The kind of beauty that can be indefinitely multiplied is the kind of beauty in which, in the nature of things, we have made our most characteristic and most important progress. Our most considerable success in pictures could not be otherwise than in black and white. Black-and-white art is printing-press art; and art that can be produced in endless copies, that can be subscribed for by crowds, finds an extraordinary demand, and artists have applied themselves to supplying it. All the improvements, moving on through the use of wood and steel and copper, and the process of etching, to the photogravure, the lithograph, the moving picture, and the latest photograph in colour, whatever else may be said of them from the point of view of Titian or Michael Angelo, constitute a most amazing and triumphant advance from the point of view of making art a democracy, of making the rare and the beautiful minister day and night to crowds. The fact that the mechanical arts are so prominent in their relation to the fine arts may not seem to argue a high ideal amongst us; but as the mechanical arts are the body of beauty, and the fine arts are the soul of it, it is a necessary part of the ideal to keep body and soul together until we can do better. Mourning with Ruskin is not so much to the point as going to work with William Morris. If we have deeper feelings about wall-papers than we have about other things, it is going to the root of the matter to begin with wall-papers, to make machinery say something as beautiful as possible, inasmuch as it is bound to have, for a long time at least, about all the say there is. The photograph does not go about the world doing Murillos everywhere by pressing a button, but the camera habit is doing more in the way of steady daily hydraulic lifting of great masses of men to where they enjoy beauty in the world than Leonardo da Vinci would have dared to dream in his far-off day; and Leonardo's pictures, thanks to the same photograph, and everybody's pictures, films of paper, countless spirits of themselves, pass around the world to every home in Christendom. The printing press made literature a democracy, and machinery is making all the arts democracies. The symphony piano, an invention for making vast numbers of people who can play only a few very poor things play very poorly a great many good ones, is a consummate instance both of the limitation and the value of our contemporary tendency in the arts. The pipe organ, though on a much higher plane, is an equally characteristic contrivance making it possible for a man to be a complete orchestra and a conductor all by himself, playing on a crowd of instruments, to a crowd of people, with two hands and one pair of feet. It is a crowd invention. The orchestra—a most distinctively modern institution, a kind of republic of sound, the unseen spirit of the many in one—is the sublimest expression yet attained of the crowd music, which is, and must be, the supreme music of this modern day, the symphony. Richard Wagner comes to his triumph because his music is the voice of multitudes. The opera, a crowd of sounds accompanied by a crowd of sights, presented by one crowd of people on the stage to another crowd of people in the galleries, stands for the same tendency in art that the syndicate stands for in commerce. It is syndicate music; and in proportion as a musical composition in this present day is an aggregation of multitudinous moods, in proportion as it is suggestive, complex, paradoxical, the way a crowd is complex, suggestive, and paradoxical—provided it be wrought at the same time into some vast and splendid unity—just in this proportion is it modern music. It gives itself to the counterpoints of the spirit, the passion of variety in modern life. The legacy of all the ages, is it not descended upon us?—the spirit of a thousand nations? All our arts are thousand-nation arts, shadows and echoes of dead worlds playing upon our own. Italian music, out of its feudal kingdoms, comes to us as essentially solo music—melody; and the civilization of Greece, being a civilization of heroes, individuals, comes to us in its noble array with its solo arts, its striding heroes everywhere in front of all, and with nothing nearer to the people in it than the Greek Chorus, which, out of limbo, pale and featureless across all ages, sounds to us as the first far faint coming of the crowd to the arts of this groping world. Modern art, inheriting each of these and each of all things, is revealed to us as the struggle to express all things at once. Democracy is democracy for this very reason, and for no other: that all things may be expressed at once in it, and that all things may be given a chance to be expressed at once in it. Being a race of hero-worshippers, the Greeks said the best, perhaps, what could be said in sculpture; but the marbles and bronzes of a democracy, having average men for subjects, and being done by average men, are average marbles and bronzes. We express what we have. We are in a transition stage. It is not without its significance, however, that we have perfected the plaster cast—the establishment of democracy among statues, and mobs of Greek gods mingling with the people can be seen almost any day in every considerable city of the world. The same principle is working itself out in our architecture. It is idle to contend against the principle. The way out is the way through. However eagerly we gaze at Parthenons on their ruined hills, if thirty-one-story blocks are in our souls thirty-one-story blocks will be our masterpieces, whether we like it or not. They will be our masterpieces because they tell the truth about us; and while truth may not be beautiful, it is the thing that must be told first before beauty can begin. The beauty we are to have shall only be worked out from the truth we have. Living as we do in a new era, not to see that the thirty-one-story block is the expression of a new truth is to turn ourselves away from the one way that beauty can ever be found by men, in this era or in any other.
What is it that the thirty-one-story block is trying to say about us? The thirty-one-story block is the masterpiece of mass, of immensity, of numbers; with its 2427 windows and its 779 offices, and its crowds of lives piled upon lives, it is expressing the one supreme and characteristic thing that is taking place in the era in which we live. The city is the main fact that modern civilization stands for, and crowding is the logical architectural form of the city idea. The thirty-one-story block is the statue of a crowd. It stands for a spiritual fact, and it will never be beautiful until that fact is beautiful. The only way to make the thirty-one-story block beautiful (the crowd expressed by the crowd) is to make the crowd beautiful. The most artistic, the only artistic, thing the world can do next is to make the crowd beautiful.
The typical city blocks, with their garrets in the lower stories of the sky, were not possible in the ancient world, because steel had not been invented; and the invention of steel, which is not the least of our triumphs in the mechanical arts, is in many ways the most characteristic. Steel is republican for stone. Putting whole quarries into a single girder, it makes room for crowds; and what is more significant than this, inasmuch as the steel pillar is an invention that makes it possible to put floors up first, and build the walls around the floors, instead of putting the walls up first and supporting the floors upon the walls, as in the ancient world, it has come to pass that the modern world being the ancient world turned upside down, modern architecture is ancient architecture turned inside out, a symbol of many things. The ancient world was a wall of individuals, supporting floor after floor and stage after stage of society, from the lowest to the highest; and it is a typical fact in this modern democratic world that it grows from the inside, and that it supports itself from the inside. When the mass in the centre has been finished, an ornamental stone facing of great individuals will be built around it and supported by it, and the work will be considered done.
The modern spirit has much to boast of in its mechanical arts, and in its fine arts almost nothing, because the mechanical arts are studying what men are needing to-day, and the fine arts are studying what the Greeks needed three thousand years ago. To be a real classic is, first, to be a contemporary of one's own time; second, to be a contemporary of one's own time so deeply and widely as to be a contemporary of all time. The true Greek is a man who is doing with his own age what the Greeks did with theirs, bringing all ages to bear upon it, and interpreting it. As long as the fine arts miss the fundamental principle of this present age—the crowd principle, and the mechanical arts do not, the mechanical arts are bound to have their way with us. And it were vastly better that they should. Sincere and straightforward mechanical arts are not only more beautiful than affected fine ones, but they are more to the point: they are the one sure sign we have of where we are going to be beautiful next. It is impossible to love the fine arts in the year 1913 without studying the mechanical ones; without finding one's self looking for artistic material in the things that people are using, and that they are obliged to use. The determining law of a thing of beauty being, in the nature of things, what it is for, the very essence of the classic attitude in a utilitarian age is to make the beautiful follow the useful and inspire the useful with its spirit. The fine art of the next thousand years shall be the transfiguring of the mechanical arts. The modern hotel, having been made necessary by great natural forces in modern life, and having been made possible by new mechanical arts, now puts itself forward as the next great opportunity of the fine arts. One of the characteristic achievements of the immediate future shall be the twentieth-century Parthenon—a Parthenon not of the great and of the few and of the gods, but of the great many, where, through mighty corridors, day and night, democracy wanders and sleeps and chatters and is sad and lives and dies, streets rumbling below. The hotel—the crowd fireside—being more than any other one thing, perhaps, the thing that this civilization is about, the token of what it loves and of how it lives, is bound to be a masterpiece sooner or later that shall express democracy. The hotel rotunda, the parlour for multitudes, is bound to be made beautiful in ways we do not guess. Why should we guess? Multitudes have never wanted parlours before. The idea of a parlour has been to get out of a multitude. All the inevitable problems that come of having a whole city of families live in one house have yet to be solved by the fine arts as well as by the mechanical ones. We have barely begun. The time is bound to come when the radiator, the crowd's fireplace-in-a-pipe, shall be made beautiful; and when the electric light shall be taught the secret of the candle; and when the especial problem of modern life—of how to make two rooms as good as twelve—shall be mastered aesthetically as well as mathematically; and when even the piano-folding, bed-bookcase-toilet-stand-writing-desk—a crowd invention for living in a crowd—shall either take beauty to itself or lead to beauty that serves the same end.
