« AnkstesnisTęsti »
[If we are to get at the facts of our contemporary life, we must contrive to detect these stereotypes, these false images which we read into the facts. How are we to detect them?]
There are certain clues which often help in detecting the false absolutism of a stereotype. In the case of the Ruritanian propaganda the principles ate one another up so rapidly that one could readily see how the argument had been constructed. The series of contradictions showed that for each sector that stereotype was employed which would obliterate all the facts that interfered with the claim. Contradiction of this sort is often a good clue.
Inability to take account of space is another. In the spring of 1918, for example, large numbers of people, appalled by the withdrawal of Russia, demanded the "reëstablishment of an eastern front." The war, as they had conceived it, was on two fronts, and when one of them disappeared, there was an instant demand that it be recreated. The unemployed Japanese army was to man the front, substituting for the Russian. But there was one insuperable obstacle. Between Vladivostok and the eastern battle-line there were five thousand miles of country, spanned by one broken-down railway. Yet those five thousand miles would not stay in the minds of the enthusiasts. So overwhelming was their conviction that an eastern front was needed, and so great their confidence in the valor of the Japanese Army, that, mentally, they had projected that army from Vladivostok to Poland on a magic carpet. In vain our military authorities argued that
to land troops on the rim of Siberia had as little to do with reaching the Germans as climbing from the cellar to the roof of the Woolworth building had to do with reaching the moon.
The stereotype in this instance was the war on two fronts. Ever since men had begun to imagine the Great War they had conceived Germany held between France and Russia. One generation of strategists, and perhaps two, had lived with that visual image as the starting-point of all their calculations. For nearly four years every battle-map they saw had deepened the impression that this was the war. When affairs took a new turn, it was not easy to see them as they were there. They were seen through the stereotype, and facts which conflicted with it, such as the distance from Japan to Poland, were incapable of coming vividly into consciousness.
It is interesting to note that the American authorities dealt with the new facts more realistically than the French. In part, this was because, previous to 1914, they had no preconception of a war upon the Continent; in part, because the Americans, engrossed in the mobilization of their forces, had a vision of the western front, which was itself a stereotype, that excluded from their consciousness any very vivid sense of the other theaters of war. In the spring of 1918 this American view could not compete with the traditional French view, because, while the Americans believed enormously in their own powers, the French at that time (before Cantigny and the Second Marne) had the gravest doubts. The American confidence suffused the American stereotype, gave it that power to possess consciousness, that liveliness and sensible pungency,
that stimulating effect upon the will, that emotional interest as an object of desire, that congruity with the activity in hand, which James notes as characteristic of what we regard as "real." The French in despair remained fixed on their accepted image. And when facts, gross geographical facts, would not fit with the preconception, they were either censored out of mind or the facts were themselves stretched out of shape. Thus the difficulty of the Japanese reaching the Germans five thousand miles away was in measure overcome by bringing the Germans more than half-way to meet them. Between March and June, 1918, there was supposed to be a German army operating in eastern Siberia. This phantom army consisted of some German prisoners actually seen, more German prisoners thought about, and chiefly of the delusion that those five thousand intervening miles did not really exist.
[A false sense of time, as well as a false sense of space, often makes a stereotyped image that we read into the facts.] To one person an institution which has existed for the whole of his conscious life is part of the permanent furniture of the universe; to another it is ephemeral. Geological time is very different from biological time. Social time is most complex. The statesman has to decide whether to calculate for the emergency or for the long run. Some decisions have to be made on the basis of what will happen in the next two hours; others on what will happen in a week, a month, a season, a decade, when the children have grown up, or their children's children. An important part of wis
dom is the ability to distinguish the time conception that properly belongs to the thing in hand. The person who uses the wrong time conception ranges from the dreamer who ignores the present to the Philistine who can see nothing else. A true scale of values has a very acute sense of relative time. It all depends upon the practical purpose for which you adopt the measure. There are situations when the time perspective needs to be lengthened, and others when it needs to be shortened.
