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Faith in Man :I


Faith in Man I A BASIS OF SOCIAL ENDEAVOUR. I Right down through the ages a persistent effort has been made to improve man's lot in life. With w hat unrecorded heroism, sacrifice, gjelf-efi a cement these innumerable struggles were waged! The history of man's progress and evo- lution bears indelible marks on its pages of the influence of an indefatigable and noble minority who have lived for and served humanity. Ver- ily, the sands of time bear the impress of their footprints! They bore abuse and calumny again and again; they were betrayed and crucified in almost every age. Count me of earth's chosen heroes, They were men who stood alone While the souls they agonised for Threw the contumelious stone." Reviled and scoffed at—even by those far whom they lived, worked and died- Certainly, they are a. cloud of witnesses" of and to the weary travel of the human race on its upward path It may be stated as a trmsm that the men who laboured most assiduously and consistently —not to say altruistically—for the improvement of mankind, were those who believed most really and intensely in mankind's inherent good. It is inconceivable, perhaps, to find one not so sincere in such a belief making great sacrifices for the good of humanity in part, and consequently for mankind as a whole. it is inconceivable—I say inconceivable, because it involves a psychological contradiction, to think of one who does not manifest faith in human nature really exercising himself in noble and self-sacrificing endeavour for human good. When I use the words "manifest faith," I mean what the words really imply and not the flImsy, vague, unreal thing which is called nimsy. which many people use as a cloak to "fait, hide their intellectual misgivings, and to ad- minister a rebuke to reason. To manifest faith is not to shout on t-hfe house-tons and preach from pulpits, about it and about, and to come in through the same door as we went out" in theological argument. I mean the living, tangible reality; the theory which is known because of the help it gives, the beauty it bestows, the sweet aroma it exhales in everyday life and work-a-day effort in the world. Such is the beauty, the sweetness of the faith manifested all around us to-day if we care to see with eyes unveiled by prejudice. Let us but take any great movement for social progress and human rphffment, and we find underlying it and belaud it. giving it impetus and vitality, this one unconquerable thing known as faith. Every great movement for ref->rm and betterment presupposes this attitude of mind and spirit on the rvart- of its origina- tors and adherents. It may exist unconsciously, but it is still there, and challenges defeat, and' -What is sometimes worse—obscurity or ridicule The most earnest of our reformers may not recognise it: surely they do not prate about it and pay it even a modicum of mere lip service. They honour it by living and acting upon it- a far nobler and more worthy tribute and recognition! Why do men strive? to help their fellows? Why do thev work to improve conditions and to en- deavour to obtain better facilities for mental and moral improvement P Why do they strug- gle and wear away themselves. and deny themselves practically every comfort, sometimes even necessaries of life, to win for men an ideal condition of freedom to realise that remote yet ever-compelling conception of that liberty which they feel all men are What I impelled that poor Belgian priest, Father Dam- ien. to offer his whole life in sacrifice for the benefit and alleviation of the lepers at Molokai, and who lived 18 years alone with them, to finally catch the loathsome disease and die," whose noble and imperishable moral and spiritual grandeur has been so splendidly de- scribed for all time to the world by R. L. Stevenson? What impelled other moral heroes whose names are inscribed in letters of gold on the scrolls of history? What impelled a man like Keir Hardie ? Is it mere exuberance and fulness of l[fe ? One can hardly think so, for f 0, .4f e can liqi,cllv think so, foi? there iii ',)e soti-,Q tirclet-l-vin, for e?ii- Whitman t!:a;e us a, C1U8 in one of his preg- nant lines: ?Whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud." In another passage Whitman glimpsed the full truth — "See the philosophies all. Christian tenets and Churches see. Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, ,indI underneath Christ the Divine I see, The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend." It is this feeling of love and sympathy for men whiclt prompts the expression of good and noble deeds of life- less self-giving. This. translated into con- duct means righteousness, justice, recmtude and charity, and this being translated into altruistic effort and social activity, love and sym- pathy require intelligence, knowledge and faith. 