Read GOOD NEWS AND HARD WORK - NEWS AND GOVERNMENT - CHAPTER XV of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


I have tried to express in the last chapter, some kind of tentative working vision or hope of what authors and of what newspaper men can do in governing a country.

This chapter is for anybody, any plain human being.

Governments all over the world to-day are groping to find out what plain human beings are like.

It does not matter very long what other things a government gets wrong, if it gets the people right.

This suggests something that each of us can do.

I was calling on -, Treasurer of -, in his new bank, not long ago-a hushed, reverent place with a dome up over it and no windows on this wicked world-a kind of heavenly minded way of being lighted from above.  It seemed to be a kind of Church for Money.

“This is new,” I said, “since I’ve been away.  Who built it?”

- mentioned the name of Non-Gregarious as if I had never heard of him.

I said nothing.  And he began to tell me how Non built the bank.  He said he had wanted Non from the first, but that the directors had been set against it.

And the more he told the directors about Non, he said, the more set they were.  They kept offering a good many rather vague objections, and for a long time he could not really make them out.

Finally he got it.  All the objections boiled down to one.

Non was too good to be true.  If there was a man like Non in this world, they said, they would have heard about it before.

When I was telling ex-Mayor -, in -, about Non, the first time, he interrupted me and asked me if I would mind his ringing for his stenographer.  He was a trustee and responsible, either directly or indirectly, for hundreds of buildings, and he wanted the news in writing.

Of course there must be something the matter with it, he said, but he wanted it to be true, if it could, and as the bare chance of its being true would be very important to him, he was going to have it looked up.

Now ex-Mayor - is precisely the kind of man (as half the world knows) who, if he had been a contractor, instead of what he had happened to be, would have been precisely the kind of contractor Non is.  He has the same difficult, heroic blend of shrewd faiths in him, of high motives and getting what he wants.

But the moment ex-Mayor - found these same motives put up to be believed in at one remove, and in somebody else, he thought they were too good to be true.

I have found myself constantly confronted in the last few years of observation with a very singular and interesting fact about business men.

Nine business men out of ten I know, who have high motives, (in a rather bluff simple way, without particularly thinking about it, one way or the other) seem to feel a little superior to other people.  They begin, as a rule, apparently, by feeling a little superior to themselves, by trying to keep from seeing how high their motives are, and when, in the stern scuffle of life, they are unable any longer to keep from suspecting how high their motives are themselves, they fall back on trying to keep other people from suspecting it.

In -’s factory in -, the workers in brass, a few years ago, could not be kept alive more than two years because they breathed brass filings.  When - installed, at great expense, suction machines to place beside the men to keep them from breathing brass, some one said, “Well surely you will admit this time, that this is philanthropy?”

“Not at all.”

The saving in brass air alone, gathered up from in front of the men’s mouths, paid for the machines.  What is more he said that after he had gone to the expense of educating some fine workmen, if a mere little sucking machine like that could make the best workmen he had, work for him twenty years instead of two years, it was poor economy to let them die.

Nearly all of the really creative business men make it a point, until they get a bit intimate with people, to talk in this tone about business.  One can talk with them for hours, for days at a time, about their business-some of them, without being able a single time to corner them into being decent or into admitting that they care about anybody.

Now I will not yield an inch to - or to anybody else in my desire to displace and crowd out altruism in our modern life.  I believe that altruism is a feeble and discouraged thing from a religious point of view.  I have believed that the big, difficult and glorious thing in religion is mutualism, a spiritual genius for finding identities, for putting people’s interests together-you-and-I-ness, and we-ness, letting people crowd in and help themselves.

And why not believe this and drop it?  Why should nearly every business man one meets to-day, try to keep up this desperate show, of avoiding the appearance of good, of not wanting to seem mixed up in any way with goodness-either his own or other people’s?

In the present desperate crisis of the world, when all our governments everywhere are groping to find out what business men are really like and what they propose to be like, if a man is good (far more than if he is bad) everybody has a right to know it.  The President has a right to know it.  The party leaders have a right to know it.

