HOME PAGE SovereigntyLibrary Catalog
CHARLES W. ELIOT: THE QUALITY-MINDED TYPE
A MEMORANDUM by Charles W. Eliot, from 1869 to1909 President of Harvard University, containing notes for a lecture on what equipmenta student should take from college for success in after life, was recently found.
1. An available body. Not necessarily the muscle of an athlete. Good circulation, digestion, power to sleep, and alert, steady nerves.
2. Power of sustained mental labor.
3. The habit of independent thinking on books, prevailing customs, current events. University training, the opposite of military or industrial.
4. The habit of quiet, unobtrusive, self-regulated conduct, not accepted from others or influenced by the vulgar breath.
5. Reticent, reserved, not many acquaintances, but a few intimate friends. Belonging to no societies perhaps. Carrying in his face the character so plainly to be seen there by the most casual observer, that nobody ever makes to him a dishonorable proposal. 39
This is an excellent concise statement of thevalues to which men of superior qualities attach importance. But it is most interestingas a revelation of what Eliot himself considered the "durable satisfactionsof life."
This was a matter much on the mind of CharlesW. Eliot. To it be devoted many of his writings and public addresses. His preoccupationwith this problem furnishes a significant point of contrast with the devotion ofmen like John D. Rockefeller to moneymaking.
Some idea of Eliot's writings can be gleanedfrom the following list: "The Happy Life" (1896); "Five American Contributionsto Civilization, and other Essays and Addresses" (1897); "Educational Reform,Essays and Addresses 1869-1897" (1898); "More Money for the Public Schools"(1903); "Four American Leaders--Franklin, Washington, Channing, and Emerson"(1906); "University Administration" (1908); and with F. H. Storer, a "CompendiousManual of Qualitative Chemical Analysis" (Boston, 1869; many times reissuedand revised).
Rockefeller's writings were, with one exception,confined to business documents, of which the infamous "letter to Mrs. F. N.Backus," a widow whose lubricating oil company valued at $200,000 he "tookover" for $79,000, furnishes an interesting example, (November 13, 1878). Mostof his writings consisted of contracts such as that dictated by him for freight rebatesbetween The South Improvement Company, (a Rockefeller masquerade), and the PennsylvaniaRailroad (January 18, 1872); and corporation charters such as the "Act of Incorporationof the Standard Oil Company" (January 10, 1870). The volume of "RandomReminiscences" (1909) was Rockefeller's one contribution to literature. It doeshim no injustice to place a higher value on his other writings.
At twenty-four, an age when Rockefeller was alreadysuccessfully launched in the produce business, Eliot was an assistant professor ofchemistry at Harvard University, and at a miserable salary compared to the earningsof the quantity-minded monster with whom I am comparing him.
By the time he was thirty-five, Eliot had studiedchemistry and foreign educational methods in Europe, served as professor of analyticalchemistry in the newly established Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and beenelected President of Harvard University. During the same period of his life, Rockefellerhad laid the foundations for the first American trust. The methods of the feudalbarons of old having been rendered obsolete by the changes which industrialism anddemocracy imposed upon quantity-minded men, Rockefeller showed the captains of industryhow to prey with even more efficiency upon an entire nation.
At thirty-five Eliot began that career of educationalreform and university administration which so largely occupied the next forty yearsof his life. With Johns Hopkins, Harvard under Eliot led in the work of making graduateschools efficient educational instruments. The Harvard elective system was thoroughlyestablished by him. The raising of entrance requirements, which led to a correspondingraising of the standards of the secondary schools, and the introduction of an elementof choice in these requirements, which allowed a limited election of studies to secondarypupils, became national influences as a result of his advocacy of these measures.He urged the abandonment of brief disconnected "information" courses andthe correlation of the subjects taught; the equal rank in college requirements ofsubjects in which equal time, consecutiveness and concentration were demanded, anda more thorough study of English composition. He worked to unify the entire educationalsystem, minimize prescription, eliminate monotony, and introduce freedom and enthusiasmand to insure special training for special work. He was the first to suggest cooperationby colleges in holding common entrance examinations throughout the country, and itwas largely through his efforts that standards for entrance were established whichmade this possible. He contended that secondary schools maintained by public fundsshould shape their courses for the benefit of students whose education goes no furtherthan such high schools, and not be mere training schools for the universities--acontention which shows that he clearly recognized the different capacities for theacquisition of education in various types of human beings. His success as administratorand man of affairs and as educational reformer made him one of the great figuresof his time. What he said on any topic was a subject of deep interest among thoughtfulpeople throughout the country, while his annual reports as President of Harvard wereaccepted as contributions to the literature of education rather than routine reportsto a Board of Trustees.