While for the time being it seems to be true that the fine arts are looking to the past, the mechanical arts are producing conditions in the future that will bring the fine arts to terms, whether they want to be brought to terms or not. The mechanical arts hold the situation in their hands. It is decreed that people who cannot begin by making the things they use beautiful shall be allowed no beauty in other things. We may wish that Parthenons and cathedrals were within our souls; but what the cathedral said of an age that had the cathedral mood, that had a cathedral civilization and thrones and popes in it, we are bound to say in some stupendous fashion of our own—something which, when it is built at last, will be left worshipping upon the ground beneath the sky when we are dead, as a memorial that we too have lived. The great cathedrals, with the feet of the huddled and dreary poor upon their floors, and saints and heroes shining on their pillars, and priests behind the chancel with God to themselves, and the vast and vacant nave, symbol of the heaven glimmering above that few could reach—it is not to these that we shall look to get ourselves said to the nations that are now unborn; rather, though it be strange to say it, we shall look to something like the ocean steamship—cathedral of this huge unresting modern world—under the wide heaven, on the infinite seas, with spars for towers and the empty nave reversed filled with human beings' souls—the cathedral of crowds hurrying to crowds. There are hundreds of them throbbing and gleaming in the night—this very moment—lonely cities in the hollow of the stars, bringing together the nations of the earth.
When the spirit of our modern way of living, the idea in it, the bare facts about our modern human nature have been noticed at last by our modern artists, masterpieces shall come to us out of every great and living activity in our lives. Art shall tell the things these lives are about. When this is once realized in America as it was in Greece, the fine arts shall cover the other arts as the waters cover the sea. The Brooklyn Bridge, swinging its web for immortal souls across sky and sea, comes nearer to being a work of art than almost anything we possess to-day, because it tells the truth, because it is the material form of a spiritual idea, because it is a sublime and beautiful expression of New York in the way that the Acropolis was a sublime and beautiful expression of Athens. The Acropolis was beautiful because it was the abode of heroes, of great individuals; and the Brooklyn Bridge, because it expresses the bringing together of millions of men. It is the architecture of crowds—this Brooklyn Bridge—with winds and sunsets and the dark and the tides of souls upon it; it is the type and symbol of the kind of thing that our modern genius is bound to make beautiful and immortal before it dies. The very word "bridge" is the symbol of the future of art and of everything else, the bringing together of things that are apart—democracy. The bridge, which makes land across the water, and the boat, which makes land on the water, and the cable, which makes land and water alike—these are the physical forms of the spirit of modern life, the democracy of matter. But the spirit has countless forms. They are all new and they are all waiting to be made beautiful. The dumb crowd waits in them. We have electricity—the life current of the republican idea—characteristically our foremost invention, because it takes all power that belongs to individual places and puts it on a wire and carries it to all places. We have the telephone, an invention which makes it possible for a man to live on a back street and be a next-door neighbour to boulevards; and we have the trolley, the modern reduction of the private carriage to its lowest terms, so that any man for five cents can have as much carriage power as Napoleon with all his chariots. We have the phonograph, an invention which gives a man a thousand voices; which sets him to singing a thousand songs at the same time to a thousand crowds; which makes it possible for the commonest man to hear the whisper of Bismarck or Gladstone, to unwind crowds of great men by the firelight of his own house. We have the elevator, an invention for making the many as well off as the few, an approximate arrangement for giving first floors to everybody, and putting all men on a level at the same price—one more of a thousand instances of the extraordinary manner in which the mechanical arts have devoted themselves from first to last to the Constitution of the United States. While it cannot be said of many of these tools of existence that they are beautiful now, it is enough to affirm that when they are perfected they will be beautiful; and that if we cannot make beautiful the things that we need, we cannot expect to make beautiful the things that we merely want. When the beauty of these things is at last brought out, we shall have attained the most characteristic and original and expressive and beautiful art that is in our power. It will be unprecedented because it will tell unprecedented truths. It was the mission of ancient art to express states of being and individuals, and it may be said to be in a general way the mission of our modern art to express the beautiful in endless change, the movement of masses, coming to its sublimity and immortality at last by revealing the beauty of the things that move and that have to do with motion, the bringing of all things and of all souls together on the earth.
The fulfillment of the word that has been written, "Your valleys shall be exalted, and your mountains shall be made low," is by no means a beautiful process. Democracy is the grading principle of the beautiful. The natural tendency the arts have had from the first to rise from the level of the world, to make themselves into Switzerlands in it, is finding itself confronted with the Constitution of the United States—a Constitution which, whatever it may be said to mean in the years to come, has placed itself on record up to the present time, at least, as standing for the tableland.
The very least that can be granted to this Constitution is that it is so consummate a political document that it has made itself the creed of our theology, philosophy, and sociology; the principle of our commerce and industry; the law of production, education, and journalism; the method of our life; the controlling characteristic and the significant force in our literature; and the thing our religion and our arts are about.
This outlook or glimmer of vision I have tried to trace, for the art of crowds is something we want, and want daily, in the future. We want daily a future. But, after all, it is a future.
I speak in this present chapter as one of the crowd who wants something now.
I find myself in a world in which apparently some vast anonymous arrangement was made about me and about my life, before I was born. This arrangement seems to be, as I understand it, that if I want to live while I am on this planet a certain sort of life or be a certain sort of person, I am expected practically to take out a permit for it from the proper authorities.
In the previous chapter I made a request of the authorities, as perhaps the reader will remember. I said, "I want to be good now."
In this one I have a further request to make of the authorities: "I want to be beautiful."
I want to be beautiful now.
I find thousands of other people about me on every hand making these same two requests. I find that the authorities do not seem to notice their requests any more than they have noticed mine.
Some of us have begun to suspect that we must have made the request in the wrong way. Perhaps we should not ask a world—a great, vague thing like the world in general—to make any slight arrangement we may need for being beautiful. We have come to feel that we must ask somebody in particular, and do something in particular, and find some one in particular with whom we can do it. There is getting to be but one course open to a man if he wants to be beautiful. He must bone down and work hard with his soul, make himself see precisely what it is and who it is standing between him and a beautiful world. He must ask particular persons in particular positions if they do not think he ought to be allowed to be beautiful. He must ask some millionaire probably first—his employer, for instance—to stop getting in his way, and at least to step one side and let him reason with him. And when he cannot ask his millionaire—his own particular humdrum millionaire—to step one side and reason with him, he must ask iron-machines to step one side and reason with him. After this he must ask crowds to please to step one side and reason with him.
Whatever happens, he is sure to find always these same three great, imponderable obstructions in the way of his being beautiful—the humdrum millionaires, the iron-machines, and crowds.
In the old days when any one wanted to be beautiful he found it more convenient. There was very likely some one who was more beautiful than he was nearby, some one who found him craving the same thing that he had craved, and who recognized it and delighted in it, and who could make room and help.
