I could not think of anything I had ever done to them, nor could I see what the thousands of other good people in London that I saw walking and puddling about, or watched waiting twenty minutes or so with long, hopeful, dogged whistles for cabs, had done to them.
A few days more, and my morning paper tells me suddenly of some more men who wanted something—this time up in Lancashire. They had decided that they wouldn't let some two or three hundred thousand other men go to their work until they got it. They hushed cities to have their own way. Day by day I watched them throwing the silence of the cities in their employers' faces, closing shops, closing up railroads, telling the world it must pay more for the clothes on its back, and all because—a certain Mr. and Mrs. Riley of Accrington, North Lancashire did not like or did not think that they liked, the North Lancashire Trades Union. (The general idea seemed to be to have all the others join in, everywhere—fifty-four million spindles, and four hundred and forty thousand looms—and wait and keep perfectly still until Mr. and Mrs. Riley could make up their minds.)
And now this present week, morning after morning I take up my paper and read that 500,000 miners want something. I look in my fire dubiously day by day. I may have to go home to America in a few weeks to get warm.
Of course it is only fair to say at the outset that this little series of impressions, or sketches, as one may say, of Civilization as I have seen it since arriving in England are of such a nature that I need not have come over to England to observe them. I would be the last to deny that the same conveniences for being disagreeable and for getting in the way and for making a general muss of Life can be offered almost any time in my own hopeful and blundering country.
What more immediately concerns me in these things is that, having happened, there can be no doubt that they have some valuable and worthy meaning for me and for other people that I ought to get out of them.
One cannot stand by and see a great civilization like our English-speaking civilization, with its ocean liners, cathedrals, and aeroplanes, being undignified and inefficient before one's eyes and even a little ridiculous, without trying to see if it does not serve some purpose. There must be something beyond, something further and deeper, something newborn about it, which shall be worth our while. Strikes seem to be common people's way of thinking things out. If they had more imagination, they would know what they were going to think beforehand, without so much trouble perhaps; but so long as they have not, and so long as it is really true perhaps that all these millions of levers and wheels and engines will have to be stopped, so that the rich mechanical-minded people who own them and the poor mechanical-minded people who work with them can think better, we will have to be glad at least that they are thinking, and we will have to hope that they are thinking fast, and will soon have it over with. In the meantime, while they are thinking, we can think too.
It is never fair to lump people together, and there are always exceptions and special reasons to consider; but, speaking roughly, it is fair to lay it down as a general principle that it is apt to be the more common kind of employers and employees who find it difficult to think, and who need strikes to think with. When we see 175,000 weavers striking in Lancashire, and the Trades Unions insisting on the discharge of Non-Union men, and employers being willing to recognize the Unions but being unwilling to be controlled by them, most of us find ourselves taking sides very quickly. We are often amazed to see how quickly we take sides, and what amazes some of us most is our apparent inconsistency. We find ourselves now on the Union side and now on the employer side in the dispute between Capital and Labour. We never know when we take up the morning paper, some of us, which side will be our next; and very often, if we were suddenly asked why, on reading quietly about a new dispute in the morning paper, we had taken promptly one side rather than the other, almost unconsciously, before we knew it we would not perhaps be able to say at once. The other day I became a little alarmed at myself at what looked at first like a kind of moral weakness, and inability to stand still on one side or the other in the contest between Labour and Capital; and I tried to think my way sternly through, and decide why it was my mind seemed to waver from one side to the other, and seemed so inconsistent and inefficient.
It seems to me I have just discovered a certain thread of consistency, as I look back over many disputes.
As near as I can remember, I find the side that uses force, or that uses the most force, invariably turns me against it. If, as I read, I find that both sides are using force, I find myself against both sides. I find myself wishing, in spite of my dislike of Socialism, that the nation had the power, when a quarrelsome industry turns to the people in the street and stops them in what they are doing, and tells the people in the street that they cannot ride, or that they shall not sleep, or that they cannot eat—when a quarrelsome industry insists on keeping the whole world up all night because it has a Stomach Ache, I feel suddenly that the people ought to be able to take the industry away and put it into such hands that the people in the streets will be protected; into hands that will make the industry behave so that it won't have a stomach ache. An industry with a stomach ache always has it because somebody in it has been over-eating and getting more than their share, and is incompetent and unfit; and obviously it should have its freedom, its privilege of selecting its food, taken away from it until it behaves.
Always allowing for exceptions, we may put it down as a general truth that, when we find a cause using force or mere advantage of position, it is because there is incompetence or lack of brains in those who conduct it, and the cure lies, not in more force, but in more brains. One cannot help being angered by force, because one knows that it is not only not a remedy, but is itself the cause of all incompetence and blindness in business. Force merely heaps the incompetence and blindness up, postpones cooeperation, defeats the mutual interest which is the very substance of business efficiency in a nation. Force is itself the injury mounting up more and more, which it seeks to cure.
The most likely way to prevent industrial trouble would seem to be to have employers and managers and foremen who have a genius for getting men to trust and believe in them. We are getting smoke-consumers, computing machines, and the next contrivance is going to be the employer who has the understanding spirit, and who sees the cash value of human genius, the value in the market of genius for being fair and getting on with people. Arbitration boards are at best (as they themselves would say) stupid and negative things, and though better than nothing, as a rule merely postpone evil or change symptoms. No one can ever really arbitrate for any one else either in industry or marriage except for a moment. The trouble lies deep down inside the people who keep needing arbitration. As long as these people are still there, and as long as incompetent employers or employees are there, there is bound to be trouble.
Turning out incompetent employers and incompetent labourers is the only way. We are getting rid of them as rapidly as possible. All business in the last resort turns on brains for being human and understanding people. Business, as people say, is partly business and business is partly economics, but more than anything else, in modern times, business is psychology.
Success is the science of being believed in. Incompetent employers and incompetent labourers are already being turned out, and are bound to be turned out implacably more and more, by the competitive nature of modern business. Under present conditions, if we have in each industry one single competent employing firm, with brains for being fair and brains for being far-sighted, and for being thoughtful of others—in short, with brains for being believed in—the control of that industry soon falls into their hands. People who use force instead of brains are second-rate, are out of the spirit of the times, and are going by. And this seems to be the spirit, too, which is to govern the more efficient Labour Unions as well as the more efficient Trusts.
If it were possible to collect the names in England and America of the men in each industry where brains were being personally believed in, we would have a list of the leaders of England and America for the next fifty years. Having a soul in business pays, not because it affords a fine motive power, but because it affords a practical and conclusive method of driving the devil out of business. He is being driven out of industry, one industry at a time, by men who get on better without him; and this is going to go on until the ability to do this—to crowd out the devil, to get the devil out of machines and factories, out of the machinery of organization—the power to keep the devil out of things and out of people, is recognized by everybody as the greatest, most subtle, most victorious and universal market-value in the world. The men who can be believed in most will get the most business, and, what is still more important, the men who can make men believe in them most will be able to hire the employees who can be believed in most, and will get a monopoly of the efficiency of the world; and though the men who can be believed in less may be able to continue for a time to do their work and go through all their old motions as well as they can, with all their old lumbering, pathetic machinery of watching each other and suspecting each other and fighting each other humped up on their backs, they can never hope to compete with free-moving, honest men, who deal directly and openly and in a few words for their employees, jobbers, consumers, and the public, without any vast machinery of suspicion to bother with. It is a most curious, local, temporary, back-county idea, the idea that, for sheer industrial economy, for simple cheap conclusive finance, there is anything on earth in business that will take the place of old-fashioned human personal prestige—the prestige of the man who has a genius for being believed in.
In a way, perhaps the recent strike among the London cabmen is an instance of what is really the essential issue in every strike. The bottom fact about the taxi chauffeurs, stated simply, was that they did not believe in their employers. They believed that, if the precise figures were known, their employers were getting more than their share. On the other hand, the bottom fact about the employers was that they did not and could not believe that, if the precise figures were known, the cabmen were not getting more than their share. They insisted that the cabmen should publish, or make known, the precise figures of their extras. The cabmen declined to do it, and it made them look for the moment perhaps as if they were wrong. But were they necessarily wrong? Was it really true that they had any more reason to trust their employers than their employers had to trust them? The cabmen might quite honestly and justly have said to the owners: "What we want is an honest, impeccable little dividend-recorder fastened on the back of every owner, as well as on our machines and on us. Then we will publish our extras."