During the corresponding period of his life,Rockefeller made himself a billionaire. The Standard Oil Company was made to bestrideAmerican finance like a Colossus of Rhodes. Frenzied finance under his aegis produceda crop of millionaires, and an even larger crop of bankruptcies and suicides. Hewas indicted for conspiracy but not convicted. One of his companies was fined twenty-ninemillion dollars, which of course, the government never collected. The original oiltrust he had formed was finally dissolved for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Law,but its parts were promptly re-organized by Rockefeller so that their activitiesmade him even wealthier than he was before.
While Eliot was busy with his life work, he waspublic spirited enough to take an active interest in civil service reform and privatespirited enough to be a successful husband and father and to produce a son who becameone of the country's ablest landscape architects.
Rockefeller's public side-line was to debauchlegislators, and his private contribution to posterity a son notable for the factthat he became the greatest Baptist layman of the world. Only after the years producedsome realization in him that there were other things in the world besides money-makingdid he begin that series of contributions to philanthropy which in quantity outshonethe philanthropies of all contemporaneous captains of industry, much as the robberbarons of the Middle Ages felt that a worthy end to a lifetime of rapacity requireda series of imposing contributions to the Church which should if possible outshinethose of their hated rivals.
I have compared Charles W. Eliot to John D. Rockefellerin order to make plainer by contrast what I mean by the quality-minded man and whatI mean by the quantity-minded man. It is not possible, however, to make a similarcomparison between Eliot and John Doe--between the quality-minded man and the herd-mindedman--for John is unfortunately a mere effort to personalize an abstraction. But amemorable coincidence makes such a comparison quite superfluous.
Charles W. Eliot died on August 22, 1926.
On August 23, 1926, Rudolph Valentino, the movieactor, the great "lover" of the screen, the idol of the masses, died. Thedeath of Valentino was a first page sensation in the daily newspapers. The deathof Eliot won obscure paragraphs hidden in the body of the paper.
The reports about the illness of the movie actorwere as full and complete as those of a President of the United States. They weretelegraphed to every newspaper in the United States. The entire nation knew thatValentino was fatally ill. But few, except those personally interested, knew thatEliot was also ill. There was no "human interest" in the illness of thisgreat educator; no appeal to the masses, in the end of his career, and there wastherefore no newspaper forewarning of his death.
While the crowds streamed in an endless hystericalprocession past the bier of Valentino; while the mobs broke the decorum of the "funeralchurch" in which he lay in state by shattering the great plate glass windows,and policemen worked strenuously to maintain order; while special trains broughthysterical Hollywood actresses clear from the Pacific Coast to New York, and thenewspapers published pages about their antics at the funeral, Eliot was buried withoutbenefit of the masses and with practically no publicity from the newspapers uponwhich John Doe relies for so much of his intellectual fodder.
It is, in view of this, unnecessary to pointout that the world in which John Doe and his herd-minded fellows exist is a totallydifferent planet from that in which Charles W. Eliot and quality-minded men generallyhave their being.
Why does the quality-minded man feel that thelife he would live constitutes the really superior life? There is no answer to befound to this question in the infinite variety of ways in which he earns his living.He may be a creative artist or writer; he may be a professional man; be may be amechanic; he may be a farmer. It is not what he does so much as how and why he doesit that makes it clear that his is the really superior life. He extracts beauty,truth, and goodness from the common stuff of life, no matter what his vocation, muchas a miner extracts gold from crude ore, and thus he enables himself and those abouthim to understand more and to see more, to feel more, and know more than they wouldotherwise apprehend.