Nowadays, if one wants to be beautiful one must ask everybody. Every man finds it the same. He must ask millions of people to let him be something, one after the other in rows, that they do not want him to be or do not care whether he is or not. He has to ask more people than he could count, before he dies, to let him be beautiful. Many of them that he has to ask, sometimes most of them, are his inferiors.
I have tried to deal with how it is going to be possible for a man to break through to being beautiful, past millionaires and past iron-machines. I would like now to deal with the people-machines or crowds, and how perhaps to break past them and be beautiful in behalf of them, in spite of them.
COMMITTEES AND COMMITTEES
The problem seems to be something like this. One finds one has been born and put here whether or no, and that one is inextricably alive in a state of society in which men are coming to live in a kind of vast disease of being obliged to do everything together.
We are still old-fashioned enough to be born one at a time, but we are educated in litters and we do our work in the world in herds and gangs. Even the upper classes do their work in gangs, and with overseers and little crowds called committees. Our latest idea consists in putting parts of a great many different men together to make one great one—forming a committee to make a man of genius.
There is no denying that, in a way, a committee does things; but what becomes of the committee?
And the lower in the scale of life we go the more committees it takes to do the work of one man and the more impossible it becomes to find anything but parts of men to do things. I put it frankly to the reader. The chances are nine out of ten that when you meet a man nowadays and look at him hard or try to do something with him you find he is not a man at all but is some subsection of a committee. You cannot even talk with such a man without selecting some subsection of some subject which interests him; and if you select any other subsection than his subsection he will think you a bore; and if you select his subsection he will think that you do not know anything.
And if you want to get anything done that is different, or that is the least bit interesting, and want to get some one to do it, how will you go about it? You will find yourself being sent from one person to another; and before you know it you find yourself mixed up with nine or ten subdivisions of nine or ten committees; and after you have got your nine or ten subsections of nine or ten committees to get together to consider what it is you want done, they will tell you, after due deliberation, that it is not worth doing, or that you had better do it yourself. Then every subsection of every committee will go home muttering under its breath to every other subsection that a man who wants slightly different and interesting things done in society is a public nuisance; and that the man who does not know what subsection he is in and what subsection of a man he was intended to be, and who tries to do things, carries dismay and anger on every side around him. Drop into your pigeonhole and be filed away, O Gentle Reader! Do you think you are a soul? No; you are Series B. No. 2574, top row on the left.
In my morning paper the other day I read that in a factory whose long windows I often pass in the train, they have their machinery so perfected that it takes sixty-four machines to make one shoe.
Query—If it takes sixty-four machines run by sixty-four men who do nothing else to make one shoe, how many machines would it take, and how many shoes, to make one man?
Query—And when an employer in a shoe factory deals with his employee, can it really be said, after all, that he is dealing with him? He is dealing with It—with Nine Hours a Day, of one sixty-fourth of a man.
The natural effect of crowds and of machines is to make a man feel that he is, and always was, and always will be, immemorially, unanimously, innumerably nobody.
Sometimes we are allowed a little faint numeral to dangle up over our oblivion. Not long ago I saw a notice or letter in the West Bulletin—probably from a member of something—ending like this: "... I hope the readers of the Bulletin will ponder over this suggestion of Number 29,619.—Sincerely yours, No. 11, 175."
THE INCONVENIENCE OF BEING HUMAN
I shall never forget one day I spent in New York some years ago—more years than I thought at first. It was a wrong-headed day, but I cannot help remembering it as a symbol of a dread I still feel at times in New York—a feeling of being suddenly lifted, of being swept out under (it is like the undertow of the sea) into a kind of vast deep of impersonality—swept out of myself into a wide, imperious waste or emptiness of people. I had come fresh from my still country meadow and mountain, my own trees and my own bobolinks and my own little island of sky up over me, and in the vast and desolate solitude of men and women I wandered about up and down the streets. Every block I saw, every window, skyline, engine, street-car, every human face, made me feel as if I belonged to another world. Here was a great conspiracy in stone and iron against my own life with myself. Was there a soul in all this huge roar and spectacle of glass and stone and passion that cared for the things that I cared for, or the things that I loved, or that would care one shuffle of all the feet upon the stones for any thought or word or desire of mine? The rain swept in my face, and I spent the day walking up and down the streets looking at stones and glass and people. "Here we are!" say the great buildings crowding on the sky. "Who are you?"....all the stone and the glass and the walls, the mighty syndicate of matter everywhere, surrounded me—one little, shivering, foolish mote of being fighting foolishly for its own little foolish mote of identity!
And I do not believe that I was all wrong. New York, like some vast, implacable cone of ether, some merciless anaesthetic, was thrust down over me and my breathing, and I still had a kind of left-over prejudice that I wanted to be myself, with my own private self-respect, with my own private, temporarily finished-off, provisionally complete personality. I felt then, and I still feel to-day, that every man, as he fights for his breath, must stand out at least part of his time for the right of being self-contained. It is, and always will be, one of the appalling sights of New York to me—the spectacle of the helplessness, the wistfulness, of all those poor New York people without one another. Sometimes the city seems to be a kind of huge monument or idol or shrine of crowds. It seems to be a part of the ceaseless crowd action or crowd corrosion on the sense of identity in the human spirit that the man who lives in crowds should grow more dull and more literal about himself every day. He becomes a mere millionth of something. All these other people he sees about him hurrying to and fro are mere millionths too. He grows more and more obliged to live with a vast bulk of people if he is to notice people at all. Unless he sees all the different kinds of people and forms of life with his own eye, and feels human beings with his hands, as it were, he does not know and sympathize with them. The crowd-craving or love of continual city life on the part of many people comes to be a sheer lack of imagination, an inability to live in qualities instead of quantities in men. To live merely in a city is not to know the real flavour of life any more than the daily paper knows it—the daily paper, the huge dull monster of observation, the seer of outsides. The whole effect of crowds on the individual man is to emphasize scareheads and appearances, advertisements, and the huge general showing off. The ride in the train from New Haven to New York is the true portrait of a crowd. Crowds of soaps and patent medicines straining on trees and signboard out of the gentle fields toward crowds of men, culminating at last in Woodlawn Cemetery, where the marble signposts of death flaunt themselves. Oblivion itself is advertised, and the end of the show of a show world is placarded on our graves. Men buy space in papers for cards, and bits of country scenery by the great railroads to put up signboards, and they spend money and make constant efforts to advertise that they are alive, and then they build expensive monuments to advertise that they are dead....
The same craving for piled-up appearances is brought to bear by crowds upon their arts. Even a gentle soul like Paderewski, full of a personal and strange beauty that he could lend to everything he touched, finds himself swept out of himself at last by the huge undertow of crowds. Scarcely a season but his playing has become worn down at the end of it into shrieks and hushes. Have I not watched him at the end of a tour, when, one audience after the other, those huge Svengalis had hypnotized him—thundering his very subtleties at them, hour after hour, in Carnegie Hall? One could only wonder what had happened, sit by helplessly, watch the crowd—thousands of headlong human beings lunging their souls and their bodies through the music, weeping, gasping, huzzaing, and clapping to one another. After every crash of new crescendo, after every precipice of silence, they seemed to be crying, "This is Soul! Oh, this is Soul!" The feeling of a vast audience holding its breath, no matter why it does it or whether it ought to do it or not, seems to have become almost a religious rite of itself. Vistas of faces gallery after gallery hanging on a note, two or three thousand souls suspended in space all on one tiny little ivory lever at the end of one man's forefinger ... dim lights shining on them and soft vibrations floating round them ... going to hear Paderewski play at the end of his season was going to hear a crowd at a piano singing with its own hands and having a kind of orgy with itself. One could only remember that there had been a Paderewski once who hypnotized and possessed his audience by being hypnotized and possessed by his own music. One liked to remember him—the Paderewski who was really an artist and who performed the function of the artist showering imperiously his own visions on the hearts of the people.
