Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds: a moving-picture of democracy online

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what they do!"

It is because Christians have never quite believed that The
Man really meant this when He said it that they have persecuted
the Jews for two thousand years. It is because they do not
believe it now that they blame Mr. Rockefeller for doing what
most of them twenty years ago would have done themselves.
It was one of the hardest things to do and say that any one ever
said in the world, and it was said at the hardest possible time
to say it. It was strange that one almost swooning with pain
should have said the gentlest-hearted and truest thing
about human nature that has ever been said since the
world began. It has seemed to me the most Uteral, and
perhaps the most practical, truth that has been said since the
world began.

It goes straight to the point about people. It gives one one's
definition of goodness both for one's self and for others. It gives
one a program for action.

Except in our more joyous and free moments, we assume that
when people do us a wrong, they know what they are about.
They look at the right thing to do and they look at the wrong
one, and they choose the wrong one because they like it better.
Nine people out of ten one meets in the streets coming out of
church on Sunday morning, if one asked them the question
plainly, "Do you ever do wrong when you know it is wrong?"
would say that they did. If you ask them what a sin is, they
will tell you that it is something you do when you know you
ought not to do it.

Bujt The Man Himself, in speaking of the most colossal sin
that has ever been committed, seemed to think that when men
committed a sin, it was because they did not really see what it
was that they were doing. They did what they wanted to do

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at the moment. They did not do what they would have wished
they had done in twenty years.

I would define goodness as doing what one would wish one had
done in twenty years — twenty years, twenty days, twenty
minutes, or twenty seconds, according to the time the action
takes to get ripe.

It would be far more true and more to the point instead of
scolding or admiring Mr. Rockefeller's skilled labour at getting
too rich, to point out mildly that he has done something that
in the long-run he would not have wanted to do; that he has
lacked the social imagination for a great permanently successful
business. His sin has consisted in his not taking pains to act
accurately and permanently, in his not concentrating his mind
and finding out what he really wanted to do. It would seem
to be better and truer and more accurate in the tremendous
crisis of our modem life to judge Mr. Rockefeller, not as
monster of wickedness, but merely as an inefficient, morally
underwitted man. There are things that he has not thought
of that every one else has.

We see that in all those qualities that really go to make a
great business house in a great nation John D. Rockefeller
stands as the most colossal failure as yet that our American
business life has produced. To point his incompetence out
quietly and calmly and without scolding would seem to be the
only fair way to deal with Mr. Rockefeller. He merely has
not done what he would have wished he had done in twenty,
well, possibly two hundred years, or as long a time as it would
be necessary to allow for Mr. Rockefeller to see. The one
thing that the world could accept gracefully from Mr. Rocke-
feller now would be the establishment of a great endowment
of research and education to help other people to see in time
how they can keep from being like him. If Mr. Rockefeller
leads •in this great work and sees it soon enough, perhaps he
will stop suddenly being the world's most lonely man.

Many men have been lonely before in the presence of a few

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fellow human beings; but to be lonely with a whole nation —
eighty million people; to feel a whole human race standing there
outside of your life and softly wondering about you, staring at
you in the showcase of your money, peering in as out of a thou-
sand newspapers upon you as a kind of moral curiosity under
glass, studying you as the man who has performed the most
athletic feat of not seeing what he was really doing and how he
really looked in all the world — this has been Mr. Rockefeller's
experience. He has not done what he would wish he had done
in twenty years.

Goodness may be defined as getting one's own attention, as
boning down to find the best and most efficient way of finding
out what one wants to do. Any man who will make adequate
arrangements with himself at suitable times for getting his own
attention will be good. Any one else from outside who can
make such arrangements for him, such arrangements of expres-
sion or — of advertising goodness as to get his attention, will
make him good.

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IF TWO great shops could stand side by side on the Main
Street of the World, and all the vices could be put in the show
window of one of them and all the virtues in the show windows
the other, and all the people could go by all day, all night, and
see the windowful of virtues as they were, and the windowful
of vices as they were, all the world would be good in the

It would stay good as long as people remembered how the
windows looked. Or if they could not remember, all they would
need to do, most people, when a vice tempted them would be
to step out, look at it in its window a minute — possibly take
a look too at the other window — and they would be good.

If a man were to take a fancy to any particular vice, and
would take a step up to The Window, and take one firm look
at it in The Window — see it lying there, its twenty years' evil
its twenty days', its twenty minutes' evil, all branching up out
of it — he would be good.

When we see the wrong on one side and the right On the other
and really see the right as vividly as we do the wrong, we do
right automatically. Wild horses cannot drag a man away
from doing right if he sees what the right is.

