Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds: a moving-picture of democracy online

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classifying material, for pumping up power, light, and heat t:>
headquarters, all of which can be turned on at will, grow mor<^
masterful every year. They are found all slaving away fc^
him dimly down in the dark while he sleeps. They hand hin.
up in his very dreams new and strange powers to live arx!
know with.

The men who have been the most developed of all, in this
regard, civilization has always selected and set apart from the
others. It calls these men, in their generation, men of genius.

Ordinary men do not try to compete with men of genius.

The reason that people set the genius apart and do not try

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to compete with him is that he has more and better machinery
than they have. It is always the first thing one notices about
a man of genius — the incredible number of things that he
manages to get done for him, apparently the things that he
never takes any time oflF, like the rest of us, to do himself. The
subconscious, automatic, mechanical equipment of his senses,
the extraordinary intelligence and refinement of his body,
the way his senses keep his spirit informed automatically
and convey outer knowledge to him, the power he has in return
of informing this outer knowledge with his spirit, with his will
with his choices, once for all, so that he is always able afterward
to rely on his senses to work out things beautifully for him quite
by themselves, and to hand up to him, when he wants them,
rare, deep, unconscious knowledge — all the things he wants
to use for what his soul is doing at the moment — it is these
that make the man of genius what he is. He has a larger and
better factory than others, and has developed a huge subcon-
scious service in mind and body. Having all these things done
for him, he is naturally more free than others and has more
vision and more originality, his spirit is swung free to build
new worlds — to take walks with God, until at last we come to
look upon him, upon the man of genius, a little superstitiously.
We look up every Uttle while from doing the things ourselves
that he gets done for him by his subconscious machinery, and
we wonder at him, we wonder at the strange, the mighty feats
he does, at his thousand-leagued boots, at his apparent every-
whereness. His songs and joys, sometimes, to us, his very
sorrows, look miraculous.

And yet it is all merely because he has a factory, a great
automatic equipment, a thousand employee-sense perceptions,
down in the basement of his being, doing things for him that
the rest of us do, or think we are obliged to do ourselves, and
give up all of our time to. He is not held back as we are, and
moves freely. So he dives under the sea familiarly, or takes
DeeDs at the farther side of the stars, or he flies in the air, or

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he builds unspeakable railroads or thinks out ships or sea-cities,
or he builds books, or he builds little new still-undreamed-of
worlds out of chemistry, or he unravels history out of rocks,
or plants new cities and mighty states without seeming to try,
or perhaps he proceeds quietly to be interested in men, in all
these funny little dots of men about him; and out of the earth
and sky, out of the same old earth and sky everybody else had
had, he makes new kinds and new sizes of men with a thought
like some mighty, serene child playing with dolls!

It is generally supposed that the man of genius rules history
and dictates the ideals, the activities of the next generation,
writes out the specifications for the joys and sorrows of a world,
and lays the groimd-plans of nations because he has an inspired
mind. It is really because he has an inspired body, a body
that has received its orders once for all, from his spirit. We
would never wonder that everything a genius does has that vivid
and strange reality it has, if we realized what his body is doing
for him, how he has a body which is at work automatically
drinking up the earth into everything he thinks, drinking up
practicability, art and technique for him into everything he
sees and everything he hopes and desires. And every year he
keeps on adding a new body, keeps on handing down to his
basement new sets, every day, of finer and yet finer things to
do automatically. The great spiritual genius becomes great by
economizing his consciousness in one direction and letting it
fare forth in another. He converts his old inspirations into
his new machines. He converts heat into power, and power
into light, and comes to live at last as almost any man of genius
can really be seen living — in a kind of transfigured or lighted-
up body. The poet transmutes his subconscious or machine
body into words; and the artist, into colour or sound or into
carved stone. The engineer transmutes his subconscious body
into long buildings, into aisles of windows, into stories of thought-
ful machines. Every great spiritual and imaginative geniiis is
«een, sooner or later, to be the transmuted genius of some man's

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body. The things in Leonardo da Vinci that his unconscious,
high-spirited, automatic senses gathered together for him, piled
up in his mind for him, and handed over to him for the use of
his soul, would have made a genius out of anybody. It is not
as if he had had to work out every day all the old details of being
a genius, himself.

The miracles he seems to work are all made possible to him
because of his thousand man-power, deep subconscious body,
his tremendous factory of senuous machinery. It is as if he
had practically a thousand men all working for him, for
dear life, down in his basement, and the things that he can get
these men to attend to for him give him a start with which
none of the rest of us could ever hope to compete. We call
him inspired because he is more mechanical than we are, and
because his real spiritual life begins where our lives leave off.

So the poets who have filled the world with glory and beauty
have been free to do it because they have had more perfect,
more healthful and improved subconscious senses handing up
wonder to them than the rest of us have.