The determining and important fact of economics in the last analysis always turns out to be some human fact, some fact about people. It is really true that just now, in the present half-stage of machine-industry, employers should nearly all be compelled to go about in this world with fare-recorders on their backs. Employees too. This would be the logical thing to do; and as it is impracticable, and as every business must have certain elements of secrecy in it in order to be competent, the only alternative is to have in charge men with enough genius for being believed in and for taking measures to be believed in—to keep employees believing in them, in spite of secrecy. Under these conditions, it cannot be long before we will see in every business the men being put forward on both sides who have a genius for being believed in. Managers and superintendents will be put in office everywhere who see the cash value, the economy, of the simple, old-fashioned power in a man of a genius for being believed in; employers with the power of inspiring more and better work from their workmen; Labour men with the power of inspiring employers to believe in them, of inspiring their employers to put up money, stock, or profits on their belief—on the belief that workmen are capable of the highest qualities of manhood: hard work, loyalty, persistence, and faith toward a common end. I have preferred to have this inspired employer a millionaire, because the more capital he has the more men he can employ, and the more rapidly the other kind of millionaire, the blind, old-fashioned butter of Labour, will be driven out of business.
Little can be done with one book, but at this special juncture, this psychological moment for copartnership and the spirit of copartnership, when all the world is touched to the quick by great strikes—at a time when one can sit still and almost hear the nations think—there are some of us who hope that the case we are trying to make out for copartnership between Capital and Labour will be of use to those who are trying to do things, and who for the moment find themselves foiled at every point by men who have given up believing in human nature. We wish to put ourselves on record, and to say that we do believe in human nature, and that we believe not only that the inspired employer is going to be evolved by the Crowd, but that the Crowd is going to recognize him and is going to take sides with him, and that the Crowd is going to justify him, make him succeed, is going to make his success its own success. In other words, we believe in heroes, crowds, and goodness; in men of heroic gifts—who are fit and meet to interpret the wills and desires of crowds—who are great men or Crowd-Men, crowds in spirit themselves.
I would like to try to express the type of modern man who, as it seems to me, is about to prove himself the real ruler of our modern world, the silent master of what the crowds shall think. It has seemed to me that it is going to be a man of a marked type, and of a particular temperament, to whom we will have to look in our new and crowded world for the crowd-interpreter, or man who touches the imagination of crowds.
As our whole labour problem to-day turns on our being able to touch the imagination of Crowds, it may not be uninteresting in the next chapter to consider what a man who can do this will probably be like and the spirit in which he will do it.
THE CROWD-MAN—AN INVENTION FOR MAKING CROWDS SEE
When Wilbur Wright flew around the Statue of Liberty in New York the other day, his doing it was a big event; but a still bigger event, as it seems to some of us, was the way he felt about New York when he did it. All New York could not make him show off. Hundreds of thousands of people on roofs could look up at the sky over New York, for him to go by, all that they liked. He slipped down to Washington without saying anything, on the 3:25 train, to attend to flying as part of the serious business of the world.
Why fly around a little town like New York, or show your bright wings in the light, or circle the Statue of Liberty for fun, when you are reconstructing civilization, and binding a whole planet together, and wrapping the heavens close down around the earth, and making railroads everywhere out of the air? New York is always a little superficial and funny about itself. All it needs to do, it seems to think, is to snap its fingers at a man of genius anywhere on this broad world, whisper to him pleasantly, and he will trot promptly up, of course, and do his little turn for it.
But not Wilbur Wright. Wilbur Wright would not give two million people an encore, or even come back to bow. As one looked over from Mount Tom one could see all New York black and solid on the tops of its roofs and houses looking up into a great hole of air for him, and Wilbur Wright slipping quietly off down to Washington and leaving them there, a whole great city under the sky, with its heads up!
A little experience like this has been what New York has needed for a long time. It takes a scientist to do these things. I wish there were some poet who would do as well. Even a prophet up above New York—or seer of men and of years—glinting his wings in the light, the New York Sun and the World and the Times down below, all their opera-glasses trained on him, and all those little funny reporters running helplessly about, all the people pouring out from Doctor Parkhurst's church to look up.... It would be something.
Probably there are very few capitals in the world—Paris, Berlin, or London—that would not be profoundly stirred and possibly much improved by having some man suddenly appear up over them, who would be so interested in what he was doing that he would forget to notice whether anybody was looking—who would be capable of slipping off quietly and leaving an entire city with its heads up, and going on and attending to business.
There have been times when we would have been relieved, some of us, if the North Pole could have been discovered in this way and without large audiences tagging. There are some of us who will never cease to regret as long as we live that the North Pole could not have waited a little. We would rather have had Wilbur Wright discover it. One can imagine how he would do it: fly gracefully up to it all by himself, and discover it some pleasant evening, and have it over with, and slip back on his soft wings in the night, and not say anything about it. It is this Wilbur Wright spirit that I would like to dwell on in these pages. It seems to me it is a true modern spirit, the spirit which alone could make our civilization great, and the spirit which alone could make crowds great. It was the crowd that spoiled the way the Pole was discovered—all the millions of people, vast, thoughtless audiences piling in and making a show of it. Many people in America, all the vast crowds reading about it, seemed to feel that they were more important than the Pole; and when Captain Peary came back, vast crowds of these same people paid as much as five dollars apiece for the privilege of being in the same room with him. It was quite impossible not to contrast Captain Peary in his attitude toward the crowd and Wilbur Wright. There seemed to be, and there will always remain, a certain vulgarity in the way the North Pole was discovered, and the way the whole world behaved in regard to it, and the secret seems to have been in Captain Peary's failure to be a Wilbur Wright. He allowed the Pole to be a Crowd affair. All the while as he went about the country holding his little exhibits of the tip of the planet we could not help wishing, many of us who were in the Audience, that this man who sat there before us, the man who had the Thing in his hand, who had collected the North Pole, would not notice us, would snub us if need be a little, and would leave these people, these millions of people, with their heads up and go quietly on to the South Pole and collect that. It is because there are thousands of men who understand just how Wilbur Wright felt when he slipped away the other day in New York and left the entire city with its heads up that we have every reason to expect that the crowd is to produce great leaders, and is to become a great crowd, great and humble in spirit before God, before the stars, and the atoms, and the microbes, and before Itself. In the meantime, however, we see all about us in the world countless would-be leaders of the crowd, who would perhaps not quite understand the way Wilbur Wright felt that day when he slipped away from New York and left the entire city with its heads up. Most newspaper men—men who are in the habit of writing for a crowd and regarding a crowd quite respectfully—will have wondered a little why Wilbur Wright could have let such a crowd go by. Most actors and theatrical people would have stayed over a train or so and given one more little performance with all those wistful people on the roof-tops. There are only a very few clergymen in England or America to-day who, with a great audience like that and so many men in it, would ever have thought of slipping off on the 3:25 train in the way Wilbur Wright did. The ministers and the politicians of all countries are still wondering a little—if they ever thought of it—how Wright did it. Most of the other people in the world wonder a little, too, but I imagine that the great inventors of the world who read about it the next morning did not wonder. The true scientists, in this country and in Germany and in France, all understood just how Wilbur Wright felt when he left New York with its heads up. The great artists of the world, in literature, in painting, and architecture; the great railroad builders, the city builders, the nation builders, the great statesmen, the great biologists, and chemists, understood. James J. Hill, with his face toward the Pacific, understood. Alexander Graham Bell, out abroad doing the listening and talking and thinking the thoughts of eighty million people, understood. Marconi, making the ships whisper across the sea, and William G. McAdoo, shooting a hundred and seventy thousand people a day through a hole under the Hudson—understood.
And God, when He made the world. And Columbus when he discovered America. And Jesus Christ when He was so happy and so preoccupied over His vision of a new world, over inventing Christianity, that it seemed a very small and incidental thing to die on the Cross—He understood.
Wilbur Wright's secret was that he had a vision. His vision was that a human being could be greater and more powerful than the world had ever believed before.
Just to be there was a great thought, to be allowed to be one of those admitted, to be present at the first faint beginning, the first still alighting of the human spirit from the earth upon the sky. Wilbur Wright made the most ordinary man a genius a minute. He made him wonder softly who he was—and the people all about him—who were they? and what would they think, and what would they do next? The first flash of light on the wings was a thousand years. It was as if almost for a moment he saw at last the whole earth about him. History, churches, factories on it, slipping out of its cocoon at last—its little, old, faded, tied-down cocoon, and sailing upon the air—sailing with him, sailing with the churches, with the factories, and with the schools, with History, through the Invisible, through the Intangible—out to the Sun....