And what is true in music one finds still truer in the other arts. One keeps coming on it everywhere—the egotism of cities, the self-complacency of the crowds swerving the finer and the truer artists from their functions, making them sing in hoarse crowd-voices instead of singing in their own and giving us themselves. Nearly all our acting has been corroded by crowds. Some of us have been obliged almost to give up going to the theatre except to very little ones, and we are wondering if churches cannot possibly be made small enough to believe great things, or if galleries cannot be arranged with few enough people in them to allow us great paintings, or if there will not be an author so well known to a few men that he will live forever, or if some newspaper will not yet be great enough to advertise that it has a circulation small enough to tell the truth.
LETTING THE CROWD HAVE PEOPLE IN IT
So we face the issue.
Nothing beautiful can be accomplished in a crowd civilization, by the crowd for the crowd, unless the crowd is beautiful. No man who is engaged in looking under the lives about him, who wishes to face the facts of these lives as they are lived to-day, will find himself able to avoid this last and most important fact in the history of the world—the fact that, whatever it may mean, or whether it is for better or worse, the world has staked all that it is and has been, and all that it is capable of being, on the one supreme issue, "How can the crowd be made beautiful?"
The answer to this question involves two difficulties: (1) A crowd cannot make itself beautiful. (2) A crowd will not let any one else make it beautiful.
The men who have been on the whole the most eager democrats of history—the real-idealists—the men who love the crowd and the beautiful too, and who can have no honest or human pleasure in either of them except as they are being drawn together, are obliged to admit that living in a democratic country, a country where politics and aesthetics can no longer be kept apart, is an ordeal that can only be faced a large part of the time with heavy hearts. We are obliged to admit that it is a country where paintings have little but the Constitution of the United States wrought into them; where sculpture is voted and paid for by the common people; where music is composed for majorities; where poetry is sung to a circulation; where literature itself is scaled to subscription lists; where all the creators of the True and the Beautiful and the Good may be seen almost any day tramping the tableland of the average man, fed by the average man, allowed to live by the average man, plodding along with weary and dusty steps to the average man's forgetfulness. And, indeed, it is not the least trait of this same average man that he forgets, that he is forgotten, that his slaves are forgotten, that the world remembers only those who have been his masters.
On the other hand, the literature of finding fault with the average man (which is what the larger part of our more ambitious literature really is) is not a kind of literature that can do anything to mend matters. The art of finding fault with the average man, with the fact that the world is made convenient for him, is inferior art because it is helpless art. The world is made convenient for the average man because it has to be, to get him to live in it; and if the world were not made convenient for him, the man of genius would find living with him a great deal more uncomfortable than he does. He would not even be allowed the comfort of saying how uncomfortable. The world belongs to the average man, and, excepting the stars and other things that are too big to belong to him, the moment the average man deserves anything better in it or more beautiful in it than he is getting, some man of genius rises by his side, in spite of him, and claims it for him. Then he slowly claims it for himself. The last thing to do, to make the world a good place for the average man, would be to make it a world with nothing but average men in it. If it is the ideal of democracy that there shall be a slow massive lifting, a grading up of all things at once; that whatever is highest in the true and the beautiful, and whatever is lowest in them shall be graded down and graded up to the middle height of human life, where the greatest numbers shall make their home and live upon it; if the ideal of democracy is tableland—that is—mountains for everybody—a few mountains must be kept on hand to make tableland out of.
Two solutions, then, of a crowd civilization—having the extraordinary men crowded out of it as a convenience to the average ones, and having the average men crowded out of it as a convenience to the extraordinary ones—are equally impracticable.
This brings us to the horns of our dilemma. If the crowd cannot be made beautiful by itself, and if the crowd will not allow itself to be made beautiful by any one else, the crowd can only be made beautiful by a man who lives so great a life in it that he can make a crowd beautiful whether it allows him to or not.
When this man is born to us and looks out on the conditions around him, he will find that to be born in a crowd civilization is to be born in a civilization, first, in which every man can do as he pleases; second, in which nobody does. Every man is given by the Government absolute freedom; and when it has given him absolute freedom the Government says to him, "Now if you can get enough other men, with their absolute freedom, to put their absolute freedom with your absolute freedom, you can use your absolute freedom in any way you want." Democracy, seeking to free a man from being a slave to one master, has simply increased the number of masters a man shall have. He is hemmed in with crowds of masters. He cannot see his master's huge amorphous face. He cannot go to his master and reason with him. He cannot even plead with him. You can cry your heart out to one of these modern ballot-boxes. You have but one ballot. They will not count tears. The ultimate question in a crowd civilization becomes, not "What does a thing mean?" or "What is it worth?" but "How much is there of it?" "If thou art a great man," says civilization, "get thou a crowd for thy greatness. Then come with thy crowd and we will deal with thee. It shall be even as thou wilt." The pressure has become so great, as is obvious on every side, that men who are of small or ordinary calibre can only be more pressed by it. They are pressed smaller and smaller—the more they are civilized, the smaller they are pressed; and we are being daily brought face to face with the fact that the one solution a crowd civilization can have for the evil of being a crowd civilization is the man in the crowd who can withstand the pressure of the crowd; that is to say, the one solution of a crowd civilization is the great-man solution—a solution which is none the less true because by name, at least, it leaves most of us out or because it is so familiar that we have forgotten it. The one method by which a crowd can be freed and can be made to realize itself is the great-man method—the method of crucifying and worshipping great men, until by crucifying and worshipping great men enough, inch by inch, and era by era, it is lifted to greatness itself.
Not very many years ago, certain great and good men, who, at the cost of infinite pains, were standing at the time on a safe and lofty rock protected from the fury of their kind by the fury of the sea, contrived to say to the older nations of the earth, "All men are created equal." It is a thing to be borne in mind, that if these men, who declared that all men were created equal, had not been some several hundred per cent. better men than the men they said they were created equal to, it would not have made any difference to us or to any one else whether they had said that all men were created equal or not, or whether the Republic had ever been started or not, in which every man, for hundreds of years, should look up to these men and worship them as the kind of men that every man in America was free to try to be equal to. A civilization by numbers, a crowd civilization, if it had not been started by heroes, could never have been started at all. Shall this civilization attempt to live by the crowd principle, without men in it who are living by the hero principle? On our answer to this question hangs the question whether this civilization, with all its crowds, shall stand or fall among the civilizations of the earth. The main difference between the heroes of Plymouth Rock, the heroes who proclaimed freedom in 1776, and the heroes who must contrive to proclaim freedom now, is that tyranny now is crowding around the Rock, and climbing up on the Rock, eighty-seven million strong, and that tyranny then was a half-idiot king three thousand miles away.
* * * * *
We know or think we know, some of us—at least we have taken a certain joy in working it out in our minds, and live with it every day—how people in crowds are going to be beautiful by and by.
The difficulty of being beautiful now, I have tried to express. It seems better to express, if possible, what a difficulty is before trying to meet it.
And now we would like to try to meet it. How can we determine what is the most practical and natural way for crowds of people to try to be beautiful now?
It would seem to be a matter of crowd psychology, of crowd technique, and of determining how human nature works.
All thoughtful people are agreed as to the aim.
Everything turns on the method.
In the following chapters we will try to consider the technique of being beautiful in crowds.
CROWDS AND HEROES
TO WALT WHITMAN
_"And I saw the free souls of poets, The loftiest bards of all ages strode before me Strange large men, long unwaked, undisclosed, were disclosed to me ... O my rapt verse, my call, mock me not! ... I will not be outfaced by irrational things, I will penetrate what is sarcastic upon me, I will make cities and civilizations defer to me This is what I have learnt from America—
I will confront these shows of the day and night I will know if I am to be less than they, I will see if I am not as majestic as they, I will see if I am not as subtle and real as they, I will see if I have no meaning while the houses and ships have meaning,
... I am for those that have never been mastered, For men and women whose tempers have never been mastered, For those whom laws, theories, conventions can never master.