It is a big businesslike thing for a man to make goodness pay, but what is the man’s real, deep, happy, creative, achieving motive in making goodness pay?  What is it in the man that fills him with this fierce desire, this almost business-fanaticism for making goodness pay?

It is a big daily grim love of human nature in him, his love of being in a human world, his passion for human economy, for world efficiency and world-self-respect.  This is what it is in him that makes him force goodness to pay.

The business men of the bigger type who let themselves talk in this tone to-day, do not mean it, they are letting themselves be insensibly drawn into the tone of the men around them.

We have gone skulking about with our virtues so long, saying that we have none, that we have believed it.  We all know men finer than we are who say they have none.  So we have not, probably.

And so it goes on.  I grow more and more tired every year of going about the business world, at boards of trade and at clubs and at dinners, and finding all this otherwise plain and manly world, all dotted over everywhere with all these simple, good, self-deceived blundering prigs of evil, putting on airs before everybody day and night, of being worse than they are!

It is not exactly a lie.  It is a Humdrum.  People do not deliberately lie about human nature.  They merely say pianola-minded things.

One goes down any business street, Oxford Street, Bond Street, or Broadway.  One hears the same great ragtime tune of business, dinging like a kind of street piano, through men’s minds, “Sh-sh-sh-sh-Oh, SH-SH!  Oh, do not let anybody know I’m being good!”


I am not going to try any longer to worm out of my virtues or to keep up an appearance of having as low motives as other people are trying to make me believe they have.

They have lied long enough.

I have lied long enough.

My motives are really rather high and I am going to admit it.

And the higher they are (when I have hustled about and got the necessary brains to go with them) the better they have worked.

Nine times out of ten when they have not worked, it has been my fault.

Sometimes it is John Doe’s fault.

I am going to speak to John Doe about it.  I am going to tell him what I am driving at.  I have turned over a new leaf.  In the crisis of a great nation and as an act of last desperate patriotism, I am going to give up looking modest.

For a long time now I have wanted to dare to come out and stand up before this Modesty Bug-a-boo and have it out with it and say what I think of it, as one of the great, still, sinister threats against our having or getting a real national life in America.

I knew a boy once who grew so fast that his mother always kept him wearing shoes three sizes too large, and big, hopeful-looking coats and trousers.  Except for a few moments a year he never caught up.  Nobody ever saw that boy and his long shoes when he was not butting bravely about, stubbing his toes on the world and turning up his sleeves.

It was a great relief to him and everybody, finally, when he grew up.

I am going to let myself go around, for a while now, at least until our present national crisis is over in business and in politics, like that boy.

There are millions of other men in this country who want to be like that boy.  Nations may smile at us if they want to.  We will smile too-rather stiffly and soberly, but for better or worse we propose from to-day on, to let people see what we are trying to be daily, grimly, right along side of what we are!

I have come to the conclusion that the only way, for me, at least, to keep modest and kind, is to have my ideals all on.  When one is going around in sight of everybody with one’s moral sleeves rolled up, and one’s great wistful, broad trousers that do not look as if they would ever get filled out, it is awkward to find fault with other people for not filling out their moral clothes.  It may be a severe measure to take with one’s self hut the surest way to be kind is to live an exposed life.

I propose to live the next few years in a glass house.  There are millions of other men who want to.  We want to see if we cannot at last live confidentially with a world, live naively and simply with a world like boys and like great men and like dogs!

What I have written, I have written.  I propose to run the risk of being good.  When driven to it, I will run the risk of saying I am good.

My motives are fairly high.  See! here is my scale of one hundred!  I had rather stand forty-five on my scale than ninety-eight on yours!

If there is any discrepancy between my vision and my action, I am not going to be bullied out of my life and out of living my life the way I want to, by the way I look.  Though it mock me, I will not haul down my flag.  I will haul up my life!

Here it is right here in this paragraph, in black and white.  I take it up and look at it, I read it once more and lay it down.

