Popular Science Monthly/Volume 87/August 1915/The Psychology of War
|THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR|
By Professor G. T. W. PATRICK
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, IOWA CITY
FROM the flood of writings called out by the war in Europe, a few things have become fairly clear. For instance, it is evident that this is the most costly and the most tragic of all the wars of history, that it has proceeded from the least apparent causes, and that it has come in the face of new and powerful forces making for peace.
But these facts, if such they be, reveal a situation which to the sociologist is more than puzzling, it is amazing. If, as Norman Angell has shown, modern wars are wholly futile so far as the possibility of bringing any kind of gain to the victorious nation is concerned; if war is contrary to the spirit of the age, which is no longer martial, but industrial, commercial and humanitarian; if the contrast between the brutality of war and the culture and refinement of the age is so great that war has become grotesque and anomalous; if the present war is the outgrowth of political rivalries which have largely lost their significance owing to the fact that nearly all present vital human interests have widened out beyond the mere political boundaries of the state and become international in their scope; and if, finally, the nations in order to carry on the war are assuming a debt so crushing that posterity can not exist unless the debt is repudiated in whole or in part, why, then, it would appear that the whole European world has gone insane.
But the student of history and of psychology will look at the matter in quite a different way. He will see that the history of mankind for thousands of years has been a history of incessant warfare and that the new economic and industrial conditions which have made war irrational are not more than about one hundred years old, while the human brain is practically the same old brain of our fathers and forefathers, deeply stamped with ancestral traits and primitive instincts, which can not thus suddenly be outgrown. It is society which has suddenly changed, not the units of society.
Ever since the war began, sociologists, economists, philosophers and political theorists have tried their hands at explaining the causes of the war and with small success. Its roots must be sought in psychology and anthropology.
The anthropologist and historian will review the situation somewhat as follows: The rivalries between nations with their mutual suspicion, distrust and hatred leading to the clash of arms is the survival of early conflicts between primitive social groups. These conflicts were incessant in all parts of the world wherever there were virile and progressive races and the cause of the conflicts was the natural desire of the stronger to exploit the weaker, it being always easier and more attractive to gain sustenance by robbery than by labor. Furthermore these incessant conflicts were in a high degree beneficial to social development, resulting in the extermination of the unfit and the survival of the strong and the brave. Within the primitive groups there was some degree of cooperation, sympathy, mutual helpfulness, regard for life and property, together with some observance of "law" and "order" and "right" and "wrong," this primitive organization resulting perhaps from the rules and regulations imposed by a victorious group upon a conquered group. Between the groups there was fear, suspicion, hatred, with no respect for life or property. Might was right. Within the group certain actions were stigmatized as wrong and were punished, such for instance as murder and theft. But between members of hostile groups these acts were praiseworthy.
The modern constitutional state is the historical development of the primitive group. Within the groups, now called nations, the upper classes, nobles, lords, officers, plutocrats, still to a greater or less extent exploit the lower classes, as the victors did the vanquished, and between the groups there is still the old rivalry, suspicion and distrust, while the taking of life and property is still praiseworthy and is not called murder and theft, but war.
But meanwhile within the political state there have grown up two new communities—one moral and the other industrial and commercial, and gradually, while the old bounds of the political state have persisted, the moral and industrial states have expanded till they have burst the bounds of the political state and become international and world wide. A cosmopolitan conscience has replaced the old group conscience and moral obligations extend to all mankind. In time of war between the nations, however, under the transport of patriotism, the old group consciousness revives, with its deep-seated instinct of pugnacity, and with it is revived the old group conscience and the ancient hatred and suspicion, and the ancient desire to exterminate the rival group. Hence the reversion in time of war to primitive standards of conduct.
But under the completely transformed conditions of society in modern times, the original raison d'être of war has ceased to be. Victory is no longer to the physically stronger and mentally braver. The vanquished are no longer exterminated or enslaved. The victors lose perhaps as many of their fighters as the vanquished and the disabled are vastly more in number than the dead and both the dead and the disabled are the flower of the nation's youth. Meanwhile, the monstrous cost of a modern war, which impoverishes the nation and its posterity, the paralysis of a great and intricate system of world commerce and industrial international relations, the colossal destruction of wealth, the irreparable damage to progress and civilization, the impoverished physical heredity of a whole people, the affront to moral ideals slowly and painfully achieved, the untold burden of pain and woe and human suffering in desolated homes far from the field of battle, all combine to make war repulsive and repugnant to modern sense. It no longer cultivates manly virtues but for the most part only machination and mechanical ingenuity.