I am for those who walk abreast of the whole earth Who inaugurate one to inaugurate all."_
THE SOCIALIST AND THE HERO
I was spending a little time not long ago with a man of singularly devoted and noble spirit who had dedicated his life and his fortune to the Socialist movement. We had had several talks before, and always with a little flurry at first of hopefulness toward one another's ideas. We both felt that the other, for a mere Socialist or for a mere Individualist, was really rather reasonable. We admitted great tracts of things to one another, and we always felt as if by this one next argument, perchance, or by one further illustration, we would convince the other and rescue him like a brand from the burning.
The last time I saw him he started in at once at the station as we climbed up into the car by telling me what he was doing. He was studying up the heroes of the American Revolution, and was writing something to show that they were not really heroes after all. All manner of things were the matter with them. They had always troubled him, he said. He knew there was something wrong, and he was glad to have the matter settled. He said he did not, and never had believed in heroes, and thought they did a great deal of harm—even dead ones. Heroes, he said, always deceived the people. They kept people from seeing that nothing could be done in our modern society by any one man. Only crowds could do things, he intimated—each man, like one little wave on the world, wavering up to the shore and dying away.
As the evening wore on our conversation became more concrete, and I began to drag in, of course, every now and then, naturally, an inspired or semi-inspired millionaire or so.
I cannot say that these gentlemen were received with enthusiasm.
Finally, I turned on him. "What is it that makes you so angry (and nearly all the Socialists) every time you hear something good, something you cannot deny is good, about a successful business man? If I brought a row of inspired millionaires, say ten or twelve of them one after the other, into your library this minute, you would get hotter and hotter with every one, wouldn't you? You would scarcely speak to me."
—— intimated that he was afraid I was deceived; he was afraid that I was going about deceiving other people about its being possible for mere individual men to be good; he was afraid I was doing a great deal of damage.
He then confided to me that not so very long ago he dropped in one Monday morning into his guest-chamber just after his guest had gone and found a copy of "Inspired Millionaires," which his guest had obviously been reading over Sunday, lying on the little reading-table at the head of the bed.
He said that he took the book back to his library, took out two or three encyclopaedias from the shelf in the corner, put my inspired millionaires in behind them, put the encyclopaedias back, and that they had been there to this day.
With this very generous and kindly introduction we went on to a frank talk on the general attitude of Socialists toward the instinct of hero-worship in human nature.
A Socialist had said only a few days before, speaking of a certain municipal movement in which the people were interested, that he thought it really had a very good chance to succeed "if only the heroes could be staved off a little longer." He deprecated the almost incurable idea people seemed to have that nothing could ever be done in this world without being all mixed up with heroes.
My mind kept recurring in a perplexed way to this remark for a few days after I had heard it, and I soon came on the following letter from a prominent Socialist which had been read at a dinner the night before:
"I am glad to join with others of my comrades in conveying greetings to Comrade Cahan on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his birth and in recognition of the eminent services that he has rendered in the Socialist movement.
"Yet my gladness is not untinged with a certain note of apprehension lest in expressing so conspicuously our esteem of an honoured comrade we obscure the broader scene which, if equally illumined, would disclose tens of thousands of other comrades, labouring with equal devotion, and each no less worthy of praise....
"In our rejoicing over the services of Comrade Cahan let us not forget that the facilities that he and that each of us enjoy are the products of thousands of other men and women, and sometimes of children too.
"In our rejoicing let us recall that we cannot safely assume that any comrade's services to the movement have been greater than the movement's services to him; that we are but fellow-workers together, deriving help and perhaps inspiration one from another and each from all.
"In our rejoicing let us place the emphasis rather upon the services of the many to each, than upon the services of any one of the many."
I have not quoted from this letter because I disagree with the idea in it. I am ready to admit that though the idea is a somewhat dampening one perhaps for a banquet, that it is true and important.
What I object to in the letter is the Fear in it.
In spite of the fineness and truth of the motive that lies, I know, underneath every line, the letter is baleful, sinister, and weary.
I accuse the letter of being, in a kind of nobly sick way, visionary, unpractical, and socially destructive.
I would heartily agree with the writer of the letter about the quality of many heroes, possibly about most heroes. I would agree in a large measure that the heroes the crowds choose are the wrong ones.
But there is a great difference between his belief and mine as to our practical working policy in getting the things for crowds that we both want for them. It seems to me that he does not believe in crowds. He is filled with fear that they would select the wrong heroes. He says they must not have heroes, or must be allowed as few as possible.
I believe in crowds, and I believe that the more they have the hero-habit, the more heroes they have to compare and select from, the finer, longer, and truer heroes they will select, the more deeply, truly, and concretely the crowds will think, and the more nobly they will express themselves.
But the great argument for the hero as a social method is that the crowd in a clumsy, wistful way, deep down in its heart, in the long run, loves the beautiful. Appealing to the crowd's ideal of the beautiful in conduct, its sense of the heroic, or semi-heroic, is the only practical, hard-headed understanding way of getting out of the crowd, for the crowd, what the crowd wants.
I saw the other day in Boston several thousand schoolboys in the street keeping step. It was a band that held them together. A band is a practical thing.
Is it not about time, in our dreary, drab, listless procession of economics, stringing helplessly across the world, that we have a band of music? What economics needs now is a march.
We have to-day a thousand men who can tell people what to do where we have one who can touch the music, the dance, the hurrah, the cry, the worship in them, and make them want to do something. The hero is the man who makes people want to do something, and strangely and subtly, all through the blood, while they watch him, he makes them believe they can.
It is socially destructive to throw away the overpowering instinct of human nature which we have called hero-worship.
THE CROWD AND THE HERO
But it is not only socially destructive. It is dumb and helpless for crowds to try to get on without heroes. Big events and big men are crowd expressions. Heroes, World Fairs, and Titanic disasters are crowd words, the crowd's way of seeing and saying things.
Crowds think in great men, or they think in simple, big, broadly drawn events, or words of one syllable, like coal strikes.
A whole world works through to an entirely new idea, the idea that England is not necessarily impregnable, in the Boer war. And we see England, by way of South Africa, searching her own heart. The Meat Trust, by raising prices for a few trial weeks, makes half a nation think its way over into vegetarianism or semi-vegetarianism.
In the American war with Spain modern thought attacked the last pathetic citadel in modern life of polite illusion, of lie-poetry, and in that one little flash of war between the Spain spirit and the American spirit, in our modern world, the nations got their final and conclusive sense of what the Spanish civilization really was, of the old Don Quixote thinking, of the delightful, brave, courtly blindness, of the world's last stronghold of pomposity, of vague, empty prettiness, of talking grand and shooting crooked.
Japan and Russia fight with guns, but the real fight is not between their guns, but between two great national conceptions of human life. Like two vast national searchlights we saw them turned on each other, two huge, grim, naked civilizations, and now in an awful light and roar, and now in stately sudden silence, while we all looked on, all breathless and concentrated, we saw them, as on some strange vast stage of the world, all lit up, exposed, penetrated by the minds of men forever. While they fought before us we saw the last two thousand years flash up once more and fade away, and then the next two thousand years on its slide, with one click before our faces was fastened into place.
Men see great spiritual conceptions or ideals for a world when the great ideals are dramatized, when they stalk out before us, are acted out before our eyes by mighty nations. Before the stage we sit silently and think and watch the ideals of a world, the souls of the nations struggling together, and as we watch we discover our souls for ourselves, we define our ideals for ourselves. We make up our minds. We see what we want. We begin to live.
I have come to believe that the hero, in the same way, is the common man's desire and prayer writ large. It is his way of keeping it refreshed before him so that he sees it, recalls it, suns himself in it, lifts up his life to it, every day.
