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one virtue or another has been more conspicuous in some particular age than ever before or since. Moral progress wavers, and not all that is won is retained. But on the whole there can be no doubt that we stand on a higher level morally than the Greeks - who had vices and sins that we scarcely hear of to-day - and incomparably higher than savage races. Even within a lifetime one can see the wave of moral advance push forward..
Yet this observable progress is not so certain of continuance that we can lapse into inertia and trust it to go on of itself. With the softening of the struggle for existence among men, with the disappearance of danger from wild animals, and the increasing conquest over nature, the chief means of moral progress hitherto are being removed. More and more we must rely on man's conscious efforts on personal consecration and self-mastery, on improved and extended legislation, on the growth of a moralized public opinion, on organizations and institutions that shall work for specific causes.
Moreover, with the changing situations in which man finds himself, and especially with the growing complexification of society, new opportunities for sin and new temptations continually arise. No sooner is one immoral habit stamped out than another begins insidiously, and perhaps unnoticed, to form. The battle-line moves on, but new foes constantly appear; it will not be an easy road to the millennium. On the whole, our material and intellectual advance has outrun our moral progress; at present our chief need is to catch up morally.' We may note several reasons for this eddy in the moralizing process, this counter-movement
1 Cf. Alfred Russel Wallace, in his last book, Social Environment and Moral Progress (p. 50): "This rapid growth of wealth and increase of our power over Nature put too great a strain upon our crude civilization and our superficial Christianity; and it was accompanied by various forms of social immorality, almost as amazing and unprecedented.”
toward the development of new sins and the renascence of old ones.
(1) With the growth of large cities and the development of individual interests we come to live less and less in one another's eyes. In primitive life it is almost impossible for a man to indulge in any vice or sin without its being immediately known to his fellows; but to-day millions live such isolated lives in the midst of crowded communities that all sorts of immorality may flourish without detection. Under early conditions foodstuffs or other goods were consumed if not by the producer, at least by his neighbors; and any adulteration or sham was a dangerous matter. To-day we seldom know who slaughtered the meat or canned the fruit we eat, who made the clothing or utensils we use; shoddy articles and unwholesome food can be sold in quantity with little fear of the consumer's anger. All sorts of intangible and hardly traceable injuries can be wrought to-day by malicious or careless men injuries to reputation, to credit, to success. In a city the criminal can hide and escape far more easily, can associate with his own kind, have a certain code of his own (cf. “honor among thieves"), and more completely escape the pangs of conscience, than under the
, surveillance of village life. In a hundred ways there are increased opportunities for doing evil with impunity.1
1 Cf. E. A. Ross, Sin and Society, pp. 32 ff.:“The popular symbol for the criminal is a ravening wolf; but alas, few latter-day crimes can be dramatized with a wolf and a lamb as the cast! Your up-to-date criminal presses the button of a social mechanism, and at the other end of the land or the year innocent lives are snuffed out. . . . As society grows complex, it can be harmed in more ways. . . . Each advance to higher organization runs us into a fresh zone of danger, so there is more than ever need to be quick to detect and foil the new public enemies that present themselves. The public needs a victim to harrow up its feelings. The injury that is problematic, or general, or that falls in undefined ways upon unknown persons, is resented feebly, or not at all. The fiend who should rack his victim with torments such as typhoid inflicts would be torn to pieces. The villain who should taint his enemy's cup with fever germs would stretch
(2) With the gentler conditions of civilized life there is a general tendency toward the relaxing of social restraints. The harsh penalties of early days would shock us by their cruelty; and early codes are full of prohibitions and injunctions on matters which are now left to the individual conscience. Needlessly cramping and cruel as these primitive laws often were, they were powerful deterrents, and their lapse has often been followed by greater moral laxity. The passionate pursuit of liberty, which has been so prominent in modern times, though on the whole of great advantage to man, has not been without its ill effects.
