Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds: a moving-picture of democracy online

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at the light. The book is merely a life-preserver — that is all;
and one man's life-preserver. Perhaps the man is representa-
tive, and perhaps he is not. At all events, here it is. Anybody
else who can use it is welcome to it.



The first and most practical step in getting what one wants
in this world is wanting it. One would think that the next step
would be expressing what one wants. But it almost never is.
It generally consists in wanting it still harder and still harder
until one can express it.

This is particularly true when the thing one wants is a new
world. Here are all these other people who have to be asked.
And until one wants it hard enough Jto say it, to get it outside
one's self, possibly make it catching, nothing happens.

If one were to point out one trait rather than another that
makes Bernard Shaw, for so brilliant a man, so ineflfective as a
leader, or hterary statesman, or social reformer, it would be his
modesty. He has never wanted anything.

If I could have found a book by Bernard Shaw in which
Mr. Shaw had merely said what he wanted himself, it is quite
possible this book would not have been written. Even if
Mr. Shaw, without saying what he wanted, had ever shown in
any comer of any book that one man's wanting something in
this world amounted to anything, or could make any one
else want it, or could make any difference in him or in



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12 CROWDS

the world around him, perhaps I would not have written this
book.

Everywhere, as I have looked about me among the bookmen
in America, in England, I have found, not the things that they
wanted in their books, but always these same deadly lists or
bleak inventories — these prairies of things that they did not
want.

Now, as a matter of fact, I knew already, with an almost
despairing distinctness, neariy all these things I did not want
and it has not helped me (with all due courtesy and admiration)
having John Galsworthy out photographing them day after day,
so that I merely did not want them harder. And Mr. Wells's
measles and children's diseases, too. I knew already that
I did not want them. And Mr. Shaw's entire, heroic, almost'
noble collection of things he does not want does not supply me
— nor could it supply any other man with furniture to make
a world with — even if it were not this real, big world, with
rain and simshine and wind and people in it, and were only
that little, wonderful world a man lives within his own heart.
There have been times, and there will be more of them, when
I could not otherwise than speak as the champion of Bernard
Shaw; but, after all, what single piece of furniture is there that
George Bernard Shaw, hving with his great attic of not-things
all aroimd him, is able to oflfer to furnish me for me single, Kttle,
warm, lighted room to keep my thoughts in? Nor has he
furnished me with one thing with which I would care to sit
down in my Kttle room and think — looking into the cold,
perfect hygienic ashes he has left upon my hearth. Even if
I were a revolutionist, and not a mere, plain human being,
loving life and wanting to live more abundantly, I am bound
to say I do not see what there is in Mr. Galsworthy's photo-
graphs, or in Mr. Wells's rich, bottomless murk of humanity
to make a revolution for. And Mr. Bernard Shaw, with all his
bottles of disinfectants and shelves of sterilized truths, his hard
well-being and his ghttering comforts, has presented the vision



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WHERE ARE WE GOING? 13

of a world In which at the very best — even if it all comes out as
he says it will — a man would merely have things without
wanting them, and without wanting anything.



And so it has seemed to me that even if he is quite unimpor-
tant, any man to-day who, in some public place, like a book,
shall paint the picture of his heart's desire, who shall throw up,
as upon a screen, where all men may see them, his most im-
mediate and most pressing ideals, would perform an important
service. If a man's sole interest were to find out what all men
in the world want, the best way to do it would be for him to
say quite definitely, so that we could all compare notes, what
he wanted himself. Speaking for a planet has gone by, but
possibly, if a few of us but speak for ourselves, the planet will
talk back, and we shall find out at last what it really is that
it wants.

The thing that many of us want most in the present grayness
and din of the world is some one to play with, or if the word
"play " is not quite the right word, some one with whom we can
work with freedom and self-expressiveness and joy. Nine
men out of ten one meets to-day talk with one as it were with
their watches in their hands. The people who are rich one
sees everywhere, being run away with by their motor-cars;
and the people who are poor one sees struggling pitifully
and for their very souls, imder great wheels and beneath
machines.