* * * * *
Perhaps the reason that New York was a great city a few minutes the other day when Wilbur Wright was there was that Wilbur Wright had a new vision in the presence of all those men of something that they could do. He touched the imagination of men about themselves. They were profoundly moved because they saw him in their presence inventing a new kind and new size of human being. He raised the standard of impossibility, and built an annex on to the planet while they looked; took a great strip off of space three miles wide and folded it softly on to the planet all the way round before their eyes. For three miles more—three miles farther up above the ground—there was a space where human beings would have to stop saying, "I can't," and "You can't," and "We can't." If people want to say "I can't," and "You can't," they will have to say it farther and farther away from this planet now. Let them try Mars. The modern imagination takes to impossibilities naturally with Wilbur Wright against the horizon. The thing we next cannot believe is the next thing to expect.
Nobody would have believed ten years ago that an architect could be invented who would tell a man that his house would cost him thirty thousand dollars, and then hand him back two thousand dollars when he had finished it. But the man had been invented—he invented himself.
He represents the owner, and does as the owner would be done by if he did it himself—if he had the technical knowledge and the time to do it.
Nobody would have believed a few years ago that a railway president, when he had occasion to reduce the wages of several thousand employees 10 per cent., would begin by reducing his own salary 30 per cent., and the salary of all the officials all the way down 15 per cent., or 20 per cent.
Nobody would have believed some time ago that an organizing inventor would be evolved who would meet his directors and tell them that, if they would have their work done in their mills in three shifts instead of two, the men would work so much better that it would not cost the Company more than 10 per cent. more to offer the better conditions. But such an organizing inventor has been invented, and has proved his case.
Luther Burbank has made a chestnut tree eighteen months old bear chestnuts; and it has always taken from ten to twenty-five years to make a tree furnish its first chestnut before. About the same time that Luther Burbank had succeeded in doing this with chestnuts a similar type of man, who was not particularly interested in chestnuts and wanted to do something with human nature, who believed that human nature could really be made to work, found a certain staple article that everybody needs every day in a state of anarchy in the market. The producers were not making anything on it. The wholesalers dealt in it without a profit, and the retailers sold it without a profit, and merely because the other things they sold were worthless without it.
——, who was the leading wholesale dealer and in the best position to act, pointed out that, if the business was organized and everybody in it would combine with everybody else and make it a monopoly, the price could be made lower, and everybody would make money.
Of course this was a platitude.
It was also a platitude that human nature was not good enough, and could not be trusted to work properly in a monopoly.
—— then proceeded to invent a monopoly—a kind of monopoly in which human nature could be trusted.
He used a very simple device.
He began by being trusted himself.
Having personally and directly proved that human nature in a monopoly could be trusted by being trusted himself, all he had to do was to capitalize his knowledge of human nature, use the enormous market value of the trust people had in him to gather people about him in the business who had a good practical business genius for being trusted too and for keeping trusted: everybody else was shut out.
The letter with which the monopoly was started (after dealing duly with the technical details of the business) ended like this:
"... the soundest lines of business—viz., fair prices, fair profits, fair division of profits, fair recognition of service, do as you would be done by, money back where it is practicable, one's profit so small as to make competition not worth while, open dealing, and open books."
He had invented a monopoly which shared its profits with the people, and which the people trusted. He was a Luther Burbank in money and people instead of chestnuts. He raised the standard of impossibility in people, and invented a new way for human nature to work.
THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS
The modern imagination takes, speaking roughly, three characteristic forms:
1. Imagination about the unseen or intangible—the spiritual—as especially typified in electricity, in the wireless telegraph, the aeroplane: a new and extraordinary sense of the invisible and the unproved as an energy to be used and reckoned with.
2. Imagination about the future—a new and extraordinary sense of what is going to happen next in the world.
3. Imagination about people. We are not only inventing new machines, but our new machines have turned upon us and are creating new men. The telephone changes the structure of the brain. Men live in wider distances, and think in larger figures, and become eligible to nobler and wider motives.
Imagination about the unseen is going to give us in an incredible degree the mastery of the spirit over matter.
Imagination about the future is going to make the next few hundred years an organic part of every man's life to-day.
The imagination of men about themselves and other people is going to give us a race of men with new motives; or, to put it differently, it is going to give us not only new sizes but new kinds of men. People are going to achieve impossibilities in goodness, and our inventions in human nature are going to keep up with our other inventions.
IMAGINATION ABOUT THE UNSEEN
The most distinctively modern thing that ever happened was when Benjamin Franklin went out one day and called down lightning from heaven. Before that, power had always been dug up, or scraped off the ground. The more power you wanted the more you had to get hold of the ground and dig for it; and the more solid you were, the more heavy, solid things you could get, the more you could pull solid, heavy things round in this world where you wanted them. Franklin turned to the sky, and turned power on from above, and decided that the real and the solid and the substantial in this world was to be pulled about by the Invisible.
Copernicus had the same idea, of course, when he fared forth into space, and discovered the centre of all power to be in the sun. It grieved people a good deal to find how much more important the sky was than they were, and their whole little planet with all of them on it. The idea that that big blue field up there, empty by day and with such crowds of little faint dots in it all night, was the real thing—the big, final, and important thing—and that they and their churches and popes and pyramids and nations should just dance about it for millions of years like a mote in a sunbeam, hurt their feelings at first. But it did them good. It started them looking Up, and looking the other way for power.
Very soon afterward Columbus enlarged upon the same idea by starting the world toward very far things, on the ground; and he bored through the skylines, a thousand skylines, and spread the nations upon the sea. Columbus was the typical modern man led by the invisible, the intangible; and on the great waters somewhere between Spain and New York, between the old and the new, Columbus discovered the Future Tense, the centrifugal tense, the tense that sweeps in the unknown, and gathers in, out of space, out of hope, out of faith, the lives of men. The mere fastened-down stable things, the mere actual facts, stopped being the world with Columbus, and the air and the sky began to be swung in, and to be swept through the thoughts and acts of men and of women.... Then miners, mariners, explorers, inventors—the impossible steamship, the railway, the impossible cotton-gin and sewing-machine and reaper, Hoosac tunnels and Atlantic cables. The impossible became one of the habits of modern life.
Of course the sky and the air and the unknown and the future had been recognized before, but only a little and in a rather patronizing way. But when a world has made a great, solid continent by following a horizon line, it begins to take things just beyond very seriously. And so our Time has been fulfilled. We have had the stone age; we have had the iron age; and now we have the sky age, and the sky telegraph, and sky men, and sky cities. Mountains of stone are built out of men's visions, towers and skyscrapers swing up out of their wills and up out of their hearts.
* * * * *
Not long ago, as I was coming away from New York in the Springfield Express, which was running at fifty-five miles an hour, I saw suddenly some smoke coming up apparently out of a satchel on the floor, belonging to the man in the chair in front of me. I moved the satchel away, and the smoke came up through the carpet. I spoke to the Pullman conductor who was passing through, and in a second the train had stopped, and the great wild roaring Thing had ceased, and we stood in a long, wide, white silence in the fields. We got off the car—some of us—to see what had happened, and to see if there was a hot box on the wheels. We found that the entire underside of the floor of the car was on fire, and what had happened? Nothing except a new impossibility; nothing except that a human being had invented an electrical locomotive so powerful that it was pulling that train fifty-five miles an hour while the brakes on the car were set—twelve brakes all grinding twenty miles on those twelve wheels; and the locomotive paid no more attention to the brakes of that heavy Pullman than it would to a feather or to a small boy, all the way from New York to Stamford, hanging on behind. As I came in I looked again at the train—the long dull train that had been pulled along by the Invisible, by the kingdom of the air and the sky—the long, dull, heavy Train! And the spirit of the far-off sun was in it!
