Historical Evolution Of The Race
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Backward look across the ages and the beacon moments see,
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion's sea."
A knowledge of History is a good basis of education. The maxim, "Know thyself," can be obeyed only through a patient seeking to know the race as well. If one individual really knows himself, he knows the race, for the individual is but a type of humanity.
Man in his present degree of development is a product of all the past. But how can an effect be comprehended until the causes are known? And how can the solution be valued until the difficulty of the problem is realized? Man's present degree of development can be fully understood only when illumined by knowledge of the past efforts for its attainment.
To regard oneself as a product of the past imparts an intense interest to History. History then becomes like a family record. Written History is imperfect; the infallible record is mankind. We embody the results of our ancestors' struggles and attainments. If the printed page does not confirm the human record it is worthless. Much of so-called History is valueless because it is not a record of the real transactions but only a partial, distorted vision of appearances. Note from several "histories" the different estimations of the same events. Real personalities and actual events frequently cannot be correctly judged because of the lurid glare of the historian's imagination, or the blue light of his prejudices, or the ghastly green hues cast by his jealousies. But the living generation represent the sum of past struggles, failures and attainments.
We read of the rise and fall of empires. What is the one basic fact in their rise and in their fall? Human nature. Empires are not built of brick or marble. They are founded upon human lives. When those lives are no longer correlated by the derivation of some mutual benefit, the empire passes away. That government alone can endure which preserves the harmonic relations of the human beings by whose sufferance it exists. People expect their government to represent their ideals to some extent. Therefore, the intelligent student of History will look for the ideals of the people in reference to government. A few of the main features will be very briefly noted.
Freedom to act according to the dictates of one's own reason and conscience is the ideal of the philosophical anarchist. His intent is to abolish all governments, because governments are so organized and manipulated as frequently to protect injustice, even though the actual purpose of the majority in establishing governments may be to secure justice.
The anarchist does not perceive that the failure or success of government reflects the status of intelligence of the people. The anarchist's ideal is not possible nor desirable. Governments are necessary. This is so universally recognized that there have never been very many anarchists in the world. However, the ideal of perfect and absolute freedom which no one would desire to abuse, is serviceable in making us realize how far from perfection we are, both individually and collectively. The anarchist's ideal de-feats itself because it could never be established except by enough anarchists destroying the present government and this would be in itself an act of government.
We inherit established institutions and governments and therefore, Soceity can never secure freedom except through new social organizations. The old cannot be displaced except by united efforts. This necessitates new government with its division of labor and responsibility. Governments should consist of Committees elected to perform necessary functions which the people cannot so well do for them-selves as individuals.
However, History is largely a record of strife between people and governments. By "government" is meant the actual ruling class. In the United States at the present time the owners of railroads, mines and oil wells, together with the express, telegraph, telephone, light and power monopolies, are the ruling class and so constitute the actual government of the lives of the majority of the people.
In the great upward movements of the race, FREEDOM seems to be one of the greatest words and ideals. Let it be noted, however, that Freedom alone is not a panacea for all ills. People, individually and collectively, could obtain all the Freedom that could possibly be desired if they were not ignorant and if they could agree. Therefore, Education, in the sense of making intelligent and efficient, must accompany Freedom and secure further and greater Freedom.
The historical evolution of the race clusters in rich fruit-age about every effort to gain more Freedom in any one of these four aspects:
1. Mental Freedom.
2. Religious Freedom.
3. Political Freedom.
4. Industrial Freedom.
Probably the primary necessity to develop religious, political and industrial freedom is the securing of the freedom to think. This is a personal attainment which is necessarily dependent upon character, independence of disposition, conquering of fear of others, departure from tradition, opportunities, etc.
The Freedom of speech is legally established. But the world often avenges itself upon its advanced teachers. Knowledge filtrates very slowly through the various strata of society. Truth can only be apprehended by degrees.
The privilege of free speech is only valuable to society as a whole, when individuals have something worthy to communicate. However, society must suffer some inconveniences from those who convert freedom into license, in order to secure liberty to its benefactors who will spring from unexpected quarters with essential innovations and improvements.