And so the engineers, Uving, as they always live, with that
fierce, silent, implacable curiosity of theirs, woven through
their bodies and through their senses and through their souls,
have tagged the Creator's footsteps imder the earth, and along
the sky, every now and then throwing up new little worlds to
Him like His worlds, saying, " Look, O God, look at this!"
— the engineers whose poetry is too deep to look poetic have
all done what they have done because the imconscious and
automatic gifts of their senses, of the powers of their observa-
tion, have swung their souls free, given them long still reaches
of thought and vast new orbits of desire, like gods.

All the great men of the world have always had machinery.

Now, everybody is having it. The power to get little things,
inniunerable, omnipresent, for-ever-and-ever things, tiny just-so
things, done for us automatically so that we can go on to our
inspirations U uo longer to-day the special prerogative of men

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of genius. It is for all of us. Machinery is the stored-up
spirit, the old saved-up inspiration of the world turned on for
every man. And as the greatness of a man turns on his com-
mand over machinery, on his power to free his soul by making
his body work for him, the greatness of a civilization turns
upon its getting machines to do its work. The more of our
living we can learn to do to-day, automatically, the more in-
spired and creative and godlike and unmechanical our civiliza-
tion becomes.

Machinery is the subconscious mind of the world.

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I WOULD not have, if I could afford it, a thing in my house
that is not hand-made. I have come to believe that machinery
is going to make it possible for everybody to have hand-made
things in their homes, things that have been made by people
who love to make them, and by people who, thanks to the ma-
chines, are soon boimd to have time to make them. Some
will have gifts for hand-made furniture, others for hand-made
ideas. Perhaps people will even have time for sitting down to
enjoy hand-made ideas, to enjoy hand-made books — and enjoy
reading books by hand. We may have time for following an
author in a book in the slow, old, deep, loving, happy, hand-
made fashion we used to know — when we have enough ma-

It looks as if it might be something like this.

Every man is going to spend his mornings in the basement
of society, taking orders and being a servant and executing
automatically, like a machine if need be, the will of the world,
making what the world wants in the way it wants it, expressing
society and subordinating himself. In the afternoon he shall
come up out of the basement, and take his stand on the ground
floor of the world, stop being a part of the machinery, and be
a man, express himself and give orders to himself and do
some work he loves to do in the way he loves to do it, express
his soul in his labour, and be an artist. He will not select his
work in the morning, or select his employer, or say how the work
shall be done. He will himself be selected, like a young tree
or like an iron nail, because he is the best made and best fitted


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thing at hand to be used in a certain place and in a certain

When the man has been selected for his latent capacities,
his employer sets to work on him scientifically and according
to the laws of physics, hygiene, conservation of energy, the
laws of philosophy, human nature, heredity, psychology, and
oven metaphysics, teaches the man how to hold his hands, how
to lift, how to sit down, how to rest, and how to breathe, so that
three times as much work can be got out of him as he could
get out of himself. A mind of the highest rank and, if necessary,
thirty minds of the highest rank, shall be at his disposal, shall
be lent him to show him how his work can be done. The
accumulated science and genius, the imagination and ex-
perience, of hundreds of years, of all climates, of all countries,
of aU temperaments shall be heaped up by his employers,
gathered about the man's mind, wrought through his limbs,
and help him to do his work.

All labour down in the basement of society shall be skilled
labour. The brains of men of genius and of experts shall be
pumped into labour from above until every man in the base-
ment shall earn as much money in three hours a day as he
formerly had earned in nine.

Between the time a man saves by having machinery and the
time he saves by having the brains of great men and geniuses
to work with, it will be possible for men to do enough work for
other people down in the basement of the world in a few hours
to shut the whole basement up, if we want to, by three o'clock.
Every man who is fit for it shall spend the rest of his time in
planning his work himself and in expressing himself, and in
creating hand-made and beautiful, inspired and wilful things
like an artist, or like a slowed-down genius, or at least like a
man or like a hmnan being.

Every man owes it to society to spend part of his time in
expressing his own soul. The world needs him. Society can-
not afford to let him merely give to it his feet and his hands.

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It wants the joy in him, the creative desire in him, the slow,
stupid, hopeful initiative, in him to help nm the world. Society
wants to use the man's soul too — the man's will. It is going
to demand the soul in a man, the essence or good-will in him,
if only to protect itself, and to keep the man from being
dangerous. Men who have lost or suppressed their souls, and
who go about cursing at the world every day they live in it, are
not a safe, social investment.