Of course, I can only speak for myself. I do not deny that
a little while at a time I can sit by a brook in the woods and be
happy; but if, as it happens, I would rather have other people
about me — people who do not spoil things, I find that the
machines about me everywhere have made most people very
strange and pathetic in the woods. They cannot sit by brooks,
many of them; and when they come out to the sky, it looks to
them like some mere, big, blue lead roof up over their lives.



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14 CROWDS

Perhaps I am selfish about it, but I cannot bear to see people
looking at the sky in this way. . . .



So, as I have watched my fellow human beings, what I have
come to want most of all in this world is the inspired employer
— or what I have called the inspired millionaire or organizer;
the man who can take the machines oflf the backs of the people
and take the machines out of their wits, and make the machines
free their bodies and serve their souls,

If we ever have the inspired employer, he will have to be
made by the social imagination of the people, by creating the
spirit of expectation and challenge toward the rich among the
masses of the people.

I believe that the time has come when the world is to make
its last stand for idealism, great men, and crowds.

I beUeve that great men can be really great, that they can
represent crowds. I believe that crowds can be really great,
that they can know great men.

The most natural kind of great man for crowds to know first
will probably be a kind of everyday great man or business
statesman, the man who represents all classes, and who proves
it in the way he conducts his business.

I have called this man the Crowdman.

I do not say that I have met precisely the type of inspired
millionaire I have in mind, but I have known scores of men
who have reminded me of him and of what he is going to be, and
I am prepared to say that in spirit, or latent at least, he is all
about me in the world to-day. If it is proved to me that no
such man exists, I am here to say there will be one. If it is
proved to me that there cannot be one, / luill make one. If it is
proved to me that by lifting up Desire in the faces of yoimg men
and of boys, and in the faces of true fathers and young mothers,
and by ringing up my challenge on the great doors of the schools,
I cannot make one, then I will invoke the men that shall write



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WHERE ARE WE GOING? 15

the books, that shall sing the songs that shall make one ! I say
this with all reverence for other men's desires and with all
respect for natural prejudgments. As I have conceived it,
the one business of the world to-day is to find out what we are
for and to find out what men in the world — on the whole —
really want. When men know what they want they get it.
Every wrong thing we have to face in modem industrial life
is due to men who know what they want, and who therefore get
it, due to the passions and the dreams of njen; and the one
single way in which these wrong things will ever be overcome is
with more passions and with more and mightier dreams of men.

Nothing is more visionary than trying to run a world without
dreams, especially an economic world. It is because even bad
dreams are better in this world than having no dreams at all
that bad people so called are so largely allowed to run it.

In the final and practical sense, the one factor in economics
to be reckoned with is Desire.

The next move in economics is going to be the statement of
a shrewd, dogged, realizable ideal. It is only ideals that have
aroused the wrong passions, and it is only ideals that will arouse
the right ones.

It will have to be, I imagine, when it comes, not a mere
statement of principles, an analysis, or a criticism, but a moving-
picture, a portrait of the human race, that shall reveal man's
heart to himself. What we want is a vast white canvas,
spread, as it were, over the end of the world, before which we
shall all sit together, the audience of the nations, of the poor,
of the rich, as in some still, thoughtful place — all of us
together; and then we will throw up before us on the vast
white screen in the dark the vivid picture of our vast desires,
flame up upon it the hopes, the passions of human lives, and
the grim, silent wills of men. ^^What do we wantf ^^ Where
are we going? ^^

In place of the literature of criticism we have come now to
the literature of Desire.



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16 CROWDS

This literature will have to come slowly, and I have come
to believe that the first book, when it comes, will be perhaps a
book that does not prove anything, a book that is a mere cry,
a prayer, or challenge; the story of what one man with these
streetfuls of the faces of men and the faces of women pouring
their dullness and pouring their weariness over him, has desired,
and of what, God helping him, he will have.