What I have written, I have written.


People do not seem to agree in the present crisis of our American industrial and national life, about the necessity of getting at the facts and at the real news in this country about how good we are.

Last November in the national election, four and a half million men (Republicans) said to Theodore Roosevelt, “Theodore! do not be good so loud!”

Four and a half million other men, also Republicans, told him not to mind what anybody said, but to keep right on being good as loud as he liked, for as long as it seemed necessary.

They wanted to be sure our goodness in America such as we had, was being loud enough to be heard, believed in, and acted on in public.

The other set of men, last November (who were really very good too, of course), were more sedate and liked to see goodness modulated more.  They stood out for what might be called a kind of moral elegance.

The governing difference between the Roosevelt type and the Taft type in America has not been a mere difference of temperament but a difference in news-sense, in a sense of crisis in the nation.

Thousands of men of all parties, with the nicest, easiest stand-pat Taft temperaments in the world, with soft, low voices and with the most beautiful moral manners, have let themselves join in a national attempt to shock this nation into seeing how good it is.  A great temporary crisis can only be met by a great temporary loudness.

This is what has been happening in America during the last six months.  At last, all men in all parties are engaged in trying to find out:  Is it true or not true that we want to be good?

We are trying to get the news through.  It may not be very becoming to us and we know as well as any one, that loudness, except when morally deaf people drive us to it is in bad taste.  We are looking forward, every one of us, to being as elegant as any one is, and the very first minute we get the morally deaf people out of office where we will not have to go about shouting out at them we will tone down in our goodness.  We will modulate beautifully!


There are three other bug-a-boos, besides the Modesty Bug-a-boo that America will have to face and drive out of the way before it can be truly said to have a national character or to have grown up and found itself.  There is the Goody-good Bug-a-boo, the Consistency Bug-a-boo, and the Bug-a-boo that Thomas Jefferson if he were living now, would never never ride in a carriage.

Each of these bug-a-boos in the general mistiness and muddle-headiness of the time can be seen going about, saying, “Boo!  Boo!” to this democracy from day to day and year to year, keeping it scared into not getting what it wants.

There is not one of them that will not evaporate in ten minutes the first morning we get some real news through in this country about ourselves and about what we are like.

What is the real news about us, for instance, as regards being goody-good?

I can only begin with the news for one.

For years, I have held myself back from taking a plain or possibly loud stand for goodness as a shrewd, worldly-wise program for American business and public life, because I was afraid of people, and afraid people would think I was trying to improve them.

What was worse, I was afraid of myself too.  I was afraid I really would.

I am afraid now, or rather I would be, if I had not drilled through to the news about myself and about other people and about human nature that I am putting into this chapter.

I have written five hundred pages in this book on an awkward and dangerous subject like the Golden Rule, and I appeal to the reader-I ask him humbly, hopefully, gratefully if he can honestly say (except for a minute here and there when I have been tired and slipped up), if he has really felt improved or felt that I was trying to improve him in this book.

On your honour, Gentle Reader-you who have been with me five hundred pages!

You say “Yes”?

Then I appeal to your sense of fairness.  If you truly feel I have been trying to improve you in this book, turn this leaf down here and stop.  It is only fair to me.  Close the book with your improved and being improved feeling and never open it again until it passes over.  You have no right to go on page after page calling me names, as it were, right in the middle of my own book in this way behind my back, you!-hundreds and thousands of miles away from me, by your own lamp, by your own window-you come to me here between these two helpless pasteboard covers where I cannot get out at you, where I cannot answer back, and you say that I am trying to improve you!

Ah, Gentle Reader, forgive me!  God forgive me!  Believe me, I never meant, not if it could possibly be helped, to improve you!  If you insist on it and keep saying that I have been improving you, all I can say is that I was merely looking as if I were improving you. You did it.  I did not.  God help me if I am trying to improve you!  I am trying to find out in this book who I am.  If, incidentally, while I am quietly working away on this for five hundred pages, you find out who you are yourself, and then drop into a gentle glowing improved feeling all by yourself, do not mix me up in it.  I deny that I have tried to improve you or anybody.  I have written this book to get my own way, to express my America.  I have written it to say “i,” to say “I,” to say (the first minute you let me), “you and I,” to say we, WE about America-to drive the news through to a President of what America is like.