(3) The monotonously specialized and unnatural work which confines a large proportion of our men, women, and youths to-day, promotes restlessness and the craving for excitement. The normal all-round occupations of primitive men tended to work off their energies and satisfy their natural impulses. But the dulled and tired worker released from eight or ten hours' drudgery in a factory is apt to be in a psychological state that demands variety, excitement, pleasure at any cost. It does not pay to repress human nature too much, or to try to make out of a red-blooded young man or woman a mere machine. Gambling, drunkenness, prostitution, and all sorts of pathological vices flourish largely as a reaction from the dullness and monotony of the day's work. We are paying this heavy penalty for our increase of material efficiency at the expense of normal human living.
(4) With the increased possibilities of undetected sin, above mentioned, and the opportunity which criminals now have of forming within a city a little community of their own hemp. But — think of it! - the corrupt boss who, in order to extort fat contracts for his firm, holds up for a year the building of a filtration plant designed to deliver his city from the typhoid scourge, and thereby dooms twelve hundred of his townspeople to sink to the tomb through the flaming, abyss of fever, comes off scatheless."
which permits them fellowship without rebuke for their sins, there have arisen whole classes of vice-caterers. These men and women make their living by tempting others to sin; the allurements which they set before the young constitute a great check to moral advance, and even threaten continually a serious moral degeneration. The keepers of gamblinghouses and brothels, the venders of habit-forming drugs, vile pictures, and salacious reading matter, the proprietors of indecent dance-halls and theaters, of the “shows" of all sorts that flourish chiefly through their offering of sexual stimulation these are the worst sinners of our times, for they cause thousands of others to sin, and deliberately undermine the moral structure so laboriously reared, and at such heavy cost. Conspicuous in commercialized vicecatering is the Casino of Monte Carlo, where thousands of lives have been ruined. The business of seducing and kidnapping girls — the "white-slave trade” — flourishes secretly in our great cities. Associations of liquor dealers are in many countries powerful social and political forces. One of the greatest problems before the race is how to exterminate these human beasts of prey that live at the expense of the moral deterioration and often utter ruin of their victims.
(5) While the older racial and national barriers between peoples are breaking down, so that the possibilities of human brotherhood and cooperation are laterally increasing, and the wretched fratricidal wars between peoples coming toward an end,other barriers, between upper and lower classes, are thickening, new antagonisms and antipathies, that threaten yet much friction and unhappiness and a retardation of moral progress. Rich are becoming farther and farther
1 In view of the Great War and the ensuing crop of lesser wars this may sound like irony. And no one can be sure that worse may not follow. Nevertheless we may be pretty confident, for several reasons, that the age of international wars is approaching its end.
separated from poor, class-consciousness is on the increase, class-wars in the form of strikes, riots, and sabotage, are ominous symptoms. Masses of the laboring class believe that a great class-war is not only inevitable but desirable. Such conflicts, however, besides their material losses, engender hatred, cruelty, lust, greed, and all sorts of other forms of immorality. No one can predict how far such struggles may go in the future toward undoing the socializing process which at best has so many obstacles to meet and moves so slowly.
Many forces are at work, however, for moral uplift. The spread of education, teaching men to think, to discern evils, and to comprehend the reasons for right conduct, the increasing influence of public opinion through newspapers and magazines, the growing number of organizations working to eradicate evils, the gradual increase of wise legislation, the reviving moral pressure of the Christian Church - such signs of the times should give us courage as well as show us where we can take hold to help. Morality is not static, a cut-and-dried system to be obeyed or neglected, but a set of experiments, being gradually worked out by mankind, a dynamic, progressive instrument which we can help ourselves to forge. There is room yet for moral genius; we are yet in the early and formative stage of human morality. We should not be content with past achievement, with the contemporary standards of our fellows. If we give our keenest thought and our earnest effort, there is no knowing what noble heights of morality we may be helping the future to attain.
Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chap. iv. Hobhouse, op. cit., pt. II, chaps. II, VIII. Westermarck, op. cit., chap. VII. Sutherland, op. cit., vol. II., chaps. XIX-XXI. W. G. Sumner, Folkways, chaps. I, II, XI. Sir H. Maine, Village Communities. C. Darwin, Descent of Man,