But while every man is going to see that he owes it to society
to use a part of his time in it in expressing himself, his own
desires, in his own way, he is going to see also that he owes it
to society to spend part of his time in expressing others and
in expressing the desires and the needs of others. The two
processes could be best efiFected at first probably by alternating,
by keeping the man in equilibrium, balancing the mechanical
and the spiritual in his life. Eventually and ideally, he will
manage to have time in a higher state of society to put them
together, to express in the same act at the same time, and not
alternating or reciprocally, himself and others. And he will
succeed in doing what the great and free artist does already.
He will make his individual self-expression so great and so
generous that it is also the expression of the universal self.

Every man will be treated according to his own nature.
Doubtless some men have not brains enough in a week to supply
them for one hour a day of self-directed work. It would take
them five hours a day to think how to do one hour's worth of
work. Men who prefer, as many will, not to think, and who
like the basement better, can substitute in the basement for
their sons, and buy if they like, the freedom of sons who prefer
thinking, who would like to work harder than their fathers
would care to work, up on the ground floor of the world. But
as time goes on, it is to be hoped that every man will climb up
slowly, and will belong less and less of his time to the stafiF
that borrows brains, and more and more of his time to the stafiF
that hands brains down, and that directs the machinery of the

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world. The time of alternation in dealing with different call-
ings will.probably be adjusted differently, and might be made
weeks instead of days, but the principle would be the same.
The forces that are going to help, apparently, in this evolution
will be the labour exhange — the centre for the mobilization
of labour, the produce exchange, the inventor's spirit in the
labour unions and emplc^ers' associations, and the gradual
organization by inventors of the common vision of all men,
and setting it at work on the supreme task of modem life —
the task of drawing out, evoking each particular man in the
world, and in behalf of all, freeing him for his own particular

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THE fundamental failure of humanity so far is in self-asser-

The essential distinctive trait of modern civilization is

Machinery logically and irrevocably involves the cooperative
action of individuals.

If we make levers and iron wheels work by putting them
together according to their nature, we can only make vast
masses of men work by putting them together according tc
their nature.

So far we have been trying to make vast masses of men work
together in precisely the same way we make levers and iron
wheels work together. We have thought we could make diabol-
ically, foolishly, insanely inflexible men-machines which violate
at every point the natural qualities and instincts of the materials
of which they are made.

We have failed to assert ourselves against our iron machines.
We have let our iron machines assert themselves against us.
We have let our iron machines be models for us. We have
overiooked the diflFerence in the nature of the materials in
machines of iron and machines of men.

A man is a self-reproducing machine, and an iron machine
is one that has to be reproduced by somebody else.

In a man-machine arrangements must be made so that each
man can be allowed to be the father of his own children and the
author of his own acts.

In society or the man-machine, if it is to work, men are


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individuals. Society is organicaUy, irrevocably dependent
upon each man, and upon what each man chooses according
to his own nature to do himself.

The result is, the first principle of success inrconstructing and
running a social machine is to ask and to get an answer out of
each man who is, as we look him over and take him up, and
propose to put him into it, "What are you like?" "What are
you especially for?" "What do you want?" "How can you
get it?"

Our success in getting him properly into our machine turns
upon a loyal, patient, imperious attention on our part to what
there is inside him, inside the particular individual man, and
how we can get him to let us know what is inside, get him to
decide voluntarily to let us have it, and let us work it into the
common end.

In this amazing, impromptu, new, and hurried machine
civilization which we have been piling up around us for a
hundred years we have made machines out of every-
thing, and our one consummate and glaring failure in the
machines we have made is the machine we have made out of

Mineral machines are made by putting comparatively dead,
or at least dead-looking, matter together; vegetable machines
or gardens, are made by studying little unconscious seeds that
we can persuade to come up and to reproduce themselves.
Man-machines are produced by putting up possible lives before
particular individual men, and letting them find out (and finding
out for ourselves, too), day by day, into which life they will
grow up.

Everything in a social machine, if it is a machine that really
works, is based on the profound and special study of individuals :
upon drawing out the aptitudes and motives, choices and genius
in each man; the passion, if he has any; the creative desire, the
self -expressing, self -reproducing, inner manhood; the happy
strength there is in him.

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Trades unions overlook this, and treat all men alike and all
employers alike. Employers have very largely overlooked it.

It is the industrial, social, and religious secret of our modem
machine civilization. We need not be discouraged about
machines, because the secret of the machine civilization has
as yet barely been noticed.

The elephants are running around in the garden. But they
have merely taken us by surprise. It is their first and their
last chance. The men about us are seeing what to do. We are
to get control of the elephants, first, by getting control of our-
selves. We are beginning to organize our people-machines as if
they were made of people; so that the people in them can keep
on being people, and being better ones. And as our people-
machines begin to become machines that really work, our iron
machines will no longer be feared. They will reach over and
help. As we look about us we shall see our iron machines at
last, about all the world, all joining in, all hard at work for us.
a million, million machines a day making the crowd beautiful.