There is a certain sense in which merely praying to God
has gone by. In the present desperate crisis of a world plung-
ing on in the dark to a catastrophe or a glory that we cannot
guess, it is a time for men to pray a prayer, a standing-up
prayer, to one another.

I believe that it is going to be this huge gathering-in of
public desire, this imperious challenge of what men want,
this standing-up prayer of men to one another, which alone
shall make men go forth with faith and singing once more
into the battle of life. Sometimes it has seemed to me I have
already heard it — this song of men's desires about me —
faintly. But I have seen that the time is at hand when it
shall come as a vast chorus of cities, of fields, of men's voices,
filling the dome of the world — a chorus in the glory and the
shame of which no millionaire who merely wants to make
money, no artist who is not expressing the souls and freeing the
bodies of men, no statesman who is not gathering up the desires
of crowds, and going daily through the world hewing out
the will of the people, shall dare to live.



But while this is the vision of my belief, I would not have any
one suppose that I am the bearer of easy and gracious tidings.

It is rather of a great daily adventure one has with the
world.

There have been times when it seemed as if it had to begin
all over again every morning.



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WHERE ARE WE GOING? 17

Day by day I walk down Fleet Street toward Ludgate Hill.

I look once more every morning at that great picture of
my religion; I look at the quiet, soaring, hopeful dome — that
little touch of singing or praying that men have lifted up
against heaven. "Will the Dome bring the Man to me?"

I look up at the machines, strange and eager, hurrying
across the bridge. " Will the Machines bring the Man to me? "

I look in the faces of the crowd hurrying past. "Will the
Crowd bring the Man to me? "

With the picture of my reUgion — or perhaps three religions
or three stories of reUgion — I walk on and on through the
crowd, past the railway, past the Cathedral, past the Mansion
House, and over the Tower Bridge. I walk fast and eagerly
and blindly, as though a man would walk away from the
world.

Suddenly I find myself, throngs of voices all about me,
standing half -unconsciously by a high iron fence in Bermondsey
watching that smooth asphalt playground where one sees the
very dead (for once) crowded by the living — pushed over to
the edges — their gravestones tilted calmly up against the
walls. I stand and look through the pickets and watch the
children run and shout — the Uttle funny, mockingly dressed,
frowzily frumpily happy children, the stored-up sunshine of
a thousand years all shining faintly out through the dirt, out
through the generations in their little faces — "Will the Man
come to me out of these? "

The tombstones lean against the wall and the children run
and shout. As I watch them with my hopes and fears and the
tombstones tilted against the walls — as I peer through the
railings at the children, I face my three religions. What
will the three religions do with the children? What will
the children do with the three religions?

And now I will tell the truth. I will not cheat nor run
away as sometimes I seem to have tried to do for years. I
will no longer let myself be tricked by the mere glamour and



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18 CROWDS

bigness of our modem life nor swooned into good- will by the
roll and liturgy of revolution, "of the people," "for the people,"
"by the people," nor will I be longer awed by those huge
phrase-idols, constitutions, routines, that have roared around
me "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" — those imperious
thoughtless, stupid tra-la-las of the People. Do the People
see truth? Can the People see truth? Can all the crowd, and
can all the machines, and all the cathedrals piled up together
produce the Man, the Crowd-man or great man who sees truth?

And so with my three religions, I have three fears, one
for each of them. There is the Machine fear, lest the crowd
should be overswept by its machines and become like them;
and the Crowd fear, lest the crowd should overlook its mighty
innumerable and personal need oi great men; and there is also
the daily fear for the Church, lest the Church should not
understand crowds and machines and grapple with crowds
and machines, interpret them and glory in them and appropriate
them for her own use and for God's — lest the Church should
turn away from the crowds and the machines and graciously
and idly bow down to Herself.

And now I am going to try to express these three fears that
go with the three religions as well as I can, so that I can turn
on them and face them and, God helping me*, look them out
of countenance.