A little while ago in a New England city where the grade
crossings had just been abolished, and where the railroad wound
its way on a huge yellow sandbank through the most beautiful
part of the town, a prominent, public-spirited citizen wrote a
letter to the President of the Company suggesting that the


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railroad (for a comparatively small sum, which he mentioned)
plant its sandbanks with trees and shrubs. A letter came the
next day saying that the railroad was unwilling to do it. He
might quite justifiably have been indignant and flung himself
into print and made a little scene in the papers, which would
have been the regular and conventional thing to do under the
circumstances. But it occurred to him instead, being a man of
a curious and practical mind, that possibly he did not know how
to express himself to railroad presidents, and that his letter had
not said what he meant. He thought he would try again, and
see what would happen if he expressed himself more fully and
adequately. He took for it this second time a. box seven feet
long. The box contained two long rolls of paper, one a picture
by a landscape gardener of the embankment as it would look
when planted with trees and with shrubs, and the other a photo-
graph — a long panorama of the same embankment as it then
stood with its two great broadsides of yellowness trailing through
the city. The box containing the rolls was sent without com-
ment and with photographs and estimates of cost on the bottom
of the pictures.

A letter from the railroad came next day thanking him for
his suggestion, and promising to have 'the embankment made
into a park at once.

If God had arranged from the beginning, slides of the virtues,
and had furnished every man with a stereopticon inside, and if
all a man had to do at any partictdar time of temptation was to
take out just the right slide or possibly try three or four up
there on his canvas a second, no one would ever have any trouble
in doing right.

It is not too much to say that this way of looking at evil and
good — at the latent capacities of evil and good in men, if a
man once believes it, and if a man once practises it as a part
of his daily practical interpretation and mastery of men, will

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soon put a new face for him on nearly every great human
problem with which he finds his time confronted. We shall
watch the men in the world about us — each for their little day —
trying their fimny, pathetic, curious little moral experiments,
and we shall see the men — all of the men and all of the good
and the evil in the men this moment — daily before our eyes
working out with an implacable hopefulness the fate of the
worid. We know that, in spite of self -deceived syndicalism and
self-deceived trusts, in spite of coal strikes and all the vain,
cOmic little troops of warships around the earth, peace and
righteousness in a vast overtone are singing toward us.

We are not only going to have new and better motives in our
modem men, but the new and better motives are going to be
thrust upon us. Every man who reads these pages is having,
at the present moment, motives in his life which he would not
have been capable of at first. Why should not a human race
have motives which it was not capable of at first? If one takes
up two or three motives of one's own — the small motives and
the large ones — and holds them up in one's hand and looks at
them quietly from the point of view of what one would wish one
had done in twenty years, there is scarcely one of us who would
choose the small ones. People who are really modem, that is,
who look beyond themselves in what they do to others, who live
their lives as one might say six people away, or sixty people
farther out from themselves, or sixty million people farther, are
becoming more common everywhere; and people who look
beyond the moment in what they do to another day, who are
getting more and more to live their lives twenty years ahead,
and to have motives that will last twenty years, are driven to
better and more permanent motives.

Thinking of more people when we act for ourselves means
ethical consciousness or goodness, and better and more per-
manent motives.

In the last analysis, the men who permanently succeed in
business will have to see farther than the other people do.

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Men like John D. Rockefeller, who have made failures of
their lives, and have not been able to conduct a business so as
to keep it out of the courts, have failed because they have had
imagination about Things but not imagination about people.

The man who is just at hand will not do over again what
Mr. Rockefeller has done. He will at least have made some
advance in imagination over Rockefeller.

Mr. Rockefeller became rich by co5perating with other rich
men to exploit the public. The man of the inunediate future
is going to get rich, as rich as he cares to be, by cooperating
not merely with his competitors — which is as far as Rockefeller
got — but by cooperating with the people.

It is a mere matter of social imagination, of seeing what
succeeds most permanently, and honourably, of putting what
has been called "goodness" and what is going to be called
"Business" together. In other words, social imagination is
going go make a man gravitate toward mutual interest or co-
operation, which is the new and inevitable level of efficiency
and success in business! Success is being transferred from
men of millionaire genius to men of social and human genius.
The men who are going to compete most successfully in mod-
ern competitive business are competing by knowing how to
cooperate better than their competitors do. Employers, em-
ployees, consumers, partners, become irresistible by coopera-
tion; only employers, employees, consumers, and partners
who cooperate better than they do can hope to compete with
them. The Trusts have already crowded out many small
rivals because, while their cooperation has been one-sidpd,
they have cooperated with more people than their rivals could;
and the good Trusts, in the same way are going to crowd out the
bad Trusts, because the good ones will know how to coOperate
with more people than the bad ones do. They will have the
human genius to see how they can coOperate with the people
instead of against them.