It is probable that all the benefits which a warring nation hopes to gain by victory are in modern times illusory, or at least they are so far illusory that they are almost if not wholly confined to the circumstances of some hypothetical future war. For instance, a great nation demands the control of some celebrated strait or narrows, so that it may have an outlet for its vast exports—an open way to the sea, although in time of peace that nation already has the enjoyment of the freest use of that strait. In other words, were it not for some hypothetical future war, that nation has already the open way to the sea which it demands. Another great nation desires a place in the sun, the freedom of the seas, or a fair share of colonies in distant lands, the colonies being desired for purposes of trade and colonization of its emigrants. But in time of peace this same nation extends its trade by leaps and bounds to every corner of the earth freely and has the utmost freedom of the seas, and sends its emigrants in great numbers to prosperous North and South America. It is only in time of war that the opportunities for trade of that country are limited or that it would profit by having its emigrants under political control. Colonies again in distant parts of the earth may be desired for coaling stations but it is only in time of war that the ships of a nation can not coal freely anywhere.
Still another country desires to retain or regain disputed territory, although in time of peace probably no citizen or group of citizens in its own or in the coveted territory would have its opportunities in any way enlarged or its condition benefited by mere political transference. The acquisition of territory is, again, a common excuse for war, but it has never been shown that, under our modern conditions, the citizens of larger states are any happier or wiser or wealthier than the citizens of smaller states. Thus we have the vicious circle; war exists because of war.
War being thus outgrown and wholly irrational and having no longer any possible purpose except to perpetuate itself, and being opposed to the spirit of the age and discouraged by the powerful peace movements of the day and directly adverse to the all-controlling and all-absorbing industrial and commercial interests of the world, it would seem that it must soon disappear from the face of the earth. But strangely enough, such an outcome, happy as it might be, is made probable neither by the study of history, psychology nor present political tendencies. To the psychologist, indeed, it appears that the whole trend of social movements is in a direction favorable to the perpetuation of war.
One hundred years ago there were bright visions of universal peace. War, it was believed, was an iniquitous invention of evil and mischievous men, interfering with the peace and prosperity of the world. Free trade between nations and free competition between men were to inaugurate a reign of universal peace and prosperity. The function of government was to be limited to a minimum. A sort of universal fraternity, pan-humanism or internationalism was to take the place of fratricidal strife.
This dream has been poorly realized. Free competition has not worked in practise, and the emphasis is being put more and more upon the functions of the state. To be sure many would substitute "society" for the state and, indeed, socialists and Utopianists still look forward to a "new basis of civilization" in which a pleasure economy is to replace the old pain economy, when surplus energy, equality of opportunity, increase of food, short working hours, good sanitation, good housing, etc., will release starving human faculties, resulting in human culture, morality, economic equilibrium and finally in a "denationalized fraternal humanity." Thus with the disappearance of poverty the last obstacle will be removed to upward human progress and universal peace.
It is the purpose of this paper to point out some of the psychological obstacles to the realization of this ideal. Meanwhile it is obvious that the political obstacles are equally great.
At the present time the trend of political events is precisely in the opposite direction. With the unification of Italy in 1859, there awoke the new spirit of nationalism and the revival of patriotism. In 1861, the American Union, fired by the same spirit, resisted disunion. Then followed the unification of Germany, the awakening of the Slavs, the expansion of Great Britain.
Instead of the anticipated free trade between nations, each country by means of protective tariffs drew the mantle of self-sufficiency more closely around itself. In place of the expected pan-humanism a new patriotism has everywhere sprung up. Add to this another fact, perhaps correlated with it, that in the last hundred years a new impulse of cosmic energy, or something of the kind, seems to have flowed into the motor nerves of human beings. There is tremendous activity in the form of striving. The gospel of striving which dates from Lessing and Fichte, and which found its poetic expression in Goethe, is the gospel of modern life. It exhibits itself in intense desire for expansion, for self-expression. It has produced stupendous results in scientific invention, discovery, industrial and commercial expansion. Then follows the desire for political expansion and the occasion for war is at hand. The gospel of striving inevitably leads to the gospel of strife. While to a superficial observer the whole tendency of modern thought is in the direction of universal peace, to the more careful observer it is all in the direction of war. It was not even necessary that the voice of Nietzsche with his gospel of the will to power should be reechoed through every land, nor that the new philosophy of Pragmatism should come forward to teach us that nothing succeeds like success. But perhaps the war in Europe is itself the best witness to the fatal political obstacles which stand in the way of these dreams of peace, for it presents the astonishing spectacle of the greatest war in the world's history proceeding from the least apparent causes and in the face of the most powerful forces working for peace. That such a colossal war should occur under circumstances so adverse to war would seem to indicate that it was made necessary by some tremendous issues, either moral, religious, economic or commercial.