In Count Zeppelin's new airship the new social spirit has a symbol, and in the gyroscopic train the inspired millionaire is on a firm foundation. The power of the new kind and new size of capitalist is his power of keeping an equilibrium with the people, and the men of real genius in modern affairs are men who have motor genius and light genius over other men's wills. They are allied to the X-ray and the airship, and gain their pre-eminence by their power of forecast and invention—their power of riding upon the unseen, upon the thoughts of men and the spirit of the time. Even the painters have caught this spirit. The plein air painters are painting the light, and the sculptors are carving shadows and haloes, and we have not an art left which does not lean out into the Invisible. And religion is full of this spirit and theosophy and Christian Science. The playwrights are touched by it; and the action, instead of being all on the stage, is thrown out into the spirit of the audience. The play in a modern theatre is not on the stage but in the stalls. Maeterlinck, Ibsen, Shaw, merely use the stage as a kind of magic-lantern or suggestion-centre for the real things that, out behind us in the dark, are happening in the audience.
THE CROWD'S IMAGINATION ABOUT THE FUTURE
I remember looking over with H.G. Wells one night some time ago a set of pictures or photographs of the future in America, which he had brought home with him. They were largely skyscrapers, big bridges, Niagaras, and things; and I could not help thinking, as I came home that night, how much more Mr. Wells had of the future of America in his own mind than he could possibly buy in his photographs. What funny little films they were after all, how faint and pathetic, how almost tragically dull, those pictures of the future of my country were! H.G. Wells himself, standing in his own doorway, was more like America, and more like the future of America, than the pictures were.
The future in America cannot be pictured. The only place it can be seen is in people's faces. Go out into the street, in New York, in Chicago, in San Francisco, in Seattle; look eagerly as you go into the faces of the men who pass, and you feel hundreds of years—the next hundred years—like a breath, swept past. America, with all its forty-story buildings, its little Play Niagaras, its great dumb Rockies, is the unseen country. It can only as yet be seen in people's eyes. Some days, flowing sublime and silent through our noisy streets, and through the vast panorama of our towers, I have heard the footfalls of the unborn, like sunshine around me.
This feeling America gives one in the streets is the real America. The solidity, the finality, the substantial fact in America, is the daily sense in the streets of the future. And it has seemed to me that this fact—whether one observes it in Americans in America, in Americans in England and in other nations—is what one might call, for lack of a better name, the American temperament in all peoples is the most outstanding typical and important fact with which our modern world and our philosophy about the world have now to reckon. Nothing can be seen as it really is if this amazing pervasive hourly sense of the future is left out of it.
All power is rapidly coming to be based on news—news about human nature, and about what is soon to be done by people. This news travels by express in boxes, by newspapers, by telephone, by word of mouth, and by wireless telegraph. Most of the wireless news is not only wireless, but it is in cipher—hence prophets, or men who have great sensitiveness; men whose souls and bodies are films for the future, platinum plates for the lights and shadows of events; men who are world-poets, sensitive to the air-waves and the light-waves of truth, to the faintest vibrations from To-morrow, or from the next hundred years hovering just ahead. As a matter of course, it is already coming to be true that the most practical man to-day is the prophet. In the older days, men used to look back for wisdom, and the practical man was the man who spoke from experience, and they crucified the prophet. But to-day, the practical man is the man who can make the best guess on to-morrow. The cross has gone by; at least, the cross is being pushed farther along. A prophet in business or politics gets a large salary now; he is a recognized force. Being a prophet is getting to be almost smug and respectable.
We live so in the future in our modern life, and our rewards are so great for men who can live in the future, that a man who can be a ten-year prophet, or a twenty-five-year prophet, like James J. Hill, is put on a pedestal, or rather is not wasted on a pedestal, and is made President of a railroad. He swings the country as if it were his hat. We see great cities tagging Wilbur Wright, and emperors clinging to the skirts of Count Zeppelin. We only crucify a prophet now if he is a hundred, or two hundred or five hundred years ahead. Even then, we would not be apt to crucify; we would merely not use him much, except the first twenty-five years of him.
The theory is no longer tenable that prophets must be necessarily crucified. As a matter of history, most prophets have been crucified by people; but it was not so much because of their prophecy as because their prophecy did not have any first twenty-five years in it. They were crucified because of a blank place or hiatus, not necessarily in their own minds, but at least in other people's. People would have been very glad to have their first twenty-five years' worth if they could have got it. It is this first twenty-five years, or joining-on part, which is most important in prophecy, and which has become our specialty in the Western World. One might say, in a general way, that the idea of having a first twenty-five years' section in truth for a prophet is a modern, an almost American, invention. We are temperamentally a country of the future, and think instinctively in futures; and perhaps it is not too much to say (considering all the faults that go with it for which we are criticized) that we have led the way in futures as a specialty, as a national habit of mind; and though with terrific blunders perhaps have been really the first people en masse to put being a prophet on a practical basis—that is, to supply the first twenty-five years' section, or the next-thing-to-do section to Truth, to put in a kind of coupling between this world and the next. This is what America is for, perhaps—to put in the coupling between this world and the next.
In the former days, the strength of a man, or of an estate, or a business, was its stability. In the new world, instead of stability, we have the idea of persistence, and power lies not so much in solid brittle foundation quality as in conductivity. Socially, men can be divided into conductors—men who connect powers—and non-conductors—men who do not; and power lies in persistence, in dogged flexibility, adaptableness, and impressionableness. The set conservative class of people, in three hundred years, are going to be the dreamers, inventors—those who demonstrate their capacity to dream true, and who hit shrewdly upon probabilities and trends and futures; and the power of a man is coming to be the power of observing atmospheres, of being sensitive to the intangible and the unknown. People are more likely to be crucified two thousand years from now for wanting to stay as they are. There used to be the inertia of rest; and now in its place, working reciprocally in a new astonishing equilibrium, we step up calmly on our vast moving sidewalk of civilization and swing into the inertia of motion.
The inertia of men, instead of being that of foundations, conventions, customs, facts, sogginess, and heaviness, is getting to be an inertia now toward the future, or the next-thing-to-do. Most of us can prove this by simply looking inward and taking a glimpse of our own consciousness. Let a man draw up before his own mind the contents of his own consciousness (if he has a motor consciousness), and we find that the future in his life looms up, both in its motives and its character, and takes about three quarters of the room of his consciousness; and when it is not looming up, it is woven into everything he does. Even if all the future were for was to help one understand the present and act this immediate moment as one should, nine tenths of the power of seeing a thing as it is, turns out to be one's power of seeing it as it is going to be. In any normal man's life, it is really the future and his sense of the future that make his present what it is.
History is losing its monopoly. It is only absorbed in men's minds—in the minds of those who are making more of it—in parts or rather in elements of all its parts.
The trouble with history seems to have been, thus far, that people have been under the illusion that history should be taken as a solid. They seem to think it should be taken in bulk. They take it, some of them, a solid hundred years of it or so, and gulp it down. The advantage of prophecy is that it cannot be taken as a solid by people who would take everything so if they could. Prophecy is protected. People have to breathe it, assimilate it, and get it into their circulation and make a solid out of it personally, and do it all themselves. It is this process which is making our modern men spiritual, interpretative, and powerful toward the present and toward the past, and which is giving a body and soul to knowledge, and is making knowledge lively and human, the kind of knowledge (when men get it) that makes things happen.
THE CROWD'S IMAGINATION ABOUT PEOPLE
I would like to propose, as a basis for the judgment of men and events, and as a basis for forecasting the next men and next events, and arriving at a vision of action, a Theory of the World.
Every man has one.
Every man one knows can be seen doing his work in this world on a great background, a kind of panorama or stage setting in his mind, made up of history and books, newspapers, people, and experiences, which might be called his Theory of the World.
It is his theory of the world which makes him what he is—his personal judgment or personal interpretation of what the world is like, and what works in it, and what does not work.
A man's theory as to why people do or do not do wrong is not a theory he might in some brief disinterested moment, possibly at luncheon, take time to discuss. His theory of what is wrong and of what is right, and of how they work, touches the efficiency with which he works intimately and permanently at every point every minute of his business day.
If he does not know, in the middle of his business day, what his theory of the world—of human nature—is, let him stop and find out.
A man's theory of the world is the skylight or manhole over his work. It becomes his hell or heaven—his day and night. He breathes his theory of the world and breathes his idea of the people in it; and everything he does may be made or may be marred by what, for instance, he thinks in the long-run about what I am saying now on this next page. Whether he is writing for people, or doing business with them over a counter, or launching books at them, everything he does will be steeped in what he believes about what I am saying now—it shall be the colour of the world to him, the sound or timbre of his voice—what he thinks or can make up his mind to think, of what I am saying—on this next page.