They are going to invent ways of winning and keeping the

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confidence of the people, of taking to this end a smaller and more
just share of profits. And they are going to gain their leader-
ship through the wisdom and power that goes with their money,
and not through the money itself. It is the spiritual power of
their money that is going to count; and wealth, instead of being
a millionaire disease, is going to become a great social energy
in democracy. We are going to let men be rich because they
represent us, not because they hold us up, and because the
hold-up has gone by, that is: getting all one can, and service —
getting what we have earned — has come in.

The new kind and new size of politician will win his power
by his faith, like U. Ren of Oregon; the new kind and new size
of editor is going to hire with brains a millionaire to help him
run his paper; and the new kind and new size of author, instead
of tagging a publisher, will be paid royalties for supplying him
with new ideas and creating for him new publics. Power in
modern life is to be light and heat and motion, and not a gift
of being heavy and solid. Even Money shall lose its inertia.

We are in this way being driven into having new kinds and
new sizes of men; and some of them will be rich ones, and some
of them will be poor, and no one will care. We will simply look
at the man and at what size he is.

If our preachers are not saving us, our business men will.
Sometimes one suspects that the reason goodness is not more
popular in modern life is that it has been taken hold of the
wrong way. Perhaps when we stop teasing people, and take
goodness seriously and calmly, and see that goodness is essen-
tially imagination, that it is brains, that it is thinking down
through to what one really wants, goodness will begin to be
more coveted. Except among people with almost no brains
or imagination at all, it will be popular.

Perhaps it is unnecessary to say that these things that I
have been saying, or trying to say, about the flexibility and
the potentiality of the hiunan race in its present crisis, in its
present struggle to maintain and add to its glory on the earth.

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are all beyond the range of possibility, and the present strength
of manhood. But I can only hope that these objections that
people make will turn out like mine. I have been making
objections all my Uf e, as all idealists must — only to watch with
dismay and joy the old-time, happy obdurate way objections
have of going by.

People began by saying they would never use automobiles
because they were so noisy and ill-odoured and ugly. Presto!
The automobile becomes silent and shapes itself in lines of

Some of us had decided against balloons. "Even if the
balloon succeeds,'* we said, "there will be no way of going just
where and when you want to." And then, presto! regular
channels of wind are discovered, and the balloon goes on.
. "Aeroplanes, '* we said, "may be successful, but the more
successful they are, the more dangerous, and the more danger
there will be of cplUsions — colUsions in the dark and up in
great sky at night." And, presto! man invents the wireless
telegraph, and the entire sky can be full of whispers telling
every airship where all the other airships are.

Some of us have decided that we will never have anything
to do with monopoly. Presto! there is suddenly evolved an
entirely new type of monopolist — the man who can be rich
and good; the millionaire who has invented a monopoly that
serves the owners, the producers and employees, the distributors
and the consumers alike. An American railway President has
been saying lately that America would not have enough to eat
in ^050, but it would not do to try to prove this just yet. Some
one, almost any day, will invent a food that is as highly con-
entrated as dynamite, and the whole food supply of New York
— who knows? — shall be carried aroimd in one railway
President's vest pocket.

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IT WOULD be hard to overestimate the wearmess and cyni-
cism and despair that have been caused in the world by its
more recklessly hopeful men — the men who plump down hap-
pily anywhere and hope, the optimists who are merely slovenly
in their minds about evil. But the optimism that consists in
putting evil facts up into a kind of outdoors in our minds and in
giving them room to exercise in our thoughts and feelings, the
optimism that consists in having one's brain move vigorously
through disagreeable facts — organize them into the other
facts with which they belong and with which they work — is
worthy of consideration. Many of us, who have tried
optimism and pessimism both, have noticed certain things.

When one is being pessimistic, one almost always has the
feeling of being rather clever. It is forced upon one a Uttle,
of course, having all those other people about one stodgily
standing up for people and not really seeing through them!

So, though one ought not to, one does feel a little superior —
even with the best intentions — when one is being discoiu'aged.

But the trouble with pessimism is that it is only at the
moment when one is having it that one really enjoys it, or feels
in this way about it.

Perhaps I should not undertake to speak for others, and
should only speak for myself; but I can only bear witness, for
one, that every time in my life that I have broken through the
surface a little, and seen through to the evil, and found myself
suddenly and astutely discoiu'aged, I have found afterward that
all I had to do was to 9ee the same thing a little farther over,


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set it in the light beyond it, and look at it in larger or more full
relations, and I was no longer astutely discouraged.

