Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/599

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579
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.

Taking the most general view of the matter, we may say that only when the sacred duty of blood-revenge, constituting the religion of the savage, becomes less sacred, does there arise a possibility of emergence from the deepest barbarism. Only as fast as the retaliation, which for a murder on one side inflicts a murder or murders on the other, becomes less imperative, is it possible for larger aggregates of men to hold together and civilization to commence. And so, too, out of lower stages of civilization higher ones can emerge, only as there diminishes this pursuit of international revenge and re-revenge, which the code we inherit from the savage insists upon. Such advantages, bodily and mental, as the race derives from the discipline of war, are outbalanced by the disadvantages, physical and moral, but especially moral, which result after a certain stage of progress is reached. Severe and bloody as the process is, the killing-off of inferior races and inferior individuals leaves a balance of benefit to mankind during phases of progress in which the moral development is low, and there are no quick sympathies to be continually seared by the infliction of pain and death. But as there arise higher types of societies, implying types of individual character fitted for closer coöperation, the destructive activities exercised by such higher societies have injurious reactive effects on the moral natures of their members, which outweigh the benefit resulting from extirpation of inferior races. After this stage has been reached, the purifying process, continuing still an important one, remains to be carried on by industrial war—by a competition of societies during which the best, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, spread most, and leave the least capable to disappear gradually, from failing to leave an adequately-numerous posterity.

Those educated in the religion of enmity—those who during boyhood, when the instincts of the savage are dominant, have revelled in the congenial ideas and sentiments which classic poems and histories yield so abundantly, and have become confirmed in the belief that war is virtuous and peace ignoble—are naturally blind to truths of this kind. Rather should we say, perhaps, that they have never turned their eyes in search of such truths. And their bias is so strong that nothing more than a nominal recognition of such truths is possible to them; if even this. What perverted conceptions of sociological phenomena this bias produces, may be seen in the following passage from Gibbon:

"It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the causes of decay and corruption. The long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, had introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire."[1]

In which sentences there is involved the abstract proposition that in proportion as men are long held together in that mutual dependence

  1. "Decline and Fall," chapter ii.