to be crowdmen or nobodies.
The English temperament or the American temperament, whichever we may call it, is the same tune, but played with a different and almost contrasting expression.
England is being played gravely and massively like a violoncello, and America—played more lightly, is full of the sweeps and the lulls, the ecstasy, the overriding glory of the violins.
But it is the same tune, and God helping us, we will not and we shall not be overwhelmed under the great dome of the world, by Germany with all her faithful pianolas, or by France with her cold sweet flutes, or by Russia with her shrieks and her pauses, pounding her splendid kettledrums in that awful silence!
Our song is ours—England and America, the 'cello, and the bright violins!
And no one shall sing it for us.
And no one shall keep us from singing it.
The skyscrapers are singing, "I will, I will!" to God, and Manchester and London and Port Sunlight are singing, "I will, I will!" to God. I have heard even Westminister Abbey and York—those beautiful old fellows—altering, "I will, I will!" to God!
And I have seen, as I was going by, Trinity Church at the head of Wall Street repenting her sins and holding noonday prayer meetings for millionaires.
Our genius is a moral genius, the genius of each man for fulfilling himself. Our religion is the finding of a way to do it beautifully.
Let Russian men be an army if they like—death and obedience. Let German men keep on with their faithful, plodding, moral machines if they want to, and let all French men be artists, go tra-la-laing up and down the Time to the beautiful—furnishing nudes, clothes, and academies to a world.
But we—England and America—will stand up on this planet in the way we like to stand on a planet and sing, "I will, I will!" to God.
If we cannot do better, we will sing, "I won't, I won't!" to God. Our wills and our won'ts are our genius among the sons of men. They are what we are for. With England and America I will and I won't are an art form, our means of expressing ourselves, our way of invention and creation, of begetting an age, of begetting a nation upon a world.
We do not know (like great men and children) who we are at first. We begin saying vaguely—will—will!
Then i will!
Then I will!
Then WE WILL!
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N.Y.