In biographical notes the achievements of thequality-minded man are usually summarized, if he is an author, by a list of his writings,with the years in which they appeared following each contribution in parenthesis,and similar lists of paintings, if an artist, buildings, if an architect, discoveriesand researches, if a scientist. It is possible to summarize the life of the quantity-mindedman in the same way. Such a summary of a Rockefeller might read: worth one hundreddollars (16); 12,000 dollars (21); 1-1/2 million dollars (23); 12 million dollars(31) ; 122 million dollars (44); over one billion dollars (57). Change dollars tocountries, duchies, nations, and the summary would describe the life of a quantity-mindedconqueror of the past, or to converts or churches or monasteries, and it would describethe life of any of the quantity-minded fathers of the church.
The quantity-minded man lives a life inferiorto that of the quality-minded man--the life of a John A Rockefeller is an inferiorlife to that of a Charles W. Eliot--because he values too much the mere possessionof things that seem to him tangible: land, money, buildings, soldiers, policemen,laws, facts. These things because they seem so real, interest and fascinate men ofordinary minds. They are important to him, and their acquisition motivates his activities.Naturally he is objective, rather than subjective; to use William James's expression,tough-minded rather than tender-minded, and in the language of the man on the street,"hard-boiled" and not "sissified." The desire to win--to winmore territory, more converts, more subjects, more money--dominates the thought ofthe quantity-minded man. This desire to win, this pre-occupation with the means ofwinning, precludes objective consideration of his own activities. It leaves him notime for the development of an intellectual attitude. Money is his final measureof his business achievement. Every moment of his time must be made to pay, and toproduce a tangible return as promptly as possible. He has no time to waste upon investigation;upon weighing evidence; upon considered decisions, much less upon effort at understandingand creating superior values.
In their reaction to the things which this civilizationproduces; the things which are the object of its economic activities; the thingswhich are made to be bought and sold, and the services which are rendered for moneyby one individual or group to other individuals or groups, is to be found a verysignificant difference between the quantity-minded and the quality-minded.
The quantity-minded react to how many; how large;how expensive.
The quality-minded react to how fine; how unique;how beautiful.
The one is interested in magnitudes; the otherin forms.
The quantity-minded man likes to think, and endlesslyproclaim, that he is a practical man. The quality-minded man is, as a matter of fact,generally an even greater respecter of facts than the so-called practical man. Inmany respects, what be calls the intellectual's theoretical notions are actuallymuch more practical, much better adapted to achieve the ends that the intellectualhas in view than are the methods which seem so practical to him. The essential differencebetween the quality-minded man and the acquisitive, power-seeking man lies in theconsidered thought the intellectual puts into his activities, and the great valuebe attaches to ideas--ethical ideas, intellectual ideas, esthetic ideas. Tangiblethings acquire their value to him only as they promote in some way the ideas whichinterest him and which be values.
To illustrate. Consider the tubes of oil-paintwhich an artist uses in painting. To the artist, the tubes of paint have a valuethat is related to the purpose for which he uses them. If the tubes he has can beused in his painting, they are useful; if not, they are useless. To him the tubesof paints are mere vehicles for the expression of his ideas in color. They acquirevalue for him, at any given time, by virtue of their qualities as colors. Becauseit helps him to paint well, he probably knows something about the pigments, the oils,and the driers of which they are composed. From his standpoint all knowledge is practicalin the extreme which may help him to express his ideas in his painting.
But to the quantity-minded business man, thesetubes of paint are something altogether different. They are a measurable number ofitems of merchandise, having certain money values, and useful to the extent to whichthey enable him directly and indirectly to get what he wants out of life--usuallymoney. To him the artist's fascination in the work of using them to express his ideasseems a sort of mental aberration. He can to some extent make allowance for it, onthe assumption that the artist is foolish enough to believe that he will be luckyenough to find some equally foolish buyer who will make him famous and pay him alot of money for his pictures. But he cannot understand why it is that, while theartist is often interested in the fame and the money, he is often more interestedin the idea he is trying to express--that money and fame lose their savor for himif they are procured at the sacrifice of freedom to express himself. It is easy tounderstand why the business man more or less despises a man who devotes his timeto the pursuit of apparently intangible values such as this instead of devoting himselfto enriching himself from his activities, and why the quality-minded man is doublydespised when the business man succeeds in using for his own enrichment ideas ofthe artist's which he happens to grasp and is able to exploit.