The man who says that it does not matter if fifteen million Chinese die of famine, because in two generations the birth-rate will make up the loss, has used a time perspective to excuse his inertia. A person who pauperizes a healthy young man because he is sentimentally over-impressed with an immediate difficulty has lost sight of the duration of the beggar's life. The people who for the sake of an immediate peace are willing to buy off an aggressive empire by indulging its appetite have allowed a specious present to interfere with the peace of their children. The people who will not be patient with a troublesome neighbor, who want to bring everything to a "show-down," are no less the victims of a specious present.
Into almost every social problem the proper calculation of time enters. Suppose, for example, it is a question of timber. Some trees grow faster than others. Then a sound forest policy is one in which the amount of each species and of each age cut in each season is made good by replanting. In so far as that calculation is correct the truest economy has been reached. To cut less is waste, and to cut more is exploitation. But there may come
an emergency, say the need for aëroplane spruce in a war, when the year's allowance must be exceeded. An alert government will recognize that, and regard the restoration of the balance as a charge upon the future.
Coal involves a different theory of time, because coal, unlike a tree, is produced on the scale of geological time. The supply is limited, therefore a correct social policy involves intricate computation of the available reserves of the world, the indicated possibilities, the present rate of use, the present economy of use, and the alternative fuels. But when that computation has been reached, it must finally be squared with an ideal standard involving time. Suppose, for example, that engineers conclude that the present fuels are being exhausted at a certain rate; that, barring new discoveries, industry will have to enter a phase of contraction at some definite time in the future. We have then to determine how much thrift and self-denial we shall use, after all feasible economies have been exercised, in order not to rob posterity. what shall we consider posterity? Our grandchildren? Our great-grandchildren? Perhaps we shall decide that they have a hundred year's notice, and that that is ample time for science to discover alternative fuels if the necessity is made clear at once. The figures are of course hypothetical; but in calculating in that way we shall be employing what reason we have. We shall be giving social time its place in public opinion.
Popular history is a happy huntingground of time confusions. To the average Englishman, for example, the
behavior of Cromwell, the corruption of the Act of Union, the Famine of 1847, are wrongs suffered by people long dead and done by actors long dead with whom no living person, Irish or English, has any real connection. But in the mind of a patriotic Irishman these same events are almost contemporary. His memory is like one of those historical paintings where Vergil and Dante sit side by side conversing. These perspectives and foreshortenings are a great barrier between peoples.
Almost nothing that goes by the name of historic rights or historic wrongs can be called a truly objective view of the past. Take, for example, the Franco-German debate about Alsace-Lorraine. It all depends on the original date you select. If you start with the Rauraci and Sequani, the lands are historically part of ancient Gaul. If you prefer Henry, they are historically a German territory; if you take 1273, they belong to the House of Austria; if you take 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia, most of them are French; if you take Louis XIV and the year 1680, they are all French. If you are using the argument from history, you are fairly certain to select those dates in the past which support your view of what should be done now.
Arguments about races and nationalities often betray the same arbitrary view of time. During the war, under the influence of powerful feeling, the differences between "Teutons" on the one hand and "Anglo-Saxons" and "French" on the other was popularly believed to be an eternal difference. They had always been opposing races. Yet a generation ago, historians, like Freeman, were emphasizing the common Teutonic origin of the west
European peoples, and ethnologists would certainly insist that the Germans, English, and the greater part of the French were branches of what was once a common stock. The general rule is, if you like a people to-day, you come down the branches to the trunk; if you dislike them, you insist that the separate branches are separate trunks. In one case you fix your attention on the period before they were distinguishable; in the other, on the period after which they became distinct. And the view which fits the mood is taken as the "truth."
An amiable variation is the family tree. Usually, one couple are appointed the original ancestors, if possible a couple associated with an honorific event like the Norman Conquest. That couple have no ancestors. They are not descendants. Yet they were the descendants of ancestors, and the expression that So-and-So was the founder of his house means not that he is the Adam of his family, but that he is the particular ancestor from whom it is desirable to start, or perhaps the earliest ancestor of which there is a record. But genealogical tables exhibit a deeper prejudice. Unless the female line happens to be especially remarkable, descent is traced down through the males. The tree is male. At various moments females accrue to it as itinerant bees light upon an ancient apple-tree.
