Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/27

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
23
OF PROGRESS

produce an appearance of improvement; but this is hardly what we mean by progress, and there is an old saying that the Devil has a clever trick of pretending to be dead. It seems to me very doubtful whether when we are exposed to the same temptations we are more humane or more sympathetic or juster or less brutal than the ancients. Even before this war, the examples of the Congo, and Putumayo, and American lynchings, proved that contact with barbarians reduces many white men to the moral condition of savages; and the outrages committed on the Chinese after the Boxer rebellion showed that even a civilized nation cannot rely on being decently treated by Europeans if its civilization is different from their own. During the Great War, even if some atrocities were magnified with the amiable object of rousing a good-natured people to violent hatred, it was the well-considered opinion of Lord Bryce's commission that no such cruelties had been committed for three hundred years as those which the Germans practised in Belgium and France. It was startling to observe how easily the blood—lust was excited in young men straight from the fields, the factory, and the counter, many of whom had never before killed anything larger than a wasp, and that in self-defence. As for the Turks, we must go back to Genghis Khan to find any parallel to their massacres in Armenia; and the Russian terrorists have reintroduced torture into Europe, with the help of Chinese experts in the art. With these examples before our eyes, it is difficult to feel any confidence that either the lapse of time or civilization has made the bête humaine. On biological grounds there is no reason to expect it. No selection in favour of superior types is not going on; on the contrary, civilization tends now, as always, to an Ausrottung der