THE CROWD AND THE AVERAGE PERSON
To state still further my difference with the typical Socialist point of view, as expressed in the letter from which I have quoted, I am obliged to confess that I not only believe in having heroes on behalf of crowds, but in having as a regular method of democracy little crowds of heroes, or an aristocracy. In other words, I am a democrat. I believe that crowds can produce, and are bound to produce by a natural crowd-process, a real aristocracy—an aristocracy which will be truly aristocratic and noble in spirit and action, and which will express the best ideas in the best way that a crowd can have.
The main business of a democracy is to find out which these people are in it and put them where they will represent it. The trouble seems to have been in democracies so far, that we find out who these people are a generation too late. The great and rare moments of history have been those in which we have found out who they were in time, as when we found in America Abraham Lincoln, an unaristocratic-looking and ungainly man, and saw suddenly that he was the first gentleman in the United States.
The next great task of democracy is to determine the best means it can of finding out who its aristocrats are, its all-men, and determining who they are in time, men who have vision, courage, individuality, imagination enough to face real things, and to know real people, and to put real things and real people together.
It is what an aristocracy in a democratic form of government is for, to furnish imagination to crowds. A real aristocracy is the only clear-headed, practical means a great nation can have of distributing, classifying, and digesting and evoking hordes of men and women. People do not have imagination in hordes, and imagination is latent and unorganized in masses of people. The crowd problem is the problem of having leaders who can fertilize the imagination and organize the will of crowds. Nothing but worship or great desire has ever been able to focus a crowd, and only the great man, rich and various in his elements, abounding, great as the crowd is great, can ever hope to do it.
Every man in a crowd knows that he is or is in danger of being a mere Me-man, or a mere class-man, and he knows that his neighbour is, and he wishes to be in a world that is saved from his own mere me-ness and his own mere classness. His hero-worship is his way of worshipping his larger self. He communes with his possible or completed self, his self of the best moments in the official great man or crowd man.
The average man in a crowd does not want to be an average man, and the last thing he wants is to have an average man to represent him. He wants a man to represent him as he would like to be.
He cannot express himself—his best self, in the State, to all the others in the State, without a lifted-up man or crowd man to do it.
It is as if he said—as if the average man said, "I want a certain sort of world, I want to be able to point to a man, to a particular man, and say, as I look at him and ask others to look at him, 'This is the sort of world I want.'"
Then everybody knows.
The great world that lies in all men's hearts is expressed in miniature, in the great man.
Crowds speak in heroes.
* * * * *
I have often heard Socialists wondering among themselves why a movement that had so many fine insights and so many noble motives behind it had produced so few artists.
It has seemed to me that it might be because Socialists as a class, speaking roughly, are generalizers. They do not see vividly and deeply the universal in the particular, the universal in the individual, the national in the local. They are convinced by counting, and are moved by masses, and are prone to overlook the Spirit of the Little, the immensity of the seed and of the individual. They are prone to look past the next single thing to be done. They look past the next single man to be fulfilled.
They feel a bit superior to Individualists for the way they have of seeing the universal in the particular, and of being picturesque and personal.
Socialists are not picturesque and personal. They do not think in pictures.
Then they wonder why they do not make more headway.
Crowds and great men and children think in pictures.
A hero pictures greatness to them. Then they want it for themselves.
From the practical, political point of view of getting things for crowds, perhaps the trouble lies, not in our common popular idea of having heroes, but in the heroes. And perhaps the cure lies not in abolishing heroes, but in making our heroes move on and in insisting on more and better ones.
Any man who looks may watch the crowd to-day making its heroes move on.
If they do not move on, the crowd picks up the next hero at hand who is moving—and drops them.
One can watch in every civilized country to-day crowds picking up heroes, comparing, sorting, selecting, seeing the ones that wear the longest, and one by one taking the old ones down.
The crowd takes a hero up in its huge rough hand, gazes through him at the world, sees what it wants through him. Then it takes up another, and then another.
Heroes are crowd spy-glasses.
Pierpont Morgan and Tom Mann for example.
Pierpont Morgan is a typical American business man raised to the n-th or hero power.
The crowd thinks it is interesting to take up Pierpont Morgan, the Tom Mann of the banks. It will see what it wants, through him.
And the crowd thinks it is interesting to take up Tom Mann, too, the Pierpont Morgan of the Trades Unions. It will see what it wants, through him.
THE CROWD AND PIERPONT MORGAN
One keeps turning back every now and then, in reading the "Life of Pierpont Morgan," to the portrait which Carl Hovey has placed at the beginning of the book. If one were to look at the portrait long enough, one would not need to read the book. The portrait puts into a few square inches of space what Mr. Hovey takes half an acre of paper for. And all that he really does on the half-acre of paper is to bring back to one again and again that set and focused look one sees in Mr. Morgan's eyes—the remoteness, the silence, the amazing, dogged, implacable concentration, and, when all is said, a certain terrible, inexplicable blindness.
The blindness keeps one looking again. One cannot quite believe it. The portrait has something so strong, so almost noble and commanding, about it that one cannot but stand back with one's little judgments and give the man who can hurl together out of the bewilderment of the world a personality like this, and fix it here—all in one small human face—the benefit of the doubt. This is the way the crowd has always taken Pierpont Morgan at first. The bare spectacle of a man so magnificently set, so imperiously preoccupied, silences our judgments. It seems as if, of course, he must be seeing things—things that we and others possibly do not and cannot see. The blindness in the eyes is so complete and set in such a full array that it acts at first on one almost like a kind of vision. The eyes hold themselves like pictures of eyes, like little walls, as if real eyes were in behind them. One wonders if there is any one who could ever manage to break through them, fleck up little ordinary human things—personality, for instance, atmosphere, or light—against them. If Shakespeare, whose folios he has, and Keats, whose "Endymion" he owns, or Milton, whose "Paradise Lost" he keeps in his safe, were all to assail him at once, were to bear down upon that set look in Pierpont Morgan's eyes—try to get them to turn one side a second and notice that they—Shakespeare and Milton and Keats—were there, there would not be a flicker or shadow of movement. They are eyes that are set like jaws, like magnificent spiritual muscles, on Something. Neither do they reveal light or receive it.
* * * * *
It will be some time before the crowd will find it possible to hand in an account and render a full estimate of the value of the service that Pierpont Morgan has rendered to our modern world; but the service has been for the most part rendered now and while the world, in its mingled dismay and gratitude at the way he has hammered it together, is distributing its praise and blame, there are some of us who would like to step one side a little and think quietly, if we may, not about what Pierpont Morgan has done, which we admit duly, but about the blindness in his eyes. It is Pierpont Morgan's blindness that interests the crowd more than anything else about him interests them now. It is his blindness—and the chance to find out just what it is that is making people read his book. His blindness (if we can fix just what it is) is the thing that we are going to make our next Pierpont Morgan out of. The next Pierpont Morgan—the one the crowd is getting ready now—will be made out of the things that this Pierpont Morgan did not see. What are these things? We have been looking for the things in Carl Hovey's book, peering in between the lines on every page, and turning up his adjectives and looking under them, his adverbs and qualifications, his shrewdness and carefulness for the things that Pierpont Morgan did not see. Pierpont Morgan himself would not have tried to hide them, and neither has his biographer. His whole book breathes throughout with a just-mindedness, a spirit of truth, a necessary and inevitable honesty, which of itself is not the least testimony to the essential validity and soundness of Morgan's career. Pierpont Morgan's attitude toward his biography (if, in spite of his reticence, it became one of the necessities—even one of the industrial necessities, of the world that he should have one) was probably a good deal the attitude of Walt Whitman when he told Traubel, "Whatever you do with me, don't prettify me"; and if there were things in Mr. Morgan's career which he imperturbably failed to see, Mr. Morgan himself would be the last man not to try to help people to find out what they are. But living has been to Mr. Morgan as it is to us (as I write these lines he is seventy-four years old) a serious, bottomless business. He does not know which the things are he has not seen. His eyes are magnificently set. They cannot help us. We must do our own looking.
