Read LETTING THE CROWDS BE GOOD - CHAPTER XVI of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


Writing a hopeful book about the human race with the New York Sun, Wall Street, Downing Street and Bernard Shaw looking on is uphill work.

Sometimes I wish there were another human race I could refer to when I am writing about this one, one every one knows.  The one on Mars, for instance, if one could calmly point to it in the middle of an argument, shut people off with a wave of one’s hand and say, “Mars this” and “Mars that” would be convenient.

The trouble with the human race is that when one is talking to it about itself, it thinks it is It.

It is not It yet.

The earth and everything on it is a huge Acorn, tumbling softly through the sky.

Our boasted Christianity (crosses, and resurrections and cathedrals and all) is a Child crying in the night.

It is not necessary for me to prove to the satisfaction of the New York Sun and Bernard Shaw that the Golden Rule has not reached the superior moral stage of being taken as a platitude by all of our people who are engaged in business.  It is enough to submit that the most creative and forceful business men-the men who set the pace, the foremen of the world, are taking it so, and that others are trying to be as much like them as they can.  Wickedness in this world is not going to stop with a jerk.  It is merely being better distributed.  Possibly this is all there is to the problem, getting sin better distributed.  The Devil has never had a very great outfit or any great weight, but he has always known where to throw it, and he has always done an immense business on a small capital and the only way he has managed to get on at all, is by organizing, and by getting the attention of a few people at the top.  Now that the moral sense of the world has become quickened, and that rapid transit and newspapers and science and the fact-spirit have gained their hold, the sins of the world are being rapidly distributed, not so much among the men who determine things as among those who cannot.

Everything is following the fact-spirit.  The modern world and everything in it, is falling into the hands of the men who cannot be cheated about facts, who get the facts first and who get them right.

The world cannot help falling, from now on, slowly-a little ponderously perhaps at first-into the hands of good men.  To say that the world is falling into the hands of men who cannot be cheated and to say that it is falling into the hands of good men is to say the same thing.

The men who get the things that they want, get them by seeing the things as they are.  Goodness and efficiency both boil down to the same quality in the modern man, his faculty for not being a romantic person and for not being cheated.

A good man may be said to be a man who has formed a habit, an intimate personal habit of not being cheated.  Everything he does is full of this habit.  The sinful man, as he is usually called, is a man who is off in his facts, a man who does not know what he really wants even for himself.  In a matter-of-fact civilization like ours, he cannot hope to keep up.  If a man can be cheated, even by himself-of course other people can cheat him and everybody can take advantage of him.  He naturally grows more incompetent every day he lives.  The men who are slow or inefficient in finding out what they really want and slow in dealing with themselves are necessarily inefficient and behind hand in dealing with other people.  They cannot be men who determine what other people shall do.

It is true that for the moment, it still seems-now that science has only just come to the rescue of religion, that evil men in a large degree are the men who still are standing in the gate and determining opportunities and letting in and letting out Civilization as they please.  But their time is limited.

The fact-spirit is in the people.  We enjoy facts.  Facts are the modern man’s hunting, his adventure and sport.  The men who are ahead are getting into a kind of two-and-two-are-four habit that is like music, like rhythm.  It becomes almost a passion, almost a self-indulgence in their lives.  Being honest with things, having a distaste for being cheated by things, having a distaste for being cheated by one’s self and for cheating other people, runs in the blood in modern men.  The nations can be seen going round and round the earth and looking one another long and earnestly in the eyes.  The poet is turning his imagination upon the world about him and upon the fact that really works in it.  The scientific man has taken hold of religion and righteousness is being proved, melted down in the laboratory, welded together before us all and riveted on to the every day, on to what really happens, and on to what really works.  Goodness in its baser form already pays.  Only the biggest men may have found it out, but everybody is watching them.  The most important spiritual service that any man can render the present age is to make goodness pay at the top (in the most noticeable place) in some business where nobody has made it pay before.  Anybody can see that it almost pays already, that it pays now here, now there.  At all events, anybody can see that it is very noticeable that the part of the world that is most spiritual is not merely the part that is whining or hanging on crosses.  It is also the part that is successful.  One knows scores of saints with ruddy cheeks.  It is getting to be a matter of principle almost in a modern saint-to have ruddy cheeks.

I submit this fact respectfully to Bernard Shaw, Wall Street, Downing Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and even to the New York Sun, that vast machine for laughing at a world down in its snug quarters in Park Row-that the saint with ruddy cheeks is a totally new and disconcerting fact in our modern life.  He is the next fact the honest pessimist will have to face.

I submit that this saint with ruddy cheeks is here, that he is lovable, imperturbable, imperious, irrepressible, as interesting as sin, as catching as the Devil and that he has come to stay.

He stays because he is successful and can afford to stay.

He is successful because he is good.

Only religion works.

I am aware that the New York Sun might quarrel with just exactly this way of putting it.

I might put it another way or possibly try to say it again after saying something else first. Viz.:  The man who is successful in business is the man who can get people to do as much as they can do and a great deal more than they think they can do.

Only a very lively goodness, almost a religion in a man, can do this.  He has to have something in him very like the power of inventing people or of making people over.

To be specific:  In some big department stores, as one goes down the aisle, one will see over and over again the clerks making fun of customers.

One by one the customers find it out and the more permanent ones, those who would keep coming and who have the best trade, go to other stores.

How could such a thing be stopped in a department store by a practical employer?  Can he stop it successfully by turning on his politeness?

Of course he can make his clerks polite-looking by turning on his politeness.  But politeness in a department store does not consist in being polite-looking.  Being polite-looking does not work, does not grip the customer or strike in and do things and make the customer do things.

A machine like a department store, made up of twenty-five hundred human beings, which is carving out its will, its nature, stamping its pattern on a city, on a million men, or on a nation, cannot be made to work without religion.  If the clerks are making fun of people, only religion can stop it.

Perhaps you have been made fun of yourself, Gentle Reader?  You have observed, perhaps, that in making fun of people (making fun of you, for instance), the assumption almost always is, that you are trying to be like the Standard Person, and that this (they look at you pleasantly as you go by) is as near as you can get to it!  If an employer wishes to make his clerk an especially valuable clerk, if he wishes to make his clerk an expert in human nature or a good salesman, one who sees a customer when he comes along as he really is, and as he is trying to be, he will only be able to do it by touching something deep down in the clerk’s nature, something very like his religion-his power of putting himself in the place of others.  He can only do it by making a clerk feel that this power in him of doing as he would be done by, and seeing how to do it, i.e., the religion in him, is what he is hired for.

It is visionary to try to run a great department store, a great machine of twenty-five hundred souls, a machine of human emotions, of five thousand eyes and ears, a huge loom of enthusiasm, of love, hate, covetousness, sorrow, disappointment, and joy without having it full of clerks who are experts in human nature, putting themselves in the place of crowds of other people, clerks who are essentially religious.

So we watch the men who are ahead driving one another into goodness.  The man who is not able to create, distribute or turn on, in his business establishment, goodness, social insight, and customer-insight in it, can only hope to-day to keep ahead in business by having competitors as inefficient as he is.

The man who is ahead has discovered himself.  Everything the man ahead is doing eight hours a day, is seen at last narrowing him down, cornering him into goodness.

Of course as long as people looked upon goodness as a Sunday affair, a few hours a week put in on it, we were naturally discouraged about it.

It is still a little too fresh looking and it may be still a little too clever for everybody, but slowly, irrevocably, we see it coming.  We can look up almost any day and watch some goodness-now-at least one specimen or so, in every branch of business.

We watch daily the men who are ahead, pulling on the goodness of the world and the Crowds pushing on it.