A DEMOCRATIC THEORY OF HUMAN NATURE
If the men who were crucifying Jesus could have been suddenly stopped at the last moment, and if they could have been kept perfectly still for ten minutes and could have thought about it, some of them would have refused to go on with the crucifixion when the ten minutes were over. If they could have been stopped for twenty minutes, there would have been still more of them who would have refused to have gone on with it. They would have stolen away and wondered about The Man in their hearts. There were others who were there who would have needed twenty days of being still and of thinking. There were some who would have had to have twenty years to see what they really wanted, in all the circumstances, to do.
People crucified Christ because they were in a hurry.
They did what they wanted to do at the moment. So far as we know, there were only two men who did what they would have wished they had done in twenty years: there was the thief on the other cross, who showed The Man he knew who He was; and there was the disciple John, who kept as close as he could. John perhaps was thinking of the past—of all the things that Christ had said to him; and the man on the other cross was thinking what was going to happen next. The other people who had to do with the crucifixion were all thinking about the thing they were doing at the moment and the way they felt about it. But the Man was Thinking, not of His suffering, but of the men in front of Him, and of what they could be thinking about, and what they would be thinking about afterward—in ten minutes, in twenty minutes, in twenty days, or in twenty years; and suddenly His heart was flooded with pity at what they would be thinking about afterward, and in the midst of the pain in His arms and the pain in His feet He made that great cry to Heaven: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!"
It is because Christians have never quite believed that The Man really meant this when He said it that they have persecuted the Jews for two thousand years. It is because they do not believe it now that they blame Mr. Rockefeller for doing what most of them twenty years ago would have done themselves. It was one of the hardest things to do and say that any one ever said in the world, and it was said at the hardest possible time to say it. It was strange that one almost swooning with pain should have said the gentlest-hearted and truest thing about human nature that has ever been said since the world began. It has seemed to me the most literal, and perhaps the most practical, truth that has been said since the world began.
It goes straight to the point about people. It gives one one's definition of goodness both for one's self and for others. It gives one a program for action.
Except in our more joyous and free moments, we assume that when people do us a wrong, they know what they are about. They look at the right thing to do and they look at the wrong one, and they choose the wrong one because they like it better. Nine people out of ten one meets in the streets coming out of church on Sunday morning, if one asked them the question plainly, "Do you ever do wrong when you know it is wrong?" would say that they did. If you ask them what a sin is, they will tell you that it is something you do when you know you ought not to do it.
But The Man Himself, in speaking of the most colossal sin that has ever been committed, seemed to think that when men committed a sin, it was because they did not really see what it was that they were doing. They did what they wanted to do at the moment. They did not do what they would have wished they had done in twenty years.
I would define goodness as doing what one would wish one had done in twenty years—twenty years, twenty days, twenty minutes, or twenty seconds, according to the time the action takes to get ripe.
It would be far more true and more to the point instead of scolding or admiring Mr. Rockefeller's skilled labour at getting too rich, to point out mildly that he has done something that in the long-run he would not have wanted to do; that he has lacked the social imagination for a great permanently successful business. His sin has consisted in his not taking pains to act accurately and permanently, in his not concentrating his mind and finding out what he really wanted to do. It would seem to be better and truer and more accurate in the tremendous crisis of our modern life to judge Mr. Rockefeller, not as monster of wickedness, but merely as an inefficient, morally underwitted man. There are things that he has not thought of that every one else has.
We see that in all those qualities that really go to make a great business house in a great nation John D. Rockefeller stands as the most colossal failure as yet that our American business life has produced. To point his incompetence out quietly and calmly and without scolding would seem to be the only fair way to deal with Mr. Rockefeller. He merely has not done what he would have wished he had done in twenty, well, possibly two hundred years, or as long a time as it would be necessary to allow for Mr. Rockefeller to see. The one thing that the world could accept gracefully from Mr. Rockefeller now would be the establishment of a great endowment of research and education to help other people to see in time how they can keep from being like him. If Mr. Rockefeller leads in this great work and sees it soon enough, perhaps he will stop suddenly being the world's most lonely man.
Many men have been lonely before in the presence of a few fellow human beings; but to be lonely with a whole nation—eighty million people; to feel a whole human race standing there outside of your life and softly wondering about you, staring at you in the showcase of your money, peering in as out of a thousand newspapers upon you as a kind of moral curiosity under glass, studying you as the man who has performed the most athletic feat of not seeing what he was really doing and how he really looked in all the world—this has been Mr. Rockefeller's experience. He has not done what he would wish he had done in twenty years.
Goodness may be defined as getting one's own attention, as boning down to find the best and most efficient way of finding out what one wants to do. Any man who will make adequate arrangements with himself at suitable times for getting his own attention will be good. Any one else from outside who can make such arrangements for him, such arrangements of expression or—of advertising goodness as to get his attention, will make him good.
DOING AS ONE WOULD WISH ONE HAD DONE IN TWENTY YEARS
If two great shops could stand side by side on the Main Street of the World, and all the vices could be put in the show window of one of them and all the virtues in the show windows the other, and all the people could go by all day, all night, and see the windowful of virtues as they were, and the windowful of vices as they were, all the world would be good in the morning.
It would stay good as long as people remembered how the windows looked. Or if they could not remember, all they would need to do, most people, when a vice tempted them would be to step out, look at it in its window a minute—possibly take a look too at the other window—and they would be good.
If a man were to take a fancy to any particular vice, and would take a step up to The Window, and take one firm look at it in The Window—see it lying there, its twenty years' evil, its twenty days', its twenty minutes' evil, all branching up out of it—he would be good.
When we see the wrong on one side and the right on the other and really see the right as vividly as we do the wrong, we do right automatically. Wild horses cannot drag a man away from doing right if he sees what the right is.
A little while ago in a New England city where the grade crossings had just been abolished, and where the railroad wound its way on a huge yellow sandbank through the most beautiful part of the town, a prominent, public-spirited citizen wrote a letter to the President of the Company suggesting that the railroad (for a comparatively small sum, which he mentioned) plant its sandbanks with trees and shrubs. A letter came the next day saying that the railroad was unwilling to do it. He might quite justifiably have been indignant and flung himself into print and made a little scene in the papers, which would have been the regular and conventional thing to do under the circumstances. But it occurred to him instead, being a man of a curious and practical mind, that possibly he did not know how to express himself to railroad presidents, and that his letter had not said what he meant. He thought he would try again, and see what would happen if he expressed himself more fully and adequately. He took for it this second time a box seven feet long. The box contained two long rolls of paper, one a picture by a landscape gardener of the embankment as it would look when planted with trees and with shrubs, and the other a photograph—a long panorama of the same embankment as it then stood with its two great broadsides of yellowness trailing through the city. The box containing the rolls was sent without comment and with photographs and estimates of cost on the bottom of the pictures.
A letter from the railroad came next day thanking him for his suggestion, and promising to have the embankment made into a park at once.
If God had arranged from the beginning, slides of the virtues, and had furnished every man with a stereopticon inside, and if all a man had to do at any particular time of temptation was to take out just the right slide or possibly try three or four up there on his canvas a second, no one would ever have any trouble in doing right.
* * * * *
It is not too much to say that this way of looking at evil and good—at the latent capacities of evil and good in men, if a man once believes it, and if a man once practises it as a part of his daily practical interpretation and mastery of men, will soon put a new face for him on nearly every great human problem with which he finds his time confronted. We shall watch the men in the world about us—each for their little day—trying their funny, pathetic, curious little moral experiments, and we shall see the men—all of the men and all of the good and the evil in the men this moment—daily before our eyes working out with an implacable hopefulness the fate of the world. We know that, in spite of self-deceived syndicalism and self-deceived trusts, in spite of coal strikes and all the vain, comic little troops of warships around the earth, peace and righteousness in a vast overtone are singing toward us.
We are not only going to have new and better motives in our modern men, but the new and better motives are going to be thrust upon us. Every man who reads these pages is having, at the present moment, motives in his life which he would not have been capable of at first. Why should not a human race have motives which it was not capable of at first? If one takes up two or three motives of one's own—the small motives and the large ones—and holds them up in one's hand and looks at them quietly from the point of view of what one would wish one had done in twenty years, there is scarcely one of us who would choose the small ones. People who are really modern, that is, who look beyond themselves in what they do to others, who live their lives as one might say six people away, or sixty people farther out from themselves, or sixty million people farther, are becoming more common everywhere; and people who look beyond the moment in what they do to another day, who are getting more and more to live their lives twenty years ahead, and to have motives that will last twenty years, are driven to better and more permanent motives.