* * * * *
If I were called upon to speak very quickly and without warning; if any one suddenly expected me in my first sentence to hit the bull's-eye of Mr. Morgan's blindness, I think I would try socialism. When the Emperor William was giving himself the treat of talking with the man who runs, or is supposed to run, the economics of a world, he found that he was talking with a man who had not noticed socialism yet, and who was not interested in it. Most people would probably have said that Morgan was not interested in socialism enough; but there are very few people who would not be as surprised as Emperor William was to know that he, Pierpont Morgan, was not informed about the greatest and, to some of us, the most threatening, omnipresent, and significant spectre in modern industrial life.
But when one thinks of it, and, when more particularly, one looks again at that set look in his eyes, I cannot see how it could possibly have been otherwise. If Morgan's eyes had suddenly begun seeing all sorts of human things—the bewildering welter of the individual minds, the tragedy of the individual interests around him; if he had lost his imperious sense of a whole—had tried to potter over and piece together, like the good people and the wonderers, the innumerable entangled wires of the world, his eyes might have been filled perhaps with the beautiful and helpless light of the philosophers, with the fire of the prophets, or with the gentle paralysis of the poets, but he never would have had the courage to do the great work of his life—to turn down forever those iron shutters on his eyes and smite a world together.
There was one thing this poor, dizzied, scattered planet needed. With its quarrelling and its peevish industries, its sick poets and its tired religions, the one thing this planet needed was a Blow; it needed a man that could hammer it together. To find fault with this man for not being a seer, or to feel superior to him for not being an idealist, or to heckle him for not being a sociologist, when here he was all the time with this mighty frenzy or heat in him that could melt down the chaos of a world while we looked, weld it to his will, and then lift his arm and smite it, though all men said him nay—back into a world again—to heckle over this man's not being a complete sociologist or professor is not worthy of thoughtful and manful men.
I cannot express it, but I can only declare, living as I do in a day like this, that to me there is a kind of colossal naked poetry in what Pierpont Morgan has done which I cannot but acknowledge with gratitude and hope. Though there be in it, as in all massive things, a brutality perhaps like that of the moving glaciers, like the making and boiling of coal in the earth, like death, like childbirth, like the impersonality of the sea, my imagination can never get past a kind of elemental, almost heathen poetry or heathen-god poetry in Pierpont Morgan's Blow or shock upon our world. There may be reason to doubt as to whether it is to be called a heaven-poetry or a hell-poetry—something so gaunt and simple is there about it; but here we are with all our machines around us, with our young, rough, fresh nations in the act of starting a great civilization once more on this old and gentle earth, and I can only say that poetry (though it be new, or different, or even a little terrible) is the one thing that now, or in any other age, men begin great civilizations with.
* * * * *
I have tried to express the spirit of what Morgan's genius seized unconsciously by the grim, resistless will of his age, has wrought into his career.
But in the background of my mind as I see Pierpont Morgan, there is always the man who will take his place, and if I did not see the man coming, and coming rapidly, who is to take Mr. Morgan's place, I admit that Mr. Morgan himself would be a failure, a disaster, a closed wall at the end of the world.
No one man will take Mr. Morgan's place, but the typical man in the group of men that will take his place will justify Mr. Morgan's work, by taking this world in his hand and riveting his vision on where Morgan's vision leaves off. As Morgan has fused railroads, iron, coal, steamships, seas, and cities, the next industrial genius shall fuse the spirits and the wills of men. The Individualists and the Socialists, the aristocracies and democracies, the capitalists and the labourers shall be welded together, shall be fused and transfused by the next Morgan into their ultimate, inevitable, inextricable, mutual interests.
The chief characteristic of the new industrial leader is coming to be social imagination or the power of seeing the larger industrial values in human gifts and efficiencies, the more human and intellectual energies of workmen, the market value of their spirits, their imaginations, and their good-will. The underpinning and Morganizing work has been done; the power of instant decision which Mr. Morgan has had, has been very often based on a lack of imagination about the things that got in his way; but the things that get in the way now, the big, little-looking things—are the things on which the new and inspired millionaires' imagination will find its skill and accumulate its power. It is men's spirits that are now in the way; they have been piling up and accumulating under Morgan's regime long enough, and it is now their turn. Perhaps men's spirits have always been beyond Mr. Morgan, and perhaps his imagination has been worked largely as a kind of cerebellum imagination: it is a kind of imagination that sees related and articulated the physical body of things, the grip on the material tools, on the gigantic limbs of a world. The man who succeeds Mr. Morgan, and for whom Mr. Morgan has made the world ready, is the man who has his imagination in the upper part of his brain, and instead of doing things by not seeing, and by not being seen, he will swing a light. He will be himself in his own personality, a little of the nature of a searchlight, and he will work the way a searchlight works, and will have his will with things by seeing and lighting, by X-raying his way through them and not by a kind of colossal world-butting, which is Morgan's way, both eyes imperiously, implacably shut, his whole being all bent, all crowded into his vast machine of men, his huge will lifted ... and excavating blindly, furiously, as through some groping force he knew not, great sub-cellars for a new heaven and new earth.
The Crowd gets its heroes one at a time. Heroes are the Crowd's tools. Some are dredges, some are telescopes. The Crowd, by a kind of instinct—an oversoul or undersoul of which it knows not until afterward, takes up each tool gropingly—sometimes even against its will and against its conscience, uses it and drops it.
Then it sees why, suddenly, it has used it.
Then God hands it Another One.
THE CROWD AND TOM MANN
I dropped into the London Opera House the other night to see Tom Mann (the English Bill Heywood), another hero or crowd spy-glass that people have taken up awhile—thousands of them—to see through to what they really want. I wanted to hear him speak, and see, if I could, why the crowd had taken him up, and what it was they were seeing through him.
I am apt to take a dead set at liking a man I do not agree with, if I can. It gives one a better start in understanding him and in not agreeing with him to some purpose.
But it was not necessary to try to like Tom Mann or to make arrangements for being fair to him. He came up on the platform (it was at Mr. Hyndmann's Socialist rally) in that fine manly glow of his of having just come out of jail (and a jail, whatever else may be said about it, is certainly a fine taking place to come out of—to blossom up out of, like a night-blooming cereus before a vast, lighted-up, uproarious audience). It is wonderful how becoming a jail is to some people! Had I not seen Mrs. Pethick Lawrence with the flush of Old Bailey on her cheek only a little while before in Albert Hall?
If Tom Mann had had, like Elisha, that night, a fiery chariot at his disposal, and had come down, landed plump out of heaven on his audience, he could not have done half as well with it as he did with that little gray, modest, demure Salford Jail the kind Home Secretary gave him.
He tucked the jail under his arm, stood there silently before us in a blaze of light. Everybody clapped for five minutes.
Then he waved the air into silence and began to speak. I found I had come to hear a simple-minded, thoughtless, whole-hearted, noisy, self-deceived, hopelessly sincere person. He was a mere huge pulse or muscle of a man. All we could do was to watch him up there on the platform (it was all so simple!) taking up the world before everybody in his big hands and whacking on it with a great rapping and sounding before us all, as if it were Tommy's own little drum mother gave him. He stood there for some fifteen minutes, I should think, making it—making the whole world rat-a-tat-tat to his music, to Tommy's own music, as if it were the music of the spheres.
Mr. Mann's gospel of hope for mankind seemed to be to have all the workers of the world all at once refuse to work. Have the workers starve and silence a planet, and take over and confiscate the properties and plants of capital, dismiss the employers of all nations and run the earth themselves.
* * * * *
I sat in silence. The audience about me broke out into wild, happy appreciation.
It acted as if it had been in the presence of a vision. It was as if, while they sat there before Tom Mann, they had seen being made, being hammered out before them, a new world.
I rubbed my eyes.
It seemed to me precisely like the old one. And all the trouble for nothing. All the disaster, the proposed starvation, and panic for nothing.
There was one single possible difference in it.
