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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

RIVERSIDE



WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD



WHAT'S WRONG
WITH THE WORLD



BY
GILBERT K. CHESTERTON

AUTHOR OF "VARIED TYPES," "CHARLES DICKKKS,"
"TREMENDOUS TRIFLES." KTC.




NEW YORK
DQDD, MEAD AND COMPANY

1918



COPYBIGHT, 1910, BY

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANT
Published, October, 1910



H A/-



DEDICATION

To C. F. G. MASTERMAN, M. P.
MY DEAR CHARLES,

I originally called this book "What is
Wrong," and it would have satisfied your sar-
donic temper to note the number of social mis-
understandings that arose from the use of the
title. Many a mild lady visitor opened her
eyes when I remarked casually, " I have been
doing * What is Wrong ' all this morning."
And one minister of religion moved quite sharply
in his chair when I told him (as he understood
it) that I had to run upstairs and do what was
wrong, but should be down again in a minute.
Exactly of what occult vice they silently accused
me I cannot conjecture, but I know of what I
accuse myself; and that is, of having written a
very shapeless and inadequate book, and one
quite unworthy to be dedicated to you. As far



DEDICATION

as literature goes, this book is what is wrong,
and no mistake.

It may seem a refinement of insolence to
present so wild a composition to one who has
recorded two or three of the really impressive
visions of the moving millions of England.
You are the only man alive who can make the
map of England crawl with life; a most
creepy and enviable accomplishment. Why then
should I trouble you with a book which, even if
it achieves its object (which is monstrously un-
likely) can only be a thundering gallop of
theory ?

Well, I do it partly because I think you poli-
ticians are none the worse for a few inconvenient
ideals ; but more because you will recognise the
many arguments we have had ; those arguments
which the most wonderful ladies in the world
can never endure for very long. And, perhaps,
you will agree with me that the thread of com-
radeship and conversation must be protected be-
cause it is so frivolous. It must be held sacred,
it must not be snapped, because it is not worth
tying together again. It is exactly because argu-



DEDICATION

ment is idle that men (I mean males) must take
it seriously ; for when (we feel) , until the crack
of doom, shall we have so delightful a difference
again? But most of all I offer it to you be-
cause there exists not only comradeship, but
a very different thing, called friendship; an
agreement under all the arguments and a thread
which, please God, will never break.
Yours always,