The great masses of average men and women, onthe other hand, hate and despise the intellectual individual because they cannotunderstand the ideas in which he is interested; cannot grasp the abstractions whichseem so important to him; doubt whether the values to which he devotes himself haveany reality at all. Mr. Everett Dean Martin tells of an occasion when it was announcedto a crowd in a New York theatre that only twelve men in the world could understandEinstein's theory of relativity. The crowd hissed.
The masses are confirmed in this hatred of thesensitive and the learned man because the "practical" men who rule andlead them and who are intent upon accumulating things which they can see and feeland taste and which they too would like to possess, confirm them in their beliefin the value of things as they are.
All leadership of the masses requires the practiceof demagogy. The leaders of the masses tend to subscribe to cant and buncumbe inpublic, even when they are intelligent enough to scorn it in private. Even when theydo not need to flatter the masses in this way in order to attain power or wealth--whenthey are born to these things and inherit them--they still employ it in order toretain the positions which they already have. The Tzar of Russia, born to autocraticpower, was of necessity a demagogue; he had to placate the stupid muzhiks in hisdominions with the pomp and piety of Orthodox Greek Catholicism. A fortuitous concordanceof accidents--the ambitions of Stephen Douglas, the fears of the Southern Democrats,the split in the Democratic party, the impotence of the Whigs--made possible theelection of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. But he had to turn demagogue in order to keepthe tired populace fighting for an idea-for an abstraction--the preservation of theUnion.
Is it any wonder that the masses fear the intellectual?Even if they could be made to grasp the ideas in which the intellectual is interested,they cannot become interested in them, because their leaders, whether a Tzar or aLincoln, insulate them against novel ideas.
But this process of insulating the masses againstexceptional men is true not only of their political leaders--it is true of theirleaders in the pulpit and in the press. Let me quote from a very popular writer forthe masses, Albert Payson Terhune. In an article which was entitled, "A Roughneck'sReligion," published in a magazine which has a circulation of 2,200,000, hesaid:
Not from the Roughneck has come the horde of sneers at religion, either now or in the past. The Roughneck has ever been sound, to the core. He has left doubts and atheism and higher criticism and the like to the Intelligentsia ("the Highbrow Bunch," as he would call them) ; and to the Parlor Intellectuals who go smugly on, thinking 44-caliber thoughts with 22-caliber brains, and seeking to lead the Roughneck unleadables.
I like the Roughneck. Perhaps I like and understand him because I am one of him; and because, off and on, for a half-century, I have associated much with him. It is he who is the backbone of religion--not of dogma nor of quibble, but of the terribly simple and irresistible religion which made him stand in silent prayer at a prize fight.
So it was, nearly two thousand years ago, when Christ walked the earth. The Bible tells us: THE COMMON PEOPLE HEARD HIM, GLADLY, and that the Scribes and Pharisees did not. Even in that day, you see, the Roughneck and the Intelligentsia were arrayed in opposite religious camp s. 40
"There is no expedient," says Sir JoshuaReynolds, "to which men will not resort to avoid the necessity of thinking."Relatively few men enjoy thinking. This is the quality-minded man's greatest departurefrom the mass. He is "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." Heis never satisfied with things as they are, but constantly striving to live lifeas he thinks it should be lived; to devote his time to occupations to which it isworth while devoting life; to produce during it the things that will really increasethe sum total of beauty and understanding. Is it any wonder that the masses ridiculehim; sometimes persecute him, and when incited to it by their leaders, actually crucifythe man who really undertakes to make them think?
Henry Adams said about some of the ideas of thescientists of the nineties that they "were occult, supersensual, irrational;they were a revelation of mysterious energy like that of the Cross; they were what,in terms, of mediaeval science, were called immediate modes of the divine substance."This can be said equally truly of all ideas, the understanding and creation of whichthe quality-minded man imposes upon himself and for which he is so often penalizedunder the present state of affairs.