I am not improving you.  I am telling you what may or may not be news about you.

Take it or leave it.


I want to be good.

I do not feel superior to other men.

And I do not propose, if there is anything I can do about it, to be compelled to feel superior.

I believe we all want to be good.

The one thing I want in this world is to prove it.  I want my own way.

I am not going to slump into being a beautiful character.  I have written this book to get my own way.

I have said I will not be mixed up in the fate of people who do not know where they are going, who have not decided what they are like, who do not know who they are.  What do the people want?  Some people tell me they want nothing.  They tell me it would only make things worse and stir things up for me to want to be good.

Or perhaps they think it is beautiful to lower the price of oil.  They want oil at seven cents a gallon.

Do they?  Do you?  Do I?

I say no.  Let oil wait.  I want to raise the price of men and to put a market value on human life.  I find as I look about me that there are two classes of statesmen offering to be helpful in making life worth living in America.

There are the statesmen who think we are going to be good and who believe in a program which trusts and exalts the people and the leaders of the people.

There are the statesmen who seem to believe that American human nature does not amount to enough to be good.  They are planning a program on the principle that the best that can be done with human nature in America in business and public life is to have it expurgated.

Which class of statesmen do we want?

In some of our state prisons men who are not considered fit to reproduce themselves are sterilized.  The question that is now up before this country is, Do we or do we not want American business sterilized?  Are we or are we not going to put a national penalty on all initiative in all business men because some men abuse it?

There is but one thing that can save us, namely, proving to one another and to our public men, that we are good, that we are going to be good and that we know how.  We face the issue to-day.  Two definite programs are before the country.

Those who have put their faith in being afraid of one another as a national policy have devised several By-laws for an Expurgated America.

They say, eliminate the right of a man to do wrong.  Deny him the right of moral experiment because some of his experiments do not work.  We say let him try.  We can look out for ourselves or we will have bigger men than he is, to look out for us.

They say, eliminate the right of a man to be an owner, because nobody has the courage to believe that a man can express his best self in property.  We say that property may express a man’s religion, and that the way a man has of being rich or of being poor may be an art-form.

Most men can express themselves better in property than in anything else.

They say, eliminate all monopoly indiscriminately and the occasional logical efficiency of monopoly because it has not worked well for the people the first few times and because we have not learned how to handle it.  We say learn how to handle it.

They say eliminate the middleman.  They say that the one strategic man in every industry who can represent everybody if he wants to, who can be a great man and who can make a great industry serve everybody, must be eliminated because nobody believes America can produce a middleman.  We say instead of weakly and helplessly giving up a great spiritual and morally-engineering institution like the middleman because the average middleman does not know his job, we say:  Exalt the middleman raise him to the n-th power, make him-well-do you remember, Gentle Reader, the walking beams on the old sidewheel steamers?  We say do not eliminate him-lift him up-make him what he naturally is and is in position to be-the walking beam of Business!

If the average middleman does not know how to be a real middleman we will make one who does.

And all the other eliminations that we have watched people being scared into, one by one, we will turn into exaltations-each in its own kind and place.  There is not one of our fears that is not the suggestion, the mighty outline, the inspiration for the world’s next new size and new kind of American man.  We say place the position before the man-with its fears, with its songs, with its challenge.  We say, tell him what we expect of him and demand of him.  Put him in a high place on a platform before the world!  There with the truth about him written on his forehead in the sight of all the people, call him by name, glorify him or behead him!  We are men and we are Americans.  We will stand up to each of our dangers one by one.  Each and every danger of them is a romance, a sublime adventure, a nation-maker.  Our threats, our very by-words and despairs, we will take up, and, in the sight of the world, forge them into shrewd faiths and into mighty men!