G. 1C. CHESTERTON.



CONTENTS

PART I
THE HOMELESSNESS OF MAN

CHAPTER PAGE

I THE MEDICAL MISTAKE .... 1

II WANTED: AN UNPRACTICAL MAN . 8

III THE NEW HYPOCRITE .... 18

IV THE FEAR OF THE PAST .... 29
V THE UNFINISHED TEMPLE ... 44

VI THE ENEMIES OF PROPERTY . . , 54

VII THE FREE FAMILY ..... 61

VIII THE WILDNESS OF DOMESTICITY . 69

IX HISTORY OF HUDGE AND GUDGE . 77

X OPPRESSION BY OPTIMISM ... 86

XI THE HOMELESSNESS OF JONES . . 91




I THE CHARM OF JINGOISM . . . 101

II WISDOM AND THE WEATHER . ,. ... 108

III THE COMMON VISION ., . .., . . 119

IV THE INSANE NECESSITY M *. ... ., 126



CONTENTS
PART III

iFEMINISM, OR THE MlSTAKE ABOUT WOMAN
CHAPTER PAGE

I THE UNMILITARY SUFFRAGETTE . . 141
II THE UNIVERSAL STICK . . . .146

III THE EMANCIPATION OF DOMESTICITY 157

IV THE ROMANCE OF THRIFT . . . 168
V THE COLDNESS OF CHLOE . . . 178

VI THE PEDANT AND SAVAGE . . . 186

VII THE MODERN SURRENDER OF WOMAN 192

VIII THE BRAND OF THE FLEUR-DE-LIS . 198

IX SINCERITY AND THE GALLOWS . . 204

X THE HIGHER ANARCHY .... 209

XI THE QUEEN AND THE SUFFRAGETTES 217

XII THE MODERN SLAVE 220

PART IV

EDUCATION, OR THE MISTAKE ABOUT THE CHILD

I THE CALVINISM OF TO-DAY . . . 229

II THE TRIBAL TERROR ..... 234

III THE TRICKS OF ENVIRONMENT . . 239

IV THE TRUTH ABOUT EDUCATION . . 242
V AN EVIL CRY 247



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

VI AUTHORITY THE UNAVOIDABLE . . 252

VII THE HUMILITY OF MRS. GRUNDY . 260

VIII THE BROKEN RAINBOW .... 268

IX THE NEED FOR NARROWNESS . . 275

X THE CASE FOR THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 280

XI THE SCHOOL FOR HYPOCRITES . . 291

XII THE STALENESS OF THE NEW SCHOOLS 301

XIII THE OUTLAWED PARENT .... 308

XIV FOLLY AND FEMALE EDUCATION . . 314

PART V

THE HOME OF THE MAN

1 THE EMPIRE OF THE INSECT . . 323
II THE FALLACY OF THE UMBRELLA

STAND 335

III THE DREADFUL DUTY OF GUDGE . 343

IV A LAST INSTANCE 348

V CONCLUSION 350

THREE NOTES

I ON FEMALE SUFFRAGE .... 361

II ON CLEANLINESS IN EDUCATION . 364

III ON PEASANT PROPRIETORSHIP . . 366



WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD



PART I
THE HOMELESSNESS OF MAN



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THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

A BOOK of modern social inquiry has a shape
that is somewhat sharply defined. It begins as
a rule with an analysis, with statistics, tables
of population, decrease of crime among 1 Con-
Igregationalists, growth of hysteria among
policemen, and similar ascertained facts; it
ends with a chapter that is generally called
"The Remedy." It is almost wholly due to
this careful, solid, and scientific method that
"The Remedy" is never found. For this
scheme of medical question andf answer is a
blunder; the first great blunder of sociology.
It is always called stating the disease before
we find the cure. But it is the whole definition
and dignity of man that in social matters we
must actually find the cure before we find the
disease.

The fallacy is one of the fifty fallacies that
1



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

come from the modern madness for biological
or bodily metaphors. It is convenient to spealc
of the Social Organism, just as it is convenient
to speak of the British Lion. But Britain is
no more an organism than Britain is a lion.
The moment we begin to give a nation the
unity and simplicity of an animal, we begin
to think wildly. Because every man is a biped,
fifty men are not a centipede. This has pro-
duced, for instance, the gaping absurdity of
perpetually talking about " young nations "
and " dying nations," as if a nation had a fixed
and physical span of life. Thus people will
say that Spain has entered a final senility;
they might as well say that Spain is losing all
her teeth. Or people will say that Canada
should soon produce a literature; which is like
saying that Canada must soon grow a mustache.
Nations consist of people; the first generation
may be decrepit, or the ten thousandth
may be vigorous. Similar applications of the
fallacy are made by those who see in the in-
creasing size of national possessions, a simple
2



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor
with God and man. These people, indeed, even
fall short in subtlety of the parallel of a hu-
man body. They do not even ask whether an
empire is growing taller in its youth, or 1 only
growing fatter in its old age. But of all the
instances of error arising from this physical
fancy, the worst is that we have before us : the
habit of exhaustively describing a social sick-
ness, and then propounding a social drug.

Now we do talk first about the disease in
cases of bodily breakdown ; and that for an
excellent reason. Because, though there may
be doubt about the way in which the body broke
down, there is no doubt at all about the shape
in which it should be built up again. No doc-
tor proposes to produce a new kind of man,
with a new arrangement of eyes or limbs. The
hospital, by necessity, may send a man home
with one leg less : but it will not (in a creative
rapture) send him home with one leg extra.
Medical science is content with the normal
human body, and only seeks to restore it.



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

But social science is by no means always
content with the normal human soul; it has all
sorts of fancy souls for sale. Man as a social
idealist will say " I am tired of being a Puritan ;
I want to be a Pagan," or " Beyond this dark
probation of Individualism I see the shining
paradise of Collectivism." Now in bodily ills
there is none of this difference about the ulti-
mate ideal. The patient may or may not want
quinine; but he certainly wants health. No
one says " I am tired of this headache ; I want
some toothache," or " The only thing for this
Russian influenza is a few German measles,"
or "Through this dark probation of catarrh
I see the shining paradise of rheumatism." But
exactly the whole difficulty in our public prob-
lems is that some men are aiming at cures which
other men would regard as worse maladies ; are
offering ultimate conditions as states of health
which others would uncompromisingly call
states of disease. Mr. Belloc once said that he
would no more part with the idea of property
than with his teeth; yet to Mr. Bernard Shaw



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

property is not a tooth, but a toothache.
Lord Milner has sincerely attempted to intro-
duce German efficiency; and many of us would
as soon welcome German measles. Dr. Saleeby
iwould honestly like to have Eugenics; but I
would rather have rheumatics.

