Images de page
[ocr errors]

sense of actual contact will become keener. This is amongst the few absolute certainties of the future. Therefore, even on this ground, is it not in the highest degree unwise to accentuate the differences that exist? Proximity without sympathy is intolerable. Under such conditions, the national life is embittered; there is an ever-present source of unrest. Foreign influence being now a permanent factor in the daily existence of each country, it is obviously to the interest of the people to mould it to their needs. Friction in this case means the dissipation of an indefinite amount of moral and intellectual energy.

But if it were possible for the nations to be isolated and self-sufficient, it is to a last degree undesirable. The analogy of the individual holds with striking force: it is no more good for a nation, than for a man, to live alone. Isolation and stagnation are closely allied. It is not only to the interest of humanity at large, but to the interest of each of the races, that they should be more and more mutually dependent, more and more bound to each other by all the ties that help towards fellowship The tendency of political ideals to dominate the whole field of national thought and character is pernicious. To this we trace the notion that the highest national interests are founded upon mutual antagonisms, that the gain of one people is necessarily the loss of another. Prosperity on this view is a limited store from which each nation draws at the expense of the rest. Except in the restricted sphere of physical force and its abuse this is a pure fiction. Except in the grossest and most material sense, no people can ultimately profit by needless suffering or injury inflicted on another. The sources of energy upon which national prosperity, in the best sense, depends, are inexhaustible. The drafts of each nation, so far from depriving others of their share, act as a direct cause on their part, of similar renewals of strength. It is not to the disadvantage, but enormously to the advantage of nations, to have as neighbors powerful people, fertile in resource, with essentially different ways of thought, and eager to exchange no less their ideas than their goods.

The conception of humanity as an organism offers sound guidance in estimating the forces which make for true development. In proportion as the organism is low in the scale of life, its parts are independent, their injury is not serious to the individual, the organs being readily repaired or renewed. With each advance in complexity, the welfare of the parts becomes more and more necessary to the wellbeing of the whole. The same is true of nations; from the unsettled life of the nomad with its few needs, perfect selfsufficiency, and utter ignorance of or indifference to the life of other peoples, to the highly civilised life of modern races, with its multifarious needs, material and spiritual, satisfied from every part of the globe, and its vital interest in the welfare of even small and remote communities.

It is hardly necessary to dwell on the fact that imperiousness, or indifference to foreign influence, cramps the life and thought of a people. In numberless ways, this bias

. conceals the results of discovery, and prevents the diffusion of ideas. The growing complexity of the problems of individual and social life has called into existence an army of thinkers in every civilised country. Subdivision and specialisation goes on apace, and the national genius of many peoples is attacking these problems, each in its own way. The best that humanity can produce may be acquired only by a comparison of these results. It is surely absurd that any considerations of geography, or language, or race, should limit the benefits to be derived from the highest culture of the time. It is only thus that the highest type can be evolved. The race which is the most assimilative of the best thought of other races, will be the best able to develop

Other things being equal, it will be the more vigorous, the better fitted for every phase of the struggle for

The fear that the national character would thus be in danger of disappearing in a formless cosmopolitanism is, of course, quite groundless. The only features of it likely to disappear would be those based on narrow prejudice, and unreasoning custom—the concrete expression of ideas that

its own.


are dead. As the individual personalises his knowledge into a characteristic whole, so the genius of the race is expressed in its institutions, its literature, and its conduct. Knowledge is great, but the mystery of personality, individual and national, must ever assert itself.

On the purely moral side, the claims of an ideal of closer union between nations are incomparably strong. If, on the one hand, it is necessary that we should be on our guard lest the lofty conception of human brotherhood blind us to the innate differences that must always exist, it seems equally necessary on the other, to decline to accept the view that all the existing evils are based upon an inexorable and unchangeable "human nature.” Human nature represents something so profoundly complex, that any dogmatism regarding it, beyond the merest essentials, offers an easy method of begging the whole question. On such grounds, every weakness or vice may be excused or in a measure justified, for there is hardly an attribute of human nature which does not vary within the widest limits, according to time and place. To say that enmity is stronger than amity, is to ignore the most obvious lesson of the history of society. It is one thing to admit that, so far as we are able to perceive, disagreements must ever characterise human intercourse; it is quite another to believe that reconciliation or settlement must always be brought about by the primitive method of purely physical force. To argue thus shows an absurdly weak faith in those fundamental instincts of human nature, upon the strength of which its development depends.

The plain truth is that those responsible for national conduct have never given to the question of a possible union of races through the cultivation of their sympathies, the attention it deserves. They have accepted as a matter of course the evidence of hostility; of the evidence of friendship, they have been sceptical. This represents incalculable injury to the cause of humanity. With the way in which illfeeling begets ill-feeling, each country apparently striving to surpass the other, we are, unfortunately, too familiar We are apt to forget that good-feeling is equally cumulative. The rapprochement now happily existing between England and France, is but a faint indication of what may be done when nations are really in earnest in the cause of peace.

It would seem to devolve upon all interested in the progress of the higher culture, to protest against the assertion of any patriotism which does not take advantage of the best influences exerted by humanity at large. Any patriotism which regards the interests of a people as questions solely of physical power, or territory, or trade, is narrow and confining. Important as such interests are, and demanding as they do sagacity of a high order, they are, on a final analysis, but a means to an end. The ultimate mission of an advanced people should be the cultivation of a national character which is strong, worthy, and resourceful, and the patriotism, however blatantly proclaimed, which is opposed to this, is false and misleading.


[ocr errors]


(Continued from July number.) In my first article I endeavored to shadow forth the conception in the teacher's mind of a system of moral instruction which would be generally accepted as being consonant with the higher ideals of our people. Of such a conception how shall we proceed to secure a faithful Reflection? So far as direct instruction is concerned, we have seen that we must graduate our teaching to the age of the pupils. I suggest that in such age-differentiation we may conveniently distinguish three stages.

First Stage. The children are too young to be taught very much about the reasons of why some things are good and others not good. Nevertheless it is for the teacher to train

. them into the habit of doing that which is right. The obvious resort is to precept and exhortation. But precept can be most powerfully reinforced by familiarising the children with pictures of what is good. Hence the “moral tale” which has always been recognised as one of the teacher's aids. But the moral tale has often been used in a rather slipshod way without the teacher's having definitely set before himself exactly what qualities it is that he wishes to foster in his pupils, and which of these moral tales will impress these particular qualities most effectively on the mind. The conception in the teacher's mind has in fact been defective. Attempts have indeed often been made to put together collections of tales with more definite aim. Some of these may probably be usefully used. But the teacher must in every case see that the moral scheme to be enforced precisely corresponds to the scheme of instruction he has in his own mind. These tales are after all only of the nature of illustrations. Instances may be selected from them to suit your necessity; but to frame your scheme of moral instruction to coincide with a series of illustrations that some one else (possibly with quite a different scheme in his head) has put together, is obviously putting the cart before


« PrécédentContinuer »