But strangely enough no such issues are apparent. There were no great moral issues involved, as in the American Civil War, no great religious questions as in the crusades and the wars of the Reformation, no great monetary crises, as in some of the Italian and Roman wars. Starvation has sometimes led tribes or nations to war, but starvation threatened none of the present warring countries. On the contrary they were all in a highly prosperous economic condition. Wealth, prosperity, comfort and luxuries abounded. "Never since the world began," says Albert Bushnell Hart, "was trade so broad and profitable as in the year 1913." The total value of international commerce was in that year $42,000,000,000. The total value of German exports and imports combined was $5,000,000,000; and of English, $6,900,000,000. Germany's actual and proportional trade was increasing from year to year. England was exporting goods to Germany valued at $292,000,000, and importing goods from Germany valued at $394,000,000 yearly. The entrance of Italy upon the war revealed only too clearly that war has its roots in psychological causes more than in great political or economic issues or in heroic defence of the fatherland.
Does this strange situation admit of any explanation? Or must we say that there are forces at work in social evolution which we do not understand—that it is dangerous for man to meddle too much with his own destiny, and that out of these terrible wars some great good may come in ways unknown? This question may not be answered, but at any rate some light is thrown upon the situation by the psychologist. In all the many books and articles that have recently appeared on the causes of war in general, and the European war in particular, there is a noticeable failure to take due account of the psychological factors in the situation.
As a single typical illustration let us consider the illuminating articles by Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson entitled "The War and the Way Out," published in recent numbers of the Atlantic Monthly.
Mr. Dickinson traces the causes of war to the artificial rivalries between those abstract and unreal beings called states, rivalries which are wholly unshared by the real men, women and children who compose the state. The actual citizens of the state desire to live in peace and quiet, to till their land, sell their produce, and buy their necessities, and are but little interested in the question whether the shores of the Baltic shall belong to Russia or Germany or whether Constantinople shall be controlled by one nation or another. Nor indeed do these political relations make any material difference to the people themselves; they make a difference only to that idol, the abstract state, and then only in time of war. The remedy, therefore, is to be found, first, in the cessation of these international rivalries, second, in the international control of armaments, and third, in the elective allegiance of disputed territory, such for instance, as Poland, Alsace and Lorraine. The cause of war being thus removed, the peace-loving, law-abiding and land-tilling citizens will live in happiness and prosperity.
This program is most captivating and no one can doubt that if international rivalries could be prevented in this way, the immediate cause of many wars would be removed. But the greater number of the wars of history have not been between rival states but have been wars of conquest and civil wars and the real causes of them all lie deeper than in any political relations, deeper than the love of conquest, deeper than in any economic or commercial complications. All these alike are the occasions and not the causes of war.
Mr. Dickinson regards the state as an abstraction, in a way unreal, and not having necessarily as its interests the interests of the real people who compose the state. This is true but Mr. Dickinson's constructive program rests, if not upon an abstraction such as the political state, nevertheless upon a myth, namely the myth of the peace-loving, law-abiding and land-tilling citizen, who, if opportunity offers, will till his land and buy and sell his goods in peace and prosperity. This quiet, peace-loving and land-tilling citizen, if not quite a myth, is at any rate not typical of the modern citizen. The typical man of to-day has not, to be sure, any conscious desire for war nor any wish to violate the laws of the state, but he is an exceedingly complex product of biological evolution, of modern civilization and of social forces, and in his own brain may perhaps be found the real powder-magazine responsible for war. The man of to-day is a high-tension being, with a highly organized brain, possessing an immense amount of potential energy in a state of rather unstable equilibrium, the product of an evolution which has discovered the survival value of certain peculiar mental qualities. Beneath this superior brain, and sometimes perilously near the surface, there lies a vast network of inherited dispositions connecting the man of to-day with his warlike savage ancestors.
