Humanity by Richard King

Story type: Essay

“Humanity is one, and an injury to one member is an injury to the whole.” I cull this line from Mr. Gilbert Cannan’s book, “The Anatomy of Society.” And I quote it because I believe that it sums up in a few words, not only the world-politics of the future, but the religion–the real, practical religion, and therefore the only religion which counts in so far as this life is concerned–of the future as well. The snowball–if I may thus describe it symbolically–has just begun to roll, but it will gather weight and impetus with every succeeding year, until, at last, there will be no nations–as we understand nations to-day–but only one nation, and that nation the whole of the human race. The times are dead, or rather they are dying, which saw civilisation most clearly in such things as the luxury of the Ritz Hotels, the parks and palaces of Europe, the number of tube trains and omnibuses running per hour along the rail and roadways of London, and the imitation silk stockings in which cooks and kitchenmaids disport themselves on Sundays. A New Knowledge is abroad–and that New Knowledge is a fuller realisation that the new world is for all men and all women who work and do their duty, for all humanity, and not merely for the few who get rich upon the exploitation of poverty and helplessness of the masses. And this realisation carries with it the realisation that the governments of the future will be more really governments of the people for the people–and by people I do not mean merely those of Britain or France, or whichever nation men happen to belong to, but humanity all over the world. The things which nowadays only money can buy must be brought within the grasp of the poorest, and civilisation must be recognised as coming from the bottom upwards, and not only from the top–a kind of golden froth which strives to hide the dirt and misery and suffering beneath. So long as slums exist, so long as poverty is exploited, so long as the great masses of men and women are forced to lead sordid, unbeautiful, cramped, hopeless, and helpless lives, as they are forced to live now–call no nation civilised. So long as these things exist–call no nation religious. The one is a mockery of human life; the other is a mockery of God.

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It always strikes me that the greatest lack in all education–and this applies to the education of princes as well as paupers–is the spirit of splendid vision. Most things are taught, except the “vision” of self-respect and responsibility. The poor are not taught to respect themselves at all, and certainly their lives do not give them what their education has forgotten. They are never encouraged to learn that each individual man and woman is not only responsible to him and herself, but to all men and all women. Certainly the rich never teach it them. For the last thing which rich people ever realise is that their wealth carries with it human obligations, human responsibilities, as well as the gratifications of their own appetites and pleasures. The only objects of education seem to be to teach men to make money, nothing is ever done to teach them how best to make life full of interest, full of human worth, full of those “visions” which will help to make the future or the human race proud in its achievements. The failure of education as an intellectual, social, and moral force is best shown the moment men and women are given the opportunity to do exactly as they please. Metaphorically speaking, the poor with money in their pockets immediately go on the “booze,” and the rich “jazz.” And men of the poor work merely for the sake of being able to booze, and the rich merely for the sake of being able to jazz. And the rich condemn the poor for boozing, and the poor condemn the rich for jazzing–but this, of course, is one of life’s little ironies.

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