'All around us. as I said a little while back, are the monumental edifices of this faith. Let us glance briefly at a few typical edifices erected upon this foundation of faith in man. Let us consider for a moment the implica- tions of our belief in education. With this purpose in mind, I will take the liberty of quoting Principal L. P. Jacks, who has worked out this idea with remarkable force and clear- ness in one -of his books on Education. to which work I am indebted for the ground- plan of this paper. Our philosophic author asks Ought we not to consider a little more closely what our belief in education really im- plies. It implies, does it not, that man is a being who can be trusted with knowledge to any extent ? It implies that whatever a man comes to know he -will mltimately make a good use of his knowledge. If you are convinced of the utter until L orthiness of human nature, would you iay it down as the first article of your creed that every child of man must be taught to read and write—to read whatever truth may be offered him by others, and to write that he may communicate to others his own view of the uses to which that truth can be put? Can faith in hu- manity go to further lengths than this? Professor Jacks further says that The moment when we must be .ready to de- fend our faith in humanity is the moment when we are asking the State to' educate, on the ground that education is the social right of every man. For education is our right oub- on one condition that we put the re- sults of our education to social uses. Unless we have grounds for believing that man is a being who can be trusted in the long run to employ what society has taught for the good of society, then we have no ground for asking society to teach him. If he is as likely as not to turn his education to his own harm, or to use it as a weapon of offence against his fellows, or against posterity, then .the whole ground falls away on which the plea for education has to be based. Belief in education means faith in miln-faith in man with all its formidable difficulties overcome, with all the reasons for distrusting human nature put to silence—and unless we are pre- pared to defend the second thing no one of us has the right to defend the first. We have only to consider these things, and I think we shall have to confess that the mo- dern belief in education, which maey people have adopted as a substitute for other forms of idealism, both theological and philos- ophical, itself rests on an implied but very often lofty form of idealism as to the nature of man. It presupposes the ultimate good- ness of humanity. It is almost certain that no one can deny the truth cf Prof. Jacks' reasoning in this connection, The modern quarrels about educa- tion circle around the. KIND of education which should be given. Educationalists of every school are tacitly agreed that education is ooth necessary and beneficial. Give me a child up to seven years of age," said a Roman Catholic priest, and I will make of it as I will." The churches are desirous of instituting a system of more or less compulsory religious education in the schools; against this or any kind of such imposition the Rationalist and Secularist thunders a vehement opposition. It is a curiously stupid quarrel at best, yet under- neath the contentions of the opposing parties lies the implied faith that humanity will m'ake good and better use of their respective systems of education. And I may interpolate here a regretful observation: that while so-called doctors are quarrelling amongst themselves, We child is being more or less sadly neglected. Let us turn to another field of social endea- vour. What underlies our belief and activity in so far as Temperance is concerned? Why do we give utterance to feelings of regret and dis- appointment when men, smirch the fair name of Temperance and try to sing the doubtful praises of Bacchus in a drunken orgy? Is it not because we expected something better, that our faith in man is such that we expect them to walk uprightly and be self-con trolled? If we did not believe and expect this, then we cannot in any sense express regret or disappointment when a man measures his length in a gutter. Then. again, the call for counter attractions" to the drink evil is one which is based on faith, for how can anybody be sure that counter-at- tractions such as pai ks; gnmes; concerts thea- ti-es books papers more leisure time cheap railway fares, etc.. will prove effective as pre- ventives of indulgence in drink? Again, what what does the demand for national and mu- nicipal ownership and control of the drink traffic imply? Does it not imply a greater faith in the men who habitually drink than they have in themselves? "Yes," you may object, "but the evils of drink are s@ apparent they degrade Hhètl and women; and homes are ruined and children are neglected and starved as a result. Yet it does not follow that if the drink evil Is removed. nien will become temperate, and that poverty and degradation will be removed." No: it must be admitted ALL does not follow on the abolition of the evil of drink. Where drink is the cause of poverty, it will do so in very many cases. The point I wish to emphasise, however, is that the real Temperance reformer believes that man is something and can be something better and nobler than the stupid caricature which he makes himself appear in the bar of a: public- house. This brings us to the consideration at social reform and Socialism. Why do reformers seek to better and Socialists to re-construct the present pitiful state of affairs in human society, industrially and socially? Why do Socialists strive to secure juster and better conditions of life for the mass of the people? Why do they wish to abolish poverty; to remove foul and reeking conditions of habitation to replace competition in the means of physical existence by co-operation ? Is it not necause they pro- foundly, yet perhaps more or less consciously— believe that more tolerable and equitable physi- cal conditions, and more beautiful and sweeter surroundings, will assist in bringing out the best qualities and ensure a more rapid moral and intellectual development of their