In place, then, of this unreal social unit, the peace-loving, land-tilling citizen, we have the real man, the restless and aggressive man, who loves the city rather than the country, frequents the stock exchange, the theater and the moving-picture show, likes to speculate and gamble, is fond of rapid transit by means of steam or trolley car, automobile or aircraft, passes much of his time indoors, reading, writing, planning and contriving, delves into new problems of philosophy, science and invention, exploits new lands and new routes of trade, invents new guns and new explosives, devises new methods of rapid communication and transportation, is addicted to the use of tobacco and alcohol and strong coffee and tea, is subject to chronic fatigue, has a tendency to the use of poisonous drugs and to insanity and suicide and small families.
This is our typical man of to-day and beside him and living in close proximity to him, there is another class, likewise neither peace-loving nor land-tilling, namely, the class of dependents, delinquents, and defectives.
This then is the material we have to work with, and now, given this material, let us suppose that international rivalries should cease, that our colossal modern armies and navies should disappear and that the vast number of men and the enormous amounts of capital involved in military armaments should be turned into productive channels, and let us suppose further that the burden of taxes hitherto required for armies, navies, and pensions should be lifted and with it lifted also the fear of invasion,—what then would happen? Something very different, no doubt, from that condition of idyllic happiness and peace which one infers from the arguments of the pacificists.
The fact is, the causes of war lie much deeper than in any political conditions. They are to be sought in the constitution of the human mind. The question, therefore, is a profoundly difficult one and demands a different method of approach. It must be approached from the biological and psychological as well as the sociological point of view. The following attempt to approach the subject from its psychological side is submitted in the belief that the facts here presented, while no doubt partial and incomplete, are facts which the student of the causes and remedies of war will have to consider.To understand the psychology of war, it is necessary to go back and trace the actual history of the development of the human being. Here lies the trouble with all our schemes of pacificism and all our Utopias and all our pleasure and peace economies. They deal with an ideal human being, not with actual men. Sociologists will make futile contributions to human progress except as they keep in close touch with the facts of human evolution and of human history.
Some ages ago Nature, as we may say, made a great and wonderful discovery, that of the survival value of intelligence, supplemented later by the discovery of the survival value of sympathy and cooperation. It was no longer, thereafter, a question of tooth and claw, of swift foot, strong arm and warm fur; it was a question of the manufacture and use of weapons and tools and clothes and houses. Psychologically, it was a question of the development of certain new and wonderful mental traits, those of cunning and dexterity, attention and concentration, abstraction, analysis and invention. But these required a large brain, and Nature therefore produced an erect, top-heavy animal, who acquired speech and called himself man. Physically this animal ceased further development. He needed nothing but a large and ever larger brain and a dexterous hand, and, finally, the dexterous hand also was scarcely needed, but brain and brain alone. The brain, however, required nourishment and a certain physical support, hence stomach, heart, lungs, and a circulatory system must needs be retained after some fashion, but the main intent was to develop brain and only brain.
This process is now at its height. Nature we may say is more than ever elated at her discovery of the survival value of intelligence and this discovery is being worked for all that it is worth. There is no limit, it would seem, to the power of the mind. Other animal species are no longer feared. They are not even needed as servants. Electricity can be made to do all things better than the horse. Against intelligence the elements have no longer any power. Storm and lightning and flood are now only interesting episodes. Night is no longer a harbinger of evil but under the glare of the electric light a joy and great delight. Heat and cold are no longer to be considered. Steam and the electric current turn winter into benign summer and night into day. Neither is distance to be reckoned with any more. It is short-circuited by steam, gasoline and electricity.
Especially in continental Europe, in England and America, during the past fifty years, has the march of mind gone forward with dizzy-like rapidity. More than ever has man become master. More than ever are the higher brain centers the only significant organs in the body. Less than ever has Nature found it necessary for her immediate needs to care for stomach, heart and lungs, or muscle and reproductive system. It is mind that counts and mind alone. Nineteenth and twentieth century man has become a high-power efficiency machine combining a marvelous capacity for thought with an unconquerable force of will, but working inevitably under high pressure and dangerous tension.