So I have come to believe slowly and grimly that feeling
discouraged about the world is not quite clever. I have noticed
it, too, in watching other people — men I know. If I could
take all the men I know who are living and acting as if they
believed big things about people to-day, men who are daily
taking for granted great things in human nature, and put them
in one group by themselves all together, and if I could then take
all the men I know who are taking Uttle things for granted in one
another and in human nature, I do not believe very many people
would find it hard to tell which group would be more clever.
Possibly the reason more of us do not spend more time in being
hopeful about the world is that it takes more brains usually than
we happen to have at the moment. Hope may be said to be
an act oi the brain in which it sees facts in relations large enough
to see what they are for, an act in which it insists in a given case
upon giving the facts room enough to turn around and to relate
themselves to one another, and settle down where they belong
in one's mind, the way they would in real time.

So now, at last. Gentle Reader, having looked back and having
looked forward, I know the way I am going.

I am going to hope.

It is the only way to see through things. The only way to
dare to see through ones' self; the only way to see through other
people and to see past them, and to see with them and for them
— is to hope.

So I am putting the challenge to the reader, in this book, as
I have put it to myself.

There are four questions with which day by day we dtand
face to face:

1. Does human nature change?

2. Does it change toward a larger and longer vision?

3. Will not a larger and longer vision mean new kinds and
new sizes of men?

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4. Will not new sizes of men make new-sized ethics practical
and make a new world?

Everything depends for every man upon this planet, at this
moment, on how he decides these questions. If he says Yes,
he will live one kind of life, he will Uve up to his world. H he
says No, he will have a mean world, smaller-minded than he is
himself, and he will live down to it.

This is what the common run of men about us — the men of
less creative type in literature, in business, and in politics —
are doing. They do not believe human nature is changing.
They are Kving down to a world that is going by. They are
living down to a world that is smaller than they are themselves.
They are trying to make others do it. They answer the question
"Does human nature change?" by "No!" Wilbur Wright,
when he flew around over the heads of the people in New York
a few years ago, a black speck above a whole city with its heads
up, answered "Yes! "

But the real importance of the flying machine has not stopped
short with a little delicate, graceful thing like walking on the air
instead of the ground.

The big and really revolutionary thing about Wilbiu* Wright's
flying was that he changed the minds of the whole human race
in a few minutes about one thing. There was one particular
thing that for forty thousand years they knew they could not do.
And npW they knew they could.

It naturally follows — and it lies in the mind of every man
who lives — that there must be other particular things. And
as niiie men out of ten are in business, most of these particular
things are going to be done in business. - -

The Wilbur Wright spiHt is catching.

It is as if a Lid had been lifted off the world.

One sees everywhere business men' going about the street
expecting' new things of themselves. They expect things of
the very ground, and of the air, and of one another they had
not dared expect before.

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The other day in a New England city I saw a man, who had
been the president of an Electric Light Company for twenty
years, who had invented a pubUc service corporation that
worked. Since he took office and dictated the poUcy of the
Company, every single overture for more expensive equipment
in the electric Ughting of the city has come from the Company,
and every single overture for reducing the rate to consumers
has come from the company.

The consimiption of electricity in the city is the largest per
capita in the world, and the rate is the cheapest in the country;
and, incidentally, the Company so trusts the people that they let
them have electricity without metres, and the people so trust
the Company that they save its electricity as they would their

Even the man without a conscience, who would be mean if
he could, is brought to terms, and knows that if he refrains
from leaving his lights burning all night when he goes to bed
he is not merely saving the Company's electricity but his own.
He knows that he is reducing his own and everybody's price
for electricity, and not merely increasing the profits of the

It makes another kind of man slowly out of thousands of men
every day, every night, turning on and turning off their lights.

The Eliectric Light Company has come to have a daily, an
almost hourly, influence on the way men do business and go
about their work in that city — the motives and assumptions
with which they bargain with one another — that might be
envied by twenty churches.

All that had happened was that a man with a powerful,
quietly wilful personality — the kind that went on crusades
and took cities in other ages — had appeared at last, and
proposed to do the same sort of thing in business. He proposed
to express his soul, just as it was, in business the way other
people had expressed theirs for a few hundred years in poetry
or more easy and conventional ways.

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If he could not have made the electric Ught business say the
things about people and about himself that he liked and that
he believed, he would have had to make some other business
say them.

One of the things he had most wanted to say and prove in
business was the economic value of being human, the enormous
business saving that could be effected by being believed in.

Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds: a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 7 of 44)