We had had before, Pierpont Morgan, the Tom Mann of the banks, riding astride the planet, riding it out with us—with all the rest of us helpless on it, holding on for dear life, riding out into the Blackness.
And now we were having instead, Tom Mann, the Pierpont Morgan of the Trades Unions, riding astride the planet, riding it out with us, with all the rest of us helpless on it, holding on for dear life, riding out into the Blackness.
Of course Pierpont Morgan and Tom Mann are both very useful as crowd spy-glasses for us all to see what we want through.
But is this what we want?
Is it worth while to us, to the crowd, to all classes of us, to have our world turned upside down so that we can be bullied on it by one set of men instead of being bullied on it by another?
This is the thing that the Crowd, as it takes up one hero after the other, and looks at the world through him, is seeing next.
Some of us have seen sooner than the others. But we are nearly all of us seeing to-day. We have stood by now these many years through strikes and rumours of strikes, and we have watched the railway hold-ups, the Lawrence Mill strike, and the great English coal strike. We have seen, in a kind of dumb, hopeful astonishment, everybody about us piling into the fray, some fighting for the rights of labour and some for the rights of capital, and we have kept wondering if possibly a little something could not be done before long, possibly next year, in behalf of the huge, battered, helpless Public, that dear amorphous old ladylike Person doddering along the Main Street of the World, now being knocked down by one side and now by the other. It has almost looked, some days, as if both sides in the quarrel—Capital and Labour, really thought that the Public ought not to expect to be allowed to be out in the streets at all. Both sides in the contest are so sure they are right, and feel so noble and Christian, that we know they will take care of themselves; but the poor old Lady!—some of us wonder, in the turmoil of Civilization and the scuffle of Christianity, what is to become of Her.
Is it not about time that somebody appeared very soon now who will make a stand once and for all in behalf of this Dear Old Lady-Like Person?
Is it really true that no one has noticed Her and is really going to stand up for Her—for the old gentle-hearted Planet as a Whole?
We have our Tom Mann for the workers, and we have the Daily Newspaper—the Tom Mann of Capital, but where is our Tom Mann for Everybody? Where is the man who shall come boldly out to Her, into the great crowded highway, where the bullies of wealth have tripped up her feet, and the bullies of poverty have thrown mud in her face, where all the little mean herds or classes one after the other hold Her up—the scorners, and haters, and cowards, and fearers for themselves, fighting as cowards always have to fight, in herds ... where is the man who is going to climb up alone before the bullies of wealth and the bullies of poverty, take his stand against them all—against both sides, and dare them to touch the dear helpless old Lady again?
When this man arises—this Tom Mann for Everybody—whether he slips up into immortality out of the crowd at his feet, and stands up against them in overalls or in a silk hat, he will take his stand in history as a man beside whom Napoleon and Alexander the Great will look as toys in the childhood of the world.
* * * * *
We are living in a day when not only all competent-minded students of affairs, but the crowd itself, the very passers-by in the streets, have come to see that the very essence of the labour problem is the problem of getting the classes to work together. And when the crowd watches the labour leader and sees that he is not thinking correctly and cannot think correctly of the other classes, of the consumers and the employers, it drops him. Unless a leader has a class consciousness that is capable of thinking of the other classes—the consumers and employers, so shrewdly and so close to the facts that the other classes, the consumers and the employers, will be compelled to take him seriously, tolerate him, welcome him, and cooeperate with him, the crowd has come at last to recognize promptly that he is only of temporary importance as a leader. He is the by-product of one of the illusions of labour. When the illusion goes he goes.
Capital has been for some time developing its class consciousness. Labour has lately been developing in a large degree a class consciousness.
The most striking aspect of the present moment is that at last, in the history of the world, the Public is developing a class consciousness.
The Crowd thinks.
And as from day to day the Crowd thinks—holds up its little class heroes, its Tom Manns and Pierpont Morgans, and sees its world through them—it comes more and more to see implacably what it wants.
It has been watching the Tom Mann, or Bill Heywood type of Labour leader, for some time.
There are certain general principles with regard to labour leaders that the crowd has come to see by holding up its heroes and looking through them, at what it wants. The first great principle is that no man needs to be taken very seriously, as a competent leader of a great labour movement who is merely thinking of the interest of his own class.
The second general principle the Crowd has come to see, and to insist upon—when it is appealed to (as it always is, in the long run) is that no labour leader needs to be taken very seriously or regarded as very dangerous or very useful—who believes in force.
A labour leader who has such a poor idea that a hold-up is the only way he can express it—the Crowd suspects. The only labour leaders that the Crowd, or people as a whole, take seriously are those that get things by thinking and by making other people think.
The Crowd wants to think.
The Crowd wants to decide.
And It has decided to decide by being made to think and not by being knocked down.
It is not precisely because the Crowd is not willing to be knocked down, and has not shown itself to be over and over again, when it thought its being knocked down might possibly help in a just cause.
But it has not been through coal strikes, Industrial Workers of the World, and syndicalist outbreaks for nothing.
It is not the knocking down indulged in by labour and by capital that the Crowd fears.
It is the not-thinking.
The Crowd has noticed that the knocking-down disposition and the not-thinking disposition go together.
The Crowd has watched Force and Force-people, and has seen what always happens after a time.
It has come to see that people who have to get things by force and not by thinking will not be able to think of anything to do with the things when they get them.
So the Crowd does not want them to get them.
The Crowd has learned all this even from the present owners of things. It does not want to learn them all over again from new ones. The present owners of things have got them half by force, and that is why they only half understand how to run them.
But they do half understand because they only half believe in force. The crowd has seen them get their supremacy by the use of the employment-hold-up, or by starving or threatening to starve the workers. And now it sees the Syndicalist workers proposing to get control by starving or threatening to starve everybody. Of the two, those who propose to starve all the people to get their own way, and those who threaten to starve part of the people, it has seemed to the Crowd, naturally, that those who only half believe in starving, and who only starve a part of us, would be likely to be more intelligent as world-runners.
In other words (accepting for the sake of argument the worst possible interpretation of the capitalist class), they have spent several years in learning, and have already half learned that force in industry is inefficient and cannot be made to work.
Now when the Crowd sees the Syndicalists swinging their hats in a hundred nations, with one big hoarse hurrah around a world, with five minutes' experience, come rushing in, and propose to take up the world—the whole world in two minutes more and run it in the same old bygone way—the way that the capitalists are just giving up—by force—it knows what it thinks.
It thinks it will fight Class Syndicalism. It makes up its mind it will fight Class Syndicalism with Crowd Syndicalism. It has decided that, in the interests of all of us, of a crowd civilization, of what we call the world or Crowd Syndicate, its industries should be controlled, not by the owners and not by the workers, but by those men, whoever they are, who can control them with the most skill and efficiency.
The Crowd has come to see that the present owners—judging from current events, and taking them as a whole, and speaking impersonally and historically—have proved themselves, on the whole, incompetent to control industries with skill and efficiency, because they have treated labour as the natural enemy of capital and have quarrelled with it. It sees that the present workers, acting as syndicates or otherwise, are incompetent to own and control and manage industry because they propose to treat capital as the natural enemy of the workers. There has been but one conclusion possible. If Civilization or the Crowd Syndicate has a right to have its industries managed in the interests of all, and if the present owners have proved themselves to be mentally incompetent to control industry because they fight labour, and if the present labourers as a class have proved themselves to be mentally incompetent because they propose to fight capital, there is naturally but one question the crowd syndicate is asking to-day, namely, "Are there any mentally competent business firms at all in the world, any firms whose owners and labourers have thought out a way of not fighting?" From the point of view of the Crowd, the men who are competent, who know how to do their work, do not have to lay down their tools and find out all over again how to do their work. They know it and keep doing it.
So the Crowd keeps coming back with the question, "Are there or are there not any competent business establishments in our modern life? Which are they, and where are they?" We want to know about them. We want to study them. We want to focus the thought of the world on them and see how they do it.