A gigantic system of wireless telegraphy is not invented and extended over the whole face of the earth in a few years (one might almost say in a few months) without thought and effort. Dreadnoughts and superdreadnoughts, mortars and machine-guns, dirigibles and aeroplanes, superb and matchless systems of military organization are not perfected without thought and effort. Magnificent cities, fed by a network of smoothly running railroads, are not built without thought and effort. Improved systems of agriculture forcing the earth to produce fourfold more abundantly are not devised without thought and effort. Miraculously wonderful cinematographic machines are not invented without thought and effort, nor without thought and effort is every moving thing from the Arctic to the Antarctic in nature and in art photographed and brought in its living and moving similitude to our eyes. Large continental cities are not freed from graft and brought under elaborately perfect systems of municipal government without thought and effort. Great national and international systems of organized labor are not perfected without thought and effort. The day laborer does not hold himself hour by hour and day by day and month by month to his highly specialized and fatiguing work without thought and effort.
These illustrations could be extended indefinitely. In the work of scientific research, in philosophical study, in industrial and mechanical invention, in the building of great systems of schools and universities, in the management of great commercial and industrial enterprises, in journalism, literature and art, we see exhibitions of ceaseless thought and tireless effort. It is an age of hard work and almost without exception it is mental work of a highly specialized kind and involves stress of the highest and most recently developed brain centers.
It was inevitable that disaster of some kind, or a reaction of some kind, should follow upon this high-tension and one-sided life. Something was bound to snap and something has snapped. Nature has overreached herself in her new discovery of the survival value of intelligence. Intelligence, to be sure, has a survival value of almost limitless degree, but intelligence is, as it happens, linked inseparably to a brain, a highly complex, delicate and unstable mechanism, which was originally intended as a motor center for hand, foot and somatic muscles, and not as a center for thought and sustained effort. Furthermore, the brain itself is organically dependent upon stomach, heart and lungs, whose parallel development Nature in her haste to develop her new discovery has neglected.
The form that the reaction has taken in this case is the form which the psychologist sees it must inevitably take, namely, the temporary reassertion of primitive human impulses. The world has had a thinking spasm of unusual severity; it must have a fling. In America, where conditions were much the same as in Europe, the reaction has taken the milder form of amusement crazes. The dance, the moving-picture show, the automobile, the diamond and the gridiron have helped to relieve the tension. The dancing mania, which has swept over the whole western continent like an obsession, is a good illustration of Nature's effort to restore the equilibrium of brain centers. Dancing is a pastime as ancient as war itself. It involves none but the very oldest brain paths. It depends upon the very simplest and most primitive form of reaction, carrying us back to the infancy of man and allowing us to revel in the old and racially familiar memories. It affords complete rest and relaxation and tends quickly to establish equilibrium.
To those who do not understand this law of psychological compensation and who have been accustomed to regard the world as getting very serious and civilized and dignified, intent on moral and social improvement, there is something almost as ludicrous in the spectacle of dancing America as there is something pathetic and tragic in that of warring Europe. For in Europe, where the temper of the people lends itself less readily to these lighter forms of release, the reaction has taken the form of a return to most primitive bloodshed. Consequently the war came to us as a distinct shock. One heard everywhere the comment—"It is impossible. I thought we had got far beyond all that." The culture of Germany, France and England was so high that it was unbelievable that these people should suddenly develop hate in its most intense form with a frenzied desire to kill one another. To the psychologist, however, it seems not unreasonable. It is a temporary reversion to completely primitive instincts restoring the balance to an overwrought social brain.
Before the war we heard everywhere of "unrest," a great spiritual unrest. But the significance of this unrest was not understood. It was not due to untoward social or economic conditions, for the world has never seen conditions so favorable for the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Its cause rather was to be found in an asymmetrical development of human personality, too much thought, too much effort, too much "efficiency," and not enough balance, not enough mere somatic vitality. In England this unrest displayed itself as a high degree of social irritability. On the stage it appeared as a carping criticism of social life and social institutions; in literature as a hysterical pursuit of new Utopias; in political life as jarring rumors of civil war.