This is my news or vision.  I say that this is where we are going in America.  I compel no man to follow my news but I will pursue him with my news until he gives me his!

This news, I am telling, Gentle Reader, is perhaps news about you.

If it is not true news, say so.  Say what is.  We all have a right to know.  The one compulsion of modern life is our right to know, our right to compel people who live on the same continent or who live in the same country with us, to open up their hearts, to furnish us with their share of the materials for a mutual understanding, or for a definite mutual misunderstanding, on which to live.

It is the one compulsion of which we will be guilty.  All liberty is in it.  These people who have to live with us and that we have to live with, these people who breathe the same moral air with us, drink the same water with us, these people who have their moral dumps, who throw away their moral garbage with us-these people who will not help provide some daily, mutual understanding for these common decencies for our souls to live together these people we defy and challenge!  We will compel them to reveal themselves.  We will drive them away, or we will drive them into driving us away, if they will not yield to us what is in their hearts-Mars, hell, anywhere we go, it matters not to us where we go, except that we cannot and we will not live with men about us who thrust down their true feelings and their real desires into a kind of manhole under them, and sit on the lid and smile.  Some seem to have manholes and some have safes or spiritual banks, and there are others who have convenient, dim, beautiful clouds in the sky to hide their feelings in.  But whatever their real feelings are, and wherever they keep them, they belong to us.

We insist on having or on making mutual arrangements to have, if we live in crowds, some kind of spiritual rapid transit system for getting our minds through to one another.  We demand a system for having the streets of our souls decently lighted, some provision for moral sewers, for air or atmosphere-and all the common conveniences for having decent and self-respecting souls in crowds-all the intelligence-machines, the love-machines, the hope-machines, and the believing-machines that the crowds must have for living decently, for living with beauty, living with considerateness and respect in this awful daily sublime presence of one another’s lives!

We shall still have our splendid isolations when we need them, some of us, and our little solitudes of meanness, but the main common fund of motives for living together, for growing up into a world together, the desires, motives, and intentions in men’s hearts, their desires toward us and ours toward them, we are going to know and compel to be made known.  We will fight men to the death to know them.

Have we not fought, you and I, Gentle Reader, all of us, each man of us, all our years, all our days, to drive through to some sort of mutual understanding with our own selves?  Now we will fight through to some mutual understanding with one another and with the world.

We will knock on every door, make a house to house canvass of the souls of the world, pursue every man, sing under his windows.  We will undergird his consciousness and his dreams.  We will make the birds sing to him in the morning, “Where are you going?” We will put up a sign at the foot of his bed for his eyes to fall on when he awakes, “Where are you going?”

Whatever it is that works best, if we blow it out of you with dynamite or love or fear or draw it out of you with some mighty singing going past-ah, brother, we will have it out of you!  You shall be our brother!  We will be your brother though we die!

We will live together or we will die together.

What do you really want?  What do you really like? Who are you?

We may pile together all our funny, fearful, little Dreadnoughts, our stodgy dead lumps of men called armies, and what are they?  And what do they amount to and what can they do, as compared with truth, the real news about what people want in this world, and about where we are going?

I say-they shall be as nothing as a rending force, as a glory to tear down and rebuild a world, as compared with the truth, with the news about us, that shall come out at last (God hasten the day!) from the open-the pried-open hearts of men!  And I have seen that men shall go forth with shouts in that day and with glad and solemn silence, to build a world!

I wonder if I have faced down the Goody-good Bug-a-boo.

I speak for five million men.

We have got this book written between us (under the name of one of us), because we want our own way.  We are not improving people.  We are not even trying to improve ourselves.  Many of us started in on it once and the first improvement we thought of was not to try any more.

