Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/732

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

all dead,[1] or in the wholesale shootings and burnings of houses, after the suppression of the Jamaica insurrection. Listen to what is said at home about such deeds in our own colonies, and you find that habitually they are held to have been justified by the necessities of the case. Listen to what is said about such deeds when other nations are guilty of them, and you find the same persons indignantly declare that no alleged necessities could form a justification. Nay, the bias produces perversions of judgment even more extreme. Feelings and deeds we laud as virtuous when they are not in antagonism with our own interests and power, we think vicious feelings and deeds when our own interests and power are endangered by them. Equally in the mythical story of Tell, and in any account not mythical, we read with glowing admiration of the successful rising of an oppressed race; but admiration is changed into indignation if the race is one held down by ourselves. We can see nothing save crime in the endeavor of the Hindoos to throw off our yoke; and we recognize no excuse for the efforts of the Irish to establish their independent nationality. We entirely ignore the fact that the motives are, in all such cases, the same, and, in the abstract, are to be judged apart from results.

A bias which thus vitiates even the perceptions of physical appearances, which so greatly distorts the beliefs about conspicuous antagonists and their deeds, which leads us to reprobate in other nations severities and cruelties that we applaud when committed by our own agents, and which makes us regard acts of intrinsically the same kind as wrong or right according as they are or are not directed against ourselves, is a bias which inevitably perverts our sociological ideas. The institutions of a despised people cannot be judged with fairness; and if, as often happens, the contempt is unwarranted, or but partially warranted, such value as their institutions have will certainly be underestimated. When antagonism has bred hatred toward another nation, and has, consequently, bred a desire to justify the hatred by ascribing a hateful character to members of that nation, it inevitably happens that the political arrangements under which they live, the religion they profess, and the habits peculiar to them, become associated in thought with this hateful character—become themselves hateful, and cannot therefore have their natures studied with the calmness required by science.

An example will make this clear. The reflex egoism we name patriotism, causing, among other things, a high valuation of the religious creed nationally professed, makes us overrate the effects this creed has produced, and makes us underrate the effects produced by other creeds, and by influences of other orders. The notions respecting savage and civilized races, in which we are brought up, show this.

  1. I make this statement on the authority of a letter read to me at the time by an Indian officer, written by a brother officer in India.