In Russia just before the outbreak of the war the streets of Petrograd were barricaded by strikers and progressives jealous of real or fancied wrongs. Instantly when war was declared a great inward "peace" settled down upon the warring nations. The restless soul ceased in a moment its feverish upward striving after new inventions, new philosophy, new science and new thought. The brain centers were short-circuited. The social mind sank to the old level. It lived again in the old primitive emotions and the old racially familiar scenes, in pictures of bloodshed and rapine, in memories of the drum-beat and of the tread of marching armies. To be sure there was sorrow and suffering and anxious faces and hunger and hardship and countless woes but these are old friends to the human mind. The nation was at war but it was at rest. A certain strange harmony settled down upon the people. The war was hardly two months old when we began to hear of a new Russia, a new France, a new England and a new Germany, all regenerated by the baptism of blood, full of high aspirations, purified visions and noble resolutions.
To those acquainted with the psychology of play and sport, war is more easily understood. The high tension of the modern work-a-day life must be periodically relieved by a return to primitive forms of behavior, as in football, baseball, hunting, fishing, horseracing, the circus, the arena, the cock-fight, the prize-fight, and the countless forms of outing. Man must once again use his arms, his legs, his larger muscles, his lower brain centers. He must live again in the open, by the camp-fire, by the stream, in the forest. He must kill something, be it fish or bird or deer, as his ancestors did in times remote. Thereafter come peace and harmony and he is ready once more to return to the life of the intellect and will, to the life of "efficiency."
Periodically, however, man seems to need a deeper plunge into the primeval and this is war. War has always been the release of nations from the tension of progress. Man is a fighting animal; at first from necessity, afterwards from habit. In former centuries when the contrast between peace and war was not so great, it was undertaken with more ease and less apology, almost as a matter of course. Life was less intense then and the reaction of war less extreme. Now in the face of an advanced public sentiment, of peace societies and arbitration boards, the tension has to become very great, the potential very high before the spark is struck and, when this happens, we have the ludicrous spectacle of the warring nations apologizing and explaining to an astonished world.
War, therefore, seems to act as a kind of. The warring nation is purified by war and thereafter with a spirit chastened and purged enters again upon the upward way to attain still greater heights of progress. In strictness, however, the figure is misleading. The situation is not one of gross emotions to be purged away, as Aristotle implied. It is rather merely a question of fatigue and rest. Our demand for an ever-increasing efficiency has brought too great a strain upon those cerebral functions associated with the peculiar mental powers upon which efficiency depends. Efficiency demands great powers of attention, concentration, analysis, self-control, inhibition, sustained effort, all of which are extremely fatiguing and demand frequent intervals of rest and relaxation. When this rest and relaxation are lacking, we may always expect cataclysmic reactions which shall restore the balance.
In war, society sinks back to the primitive type, the primitive mortal combat of man with man, the primitive religious conception of God as God of battles, and the primitive morality of right as might. It brings rest to the higher brain centers, it brings social relaxation, it brings release from the high tension which is the condition of progress. After the war, almost in a day, the nation resumes its accustomed moral standards, just as the debauchee returns to his daily life chastened and subdued.
If the theory of war here suggested is correct, it might be inferred that in modern times, as life becomes more rapid and more strenuous and the brain tension greater, wars would become more and more necessary to relieve the tension and restore equilibrium. It is true that with the heightening of mental life, relaxation of some kind becomes more and more imperative. But with the growth of intelligence the absurdity, futility, and unreason of war as a means of settling disputes becomes more and more evident and with the increase of culture and refinement and of Christian love and sympathy the spectacle of war becomes more and more anomalous and grotesque, so that we have in modern times powerful counteracting forces—forces which are still further augmented by the vigorous humanitarian movements of the times. The motives which make for peace are so great and the absurdity of war so apparent that the fact that wars continue quite as general and quite as frequent as in former times shows that the deep-lying psychological forces which lead to war are more powerful than ever.
In case some way is found to prevent international rivalries, if war between nations is made less and less possible by schemes of international arbitration and conciliation, why, then, it is probable, unless we also discover some method of diminishing the mental tension of our present mode of life, that "unrest," social irritability and probably civil wars will increase. Professor James was wholly right when he hoped for some substitute for war.
The fact is that it does not take a very careful reader of the human mind to see that all the Utopias and all the socialistic schemes are based on a mistaken motion of the nature of this mind.
In fact, it is by no means sure that what man wants is peace, and quiet and tranquility. That is too close to ennui, which is his greatest dread. What man wants is not peace, but a battle. He must pit his force against someone or something. Every language is most rich in synonyms for battle, war, contest, conflict, quarrel, combat, fight. German children play all day long with their toy soldiers. Our sports take the form of contests in football, baseball, and hundreds of others. Prize-fights, dog-fights, cock-fights have pleased in all ages. When Rome for a season was not engaged in real war, Claudius staged a sea-fight for the delectation of an immense concourse, in which 19,000 gladiators were compelled to take a tragic part, so that the ships were broken to pieces and the waters of the lake were red with blood.