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CHAPTER n
THE CROWD SCARE

TIME was when a man was bom upon this planet in a
sjmewhat lonely fashion. A few human beings out of all in-
finity stood by to care for him. He was brought up with hills
and stars and a neighbour or so, until he grew to man's estate.
He climbed at last over the farthest hill, and there, on the rim
of things, standing on the boundary line of sky and earth
that had always been the edge of life to him before, he looked
forth upon the freedom of the world, and said in his soul,
"What shall I be in this world I see, and whither shall I go in
it?" And the sky and the earth and the rivers and the seas
and the nights and the days beckoned to him, and the voices
of life rose around him, and they all said, "Come!"

On a comer in New York, around a Street Department
wagon, not so very long ago, five thousand men were fighting
for shovels, fifty men to a shovel — a tool for living a Uttle
longer.

The problem of living in this modem worid is the problem
of finding room in it. The crowd principle is so universally
at work through modem life that the geography of the worid
has been changed to conforaa to it. We live In crowds. We
get our living in crowds. We are amused in herds. Civiliza-
tion is a list of cities. Cities are the huge central dynamos of
all being. The power of a man can be measured to-day by
the mile, the number of miles between him and the city; that
is, between him and what the city stands for — the centre
of mass.

The crowd principle is the first principle of production,

19



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20 CROWDS

The producer who can get the most men together and the
most dollars together controls the market; and when he once
controls the market, instead of merely getting the most men
and the most dollars, he can get all the men and all the dollars.
Hence the corporation in production.

The crowd principle is the first principle of distribution.
The man who can get the most men to buy a particular thing
from him can buy the most of it, and therefore buy it the cheap-
est, and therefore get more men to buy from him; and having
bought this particular thing cheaper than all men could buy
it, it is only a step to selling it to all men; and then, having all
the men on one thing and all the dollars on one thing, he is
able to buy other things for nothing, for everybody, and sell
them for a Uttle more than nothing to everybody. Hence
the department store — the syndicate of department stores —
the crowd principle in commerce.

The value of a piece of land is the number of footsteps
passing by it in twenty-four hours. The value of a railroad
is the number of people near it who cannot keep still. If
there are a great many of these people, the railroad runs its
trains for them. K there are only a few, though they be heroes
and prophets, Dantes, Savonarolas, and George Washingtons,
trains shall not be run for them. The railroad is the char-
acteristic property and symbol of property in this modem
age, and the entire value of a railroad depends upon its getting
control of a crowd — either a crowd that wants to be where
some other crowd is, or a crowd that wants a great many tons
of something that some other crowd has.

When we turn from commerce to philosophy, we find the
same principle running through them both. The main thing
in the philosophy of to-day is the extraordinary emphasis of
environment and heredity. A man's destiny is the way the
crowd of his ancestors ballot for his life. His soul — if he
has a soul — is art atom acted upon by a majority of other
atoms.



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THE CROWD SCARE 21

When we turn to religion in its diflferent phases, we find
the same emphasis upon them all — the emphasis of mass, of
majority. Not that the church exists for the masses — no
one claims this — but that, such as it is, it is a mass church.
While the promise of Scripture, as a last resort, is often heard
in the church about two or three gathered together in God's
name, the Church is run on the working conviction that unless
the minister and the elders can gather two or three hundred
in God's name. He will not pay any particular attention to
them, or, if He does. He will not pay the bills. The church of
our forefathers, founded on personaUty, is exchanged for the
church of democracy, founded on crowds; and the church
of the moment is the institutional church, in which the stand-
ing of the clergyman is exchanged for the standing of the
congregation. The inevitable result, the crowd clergyman,
is seen on every hand amongst us — the agent of an audience,
who, instead of telling an audience what they ought to do,
runs errands for them morning and noon and night. With
coddling for majorities and tact for whims, he carefully picks
his way. He does his people as much good as they will let him,
tells them as much truth as they will hear, until he dies at last,
and goes to take his place with Puritan parsons who mastered
majorities, with martyrs who would not live and be mastered
by majorities, and with apostles who managed to make a
new world without the help of majorities at all.