It is simply impossible to measure the powerof ideas. By comparison with them, all the other powers with which man plays areinfantile. Ideas make economic power seem insubstantial. Political power seems evenless substantial than economic. Physical power, whether mechanical as in a dynamoor animal as in an athlete, seems the least substantial of all. All these forms ofpower last hardly a few generations. But ideas have endured, some of them, throughoutthe centuries of recorded history. Some which go back to prehistoric periods arestill with us, sometimes in their original form, and sometimes in reincarnations.There are such hardy and enduring ideas as those of personal immortality, and ofthe existence of a god. Though false as the devil (who symbolizes another enduringidea) they will probably in one form or another endure forever. There are such ideasas those of the Buddha--the idea of Nirvana; there is the Christian idea of the vicariousatonement; and there are the ideas of Confucius about the supreme value of wisdom.These ideas have not only the power to endure, but the power to spread from personto person, nation to nation, continent to continent by channels as mysterious, whenviewed from a distant perspective, as that in which electricity and magnetism travel.So it is with ideas which are embodied in philosophy, in art, in music, in science;in comparison the powers which the quantity-minded man is able to seize and for whichthe average man hopes, are mere ephemeral toys.
The child thinks that the toys for which it longsand which it manages to acquire are far more desirable than the strange, and to itincomprehensible things, which adults prize.
Knowing the superiority of ideas--their greater"dynamic" and "kinetic" power, and the superiority both as occupationand entertainment of the understanding and creation of ideas--the quality-mindedman can look, if be is free, at the activities of the rest of mankind, its preoccupationwith money, political office, with automobiles, and similarly apparently substantialthings, much as an adult looks at a child's preoccupation with its toys.
We come now to the question of the effect uponthe quality-minded type of man of the domination of human activities by the factoryand by the needs of a factory civilization.
The factory has changed but little the fundamentalrelationship of the quality-minded man, the quantity-minded man, and the averageman to one another. With one hand it has increased the opportunities of the threetypes of individuals into which we have resolved mankind to make life itself moredignified and the individual life richer and more comfortable, and with the otherit has decreased them. In our industrial democracies the intellectual is generallypolitically and economically freer than he was under the agricultural feudalism whichpreceded it.
The intellectual of the aristocratic class, itis true, enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom, suffering only the handicaps whichhis, kings and his priests imposed upon him. The intellectual of non-aristocraticlineage, however, was dependent for the opportunity to live an expressive life uponthe patronage of nobles and churchmen. Industrial society such as we now know hasreplaced the former variety of dispensers of patronage with a new variety. Therehas been an exchange of patronage by aristocrats to patronage by capitalists andpoliticians. If the exchange has made it possible for quality-minded men to enjoya greater measure of personal freedom, it has been secured by the sacrifice of thepatronage of the much more discriminating aristocratic class.
Unfortunately, the factory tends to an increasingextent to destroy the value of this greater freedom by forcing the modern intellectualto engage in the production of trivia. In this way it is actually hindering the quality-mindedman from occupying himself with the work of contributing to the beauty of civilizationand to the understanding of life.
Our factory economy restricts the freedom ofthe quality-minded man by forcing him to devote himself to the satisfaction of thetangible desires of the masses. It exerts a pressure upon him through his economicneeds; he finds that he must serve the factory directly, or compromise on some sortof service for it, in order to live.
The service is sometimes direct and sometimesindirect. If he engages in some sort of work for a factory, then of course he isyielding to this pressure by serving it directly. If he tries to devote himself towork which apparently has no relationship to the factory--as for instance, to teaching--hefinds that the whole institution of education is oriented toward the needs of thefactory. He finds that be is yielding to the same pressure and serving the factoryindirectly. The business men who form the boards of trustees of modern schools andcolleges are as effective curbs upon the teachers of today, as the aristocrats andthe churchmen were in the period before the Darwinian era.
The factory concerns itself with multiplyingour tangible wants and these are made so engrossing that no one is given time, evenif he has the inclination, to supply the world with desirable ideas. Ideas must stillbe smuggled into the world precisely as they had to be smuggled in during the past.Until the man who is interested in ideas and who produces new ideas is really freeto do so--free economically, socially, and politically--neither he himself, nor theworld at large will really be able to live in mental and physical comfort.
It is true that what the really superior manproduces; what he extracts out of his life, however circumscribed; what he expressesin his work and in his moral, political, economic and social philosophy, is ultimatelyaccepted by mankind. But ultimately is generally a very long time. The bones of thepioneers are often bleached very white before their ideas are--generally understoodand before they are accepted by mankind as a whole. There is a lag--a tragic lagboth for the quality-minded man and for mankind as a whole--between the time of theconception of new ideas and the time of their acceptance.