It is a great deal harder to try to live.  Few people want us to-most people get in the way.  And when people get in the way we lay about us a little-We hit them.  We have written this book, because we want to hit a great many people at once.  We find them everywhere about us, in monster cities, huge thoughtless anthills of them, and they will not let us live a larger and a richer life.  We say to them, We resent your houses your shoes, your voices, your fears, your motives, your wills, the diseases you make us walk past every day, the rows of things you seem to think will do, and that you think we must get used to, and we do not propose, if we can help it, to get used to what you think will do for Churches; nor to what you think will do for a government or to the little lonely, scattered, toyschool-houses, that when you come into the world, fresh and strange and happy you all proceed solemnly to coop your souls in.  Nor do we want to get used to your hem-and-haw parliaments and your funny little perfumed prophets-your prophets lying down or propped up with pillows or your poets wringing their hands.  Nor will we be put off with all your gracefully feeble, watery, lovely little pastel religions for this grim and mighty modern world.  We are American men.  We do not propose to be driven out to sea, to stand face to face every day with what is true and full of beauty and magic, or to have skies and mountains and stars palmed off on us as companions instead of men!

This is what five million men are trying to express in writing this book.  If people deny that I have the right to give the news about America for five million men; if they say that this is not true about American human nature, that this is not the news, then I will say, I am the news!  I am this sort of an American!  God helping me, I say it!  “Look at me!” I am this sort of man of whom I am writing!  If I am not this sort of man this afternoon, I will be in the morning!  Though I go down as a hiss and as laughter and as a by-word and a mocking to the end of my days-I am this sort of man!  I say, “Look at me!”

If you will not believe me-that this is an American, if you say that I cannot prove that there are five million of men like this in America, then I will still say, “Here is one!  What will you do with ME?” Though I die in laughter, all my desires and all my professions in a tumult about my soul, I say it to this nation, “Your laws, your programs, your philosophies, your I wills, and I won’ts, I say, shall reckon with me!  Your presidents and your legislatures shall reckon with Me!”

Here I am.  The man is here.  He is in this book!

I will break through to the five million men.  I will make the five million men look at me until they recognize themselves.  If no one else will attend to it for me, and if there shall be no other way, I will have a brass band go through the streets of New York and of a thousand cities, with banners and floats and great hymns to the people, and they shall go up and down the streets of the people with signs saying, “Have you read Crowds?” I will have the Boston Symphony Orchestra tour the country singing-singing from kettledrums to violins to a thousand silent audiences, “Have yon read ’CROWDS’?”

I live in a nation in which we are butting through into our sense of our national character, working our way up into a huge mutual working understanding.  In our beautiful, vague, patriotic, muddleheadedness about what we want and whether we really want to be good, and about what being good is like and I say, for one, half-laughing, half-praying, God helping me-Look at ME!


I was much interested some time ago when I had not been long landed in England, and was still trying in the hopeful American way to understand it-to see the various attitudes of Englishmen toward the discussions which were going on at that time in the Spectator and elsewhere, of Mr. Cadbury’s inconsistency; and while I had no reason, as an American, fresh-landed from New York, to be interested in Mr. Cadbury himself, I found that his inconsistency interested me very much.  It insisted on coming back into my mind, in spite of what I would have thought, as a strangely important subject-not merely as regards Mr. Cadbury, which might or might not be important, but as regards England and as regards America, as regards the way a modern man struggling day by day with a huge, heavy machine civilization like ours, can still manage to be a live, useful, and possibly even a human, being in it.

There are two astonishing facts that stand face to face with all of us to-day, who are labouring with civilization.

The first fact is that almost without exception all the men in it who mean the most in it to us and to other people for good or for evil-who stir us deeply and do things-all fall into the inconsistent class.

The second fact is that this is a very small, select distinguished, and astonishingly capable class.

A man who is in a grim, serious business like being good, must expect to give up many of his little self-indulgences in the way of looking good.  Looking inconsistent, possibly even inconsistency itself, may be sometimes, temporarily, a man’s most important public service to his time.