This is the arresting and dominant fact about
modern social discussion ; that the quarrel is not
merely about the difficulties, but about the aim.
We agree about the evil ; it is about the good
that we should tear each other's eyes out. We
all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad
thing. We should not by any means all admit
than an active aristocracy would be a good
thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious
priesthood ; but some of us would go mad with
disgust at a really religious one. Everyone is
indignant if our army is weak, including the
people who would be even more indignant if it
were strong. The social case is exactly the
opposite of the medical case. We do not dis-
agree, like doctors, about the precise nature of
the illness, while agreeing about the nature of
5



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

health. On the contrary, we all agree that
England is unhealthy, but half of us would not
look at her in what the other half would call
blooming health. Public abuses are so promi-
nent and pestilent that they sweep all generous
people into a sort of fictitious unanimity. We
forget that, while we agree about the abuses
of things, we should differ very much about the
uses of them. Mr. Cadbury and I would agree
about the bad public-house. It would be pre-
cisely in front of the good public-house that
our painful personal fracas would occur.

I maintain, therefore, that the common socio-
logical method is quite useless : that of first dis-
secting abject poverty or cataloguing prosti-
tution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it
might be another business if we began to dis-
cuss independent and dignified poverty. We
all disapprove of prostitution ; but we do not
all approve of purity. The only way to dis-
cuss the social evil is to get at once to the social
ideal. We can all see the national madness ;



6



THE MEDICAL MISTAKE

but what is national sanity? I have called
this book "What Is Wrong with the World? "
and the upshot of the title can be easily and
clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do
pot ask what is right.



n

WANTED, AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

THERE is a popular philosophical joke intended
to typify the endless and useless arguments
of philosophers ; I mean the joke about which
came first, the chicken or the egg? I am not
sure that properly understood, it is so futile an
inquiry after all. I am not concerned here to
enter on those deep metaphysical and theolog-
ical differences of which the chicken and egg
debate is a frivolous, but a very felicitous, type.
The evolutionary materialists are appropri-
ately enough represented in the vision of all
things coming from an egg, a dim and mon-
strous oval germ that had laid itself by acci-
dent. That other supernatural school of
thought (to which I personally adhere) would
be not unworthily typified in the fancy that
this round world of ours is but an egg brooded
upon by a sacred unbegotten bird; the mystic
8



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

dove of the prophets. But it is to much hum-
bler functions that I here call the awful power
of such a distinction. Whether or no the liv-
ing bird is at the beginning of our mental chain,
it is absolutely necessary that it should be at
the end of our mental chain. The bird is the
thing to be aimed at not with a gun, but a
life-bestowing wand. What is essential to our
right thinking is this : that the egg and the
bird must not be thought of as equal cosmic
occurrences recurring alternatively forever.
They must not become a mere egg and bird
pattern, like the egg and dart pattern. One
is a means and the other an end; they are in
different mental worlds. Leaving the compli-
cations of the human breakfast-table out of ac-
count, in an elemental sense, the egg only ex-
ists to produce the chicken. But the chicken
does not exist only in order to produce another
egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to
praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a
French dramatist. Being a conscious life, he is,
or may be, valuable in himself. Now our modern
9



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

politics are full of a noisy forgetfulness ; for-
getfulness that the production of this happy
and conscious life !s after all the aim of all
complexities and compromises. We talk of
nothing but useful men and working institu-
tions ; that is, we only think of the chickens as
things that will lay more eggs. Instead of
seeking to breed our ideal bird, the eagle of
Zeus or the Swan of Avon, or whatever we hap-
pen to want, we talk entirely in terms of the
process and the embryo. The process itself,
divorced from its divine object, becomes doubt-
ful and even morbid; poison enters the embryo
of everything ; and our politics are rotten eggs.
Idealism is only considering everything in its
practical essence. Idealism only means that
we should consider a poker in reference to pok-
ing before we discuss its suitability for wife-
beating; that we should ask if an egg is good
enough for practical poultry-rearing before
we decide that the egg is bad enough for prac-
tical politics. But I know that this primary
pursuit of the theory (which is but pursuit of
10



