« PreviousContinue »
very much lessened what otherwise he might have been receiving. However, a solution seems in sight. Pressed to its limit, the absurdity of such policy is obvious, and the logic of facts is proving unanswerable. If you don't produce there is nothing to divide. On the other hand, the reward to-day for industry and energy is abundance, and yet more abundance. It does not necessarily mean higher monetary earnings, but it does mean infinitely more of what money will buy. Nor are monetary earnings the all-important in life, nor yet even what they will buy. Let us see things in their true perspective, equate values at their true worth, and we shall master the supreme fact of existence that all precious is the poetry of life, its sentiment, its refinement, and of least moment the adding to our store of riches. Then also we shall learn to love our little island as the most beautiful garden in the world; and to desecrate its beauties to make a few more millions will soon be a thing of the past.
And whilst we thus note the effect on our problems of the abundance promised us, yet we must not forget that it is not promised to us alone, but to every people of the world who have the understanding to appreciate it and the energy to make it their own; and this suggests the inquiry, how will the broader and larger problems of humanity be effected by the progress we have noted and recorded? And here let us approach the question from the lowest possible standpoint. Aristotle has said that man is a politic animal. Let our emendation be: Man is a quarrelsome beast. So let us take it that what alone governs his actions is pure cold unadulterated selfishness, and then ask what its effect on our international relations. It is beyond argument that the prosperity of every nation is in its own hands and is dependent on its own habits and its own industry alone. As individuals our interests may be conflicting, but equally is it beyond argument that as nations we all do well together. Our interests run on sympathetic not on antagonistic lines, and we are each the more prosperous for the like prosperity of every other people in the world. And this is the common sense of the League of Nations : We will have no marauder ruining or exploiting any people to our detriment as well as that of its unfortunate victim. The world has fought the ruffian, and says that ruffianism shall exist no more. What alone is required is the effective policing of the world, itself less difficult than the effective policing of many a state not a hundred years ago. With the free interchange of thought that now prevails, the world is more one than were neighbouring villages when the railway was nonexistent and wireless unknown. In former days of necessity we were parochial in our outlook; now parochialism, with many another limitation, is a thing of the past. In a Pax Romana the world knew a peace that paralyzed and stultified mankind; in a Pax Scientiæ the whole of the world shall sing for joy.
And what the bearing of intelligent selfishness in the narrower field of national life? Here also a like probable beneficent result is promised. In the mass unqualified selfishness averages itself out, is mutually destructive, and gives a chance for intelligence to prevail. No man is more intolerant of selfishness than the selfish man. When two such meet, equally strong and equally determined, good will there may be none, but compromise must come into its own. Thus a nation like Tyre may take a long shot and find prosperit in fair dealing when every individual trader
e profit by his fraud. So in the Florence of the ..enth century, the quality of her cloth was of Inportance, and a merchant who sold an inferior ras treated as a criminal. In the result its exe passed into a proverb, and her trade in it irvived her liberties and political fortunes.
benefits by an abuse, the many suffer. Intelligent selfishness demands honesty in the interest of the whole. The individual, in the prosecution of his vicious pleasures may be ready to infect a township; the community, in its own interests, may well insist that purity shall prevail. So in the past war above all we have realized the advantage of being members of a strong power. And the basis of that strength is health. And selfishness—it hardly needs to be enlightened selfishness- may well clamour for healthy life and thus make for realizing the great law of existence, that healthy life is happy life and alone is happy life. And healthy life being of supreme importance, will it be long before we insist on the all-essential of healthy life--THE RIGHT OF THE UNBORN TO BE BORN OF HEALTH-GIVING PARENTS. And do this, and it alone will mean a new world. Thus shall selfishness teach, thus shall we learn that all sin is folly. and that all folly is sin.
So much of international relations and of our social relations as a whole. And now what of the individual ? What does abundance mean for the individual-how will it develop his character? And here we note that the very source of our well-being argues well for its continuance. It is no wealth stolen from others to impoverish them and ruin our moral nature; it is no bounty given by a too generous nature to sap our vitality and enervate our life; but it is ours as the reward of work and application alone. Listless, and it is ours no more. Idle, and we are quickly brought to our bearings by want again threatening. Thus in these very conditions are the best assurance for the permanence of our prosperity. Intrinsically no moral deterioration is involved in its persistence, but the reverse. And in discussing our own particular problems we have seen how we have advanced in ethical outlook as well as in material development. And is not further advance a reasonable expectation? The very effort demanded to secure abundance, and which abundance will foster, will also educate and accustom man to the enjoyment of such abundance, and raise him to a still higher standard of life. Not that we must expect an immediate transformation. In his nature man is the child of a long, long past, and the one nightmare of that past has been want. No! Ideas born of the ages are not to be changed in the passing of an hour. But for all that, a certain optimism is justifiable. On rations—and the best of us marked with jealousy the heaped up plate of his fellow; as for the man who emptied the sugar basin, he was little better than a cur in our eyes-on rations, we got some little insight into a past when famine was an everpresent threat and scarcity the order of the day. And that same scarcity has been moulding man's thoughts and desires through the cycles of the centuries. Anything that stood between man and starvation—wealth, power, strength, position, importance, etc., etc.—was man's greatest good. Then shall no change take place when abundance is the heritage of mankind? One bone for two dogs was the law of the jungle in the past; two bones, three bones for every beast is now the gift of nature to our race.
We have drawn our conclusions from a state of society where selfishness is assumed as the all-governing principle of life. We have made everything of the material, we have ignored the spiritual; but who will say that altruism is no real, living, vital force as well? And with it ranged on the side of progress may not our fairest of dreams materialize and become actual realities? With the morrow assured both for oneself and one's children, may not new values be established of the truly precious in life? Love, esteem, and respect, in the scales with pure materialism, may weigh very differently when man is killed with anxiety and when a fight for existence troubles him no more. And as generations pass may not the cumulative effects be such as to entirely recast his thought and open his eyes to the greatest good? And what the greatest good—the highest satisfaction possible, otherwise happiness, to be got out of life? God in life has given man a glorious gift, and the Giver is most praised when His gift is most fully enjoyed. And when man masters the further undoubted fact that happiness is greatest when shared with one and all, then we shall be near attaining that coincidence of selfishness and altruism of which the philosopher has talked, the poet sung, and the idealist made quest throughout the past.* And is this ever to be? Who shall say? And certainly who shall say it shall not? In its journey through the ages we have seen the world reaching ever higher altitudes, and of this we are assured, it has now been given to man to enjoy as never before. So here we leave our inquiry. Again we may liken ourselves to the voyager on the rollers of the Atlantic. Now we are rising on the wave. Is the crest still above us, or are we to plunge into the depths of the waters? Is another cycle of the ages to be recorded before man learns the lesson of life—the lesson of love? Or is it to be given to another day and generation to realize the joys of which we to-day have the promise?
Behold, man had learnt to love,
Yes, ours is the promise of the dawn. Clouds may darken our vision, but playing on the horizon is the radiance of the day to be, and even if not to be ours, yet shall we not say it is well to have looked upon its glory and to have mused awhile upon its joys?
* But let us not deceive ourselves. Let us do another a good turn, not in expectation of gratitude, but simply with the consciousness that we shall be happier because another is happier. That is our reward-our own increased happiness, not his gratitude.