One needs but a little glance at history, or even at one’s own personal history.  It is by being inconsistent that people grow, and without meaning to, give other people materials for growing.  For the particular purpose of making the best things grow, of pointing up truths, of giving definite edges to right and wrong, an inconsistent man-a man who is trying to pry himself out a little at a time from an impossible situation in an impossible world, is likely to do the world more good than a very large crowd of angels who have made up their minds that they are going to be consistent and going to keep up a consistent look in this same world-whatever happens to it.

If one is marking people on consistency, and if one takes a scale of 100 as perfect, perhaps one should not always insist on 98.  One does not always insist on 98 for one’s self.  And when one does and does not get it, one feels forgiving sometimes.

In dealing with public men and with other people that we know less than we know ourselves-if they really do things, it is well to make allowances, and let them off at 65.

In some cases, in fact, when men are doing something that no one else volunteers to do for a world, I find I get on very well with letting them off at 51.  I have sometimes wished, when I have been in England, that Tories and Liberals and Socialists and the Wise and the Good would consider letting George Cadbury off at 51.

Perhaps people are being more safely educated by George Cadbury in his journals than they might be by other people in what seem to seem to many of us unfamiliar and dangerous ideas.

Perhaps posterity, in 1953, looking down this precipice of revolution England did not fall into in 1913, may mark George Cadbury 73-possibly 89.

If, in any way, in the crisis of England, George Cadbury can crowd in and can keep thousands and thousands of Englishmen and women from being educated by John Bottomley Bull or by Mrs. John Bottomley Bull and hosts of other would-be friends of the people-by Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, and Vernon Hartshorn, does it really seem after all a matter of grave national importance that George Cadbury-a professional non-better-in educating these people should allow them to keep on in his paper, having a betting column?

So long as he really helps stave off John Bottomley Bull and Mrs. John Bottomley Bull, let him slump into being a millionaire, if he cannot very well help it!  We say, some of us, let him even make cocoa! or have family prayers! or be a Liberal!

At least this is the way one American visiting England feels about it, if he may be permitted.

Perhaps I would not, if I were an angel.

I do not want to be an angel.

I am more ambitious.  I want my ideals to do things, and I want to stand by people who are doing things with their ideals, whether their ideals are my ideals or not.

Let us suppose.  Suppose the reader were in Mr. Cadbury’s place.  What would he do?  Here are two things, let us suppose, he wishes very much.  He wishes a certain class of people would not bet, and he also wishes to convince these same people of certain important social and political ideas for which he stands.  If he told them that he would have nothing to do with them unless they stopped betting, there would be no object in his publishing their paper at all.  There would be nothing that they would let him tell them.  If, on the other hand, he begins merely as one more humble, fellow-human being, and puts himself definitely on record as not betting himself, and still more definitely as wishing other people would not bet, and then admits honestly that these other people have as good a right to decide to bet as he has to decide not to; and if he then deliberately proceeds to do what every real gentleman who does not smoke and wishes other people did not, does without question-namely, offers them the facilities for doing it why should people call him inconsistent?

Perhaps a man’s consistency consists in his relation to his own smoking and betting and not in his rushing his consistency over into the smoking and betting of other people.  Perhaps being consistent does not need to mean being a little pharisaical, or using force, or cutting people off and having no argument with them, in one matter, because one cannot agree with them in another.  Of course, I admit it would be better if Mr. Cadbury would publish in a parallel column (if he could get a genius to write it) an extremely tolerant, human, comrade-like series of objections to betting, which people could read alongside, and which would persuade people as much as possible not to read the best betting tips in the world in the column next door, but certainly the act of furnishing the tips in the meantime and of being sure that they are the best tips in the world, is a very real, human, courageous act.  It even has a kind of rough and ready religion in it.  It may be too much to expect, but even in our goodness perhaps we ought to do as we would be done by.  We must be righteous, but on the whole, must we not be righteous toward others as we would have them righteous toward us?

What many of us find ourselves wishing most of all, when we come upon some specially attractive man is, that we could discover some way, or that he could discover some way, in which the idealist in him, and the realist in him could be got to act together.