But the future is the most illusive time of all. Our temptation here is to jump over necessary steps in the sequence, and, as we are governed by hope or doubt, to exaggerate or to minimize the time required to complete various parts of the process.
The discussion of the rôle to be exercised by wage-earners in the management of industry is riddled with this difficulty. For "management" is a word that covers many functions. Some of these require no training; some require a little training; others require a lifetime. And the truly discriminating program of industrial democratization would be one based on the proper-time sequence, so that the assumption of responsibility would run parallel to a complementary program of industrial training. The proposal for a sudden dictatorship of the proletariat is an attempt to do away with the intervening time of preparation; the resistance to all sharing of responsibility an attempt to deny the alteration of human capacity in the course of time. Primitive notions of democracy, such as rotation in office and contempt for the expert, are really nothing but the old myth that the goddess of Wisdom sprang mature and fully armed from the brow of Jove. They assume that what it takes years to learn need not be learned at all.
Whenever the phrase "backward people" is used as the basis of a policy, the conception of time is a decisive element. The Covenant of the League of Nations says, for example, that "the character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people," as well as on other grounds. Certain communities, it asserts, "have reached a stage of development" where their independence can be provisionally recognized, subject to advice and assistance, "until such time as they are able to stand alone." The way in which the mandatories and the mandated conceive that time will influence deeply their relations. Thus in the
case of Cuba the judgment of the American Government virtually coincided with that of the Cuban patriots, and though there has been trouble, there is no finer page in the history of how strong powers have dealt with the weak. Oftener in that history the estimates have not coincided. Where the imperial people, whatever its public expressions, has been deeply convinced that the backwardness of the backward was so hopeless as not to be worth remedying, or so profitable that it was not desirable to remedy it, the tie has festered and poisoned the peace of the world. There have been a few cases, very few, where backwardness has meant to the ruling power the need for a program of forwardness -a program with definite standards and definite estimates of time. Far more frequently, so frequently in fact as to seem the rule, backwardness has been conceived as an intrinsic and eternal mark of inferiority. Then every attempt to be less backward has been frowned upon as the sedition which, under these conditions, it undoubtedly is. In our own race wars we see some of the results of the failure to realize that time would obliterate the slave morality of the negro, and that social adjustment based on it would begin to break down.
It is hard not to picture the future as if it obeyed our present purposes, to annihilate whatever delays our desire, or to immortalize whatever stands between us and our fears.
opinions, not only do we have to picture more space than we can see with our eyes, and more time than we can feel, but we have to describe and judge more people, more actions, more things, than we can ever count or vividly imagine. We have to summarize and generalize. We have to pick out samples and treat them as typical.
To pick fairly a good sample of a large class is not easy. The problem belongs to the science of statistics, and it is a most difficult affair for any one whose mathematics is primitive, and mine remain azoic despite the half-dozen manuals which I once devoutly imagined that I understood. All they have done for me is to make me a little more aware of how hard it is to classify and to sample, how readily we spread a little butter over the whole universe.
Sometime ago a group of social workers in Sheffield, England, started out to substitute an accurate picture of the mental equipment of the workers of that city for the impressionistic one they had. They wished to say, with some decent grounds for saying it, how the workers of Sheffield were equipped. This is the kind of judgment all of us are forever making about classes, races, nations, cities, professions. Now, the moment you refuse to let your first notion prevail, you are beset with complications. Let us pass over the test they employed. It consisted of a large questionnaire, which was at any rate more coherent than the one of Mr. Edison's which proved such a windfall to the publishers of encyclopedias. For the sake of the illustration, assume that the questions were a fair test of mental
[The tendency to pass judgment on a too narrow base of facts is another thing that gives us a dangerous stereotype.] In putting together our public equipment for English city life. The