Thinking of more people when we act for ourselves means ethical consciousness or goodness, and better and more permanent motives.
In the last analysis, the men who permanently succeed in business will have to see farther than the other people do.
Men like John D. Rockefeller, who have made failures of their lives, and have not been able to conduct a business so as to keep it out of the courts, have failed because they have had imagination about Things but not imagination about people.
The man who is just at hand will not do over again what Mr. Rockefeller has done. He will at least have made some advance in imagination over Rockefeller.
Mr. Rockefeller became rich by cooeperating with other rich men to exploit the public. The man of the immediate future is going to get rich, as rich as he cares to be, by cooeperating not merely with his competitors—which is as far as Rockefeller got—but by cooeperating with the people.
It is a mere matter of social imagination, of seeing what succeeds most permanently, and honourably, of putting what has been called "goodness" and what is going to be called "Business" together. In other words, social imagination is going to make a man gravitate toward mutual interest or cooeperation, which is the new and inevitable level of efficiency and success in business. Success is being transferred from men of millionaire genius to men of social and human genius. The men who are going to compete most successfully in modern competitive business are competing by knowing how to cooeperate better than their competitors do. Employers, employees, consumers, partners, become irresistible by cooeperation; only employers, employees, consumers, and partners who cooeperate better than they do can hope to compete with them. The Trusts have already crowded out many small rivals because, while their cooeperation has been one-sided, they have cooeperated with more people than their rivals could; and the good Trusts, in the same way are going to crowd out the bad Trusts, because the good ones will know how to cooeperate with more people than the bad ones do. They will have the human genius to see how they can cooeperate with the people instead of against them.
They are going to invent ways of winning and keeping the confidence of the people, of taking to this end a smaller and more just share of profits. And they are going to gain their leadership through the wisdom and power that goes with their money, and not through the money itself. It is the spiritual power of their money that is going to count; and wealth, instead of being a millionaire disease, is going to become a great social energy in democracy. We are going to let men be rich because they represent us, not because they hold us up, and because the hold-up has gone by, that is: getting all one can, and service—getting what we have earned—has come in.
The new kind and new size of politician will win his power by his faith, like U. Ren of Oregon; the new kind and new size of editor is going to hire with brains a millionaire to help him run his paper; and the new kind and new size of author, instead of tagging a publisher, will be paid royalties for supplying him with new ideas and creating for him new publics. Power in modern life is to be light and heat and motion, and not a gift of being heavy and solid. Even Money shall lose its inertia.
We are in this way being driven into having new kinds and new sizes of men; and some of them will be rich ones, and some of them will be poor, and no one will care. We will simply look at the man and at what size he is.
If our preachers are not saving us, our business men will. Sometimes one suspects that the reason goodness is not more popular in modern life is that it has been taken hold of the wrong way. Perhaps when we stop teasing people, and take goodness seriously and calmly, and see that goodness is essentially imagination, that it is brains, that it is thinking down through to what one really wants, goodness will begin to be more coveted. Except among people with almost no brains or imagination at all, it will be popular.
Perhaps it is unnecessary to say that these things that I have been saying, or trying to say, about the flexibility and the potentiality of the human race in its present crisis, in its present struggle to maintain and add to its glory on the earth, are all beyond the range of possibility, and the present strength of manhood. But I can only hope that these objections that people make will turn out like mine. I have been making objections all my life, as all idealists must—only to watch with dismay and joy the old-time, happy obdurate way objections have of going by.
People began by saying they would never use automobiles because they were so noisy and ill-odoured and ugly. Presto! The automobile becomes silent and shapes itself in lines of beauty.
Some of us had decided against balloons. "Even if the balloon succeeds," we said, "there will be no way of going just where and when you want to." And then, presto! regular channels of wind are discovered, and the balloon goes on.
"Aeroplanes," we said, "may be successful, but the more successful they are, the more dangerous, and the more danger there will be of collisions—collisions in the dark and up in the great sky at night." And, presto! man invents the wireless telegraph, and the entire sky can be full of whispers telling every airship where all the other airships are.
Some of us have decided that we will never have anything to do with monopoly. Presto! there is suddenly evolved an entirely new type of monopolist—the man who can be rich and good; the millionaire who has invented a monopoly that serves the owners, the producers and employees, the distributors and the consumers alike. An American railway President has been saying lately that America would not have enough to eat in 2050, but it would not do to try to prove this just yet. Some one, almost any day, will invent a food that is as highly concentrated as dynamite, and the whole food supply of New York—who knows?—shall be carried around in one railway President's vest pocket.
NEW KINDS AND NEW SIZES OF MEN
It would be hard to overestimate the weariness and cynicism and despair that have been caused in the world by its more recklessly hopeful men—the men who plump down happily anywhere and hope, the optimists who are merely slovenly in their minds about evil. But the optimism that consists in putting evil facts up into a kind of outdoors in our minds and in giving them room to exercise in our thoughts and feelings, the optimism that consists in having one's brain move vigorously through disagreeable facts—organize them into the other facts with which they belong and with which they work—is worthy of consideration. Many of us, who have tried optimism and pessimism both, have noticed certain things.
When one is being pessimistic, one almost always has the feeling of being rather clever. It is forced upon one a little, of course, having all those other people about one stodgily standing up for people and not really seeing through them!
So, though one ought not to, one does feel a little superior—even with the best intentions—when one is being discouraged.
But the trouble with pessimism is that it is only at the moment when one is having it that one really enjoys it, or feels in this way about it.
Perhaps I should not undertake to speak for others, and should only speak for myself; but I can only bear witness, for one, that every time in my life that I have broken through the surface a little, and seen through to the evil, and found myself suddenly and astutely discouraged, I have found afterward that all I had to do was to see the same thing a little farther over, set it in the light beyond it, and look at it in larger or more full relations, and I was no longer astutely discouraged.
So I have come to believe slowly and grimly that feeling discouraged about the world is not quite clever. I have noticed it, too, in watching other people—men I know. If I could take all the men I know who are living and acting as if they believed big things about people to-day, men who are daily taking for granted great things in human nature, and put them in one group by themselves all together, and if I could then take all the men I know who are taking little things for granted in one another and in human nature, I do not believe very many people would find it hard to tell which group would be more clever. Possibly the reason more of us do not spend more time in being hopeful about the world is that it takes more brains usually than we happen to have at the moment. Hope may be said to be an act of the brain in which it sees facts in relations large enough to see what they are for, an act in which it insists in a given case upon giving the facts room enough to turn around and to relate themselves to one another, and settle down where they belong in one's mind, the way they would in real time.
So now, at last, Gentle Reader, having looked back and having looked forward, I know the way I am going.
I am going to hope.
It is the only way to see through things. The only way to dare to see through ones' self; the only way to see through other people and to see past them, and to see with them and for them—is to hope.
So I am putting the challenge to the reader, in this book, as I have put it to myself.
There are four questions with which day by day we stand face to face:
1. Does human nature change?
2. Does it change toward a larger and longer vision?
3. Will not a larger and longer vision mean new kinds and new sizes of men?
4. Will not new sizes of men make new-sized ethics practical and make a new world?
Everything depends for every man upon this planet, at this moment, on how he decides these questions. If he says Yes, he will live one kind of life, he will live up to his world. If he says No, he will have a mean world, smaller-minded than he is himself, and he will live down to it.
This is what the common run of men about us—the men of less creative type in literature, in business, and in politics—are doing. They do not believe human nature is changing. They are living down to a world that is going by. They are living down to a world that is smaller than they are themselves. They are trying to make others do it. They answer the question "Does human nature change?" by "No!" Wilbur Wright, when he flew around over the heads of the people in New York a few years ago, a black speck above a whole city with its heads up, answered "Yes!"
But the real importance of the flying machine has not stopped short with a little delicate, graceful thing like walking on the air instead of the ground.
The big and really revolutionary thing about Wilbur Wright's flying was that he changed the minds of the whole human race in a few minutes about one thing. There was one particular thing that for forty thousand years they knew they could not do. And now they knew they could.
It naturally follows—and it lies in the mind of every man who lives—that there must be other particular things. And as nine men out of ten are in business, most of these particular things are going to be done in business.