Mental freedom has been difficult to secure for both Science and Religion. A selfish ruling class is naturally opposed to both Science and Religion. The tendency of both Science and Religion is toward freedom.
There has never been any conflict between true Religion and true Science. Ecclesiastical governments have some-times persecuted scientific men when they considered that the spread of knowledge would be destructive to their dominion over the masses. Where false theologies have been founded upon false cosmogonies the conflict has fiercely waged against those who would destroy the old interpretations by teaching more correct views. The record of ecclesiastical governments is a horrible one. History contains no more inexcusable crimes than those committed in the name of religion.
No governments have been formed in the name of Science. It is to be hoped that some day sociological Science will be recognized in government, but that is only an ideal at present. Politicians are controlled by the money power and governments reflect the ideals of corporations.
It is often forgotten by those engaged in depicting the "conflict between Religion and Science" that the truly religious people have had to assert their views and rights against ecclesiasticism at the same time and in the same way as the scientists. Ecclesiasticism has been their common enemy. The interests of true Religion and true Science are identical. Both are desirous of possessing the truth, pure and unadulterated. Neither dreads full knowledge. Both are opposed to the least shadow of a lie.
The enemy of pure Religion has always been false Religion, never Science. Religious Freedom has been gained through conflict with ecclesiastical governments. Only when the church has been divorced from temporal power has religious freedom been possible. This is a sad record. Nevertheless, it is true that no Religion has established a strong and just government. Religious and civil liberty have been secured through a process of checks and counter-checks, because the interest of each sect demanded freedom from the persecution of others.
Societies, or nations, have ever been seeking to establish right relations. The movements of History can best be understood by studying the sociological forces. What are these-? The opinions which the majority held of what constituted right relations. Looking back, we wonder that such erroneous ideas could rule. The more ignorant the people, the longer could a tyrannical government endure. A shrewd minority can manipulate the ignorant majority; but when the people begin to think, thrones totter. When people know their rights and desire them sufficiently, thrones and kings are no more. The inevitable evolution of history is toward democracies. In some respects there is more democracy in Great Britain than in the United States. So the name of the government is unimportant, comparatively.
Human nature in the slave is the same in kind and quality as human nature in the master. It is the same in the subject as in the King. It is the same in the voter as in the President. The poor man has the same general desires as the rich man. Those variations of desire which exist are. not determined by these relations. Human nature is a constant force. The sociologist simply trusts in human nature to continue the work it has thus far performed. This means to extend to industries more of the principle of equal rights to all and special privileges to none.
The struggles of the working class to secure a larger proportion of the value of their products are very significant and hopeful signs. These struggles raise the general standard of living. However, the amount of wages is comparatively unimportant so long as the ruling class has the power to raise the, selling price of commodities at will. No matter how benevolent the despotism, nor how considerate the corporation in all other respects, the policy of "taxation with-out representation" in its various modern disguises will provoke upheavals of society until the design is abandoned. The design may never be abandoned.
AIDS TO FREEDOM.
The mechanical appliances which assist in procuring individual and social freedom are numerous and important. Among them should surely be listed :
1. Printing presses.
2. Conveniences in home, office, factory and municipal life.
3. Transportation facilities for passengers and commodities.
4. High-powered and rapid-action machinery.
These mechanical aids under ethical control should finally secure freedom from grinding toil and the bondages of poverty. A free soul is a grand possession even for a slave like Epictetus; but music, art, culture, leisure to think, opportunities to travel and to enjoy are also essential to freedom in the full sense and for the complete realization of all that the nature of man demands.
No body of people will forever submit willingly to having its standard of living or thinking arbitrarily set by any power except ecclesiastical authority, and this number is limited. Its chief expression is found in the organizations of the Roman Catholic Church and their bondage seems hopeless. When the desire for free access to equal opportunities becomes sufficiently strong and enlightened, old relations and limitations are soon abandoned. The Japanese furnish a striking modern example of this abandonment and the awakening of the Chinese is now significant of this evolutionary impulse affecting a whole nation. However, even the most advanced nations are still striving to attain their ideals of Freedom.