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A CROWD civilization produces, as a matter of course,
crowd art and art for crowded conditions. This fact is at once
the glory and the weakness of the kind of art a democracy is
bound to have.

The most natural evidence to turn to first, of the crowd
in a crowd age, is such as can be found in its literature,
especially in its masterpieces.

The significance of shaking hands with a Senator of the
United States is that it is a convenient and labour-saving way of
shaking hands with two or three million people. The impressive-
ness of the Senator's Washington voice, the voice on the floor
of the Senate, consists in the mystical undertone — the chorus
in it — multitudes in smoking cities, men and women, rich and
poor, who are speaking when this man speaks, and who are
silent when he is silent, in the government of the United States.

The typical fact that the Senator stands for in modem life
has a corresponding typical fact in modem literature. The
typical fact in modem literature is the epigram, the senatorial
sentence, the sentence that immeasurably represents what it
does not say. The diflFerence between democracy in Washing-
ton and democracy in Athens may be said to be that in Washing-
ton we have an epigram government, a government in which
ninety miUion people are crowded into two rooms to consider
what to do, and in which ninety million people are made to
sit in one chair to see that it is done. In Athens every man
represented himself.

It may be said to be a good working distinction between
• 269

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modern and classic art that in modem art words and colours
and sounds stand for things, and in classic art they said them.
In the art of the Greek, things were what they seemed, and they
were all there. Hence simplicity. It is a quality of the art of
to-day that things are not what they seem in it. If they were,
we should not call it art at all. Everything stands not only
for itself and for what it says, but for an inmieasurable
something that cannot be said. Every sound in music is the
senator of a thousand soupds, thoughts, and associations, and
in literature every word that is allowed to appear is the
representative in three syllables of three pages of a dictionary.
The whistle of the locomotive, and the ring of the telephone,
and the still, swift rush of the elevator are making themselves
felt in the ideal world. They are proclaiming to the ideal
world that the real world is outstripping it. The twelve
thousand horsepower steamer does not find itself accurately
expressed in iambics on the leisurely fleet of Ulysses. It is seek-
ing new expression. The command has gone forth over all
the beauty and over all the art of the present world, crowded
for tipie and crowded for space. "Telegraph!" To the nine
Muses the order flies. One can hear it on every side. "Tele-
graph!" The result is symboUsm, the Morse alphabet of
art and "types," the epigrams of human nature, crowding
us all into ten or twelve people. The epic is telescoped into
the sonnet, and the sonnet is compressed into quatrains or
Tabbs of poetry, and couplets are signed as masterpieces.
The novel has come into being — several hundred pages of
crowded people in crowded sentences, jostUng each other to
obUvion; and now the novel, jostled into oblivion by the next
novel, is becoming the short story. KipUng's short stories sum
the situation up. So far as skeleton or plot is concerned, they
are built up out of a bit of nothing put with an infinity of Kip-
ling; so far as meat is concerned, they are the Liebig Beef Ex-
tract of fiction. A single jar of KipUng contains a whole herd
of old-time novels lowing on a hundred hills.

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The classic of any given world is a work of art that has passed
through the same process in being a work of art that that world
has passed through in being a world. Mr. Kipling represents
a crowd age, because he is crowded with it; because, above all
others, he is the man who produces art in the way the age he
lives in is producing everything else.

This is no mere circumstance of democracy. It is its manifest
destiny that it shall produce art for crowded conditions, that it
shall have crowd art. The kind of beauty that can be indefi-
nitely multipUed is the kind of beauty in which, in the nature of
things, we have made our most characteristic and most impor-
tant progress. Our most considerable success in pictures could
not be otherwise than in black and white. Black-and-white
art is printing-press art; and art that can be produced in endless
copies, that can be subscribed for by crowds, finds an extra-
ordinary demand, and artists have applied themselves to
supplying it. All the improvements, moving on through
the use of wood and steel and copper, and the process of etching,
to the photogravure, the Uthograph, the moving picture, and
the latest photograph in colour, whatever else may be said
of them from the point of view of Titian or Michael Angelo,
constitute a most amazing and trimnphant advance from the
point of view of making art a democracy, of making the rare and
the beautiful minister day and night to crowds. The fact that
the mechanical arts are so prominent in their relation to the fine
arts may not seem to argue a high ideal amongst us; but as the
mechanical arts are the body of beauty, and the fine arts are the
soul of it, it is a necessary part of the ideal to keep body and
soul together until we can do better. Mourning with Ruskin
is not so much to the point as going to work with William
Morris. If we have deeper feelings about wall-papers than we
have about other things, it is going to the root of the matter

Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds: a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 20 of 44)