poorer and weaker brother? Does not this struggle of the Socialist movement evince a splendid faith in the inherent good and possibilities of human The Socialist, as a rule, dismisses as unreal such objections as that of the pig and palace variety. He realises tlifct though some men may seem to be pigs from the standpoint of the palace owner, nevertheless he is aware that men, whatever their status and condition, are immeasurably of a higher value than palaces, however grand and palatial. The difference between the Socialist and the snobbish palace- loving man is a difference in the standard of human values. The one estimates the value of men in terms of palatial conditions, while the other measures all conditions in terms of man- hood and womanhood. The difference, you see, is ultlimately one of faith in men. Of course, we are not so foolish as to believe that a comparatively undeveloped individual can leap over many stages of evolution at once, even if the best conditions are given him; but we do believe that men, if given better oppor- tunities. will improve very rapidly. Personally I am one of those who believe that even if men do spoil and damage what good things that have been provided for them, that that is no reason why such things ought to be with- held from them. Good things should subserve good purposes and good purposes are not so good if they merely subserve good tilings! In other words, good conditions of life should be made for men, and not men for good conditions. And yet, curiously enough, Socialists who pos- sess such a. sublime faith as this have been told that they were unbelievers" We may afford charitably to ignore taunts of this kind, for a faith such as o-urs is in itself a sufficient challenge to a hoary and traditional ecclesiast-i- cism. The Great Founder of Ohiis-t-ianity said that by faith you could remove mountains; and that is what the Socialist faith has done and is doing. 0 There are two other aspects ot social endeav- our which I want to consider just 'here. One is the women's' movement. Here again we find a strong and challenging faith being made manifest. Whatever may be the difficulties^ in the way; whatever may be the so-called physical or mental objections to the recognition of wo- men. socially and nationally, the clarion call has gone forth, nevof again to be muffled by or drowned in the noise and crash of. politics. Just now, of course, while the-war is raging, the women's cause is, like many other move- ments, keeping; 111 the baokgrounS. When you realise It, the women's movement is a strangely challenging ona, and one which will harbour no doubts or shelter any fears as to its success. I venture to prophesy that this movement will after the war re-awaken to-, its work with a zeal and vigour which will be surprising to us all. Most Socialist share to the full the faith of modern woman in womanhood, and of its future promise of great and inestimable measure of service to human welfare and progress. Another movement will I briefly mention; and it is the pacifist movement. Here to-dav in spite of the holocaust of war, we find this move- ment gaming strength and vitality. We who called oureselves pacifists are not the people who are LEAST anxious to pay a noble tribute to the faith of those who believe it to be their duty to leave all, sacrifice all. for the welfare of their country. Our hearts respond to the nobil- ity of such huge sacrifices, though we grieve at the necessity a.nd utter heartlessness of war- fare On the other hand, we find in the pacifist movement, an expression of a noble faith in man's common brotherhood and humanity. This, in the present time of great darkness, shines out as a great light. Well may we kin- dle our little la.mps at this great light! We may with Wordsworth— Dive through the stormy surface of the flood To the great current flowing underneath; Explore the countless springs of silent good; So shall the truth be better understood, And thy grieved spirit brighten strong in faith." Let us, in conclusion, try to examine another factor which is implied in the phrase faith in man." It means, if it means anything, that as man is a being who is subject to the law of evolution; therefore he is a being whose prog- ress is as sure as it is infinite. Faith in man impliesiJelief in progress in all things which concern man as man. Surely. I can find no better words than those of lvhltmanls to ex- press what I mean — I see the menials of the earth, labouring; I see the prisoners in the prisons I see the defective human bodies of the earth I see the blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, haunchbacks. lunatics I see pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth; I see the helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women. I see male and female everywhere I see the serene brotherhood of philosophers; I see the constructiveness of my race; I see the results of persevera'nce and industry of my race I see ranks, colours, barbarisms, civilisations -1 go among thèm-l mix indiscriminately. And I salute a.U the inhabitants of the earth Each fit us inevitable Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right- upon the earth, Each of us allowed the eternal purports of the e/trth Each of us here as divinely as any is here. My spirit has passed in compassion and deter- mination around the whole earth I have, looked for equals and lovers. and found them in all lands I think some divine rapport has equalised me with them

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