Read CROWDS AND HEROES - CHAPTER XIV of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


After making an address on inspired millionaires one night before the Sociological Society in their quarters in John Street, I found myself the next day-a six-penny day-standing thoughtfully in the quarters of the Zooelogical Society in Regent’s Park.

The Zooelogical Society makes one feel more humble, I think, than the Sociological Society does.

All sociologists, members of Parliament, eugenists, professors, and others, ought to be compelled by law to spend one day every two weeks with the Zooelogical Society in Regent’s Park.

All reformers who essay to make over human nature, all idealists, should be required by law to visit menageries-to go to see them faithfully or to be put in them a while until they have observed life and thought things out.


For orienting a man and making him reasonable, there is nothing, I find, like coming out and putting in a day here, making one’s self gaze firmly and doggedly at the other animals.

We have every reason to believe that Noah was a good psychologist, or judge of human nature, before he went into the ark, but if he was not, he certainly would have come out one.

There is nothing like a menagerie to limber one up.

Especially an idealist.

Take a pelican, for instance.  What possible personal ideal was it that could make a pelican want to be a pelican or that could ever have made a pelican take being a pelican seriously for one minute?

And the camel with his lopsided hump.  “Why, oh, why,” cries the idealist, wringing his hands.  “Oh, why ?”

I have come out here this afternoon, in the middle of my book, in the middle of a chapter against the syndicalists, but it ill beseems me, after spending half a day looking calmly at peacocks, at giraffes, at hippopotamuses, at all these tails, necks, legs and mouths, at this stretch or bird’s eye view-this vast landscape of God’s toleration-to criticise any man, woman or child of this world for blossoming out, for living up, or fleshing up, or paring down, to what he is really like inside.

Possibly what each man stands for is well enough for him to stand for.  It is only when what a man says, comes to being repeated, to being made universal, to being jammed down on the rest of us, that the lie in it begins to work out.

Let us let everybody alone and be ready to find things out just for ourselves.

Here is this big, frivolous, gentle elephant, for instance, poking his huge, inquiring trunk into baby carriages.  He is certainly too glorious, too profound, a personage to do such things!  It does seem a little unworthy to me, as I have been sitting here and watching him from this park bench, for a noble, solemn being like the elephant-a kind of cathedral of a beast, to be as deeply interested as he is in peanuts.

He looms up before me once more.  I look up a little closer-look into his little, shrewd eyes-and, after all, what do I know about him?

And I watch the camels with the happy, dazed children on their backs, go by with soft and drifting feet.  Do I suppose I understand camels?  Or I follow the crowd.  I find myself at last with that huge, hushed, sympathetic congregation at the 4 P.M. service, watching the lions eat.

Everything does seem very much mixed up when one brings one’s Sociological Society dogmas, and one’s little neat, impeccable row of principles to the test of watching the lions eat!

Possibly people are as different from one another inside-in their souls at least-as different as these animals are.

It is true, of course, that as we go about, people do have a plausible way in this world-all these other people, of looking like us.

But they are different inside.

If one could stand on a platform as one was about to speak and could really see the souls of any audience-say of a thousand people-lying out there before one, they would be a menagerie beside which, O Gentle Reader, I dare to believe, Barnum and Bailey’s menagerie would pale in comparison.

But in a menagerie (perhaps you have noticed it, Gentle Reader) one treats the animals seriously, and as if they were Individuals.

They are what they are.

Why not treat people’s souls seriously?

It is true that people’s souls, like the animals, are alike in a general way.  They all have in common (in spiritual things) organs of observation, appropriation, digestion and organs of self-reproduction.

But these spiritual organs of digestion which they have are theirs.

And these organs of self-reproduction are for the purpose of reproducing themselves and not us.

These are my reflections, or these try to be my reflections when I consider the Syndicalist-how he grows or when I look up and see a class-war socialist-an Upton Sinclair banging loosely about the world.

My first wild, aboriginal impulse with Upton Sinclair when I come up to him as I do sometimes-violent, vociferous roaring behind his bars, is to whisk him right over from being an Upton Sinclair into being me.  I do not deny it.

Then I remember softly, suddenly, how I felt when I was watching the lions eat.

I remember the pelican.

Thus I save my soul in time.

Incidentally, of course, Upton Sinclair’s insides are saved also.

It is beautiful the way the wild beasts in their cages persuade one almost to be a Christian!