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

the aim) exposes one to the cheap charge of
fiddling while Rome is burning. A school, of
which Lord Rosebery is representative, has
endeavored to substitute for the moral or social
ideals which have hitherto been the motives of
politics a general coherency or completeness
in the social system which has gained the nick-
name of " efficiency." I am not very certain
of the secret doctrine of this sect in the mat-
ter. But, as far as I can make out, " effi-
ciency " means that we ought to discover every-
thing about a machine except what it is for.
There has arisen in our time a most singular
fancy : the fancy that when things go very
wrong we need a practical man. It would be
far truer to say, that when things go very
wrong we need an unpractical man. Certainly,
at least, we need a theorist. A practical man
means a man accustomed to mere daily prac-
tice, to the way things commonly work. When
things will not work, you must have the thinker,
the man who has some doctrine about why they
work at all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome
11



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

is burning; but it is quite right to study the
theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.

It is then necessary to drop one's daily ag-
nosticism and attempt rerum cognoscere causas.
If your aeroplane has a slight indisposition, a
handy man may mend it. But, if it is seri-
ously ill, it is all the more likely that some
absent-minded old professor with wild white
hair will have to be dragged out of a college
or a laboratory to analyze the evil. The more
complicated the smash, the whiter-haired and
more absent-minded will be the theorist who is
needed to deal with it ; and in some extreme
cases, no one but the man (probably insane)
who invented your flying-ship could possibly
say what was the matter with it.

" Efficiency," of course, is futile for the same
reason that strong men, will-power and the
superman are futile. That is, it is futile be-
cause it only deals with actions after they
have been performed. It has no philosophy
for incidents before they happen ; therefore it
has no power of choice. An act can only be



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

successful or unsuccessful when it is over; if
it is to begin, it must be, in the abstract, right
or wrong. There is no such thing as backing
a winner ; for he cannot be a winner when he is
backed. There is no such thing as fighting on
the winning side; one fights to find out which
is the winning side. If any operation has oc-
curred, that operation was efficient. If a man
is murdered, the murder was efficient. A trop-
ical sun is as efficient in making people lazy as
a Lancashire foreman bully in making them
energetic. Maeterlinck is as efficient in filling
a man with strange spiritual tremors as Messrs.
Crosse and Blackwell are in filling a man with
jam. But it all depends on what you want to
be filled with. Lord Rosebery, being a modem
skeptic, probably prefers the spiritual tremors,
I, being -an orthodox Christian, prefer the jam.
But both are efficient when they have been ef-
fected; and inefficient until they are effected.
A man who thinks much about success must be
the drowsiest sentimentalist ; for he must be
always looking back. If he only likes victory
13



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

he must always come late for the battle. For
the man of action there is nothing but idealism.
This definite ideal is a far more urgent and
practical matter in our existing English trou-
ble than any immediate plans or proposals.
For the present chaos is due to a sort of gen-
eral oblivion of all that men were originally
aiming at. No man demands what he desires ;
each man demands what he fancies he can get.
Soon people forget what the man really wanted
first ; and after a successful and vigorous polit-
ical life, he forgets it himself. The whole is
an extravagant riot of second bests, a pande-
monium of pis-aller. Now this sort of pliabil-
ity does not merely prevent any heroic con-
sistency; it also prevents any really practical
compromise. One can only find the middle dis-
tance between two points if the two points will
stand still. We may make an arrangement be-
tween two litigants who cannot both get what
they want; but not if they will not even tell
us what they want. The keeper of a restau-
rant would much prefer that each customer
U



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

should give his order smartly, though it were
for stewed ibis or boiled elephant, rather than
that each customer should sit holding his head
in his hands, plunged in arithmetical calcula-
tions about how much food there can be on the
premises. Most of us have suffered from a
certain sort of ladies who, by their perverse un-
selfishness, give more trouble than the selfish ;
who almost clamor for the unpopular dish and
scramble for the worst seat. Most of us have
known parties or expeditions full of this seeth-
ing fuss of self-effacement. From much
meaner motives than those of such admirable
women, our practical politicians keep things
in the same confusion through the same doubt
about their real demands. There is nothing
that so much prevents a settlement as a tangle
of small surrenders. We are bewildered on
every side by politicians who are in favor of
secular education, but think it hopeless to
work for it; who desire total prohibition, but
are certain they should not demand it ; who
regret compulsory education, but resignedly
15