You may perhaps recall Professor James's astonishing picture of his visit to a Chautauqua. Here he found modern culture at its best, no poverty, no drunkenness, no zymotic diseases, no crime, no police, only polite and refined and harmless people. Here was a middle-class paradise, kindergarten, and model schools, lectures and classes, and music, bicycling and swimming, and culture and kindness and elysian peace. But at the end of a week, he came out into the real world, and he said,
Ouf! what a relief! Now for something primordial and savage, even though it were as bad as an Armenian massacre, to set the balance straight again. This order is too tame, this culture too second-rate, this goodness too uninspiring. This human drama, without a villain or a pang; this community so refined that ice-cream soda-water is the utmost offering it can make to the brute animal in man; this city simmering in the tepid lakeside sun; this atrocious harmlessness of all things,—I can not abide with them.
What men want, he says, is something more precipitous, something with more zest in it, with more adventure. Nearly all the Utopias paint the life of the future as a kind of giant Chautauqua, in which every man and woman is at work, all are well fed, satisfied and cultivated. But as man is now constituted he would probably find such a life flat, stale and unprofitable.
Man is not originally a working animal. Civilization has imposed work upon man, and if you work him too hard, he will quit work and go to war. Nietzsche says man wants two things—danger and play. War represents danger.
It follows that all our social Utopias are wrongly conceived. They are all based on a theory of pleasure economy. But history and evolution show that man has come up from the lower animals through a pain economy. He has struggled up—fought his way up through never-ceasing pain and effort and struggle and battle. The Utopias picture a society in which man has ceased to struggle. He works his eight hours a day—everybody works—and he sleeps and enjoys himself the other hours. But man is not a working animal; he is a fighting animal. The Utopias are ideal—but they are not psychological. The citizens for such an ideal social order are lacking. Human beings will not serve.
Our present society tends more and more in its outward form in time of peace toward the Chautauqua plan, but meanwhile striving and passion burn in the brain of the human units, till the time comes when they find this insipid life unendurable. They resort to amusement crazes, to narcotic drugs, to political strife, to epidemics of crime and finally to war. The alcohol question well illustrates the tendencies we are pointing out. Science and hygiene have at last shown beyond all question that alcohol, whether in large or smaller doses, exerts a damaging effect upon both mind and body. It lessens physical and mental efficiency, shortens life and encourages social disorder. In spite of this fact and what is still more amazing, in spite of the colossal effort now being put forth to suppress by legislative means the traffic in liquor, the per capita consumption of alcoholic drinks in the United States increases from year to year. From a per capita consumption of four gallons in 1850, it has steadily risen to nearly 25 gallons in 1913. The increase in the last two or three years has been less marked, owing no doubt to the remarkable extension of "dry" territory, but this is offset by a great increase in the use of narcotic drugs and of tobacco.
Narcotic drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, relieve in an artificial way the tension upon the brain by slightly paralyzing temporarily the higher and more recently developed brain centers. The increase in the use of these drugs is therefore both an index of the tension of modern life and at the same time a means of relieving it to some extent. Were the use of these drugs suddenly checked, no student of psychology or of history could doubt that there would be an immediate increase of social irritability, tending to social instability and social upheavals.
Psychology, therefore, forces upon us this conclusion. Neither war nor alcohol can be banished from the world by summary means nor direct suppressions. The mind of man must be made over. War is not social insanity nor is it even social criminality. It is too normal to be classed as either. But war is fast becoming irrational and a substitute for it must be found. Social reconstruction hereafter will have to be conceived on a different plan. It will have to be based on an intimate knowledge of psychology, anthropology and history, rather than merely upon sociology and economics. As the mind of man is constituted, he will never be content to be a mere laborer, a producer and a consumer. He loves adventure, self sacrifice, heroism, relaxation.
These things must somehow be provided. And then there must be a system of education of our young differing widely from our present system. The new education will not look to efficiency merely and ever more efficiency, but to the production of a harmonized and balanced personality. We must cease our worship of American efficiency and German Streberthum and go back to Aristotle and his teaching of "the mean."