The Wilbur Wright spirit is catching.
It is as if a Lid had been lifted off the world.
One sees everywhere business men going about the street expecting new things of themselves. They expect things of the very ground, and of the air, and of one another they had not dared expect before.
The other day in a New England city I saw a man, who had been the president of an Electric Light Company for twenty years, who had invented a public service corporation that worked. Since he took office and dictated the policy of the Company, every single overture for more expensive equipment in the electric lighting of the city has come from the Company, and every single overture for reducing the rate to consumers has come from the company.
The consumption of electricity in the city is the largest per capita in the world, and the rate is the cheapest in the country; and, incidentally, the Company so trusts the people that they let them have electricity without metres, and the people so trust the Company that they save its electricity as they would their own.
Even the man without a conscience, who would be mean if he could, is brought to terms, and knows that if he refrains from leaving his lights burning all night when he goes to bed he is not merely saving the Company's electricity but his own. He knows that he is reducing his own and everybody's price for electricity, and not merely increasing the profits of the Company.
It makes another kind of man slowly out of thousands of men every day, every night, turning on and turning off their lights.
The Electric Light Company has come to have a daily, an almost hourly, influence on the way men do business and go about their work in that city—the motives and assumptions with which they bargain with one another—that might be envied by twenty churches.
All that had happened was that a man with a powerful, quietly wilful personality—the kind that went on crusades and took cities in other ages—had appeared at last, and proposed to do the same sort of thing in business. He proposed to express his soul, just as it was, in business the way other people had expressed theirs for a few hundred years in poetry or more easy and conventional ways.
If he could not have made the electric light business say the things about people and about himself that he liked and that he believed, he would have had to make some other business say them.
One of the things he had most wanted to say and prove in business was the economic value of being human, the enormous business saving that could be effected by being believed in.
He preferred being believed in himself, in business, and he knew other people would prefer it; and he was sure that if, as people said, "being believed in did not pay," it must be because ways of inventing faith in people, the technique of trust, had not been invented.
He found himself invited to take charge of the Electric Light Company at a time when it was insolvent and in disgrace with the people, and he took the Corporation in hand on the specific understanding that he should be allowed to put his soul into it, that he should be allowed his own way for three years—in believing in people, and in inventing ways of getting believed in as much as he liked.
The last time I saw him, though he is old and nearly blind, and while as he talked there lay a darkness on his eyes, there was a great light in his face.
He had besieged a city with the shrewdness of his faith, and conquered a hundred thousand men by believing in them more than they could.
By believing in them shrewdly, and by thinking out ways of expressing that belief, he had invented a Corporation—a Public Service Corporation—that had a soul, and consequently worked.
LETTING THE CROWDS BE GOOD
TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN
They stay not in their hold These stokers, Stooping to hell To feed a ship. Below the ocean floors. Before their awful doors Bathed in flame, I hear their human lives Drip—drip.
Through the lolling aisles of comrades In and out of sleep, Troops of faces To and fro of happy feet, They haunt my eyes. Their murky faces beckon me From the spaces of the coolness of the sea Their fitful bodies away against the skies.
SPEAKING AS ONE OF THE CROWD
It is a little awkward to say what I am going to say now.
Probably it will be still more awkward afterward.
But I find as I go up and down the world and look in the faces of the crowds in it, that it is true, and I can only tell as it is.
I want to be good.
And I do not want to go up on a mountain to do it, or to slink off and live all alone on an island in the sea.
I go a step further.
I believe that the crowds want to be good.
But I cannot prove that people want to be good in crowds, and so for the sake of the argument, and to make the case as simple as possible, I am going to give up speaking for crowds, and speak for myself as one member of the crowd and for Lim. Lim and I (and Lim is a business man and not a mere author) have had long talks in which we have confided to each other what we think this world, in spite of appearances, is really like, and we have come to a kind of provisional program and to a definite agreement on our two main points.
1. We want to be good.
2. We want other people to be good, partly as a matter of convenience for us, partly for morally aesthetic reasons, and partly because we want to be in a kind of world where what is good in us works.
The next point in our confession follows from this. It is an awkward and exposed thing to say out loud to people in general, but
3. Lim and I want to make over the earth.
4. Sitting down grimly by ourselves, all alone, and believing in a world hard, with our eyes shut, does not interest us. It is this particular planet just as it is that interests us, in its present hopeful, squirming state.
It does not seem to us to the point just now to conceive some brand new, clean, slick planet up in space, with crowds of perfect and convenient people on it, and then expect to lay it down in the night like a great, soft, beautiful dew or ideal on this one. We want to take this heavy, inconvenient, cumbersome, real planet that we have, and see what can be done with it, and by the people on it, what can be done by these same people, whose signs one goes by down the street, with Smith & Smith, Gowns, with Clapp & Clapp, Butchers, with W.H. Riley & Co., Plumbers and Gas Fitters, and with things that real people are really doing.
The things that real people are really doing, when one thinks of it, are Soap, Tooth-brushes, Subsoil Pipes, Wall Papers, Razors, Mattresses, Suspenders, Tiles, Shoes, Pots, and Kettles. Of course the first thing that happened to us, to Lim and to me (as any one might guess, in a little quiet job like making over the earth), was that we found we had to begin with ourselves.
We are obliged to admit that, as a matter of fact, we began, owing to circumstances, in a kind of rudimentary way with the idea of getting people to take up goodness by talking about it.
But we are reformed preachers now. We seldom backslide into talking to people about goodness.
We have made up our minds to lie low and keep still and show them some.
Of course one ought to have some of one's own to show. But the trouble always is, if it is really good, one is sure not to know it, or at least one does not know which it is. The best we can do with goodness, some of us, if we want it to show more quickly or to hurry people along in goodness more, is to show them other people's.
I sometimes think that if everybody in the world could know my plumber or pay a bill to him, the world would soon begin slowly but surely to be a very different place.
My plumber is a genius.
IS IT WRONG FOR GOOD PEOPLE TO BE EFFICIENT?
Perhaps it will seem a pity to spoil a book—one that might have been really rather interesting—by putting the word "goodness" down flatly in this way in the middle of it.
And in a book which deals with crowds, too, and with business.
I would not yield first place to any one in being tired of the word. I think, for one, that unless there is something we can do to it, and something we can do to it now, it had better be dropped.
But I have sometimes discovered when I had thought I was tired of a word, that what I was really tired of was somebody who was using it.
I do not mind it when my plumber uses it. I have heard him use it (and swearing softly, I regret to say) when it affected me like a Hymn Tune.
And there is Non, too.
I first made Non's acquaintance as our train pulled out of New York, and we found ourselves going down together on Friday afternoon to spend Sunday with M—— in North Carolina. The first thing he said was, when we were seated in the Pullman comfortably watching that big, still world under glass roll by outside, that he had broken an engagement with his wife to come. She was giving a Tea, he said, that afternoon, and he had faithfully promised to be there. But a weekend in North Carolina appealed to him, and afternoon tea—well, he explained to me, crossing his legs and beaming at me all over as if he were a whole genial, successful afternoon tea all by himself—afternoon tea did not appeal to him.
He thought probably he was a Non-Gregarious Person.
As he was the gusto of our little party and fairly reeked with sociability, and was in a kind of orgy of gregariousness every minute all the way to Wilmington (even when he was asleep we heard from him), we called him the Non-Gregarious Person, and every time he piled on one more story, we reminded him how non-gregarious he was. We called him Non-Gregarious all the way after that—Non for short.
This is the way I became acquainted with Non. It has been Non ever since.
* * * * *
I found in the course of the next three days that when Non was not being the life of the party or the party did not need any more life for a while, and we had gone off by ourselves, he became, like most people who let themselves go, a very serious person. When he talked about his business, he was even religious. Not that he had any particular vocabulary for being religious, but there was something about him when he spoke of business—his own business—that almost startled me at first. He always seemed to be regarding his business when he spoke of it as being, for all practical purposes, a kind of little religion by itself.
Now Non is a builder or contractor.