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN

continue it; or who want peasant proprietor-
ship and therefore vote for something else.
It is this dazed and floundering opportunism
that gets in the way of everything. If our
statesmen were visionaries something practical
might be done. If we asked for something in
the abstract we might get something in the
concrete. As it is, it is not only impossible
to get what one wants, but it is impossible to
get any part of it, because nobody can mark it
out plainly like a map. That clear and even
hard quality that there was in the old bargain-
ing has wholly vanished. We forget that the
word " compromise " contains, among other
things, the rigid and ringing word " promise."
Moderation is not vague; it is as definite as
perfection. The middle point is as fixed as
the extreme point.

If I am made to walk the plank by a pirate,
it is vain for me to offer, as a common-sense
compromise, to walk along the plank for a
reasonable distance. It is exactly about the
reason sble distance that the pirate and I differ.
16



AN UNPRACTICAL MAN
There is an exquisite mathematical split second
at which the plank tips up. My common-sense
ends just before that instant; the pirate's
common-sense begins just beyond it. But the
point itself is as hard as any geometrical dia-
gram; as abstract as any theological dogma,



17



in

THE NEW HYPOCRITE

BUT this new cloudy political cowardice has
rendered useless the old English compromise.
People have begun to be terrified of an improve-
ment merely because it is complete. They call
it Utopian and revolutionary that anyone
should really have his own way, or anything be
really done, and done with. Compromise used
to mean that half a loaf was better than no
bread. Among modern statesmen it really
seems to mean that half a loaf is better than
a whole loaf.

As an instance to sharpen the argument, I
take the one case of our everlasting education
bills. We have actually contrived to invent a
new kind of hypocrite. The old hypocrite,
Tartuffe or Pecksniff, was a man whose aims
were really worldly and practical, while he pre-
tended that they were religious. The new
18



THE NEW HYPOCRITE

hypocrite is one whose aims are really reli-
gious, while he pretends that they are wordly
and practical. The Rev. Brown, the Wes-
leyan minister, sturdily declares that he cares
nothing for creeds, but only for education ;
meanwhile, in truth, the wildest Wesleyanism
is tearing his soul. The Rev. Smith, of
the Church of England, explains gracefully,
with the Oxford manner, that the only question
for him is the prosperity and efficiency of the
schools ; while in truth all the evil passions of a
curate are roaring within him. It is a fight
of creeds masquerading as policies. I think
these reverend gentlemen do themselves wrong;
I think they are more pious than they will ad-
mit. Theology is not (as some suppose) ex-
punged as an error. It is merely concealed,
like a sin. Dr. Clifford really wants a theo-
logical atmosphere as much as Lord Halifax;
only it is a different one. If Dr. Clifford
would ask plainly for Puritanism and Lord
Halifax ask plainly for Catholicism, something
might be done for them. iWe are all, one



THE NEW HYPOCRITE

hopes, imaginative enough to recognize the
dignity and distinctness of another religion,
like Islam or the cult of Apollo. I am quite
ready to respect another man's faith ; but it is
too much to ask that I should respect his doubt,
his worldly hesitations and fictions, his political
bargain and make-believe. Most Nonconform-
ists with an instinct for English history could
see something poetic and national about the
Archbishop of Canterbury as an Archbishop
of Canterbury. It is when he does the rational
British statesman that they very justifiably
get annoyed. Most Anglicans with an eye for
pluck and simplicity could admire Dr. Clifford
as a Baptist minister. It is when he says that
he is simply a citizen that nobody can possibly
believe him.

But indeed the case is yet more curious than
this. The one argument that used to be urged
for our creedless vagueness was that at least
it saved us from fanaticism. But it does not
even do that. On the contrary, it creates and
renews fanaticism with a force quite peculiar to
20



THE NEW HYPOCRITE

itself. This is at once so strange and so true
that I will ask the reader's attention to it with
a little more precision.

Some people do not like the word " dogma."
Fortunately they are free, and there is an alter-
native for them. There are two things, and
two things only, for the human mind, a dogma
and a prejudice. The Middle Ages were a
rational epoch, an age of doctrine. Our age
is, at its best, a poetical epoch, an age of
prejudice. A doctrine is a definite point; a
prejudice is a direction. That an ox may be
eaten, while a man should not be eaten, is a
doctrine. That as little as possible of any-


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