Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/29

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Presidential Address.

hand observer of savage life, divides those tribes which in conjunction with Dr. Charles Hose he studied in Borneo into three groups—peaceful coast-dwellers, extremely warlike peoples dwelling far up the rivers, and moderately bellicose folk who are situated half-way and fulfil the thankless function of a buffer. "It might be supposed," he writes, "that the peaceful coastwise people would be found to be superior in moral qualities to their more war-like neighbours; but the contrary is the case. In almost all respects the advantage lies with the warlike tribes. Their houses are better built, larger and cleaner; their domestic morality is superior; they are physically stronger, are braver, and physically and mentally more active, and in general are more trustworthy. But, above all, their social organization is firmer and more efficient, because their respect for and obedience to their chiefs, and their loyalty to their community, are much greater; each man identifies himself with the whole community and accepts and loyally performs the social duties laid upon him. And the moderately warlike tribes occupying the intermediate regions stand midway between them and the people of the coast as regards these moral qualities."[1]

Now when an eminent psychologist speaks of moral qualities, we may be sure that he has duly weighed his words; even if it would appear that, according to Mr. M'Dougall, to build a large house and keep it clean ranks among the cardinal virtues. We may take it from him, then, that the head-hunter of Borneo is essentially a gentleman in the making. We, at least, who are the lineal descendants of some of the most terrible fighting races that the world has ever known[2] cannot afford to harbour any other conclusion.

Yet the head-hunting mood has its ethical drawbacks.

  1. W. M'Dougall, An Introduction to Social Psychology, 289.
  2. M'Dougall, op. cit. 290; cf. B. Kidd, Principles of Western Civilization, 156.