The lag between the time when the earth was firstconceived as a globe by the Pythagorean philosophers and the time when the fact wasaccepted by Ferdinand and Isabella was a period of hundreds of years. The idea thatthe globe is round has not yet been accepted by the entire unthinking masses of Christendom,while the numbers in Africa and Asia who have not heard of it is staggering.
The quality-minded man sometimes consoles himselfwith the thought that the ideas which his contemporaries reject will be gratefullyaccepted by a distant posterity. But the consolation is hardly very great. He turnsto this consolation not because he is indifferent to recognition of his work by hiscontemporaries, but because that is about all that he can find in order to justifyhis working at all.
What is very badly needed is to shorten the lagbetween the conception of new ideas and their acceptance by mankind. Today it isthe needs of the factory that prevent further shortening of this lag, just as thechurch prevented any shortening of it in the immediate past. It may be impossibleto eliminate the lag entirely. But even in our time it could be shortened if quality-mindedmen in considerable numbers were to make themselves independent of the factory. Thefactory's demands upon them mean either an abandonment of intellectual life or aninterference with the spread of the ideas which come out of such a life. They mustfree themselves from the factory and the business man, partly for mankind's sakeand partly for their own.
Only by freeing themselves can they dictate tothe quantity-minded masters of the masses the terms upon which they will furnishthe intellectual and artistic effort the world must have if society is to functionwell.
Only by freeing themselves can they insist thattheir ideas, and not the dead and decaying flotsam and jetsam of old ideas, of superstitions,of outworn values, of trivia of small minds--shall rule mankind.
Only by freeing themselves can they attain aposition in which they can shorten the lag between the time that new ideas are producedby them and the time the new ideas are accepted by the world.
Factories operate profitably only when directedby men who are content to devote themselves to substantially the same task year afteryear; when directed by men who can for a whole lifetime devote themselves to theproblem of making the same product, of hiring and firing those whom they employ tomake and sell it, and of financing and earning profits from the marketing of oneproduct. The men who are willing to devote their lives to this sort of work, to administeringthe factories, to creating markets for their products and to training in school andcollege those who can administer, and sell and advertise, are robots--sublimatedrobots it is true, but just as truly robots as the laborers who tend and feed themachines in their factories. Quality-minded men simply cannot do that sort of work.They are neither tough enough to stand the strain of the administrative and executivework in factories, nor thoughtless enough to be unconscious of the boredom of spendingtheir lives at work of that sort.
Quality-minded men have something to say, somethingto express, something to contribute upon other aspects of life than that of productionand distribution. But it is impossible for them to say it, even though it means lifemore abundantly for all, if they are harnessed in a treadmill in which productionand distribution absorb the best that is in them.
In ages when quality-minded men are largely freeto express themselves, the world enjoys a period of high civilization. In ages whenthey are prevented from doing so, we have a period of darkness.
A dark age is merely one in which the educationalinfluence of intelligent men has in some manner been destroyed. It is the educationalinfluence of the intellectual minority of quality-minded men that makes for light.A dark age is one in which the normal functioning of this minority has in some mannerbeen prevented.
The educational influence of quality-minded menis great when they are free to say what they think, and almost nil when they areconstrained by church, government, or business to say what they do not really believe.
Quality-minded men are a sort of leavening inthe lump of mankind. They produce ideas, create beauty, promote understanding. Willynilly, mankind ultimately accepts what they prescribe. It accepts their ideas slowly,reluctantly, inappreciatively. There are long periods of time when mankind becauseof an obsession with such a thing as religion, or such a thing as feudalism, or sucha thing as industrialism, abandons the whole cargo of things truly civilized; whenit sinks into a dark age because it has forced its intellectuals into the cloisters,into the armies, or into the factories.
Between the Spartans and the Macedonians, thecivilization created by the Greek intellectuals was destroyed.
Between the Goths and the Christians, the civilizationwhich the intellectuals built in Rome was destroyed. Solon and Alexander, Alaricand Constantine were practical men. They knew what they wanted and proceeded to getit even though that involved driving the intellectuals into slavery, into war, orinto the church.
