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superior to others. (2) The great difference in men is due not so much to their birth as to what happens to them after they are born, due to their home, their food, their schools, and all the other opportunities or misfortunes which come to them. Professor Cattell has found that of one thousand leading men of science in the United States, one hundred and thirty-four were born in Massachusetts, three in Georgia, and that for each million of population Massachusetts and Connecticut have had a hundred scientific men of high standing; the states of the Southern seaboard but two. No one can doubt that this means simply that boys in Massachusetts and Connecticut have had a better opportunity than boys in Carolina or Georgia. The Edwards family, which has included a great number of conspicuous men, is a notable example of the fact that to be born from a sound and capable stock gives one a great advantage. Certain other stocks or strains are undoubtedly defective. But there are also a great many sound stocks or strains which have thus far produced few eminent men. In this country leaders are constantly coming up from the ranks. This tends to show that ability is more widely distributed than is sometimes supposed. Opportunity or the lack of it is very often what decides whether a man shall be eminent or remain as one of the great mass of people. The great point, however, is not whether men are now exactly equal or ever will be. The fundamental idea of democracy is that every one ought to have a chance to show what is in him. And the striking fact is that we cannot find out who the really great men are unless we give every man a chance. The fault with the old method of government for the benefit of a few was not only that it was selfish, but that it
Coöperation better than exclusiveness
did not select those who were really the best. If we think that men are born unequal in the sense that one class is born better than another, we shall trouble ourselves little about the supposedly inferior group. But if we think that every man should have a fair and equal chance, we shall be in the way of finding out who our real poets, inventors, scholars, and leaders are.
As to the second point, it is no doubt true that we naturally do feel some superiority if we have won a victory. It is true that men are apt to think their own family or race or nation is better than that of the stranger. Is this wrong? We can see, if we look back a little, that this had a real reason in early times. It was the way in which the family or the clan or the tribe kept close together. And when men were forced to fight or be reduced to slavery, it was a fine trait to fight bravely. It went along with this that men despised those who were conquered. But while this feeling of class may have served a very useful purpose once, it is very stupid to continue the same feeling when it is no longer a help but a hindrance. It is stupid to act now as if we were still living in savage times. What men needed then was defense and separation. What men need now is to know each other, to trade with each other, and especially to find out the very best that there is in their neighbors. The only way to find out what is best in a man is to treat him as your equal. You will probably find that while you may be superior in one thing he is superior in something else. In present society we get on by coöperation, by taking down bars between different countries, by exchanging goods and ideas, by being friendly and ready to learn. It is give and take. Democracy is a better road to progress than exclusiveness.
We may pass over the third point as not needing further discussion, and come to the fourth, which is perhaps most important of all. Does democracy tend to reduce all men to a dead level? Does it level down instead of leveling up? Do men need the stimulus of rivalry to do their best work? Or can we depend upon joy in work, love of truth, and love of our fellow-men to bring out the best that is in men, and so produce the best society?
There is no doubt that in some kinds of work men When need no prizes except the joy in the work itself, and rivalry is no motive but the love of their fellow-men. On the
needed other hand, it is true that some kinds of work are very disagreeable. Professor William James, who was a very keen observer, said, “Nine-tenths of the work of the world is done by it [rivalry). We know that if we do not do the task some one else will do it and get the credit, so we do it.” If all our work were of the kind Kipling was thinking of in the poem from which we quoted, if it were painting, or writing, or making tasteful garments, or craftsman-like products, or cooking and serving meals skilfully and artistically, and if all this were done with good conditions and with short hours so as to call out one's best energies without fatigue and exhaustion, then we should have less need of rivalry. If we, like Lister, who discovered aseptic surgery, could all see that our work was benefiting mankind, saving life, and preventing suffering, we should no doubt most of us find joy in doing it. But a great deal of our work does not seem to benefit others directly. It is a long way from the coal mine to the family which is kept warm by the miner's use of pick and shovel. It is difficult for the workman in the steel plant to see that he is helping the world. He can see
When rivalry hinders progress
only the metal and machinery and hear only the roar of the blast in the great furnace. He does not, like the physician or the teacher, deal directly with the people whom he serves. We probably cannot give up rivalry yet, but it is necessary to make the rivalry the right kind, if it is really to help progress and not hinder it. Rivalry hinders progress if it is of the selfish type, and if it fails to stimulate the right kind of activity.
Suppose a man on the baseball team has made a home run or pitched a brilliant game. Do we not all feel a thrill of admiration for such a brilliant play, which leads us to cheer? We should feel that there was something wrong with us if we didn't want to honor the man. But
that in a race one man is sick and another has had no training. A strong, well-trained man would see no sport in winning from them. Much less would any man find honor in winning from another by a foul or by tripping him. It would not promote fast running to give prizes to men who win in these ways. In the game of life, as we play it at present, a great many are sick through no fault of their own; a great many have not been well-trained; they have had to leave school early, they have never had good surroundings at home; they have not had the kind of education which fits them to succeed. There is not any honor in winning against them. And the more important point is that it does not promote best ways of doing business or of progress in any line, if we give prizes simply to those who succeed without making sure that it is a fair contest and that all who enter are in equally good condition.
Equal opportunity is the necessary condition for progress—to get the benefit of prizes and honors we must first have equal opportunity. Just as in the
race true honor comes from winning against those who are well-trained and thoroughly “fit," so in life true honor comes from winning where every one has a fair chance. Inequality is of benefit only if we first have equality of opportunity.
Where all have a fair chance no one grudges success to the best man. Indeed the whole joy of the sport is in having the best man win. Every one who goes into the game feels that the game, after all, is a bigger thing than that he himself should win. It would not be a game at all if one were to win for any other reason than because he was the best man. In life, we feel no sting in seeing another man surpass us if we think that he is really more capable of doing what needs to be done. The good soldier did not feel it any disgrace to have Washington or Grant or Lee hold higher rank than himself. The army could win only if it had the best man at its head. But if the common soldier had thought that a man was appointed general because his grandfather had done something important, or because of favoritism, he would have been discouraged. Our country needs leaders in business, in government, in education, and in all lines. In this respect we are like an army. Hence we must have inequality. But we need to select our leaders and give our prizes and honors on the basis of real fitness. It may be that we shall have to change the rules of the game of life in order to make sure that those shall succeed who really deserve success. We have had to change the rules of football often in the last twenty-five years to prevent dirty play. Certainly it is true that we need to give every one a fair chance to compete on equal terms in living. Then we shall come nearer to what our fathers meant to have this country stand for.