Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/859

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
839
EDITOR'S TABLE.
EDITOR'S TABLE.


AIDS TO MISERY.

AN extremely instructive article appears in the Fortnightly Review for August, under the title of The Poor of the World. The author, Mr. Samuel A. Barnett, has been traveling round the world in order to inform himself by personal observation and inquiry as to the condition of the poor in different countries. The result, so far as presented in this article, is to show that everywhere the great underlying cause of poverty is lack of individuality and the power of self-help, and that the only ultimate remedy is the creation through education — understanding the word in its widest sense — of more perfect individuals. This is the doctrine which Mr. Spencer has been preaching directly and indirectly for many years past, often at the cost of much contumely and, in general, to unbelieving ears. The reason for the unpopularity of this view is not far to seek. Eager reformers do not like to think that the evils they combat are deep-seated and can only be slowly worked out of human nature; they cherish the hope of accomplishing great things in a short time and seeing the fruit of their labors in a striking form. Sentimental persons, again, always want to cast the blame of what is wrong on somebody; and if they can not see quite clearly who in particular is to blame, they denounce "society." It is pleasanter to feel ourselves fighting the selfish, the indifferent, the grasping, or those whom we are pleased to consider such, than to accept the position of simply trying to repair evils inherent in the condition of things as molded by natural forces. All within us that craves for the quick, the short, the easy, the sensational, indisposes us to accept a theory that opens up a vista of patient, prolonged, and carefully revised effort, bringing with it little of glory at any one time, and calling for the exercise of no small amount of scientific faith.

We have been hearing lately of the sanguinary conflicts of Hindus and Mohammedans in the streets of Bombay. Different as the creeds may be which the two races possess, Mr. Barnett found that the temples of the one and the mosques of the other were equally centers of distribution of a large amount of charity, the product of gifts gathered from the rich, and that the effects of this charity were most pernicious. "It ever," he says, "one is inclined to doubt the danger of priestcraft, a visit to India ought to dispel such doubts. He will find in the Brahmans a typical priesthood, and he will see how their unquestioned rule has degraded the people, until they seem without power of clear thinking or wide feeling." How charity serves the priesthood a double turn is well explained: "The pious give, not because their brothers have need, but to please the god; and it is nothing to them if their gifts are consumed by the priests or wasted on worthless objects. The priests give as priests — either to attract worshipers to their temple or to deliver their own souls." The charity thus dispensed, far from abating poverty increases and extends it. In Hyderabad, where the Mohammedans are in the ascendant, ten per cent of the revenue, in addition to large private gifts, is spent on keeping armies of beggars who are descendants of orthodox families, while it is quite ft common thing for wills to provide for the feeding of idle multitudes on certain holy days of the year. In India, moreover, an obligation is laid upon all the members of a family to support one another. As a consequence, "the hard--