There are some of us who have come to believe that in the dead earnest, daily, almost desperate struggle of modern life, the real solid idealist will have to care enough about his ideals to arrange to have two complete sets, one set which he calls his personal ideals, which are of such a nature that he can carry them out alone and rigidly and quite by himself, and another which he calls his bending or cooeperative ideals, geared a little lower and adjusted to more gradual usage, which he uses when he asks other men to act with him.

It may take a very single-hearted and strong man to keep before his own mind and before other people’s his two sets of ideals, his “I” faiths, and his you-and-I faiths, keeping each in strict proportion, but it would certainly be a great human adventure to do it.  Saying “God and I,” and saying “God and you and I” are two different arts.  And it is clear-headedness and not inconsistency in a man that keeps him so.

This is not a mere defence of Mr. Cadbury; it is a defence of a type of man, of a temperament in our modern life, of men like Edward A. Filene, of Boston, of a man like Hugh Mac Rae, one of the institutions of North Carolina, of Tom L. Johnson of Cleveland, of nine men out of ten of the bigger and more creative sort who are helping cities to get their way and nations to express themselves.  I have believed that the principle at stake, the great principle for real life in England and in America, of letting a man be inconsistent if he knows how-must have a stand made for it.

There is no one thing, whether in history, or literature, or science, or politics that can be more crucial in the fate of a nation to-day than the correct, just, and constructive judgment of Contemporary Inconsistent People.


If I could have managed it, I would have had this book printed and written-every page of it-in three parallel columns.

The first column would be for the reader who believes it, who keeps writing a book more or less like it as he goes along.  I would put in one sentence at the top for him and then let him have the rest of the space to write in himself.  In other words I would say 2 plus 2 equals 4 and drop it.

The second column would be for the reader who would like to believe it if he could, and I would branch out a little more-about half a column.

    2 + 2 = 4

    20 + 20 = 40

The third column would be for the reader who is not going to believe it if it can be helped.  It would be in fine type, bitterly detailed and statistical and take nothing for granted.

    2 + 2 = 4

    20 + 20 = 40

    200 + 200 = 400

    2,000 + 2,000 = 4,000

    20,000 + 20,000 = 40,000


This arrangement would make the book what might be called a Moving Sidewalk of Truth.  First sidewalk rather quick (six miles an hour).  Second, four miles an hour.  Third, two miles an hour.  People could move over from one sidewalk to the other in the middle of an idea any time, and go faster or slower as they liked to, needed to.

No one would accuse me-though I might like or need for my own personal use at one time or another, a slower sidewalk or a faster one than others-no one would accuse me of being inconsistent if I supplied extra sidewalks for people of different temperaments to move over to suddenly any time they wanted to.  I have come to some of my truth by a bitterly slow sidewalk-slower than other people need, and sometimes I have come by a fast one (or what some would say was no sidewalk at all!) but it cannot fairly be claimed that there is anything inconsistent in my offering people every possible convenience I can think of-for believing me.

Mr. Cadbury is not inconsistent if he tells truth at a different rate to different people, or if he chooses to put truths before people in Indian file.

A man is not inconsistent who does not tell all the news he knows to all kinds of people, all at once, all the time.

There is nothing disingenuous about having an order for truth.

It is not considered compromising to have an order in moving railway trains.  Why not allow an order in moving trains of thought?  And why should a schedule for moving around people’s bodies be considered any more reasonable than a schedule or timetable or order for moving around their souls?

Truth in action must always be in an order.  Nine idealists out of ten who fight against News-men, or men who are trying to make the beautiful work, and who call them hypocrites, would not do it if they were trying desperately to make the beautiful work themselves.  It is more comfortable and has a fine free look, to be blunt with the beautiful-the way a Poet is-to dump all one’s ideals down before people and walk off.  But it seems to some of us a cold, sentimental, lazy, and ignoble thing to do with ideals if one loves them-to give everybody all of them all the time without considering what becomes of the ideals or what becomes of the people.