* * * * *
For many years now the best way to make a pessimist or a confirmed infidel out of anybody has been to get him to build a house. No better arrangement for not believing in more people, and for not believing in more kinds of people at once and for life, has ever been invented probably than building a house. No man has been educated, or has been really tested in this world, until he has built a house. I submit this proposition to anybody who has tried it, or to any one who is going to try it. There is not a single kind or type of man who sooner or later will not build himself, and nearly everything that is the matter with him, into your house. The house becomes a kind of miniature model (such as they have in expositions) of what is the matter with people. You enter the door, you walk inside and brood over them. Everything you come upon, from the white cellar floor to the timbers you bump your head on in the roof, reminds you of something or of rows of people and of what is the matter with them. It is the new houses that are haunted now. Any man who is sensitive to houses and to people and who would sit down in his house when it is finished and look about in it seriously, and think of all the people that have been built, in solid wood and stone, into it, would get up softly and steal out of it, out of the front door of it, and never enter that house again.
This is what Non saw. He saw how people felt about their houses, and how they lived in them helplessly and angrily year after year, and felt hateful about the world.
I gradually drew out of him the way he felt about it. I found he was not as good as some people are at talking about himself, but the subject was interesting. He began his career building houses for people, as nearly every one does. The general idea is that everybody is expected to exact commissions from everybody else, and the owner is expected to pay each man his own commission and then pay all the commissions that each man has charged the other man. Every house that got built in this way seemed to be a kind of network or conspiracy of not doing as you would be done by. Non did not see any way out at first, just for one man. He merely noticed how things were going, and he noticed that nearly every person that he had dealings with, from the bottom to the top of the house, seemed to make him feel that he either was, or would be, or ought to be, a grafter. He could not so much as look at a house he had built, through the trees when he was going by, without wishing he could be a better man, and studying on how it could be managed. His own first houses made him see things. They proved to be the making of him, and if similar houses have not made similar men, it is their fault. It might not be reassuring to the men who are now living in these first houses to dwell too much on this (and I might say he did not build them alone), but it seems to be necessary to bring out the most striking thing about Non in his first stage as a business man, viz.: He hated his business. He made up his mind he either would make the business the kind of business he liked or get out of it. I did not gather from the way he talked about it that he had any idea of being an uplifter. He merely had, apparently, an obstinate, doggedly comfortable idea about himself, and about what a thing would have to be, in this world, if he was connected with it. He proposed to enjoy his business. He was spending most of his time at it.
Other people have had this same happy thought, but they seem to manage to keep on being patient. Non could not fall back on being patient, and it made him think harder.
The first thing he thought of was that doing his business as he thought he ought to, if he once worked his idea out, and worked it down through and organized it, might pay. He almost had the belief that people might pay a man a little extra, perhaps, for enjoying his business. It cannot be said that he believed this immediately. He merely wanted to, and worked toward it, and merely contrived new shrewd ways at first of being able to afford it. Gradually he began to notice that the more he enjoyed his business, the more he enjoyed it with his whole soul and body, enjoyed it down to the very toes of his conscience, the more people there were who stepped into his office and wanted him to enjoy his business on their houses. It was what they had been looking for for years—for some builder who was really enjoying his business. And the more he enjoyed his business in his own particular way—that of building a house for a man in less time than he said he would, and for less money, not infrequently sending him a check at the end of it—the more his business grew.
I do not know that there would be any special harm in speaking of Non's idea—of just doing as you would be done by—in more moral or religious language, but it is not necessary. And I find I take an almost religious joy in looking at the Golden Rule at last as a plain business proposition. All that happened was that Non was original, saw something that everybody thought they knew, and acted as if it were so. Theoretically one would not have said that it would be original to take an old platitudinous law like the law of supply and demand, and act as if it were so; but it was. At the time Non was beginning his career there was nothing in the building-market people found harder to hire than honesty. Here was something, he saw at last, that thousands of busy and important men who did not have time to be detectives, wanted. There did not seem to be any one very actively supplying the demand. A big market, a small supply, and almost no competition. Non stepped in and proposed to represent a man's interest who is building a house as literally as the man would represent his interests himself, if he knew all about houses. Everything has followed from this. What Non's business is now, when a man is building a house, is to step quietly into the man's shoes, let him put on another pair, and go about his business. It is not necessary to go into the details. Any reader who has ever built a house knows the details. Just take them and turn them around.
What those of us who know Non best like about him is that he is a plain business man, and that he has acted in this particular matter without any fine moral frills or remarks. He has done the thing because he liked it and believed in it.
But the most efficient thing to me about Non is not the way he is making money out of saving money for other people, but the way the fact that he can do it makes people feel about the world. Whenever I have a little space of discouragement or of impatience about the world because it does not hurry more, I fall to thinking of Non. "Perhaps next week"—I say to myself cheerfully—"I can go down to New York and slip into Non's office and get the latest news as to how religion is getting on. Or he will take me out with him to lunch, and I will stop scolding or idealizing, and we will get down to business, and I will take a good long look into that steady-lighted, unsentimental face of his while he tells me across the little corner table at Delmonico's for three hours how shrewd the Golden Rule is, and how it works." Sometimes when I have just been in New York, and have come home and am sitting in my still study, with the big idle mountain just outside, and the great meadow and all the world, like some great, calm gentle spirit or picture of itself, lying out there about me, and I fall to thinking of Non, and of how he is working in wood and stone inside of people's houses, and inside of their lives day after day, and of how he is touching people at a thousand points all the weeks, being a writer, making lights and shadows and little visions of words fall together just so, seems, suddenly a very trivial occupation—like amusing one's self with a pretty little safe kaleidoscope, holding it up, aiming it and shaking softly one's coloured bits of phrases at a world! Of course, it need not be so. But there are moments when I think of Non when it seems so.
In our regular Sunday religion we do not seem to be quite at our best just now.
At least (perhaps I should speak for one) I know I am not.
Being a saint of late is getting to be a kind of homely, modest, informal, almost menial everyday thing. It makes one more hopeful about religion. Perhaps people who once get the habit, and who are being good all the week, can even be good on Sunday.
There are many ways of resting or leaning back upon one's instincts and getting over to one's religion or perspective about the world. Mount Tom (which is in my front yard, in Massachusetts) helps sometimes—with a single look.
When I go down to New York, I look at the Metropolitan Tower, the Pennsylvania Station, the McAdoo Tunnels, and at Non.
If I wanted to make anybody religious, I would try to get him to work in Non's office, or work with anybody who ever worked with him, or who ever saw him; or I would have him live in a house built by him, or pay a bill made out by him.
It has seemed to me that his succeeding and making himself succeed in this way is a great spiritual adventure, a pure religion, a difficult, fresh, and stupendous religion.
Now these many days have I watched him going up and down through all the empty reputations, the unmeaning noises of the world, living his life like some low, old-fashioned, modest Hymn Tune he keeps whistling—and I have seen him in fear, and in danger, and in gladness being shrewder and shrewder for God, now grimly, now radiantly, hour by hour, day by day getting rich with the Holy Ghost!
IS IT WRONG FOR GOOD PEOPLE TO BE INTERESTING?
People are acquiring automobiles, Oriental rugs, five-hundred-dollar gowns, more rapidly just now than they are goodness, because advertisements in this present generation are more readable than sermons, and because the shop windows on Fifth Avenue can attract more attention than the churches. The shop windows make people covetous.
If the goodness that one sees, hears about, or goes by does not make other people covetous, does not make them wish they had it or some just like it, it must be because there is something the matter with it, or something the matter with the way it is displayed.
If the church shop windows, for instance, were to make displays of goodness up and down the great Moral Fifth Avenue of the world—well, one does not know; but there are some of us who would rather expect to see the Goodness Display in the windows consisting largely of Things People Ought Not to Want.
There would be rows and tiers of Not-Things piled up—Things for People Not to Be, and Things for People Not to Do.
Goodness displayed in this way is not interesting. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the word Goodness spoils a thing for people—so many people—when it is allowed in it.
Possibly it is because we are apt to think of the good people, and of the people who are being good, as largely keeping from doing something, or as keeping other people from doing something—as negative. Their goodness seems to consist in being morally accurate, and in being very particular just in time, and in a kind of general holding in.
We do not naturally or off-hand—any of us—think of goodness as having much of a lunge to it. It is tired-looking and discouraged, and pulls back kindly and gently. Or it teases and says, "Please"—God knows how helpless it is, and I for one am frank to say that, as far as I have observed, He has not been paying very much attention to good people of late.
I do not believe I am alone in this. There must be thousands of others who have this same half-guilty, half-defiant feeling of suspiciousness toward what people seem to think should be called goodness. Not that we say anything. We merely keep wondering—we cannot see what it is, exactly, about goodness that should make it so depressing.