Of course when one gets smoothed down one always sees people very differently.  In being tolerant the rub comes usually (with me) in being tolerant in time.  I am tempted at first, when I am with Upton Sinclair, to act as if he were a whole world of Upton Sinclairs and of course (anybody would admit it) if he really were a whole world of Upton Sinclairs he would have to be wiped out.  There would be nothing else to do.  But he is not and it is not fair to him or fair to the world to act as if he were.

The moment I see he is confining himself to just being Upton Sinclair I rather like him.

It is the same with Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  It is when I fall to thinking of her as if she were, or were in danger of being, a whole world of Ella Wheeler Wilcoxes that I grow intolerant of her.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox as a Tincture, which is what she really is, of course, is well enough.  I do not mind.

The real truth about a man like Upton Sinclair, when one has worked down through to it, is that while from my point of view a class-war socialist-a man who proposes to put society together by keeping men apart-is wrong and is sure to do a great deal of harm to some people, there are other people to whom he does a great deal of good.

There really are people who need Upton Sinclair.  It may be a hard fact to face perhaps, but when one faces it one is glad there is one.  Some of the millionaires need Sinclair.  There are others whose attention would be attracted better in more subtle ways.

The class-war socialist, though I may be at this moment in the very act of trying to make him impossible, to put him out of date, has been and is, in his own place and his own time, I gratefully acknowledge, of incalculable value.

Any man who can, by saying violent and noisy things, make rich, tired, mechanical-minded people, and poor, tired mechanical-minded people wake up enough to feel hateful has performed a public service.  The hatefulness is the beginning of their being covetous for other things than the things they have.  If a man has a habit of hunger he gets better and better hungers as a matter of course; bread and milk, ribbons, geraniums, millinery, bathtubs, Bibles, copartnership associations.  And in the meantime the one precious thing to be looked out for in a man, and to be held sacred, is his hunger.

The one important religious value in the world is hunger and to all the men to-day who are contributing to the process of moving on hungers; whether the hungers happen to be our hungers or not or our stages of hunger or not, we say Godspeed.

There are times when the sudden sense one comes to have that the world is a struggle, a great prayer toward the sun, a tumult and groping of desire, the sense that every kind and type of desire has its time and its place in it and every kind and type of man, gives a whole new meaning to life.  This sense of a now possible toleration which we come to have, some of us, opens up to us always when it comes a new world of courage about people.  It makes all these dear, clumsy people about us suddenly mean something.  It makes them all suddenly belong somewhere.  They become, as by a kind of miracle, bathed in a new light, wrong-headed, intolerable though they be, one still sees them flowing out into the great endless stream of becoming-all these dots of the vast desire, all these queer, funny, struggling little sons of God!

It has been overlooked that social reform primarily is not a matter of legislation or of industrial or political systems, or of machinery, but a matter, of psychology, of insight into human nature and of expert reading and interpretation of the minds of men.  What are they thinking about?  What do they think they want?

The trades unions and employers’ associations, extreme socialists and extreme Tories have so far been very bad psychologists.  If the Single Tax people were as good at being intuitionalists or idea-salesmen as they are at being philosophers in ideas they would long before this have turned everything their way.  They would have begun with people’s hungers and worked out from them.  They would have listened to people to find out what their hungers were.  The people who will stop being theoretical and logical about each other and who will look hard into each other’s eyes will be the people whose ideas will first come to pass.  Everything we try to do or say or bring to pass in England or America is going to begin after this, not in talking, but in listening.  If social reformers and industrial leaders had been good listeners, the social deadlock-England with its House of Lords and railroads both on strike and America with its great industries quarrelling-would have been arranged for and got out of the way over twenty years ago.

We have overlooked the first step of industrial reform, the rather extreme step of listening.  The most hard-headed and conclusive man to settle any given industrial difficulty is the man who has the gift of divining what is going on in other people’s minds, a gift for being human, a gift for treating everybody who disagrees with him as if they might possibly be human too, though they are very poor, even though they are very rich.  Practical psychology has come to be not only the only solution but also the only method of our modern industrial questions.  Being so human that one can guess what any possible human being would think is the one hard-headed and practical way to meet the modern labour problem.

The first symptom of being human in a man is his range and power of shrewd, happy toleration, or courage for people who know as little now as he knew once.

A man’s sense of toleration is based primarily upon the range and power of his knowledge of himself, upon his power of remembering and anticipating himself, upon his laughing with God at himself, upon his habit in darkness, weariness or despair, or in silent victory and joy, of falling on his knees.

Toleration is reverence.  It is the first source of courage for other people.