Theology reveals the same tendency. The measuring by
numbers is foimd in all belief, the same cringing before masses
of little facts instead of conceiving the few immeasurable ones.
Helpless individuals mastered by crowds are bound to believe
in a kind of infinitely helpless God. He stands in the midst
of the crowds of His laws and the systems of His worlds: to
those who are not religious, a pale First Cause; and to those
who are, a Great Sentimentality far away in the heavens,
who, in a kind of vast weak-mindedness (a Puritan would
say), seems to want everybody to be good and hopes



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m CROWDS

they will, but does not quite know what to do about it if they
are not.

Every age has its typical idea of heaven and its typical idea
of hell (in some of them it would be hard to tell which is which),
and every civilization, has its typical idea of Grod. A civiliza-
tion with sovereign men in it has a sovereign God; and a crowd
civiUzation, reflecting its mood on the heavens, is inclined to a
pleasant, large-minded God, eternally considering everybody
and considering everything, but inefficient withal, a kind of
legislature of Deity, typical of representative institutions at
their best and at their worst.

J£ we pass from our theology to our social science we come
to the most characteristic result of the crowd principle that
the times aflford. We are brought face to face with Socialism,
the millennium machine, the Corliss engine of progress. It
were idle to deny to the Socialist that he is right — and more
right, indeed, than most of us, in seeing that there is a great
wrong somewhere; but it would be impossible beyond this
point to make any claim for him, except that he is honestly
trying to create in the world a wrong we do not have as yet,
that shall be large enough to swallow the wrong we have. The
term "Socialism" stands for many things, in its present state;
but so far as the average Socialist is concerned, he may be
defined as an idealist who turns to materialism, that is, to
mass, to carry his idealism out. The world having discovered
two great ideals in the New Testament, the service of all men
by all other men, and the infinite value of the individual, the
Socialist expects to carry out one of these ideals by destroying
the other.

The principle that an infinitely helpful society can be pro-
duced by setting up a row of infinitely helpless individuals
is Socialism, as the*average Socialist practises it. The average
Socialist is the type of the eager but effeminate reformer of all
ages, because he seeks to gain by machinery things nine tenths
of the value of which to men is in gaining them for themselves.



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THE CROWD SCARE 2S

Socialism is the attempt to invent conveniences for heroes,
to pass a law that will make being a man imnecessary, to do
away with sin by framing a world in which it would be worthless
to do right because it would be impossible to do wrong. It is
a philosophy of helplessness, which, even if it succeeds in
helplessly carrying its helplessness out — in doing away with
suffering, for instance — can only do it by bringing to pass a
man not alive enough to be capable A suflfering, and putting
him in a world where suflfering and joy alike would be a bore
to him.

But the main importance of Socialism in this connection,
lies in the fact that it does not confine itself to sociology.
It has become a complete philosophy of life, and can be seen
penetrating with its subtle satire on himian nature almost
everything about us. We have the cash register to educate
our clerks into pure and honest character, and the souls of
conductors can be seen being nurtured, mile after mile, by fare-
recorders. Corporations buy consciences by the gross. They
are hung over the door of every street car. Consciences are
worked by pulling a strap. Liverymen have cyclometres to
help customers to tell the truth, and the Australian ballot is
invented to help men to be manly enough to vote the way
they think. And when, in the course of himian events, we
came to the essentially moral and spiritual reform of a woman's
right to dress in good taste — that is, appropriately for what
she is doing, what did we proceed to do to bring it about?
Conventions were held year after year, and over and over,
to get women to dress as they wanted to; dress reform associa-
tions were founded, syndicates of courage were established
all over the land — all in vain; and finally, — Heaven help us!
— how was this great moral and spiritual reform accomplished?
By an invention of two wheels, one in front of the other. It
was brought about by the Pope Manufacturing Company of
Hartford, Connecticut in two short years.

Everything is brought about by manufacturing companies.



Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds: a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 2 of 44)