Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/14

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4
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

which one race prospers will not answer for another, the recognition of this truth is by no means adequate. Men who have lost faith in "paper constitutions," nevertheless advocate a policy toward inferior races, implying the belief that civilized social forms can with advantage be imposed on uncivilized peoples; that the arrangements which seem to us vicious are vicious for them; and that they would benefit by institutions—domestic, industrial, or political—akin to those which we find beneficial. But acceptance of the truth that the type of a society is determined by the natures of its units, forces on us the corollary that a régime intrinsically of the lowest may yet be the best possible under primitive conditions.

Otherwise stating the matter, we must not substitute our developed code of conduct, which predominantly concerns private relations, for the undeveloped code of conduct which predominantly concerns public relations. Now that life is generally occupied in peaceful intercourse with fellow-citizens, ethical ideas refer chiefly to actions between man and man; but, in early stages, while the occupation of life was mainly in conflicts with adjacent societies, such ethical ideas as existed referred almost wholly to intersocial actions: men's deeds were judged by their direct bearings on tribal welfare. And since preservation of the society takes precedence of individual preservation, as being a condition to it, we must, in considering social phenomena, interpret good and bad rather in their earlier senses than in their later senses; and so must regard as relatively good that which furthers survival of the society, great as may be the suffering inflicted on individuals.

 

Another of our ordinary conceptions has to be much widened before we can rightly interpret political evolution. The words "civilized" and "savage" must have given to them meanings differing greatly from those which are current. That broad contrast usually drawn wholly to the advantage of the men who form advanced nations, and to the disadvantage of the men who form single groups, a better knowledge obliges us profoundly to qualify. Characters are to be found among rude peoples which compare well with those of the best among cultivated peoples. With little knowledge, and but rudimentary arts, there in some cases go virtues which might shame those among ourselves whose education and polish are of the highest.

Surviving remnants of some primitive races in India have natures in which truthfulness seems to be organic. Not only to the surrounding Hindoos, higher intellectually and relatively advanced in culture, are they in this respect far superior, but they are superior to Europeans. Of certain of these Hill peoples it is remarked in India that their assertions may always be accepted with perfect confidence; which is more than can be said of diplomatists who intentionally delude, or ministers who make false statements concerning cabinet transactions.