The Renaissance was merely a re-emergence ofthe intellectuals--a period when the Catholic Church was forced by the humaniststo permit them to function. Just as the age of science was merely a period whichbegan when the Darwins, Huxleys, Tyndalls and Haeckels were able to force the entireChristian world once again to permit the intellectuals to function.
There is little, if any, spontaneous progressin the ideas, the work, the life of the masses of average men. They are clay shapedfrom age to age by very small minorities of men.
And nothing much from within themselves makesfor progress and culture in acquisitive, power seeking, quantity-minded individuals.Their very toughness enables them to maintain their leadership whether society besavage, barbarian, or civilized. And their preoccupation with accumulation preventsthem from devoting time to the objective thinking which produces spontaneous changesand improvements.
Both the quantity-minded leaders and the herd-mindedmasses of average men suffer from inertia; sometimes the inertia of mass, and sometimesthat of motion. In the Middle Ages it was a static inertia--today it is a dynamicinertia.
But quality-minded men are forever spontaneouslyprogressing: that is the thing that makes them different from their fellows. Letanything happen which prevents them from functioning; let them cease to put forthideas, and society ossifies at first and then collapses into darkness. The body liveson but its brain ceases to function. Darkness comes on for all; for the quality-minded,for the quantity-minded, and for the herd-minded masses.
I believe that the factory menaces the very existenceof this leaven in the lump of mankind.
The factory, as it spreads, leaves quality-mindedmen no escape from the horror of doing one thing over and over again in exactly thesame way once they have been forced to turn to it for a livelihood. The businessmen who operate factories do not have to escape from it because they are insensitiveto its horrors. Henry Ford says:
When you come right down to it most jobs are repetitive. A business man has a routine that he follows with great exactness; the work of a bank president is nearly all routine; the work of under officers and clerks in a bank is purely routine. Indeed, for most purposes and most people, it is necessary to establish something in the way of a routine and to make motions purely repetitive otherwise the individual will not get enough done to be able to live off his own exertions. 41
It is only for repetitive workers--for the semi-skilledlaborer, the "productive" salesman and the efficient business executive--thatthere is real demand and real opportunity in our factory dominated civilization.
If the factory is permitted to continue forcingquality-minded individuals into its repetitive regime; if it continues to deprivethem of the opportunity to earn their living in ways which enable them to expressthe best that is within them; if. it ever succeeds in destroying completely theirlife as intellectuals--a task to which schools, colleges, and universities are toan increasing extent devoting themselves: making potential quality-minded men intoquantity-minded salesmen, short story writers, advertising men, commercial artists--thenwe shall have a new dark age. We shall suffer a repetition of the disaster whichthe Catholic Church inflicted upon mankind when it forced every intelligent personinto the cloisters by offering him the alternative of conformity or of excommunicationand extinction.
There is no doubt that mankind has already madeits choice. We are not at a cross-road. We are not confronted by two roads, one leadingto a factory-dominated world and a socialistic civilization, and the other to anart-dominated world and an individualistic civilization. We have long since passedthe cross-road. We are far along the road that leads to the goal of perfect industrialization.
It may be true, as Glenn Frank says, that itis too late to retrace our steps--that the real task before us is to adapt ourselvesto what lies before us--to find silver linings in the clouds of encircling darkness.If it is too late for mankind to avoid what seems to me the abyss, then let thosewho prefer to drift with the tide no longer deceive themselves about what the presentcivilization in its ultimate perfection will become. Imaginative individuals arealready describing it. The robots in "R. U. R." are allegorical figures,it is true, but they are prophetic too.
Those who do not care to drift with that repetitivetide must free themselves from those who not only are willing to drift with it butinsist that all shall do so. It may be too late to check the descent of mankind tothe Avernus. But it is not too late for intellectuals to prevent their own plungeindividually into it.
"Men of superior minds," says Confucius,"busy themselves, first in getting at the root of things, and when they havesucceeded in this, the right course is open to them."
This is good gospel for quality-minded men. Letthem place the problem of charting a right course for society in a secondary position,since society is doomed to go where the factory will lead it. Let them think firstof the problem of how they should live their own lives.
The individual quality-minded man may not beable to prevent society from plunging into the indignity of a mechanized dark age.
But he may be able to save himself.
GO TO CHAPTER XIII