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Chapter 6 The Diagnosis

  • HOW are you getting on with 'The Case,' Mrs. J.?" I asked Ellador one evenin_hen she seemed rather discouraged. "What symptoms are worrying you most now ?"
  • She looked at me with wide anxious eyes, too much in earnest to mind the "Mrs.
  • J.," which usually rather teased her.
  • "It's, an awfully important case, Van dear," she answered soberly, "and _erious one—very serious, I think. I've been reading a lot, had to, to ge_ackground and perspective, and I feel as if I understood a good deal better.
  • Still ——. You helped me ever so much by saying that you were not new people, just mixed "Europeans. But the new country and the new conditions began t_ake you all into a new people. Only ——."
  • "These pauses are quite terrifying," I protested. "Won't you explain you_minous 'still,' and sinister 'only'!"
  • She smiled a little. "Why the 'still' should have been followed by the amoun_hich I did not understand, and the 'only' ——." She stopped again.
  • "Well, out with it, my dear. Only what?" "Only you have done it too fast an_oo much in the dark. You weren't conscious you see."
  • "Not conscious—America not conscious ?"
  • "Not self-conscious, I mean, Van."
  • This I scouted entirely, till she added patiently: "Perhaps I should sa_ationally conscious, or socially conscious. You were plunged into an enormou_ocial enterprise, a huge swift, violent experiment ; the current of socia_volution burst forth over here like a subterranean river finding an outlet.
  • Things that the stratified crust of Asia could not let through, and the heav_hell of European culture could not either, just burst forth over here an_wept you along. Democracy had been—accumulating, through all the centuries.
  • The other nations forced it back, held it down. It boiled over in France, bu_he lid was clapped on again for awhile. Here it could pour forward —and i_oured. Then all the people of the same period of social development wanted t_ome too, and did,—lots of them. That was inevitable. All that 'America' mean_n this sense is a new phase of social development, and anyone can be a_merican who belongs to it."
  • "Guess you are right so far, Mrs. Doctor. Go ahead!"
  • "But while this was happening to you, you were doing things yourselves, som_f them in line with your real position and movement, some dead against it.
  • For instance, your religion."
  • "Religion against what? Expound further."
  • "Against Democracy."
  • "You don't mean the Christian religion, do you?" I urged, rather shocked.
  • "Oh, no, indeed. That would have been a great help to the world if they ha_ver taken it up."
  • I was always entertained and somewhat startled by Ellador's detached view. Sh_new the same facts so familiar to us, but they had not the same connotations.
  • "I think Jesus was simply wonderful," she went on. "What a pity it was he di_ot live longer!"
  • This was a new suggestion to me. Of course I no longer accepted that pitifu_ld idea of his being a pre-arranged sacrifice to his own father, but I neve_eliberately thought of his having continued alive, and its possible effects.
  • "He is supposed to have been executed at about the age of thirty-three, was h_ot ?" she went on. "Think of it—hardly a grown man! He should have had thirt_r forty more years of teaching. It would all have become clearer, mor_onsistent. He would have worked things out, explained them, made peopl_nderstand. He would have made clear to them what they were to do. It was a_wful loss."
  • I said nothing at all, but watched the sweet earnest face, the wise far-seein_yes, and really agreed with her, though in my mind rose a confused dim thron_f horrified objections belonging not to my own mind, but to those of othe_eople.
  • "Tell me how you mean that our religion was against democracy," I persisted.
  • "It was so personal," she said, "and so unjust. There must have crept into it, in early times, a lot of the Buddhist philosophy, either direct or filtered, the 'acquiring merit' idea, and ascetism. The worst part of all was the ide_f sacrifice—that is so ancient. Of course what Jesus meant was social unity, that your neighbor was yourself—that we were all one humanity—'many gifts, bu_he' same spirit.' He must have meant that—for that is So.
  • "What I mean by 'your religion' is the grade of Calvinism which dominate_oung America, with the still older branches, and the various small newe_nes. It was all so personal. My soul— my salvation. My conscience—my sins.
  • And here was the great living working truth of democracy carrying you on i_pite of yourselves—E Pluribus Unum.
  • "Your economic philosophy was dead against it too—that foolish laissez-fair_dea. And your politics, though what was new in it started pretty well, ha_ever been able to make much headway against the highest religious sanction, the increasing economic pressure, and the general drag of custom an_radition— inertia."
  • "You are somewhat puzzling," my fair Marco Polo," I urged. "So you mean t_xtol our politics, American politics?"
  • "Why of course!" she said, her eyes shining. "The principles of democracy ar_holly right. The law of federation, the method of rotation in office, th_tark necessity for general education that the people may understand clearly, the establishment of liberty—that they may act freely—it is splendidly, gloriously right! But why do I say this to an American!"
  • "I wish you could say it to every American man, woman, and child," I answere_oberly. "Of course we used to feel that way about it, but things have change_omehow."
  • "Yes, yes," she went on eagerly. "That's what I mean. You started right, fo_he most part, but those highminded brave old ancestors of yours did no_nderstand sociology—how should they? it wasn't even born. They did not kno_ow society worked, or what would hurt it the most. So the preachers went o_xhorting the people to save their own souls, or get it done for them b_mputed virtues of someone else—and no one understood the needs of th_ountry.
  • "Why, Van! Vandyke Jennings! As I understand more and more how noble an_ourageous and high-minded was this Splendid Child, and then see it now, bloated and weak, with unnatural growth, preyed on by all manner of parasite_nside and out, attacked by diseases of all kinds, sneered at, criticized, condemned by the older nations, and yet bravely stumbling on, making progres_n spite of it all—I'm getting to just love America !"
  • That pleased me, naturally, but I didn't like her picture of my country a_loated and verminous. I demanded explanation.
  • "Do you think we're too big ?" I asked. "Too much country to be handle_roperly?"
  • "Oh, no!" she answered promptly. "Not too big in land. That would have bee_ike the long lean lines of youth, the far-reaching bones of a countr_radually rounding out and filling in as you grow. But you couldn't wait t_row, you just —swelled."
  • "What on earth do you mean, Ellador?"
  • "You have stuffed yourself with the most ill-assorted and unassimilable mas_f human material that ever was held together by artificial means," sh_nswered remorselessly. "You go to England, and the people are English. Onl_hree per cent. of aliens even in London, I understand. And in France th_eople are French—bless them! And in Italy, Italian. But here—it's no wonder _as discouraged at first. It has taken a lot of study and hard thinking, t_ee a way out at all. But I do see it. It was simply awful when I begun.
  • "Just look! Here you were, a little band of really promising people, o_ifferent nations, yet of the same general stock, and like-minded—that was th_ain thing. The real union is the union of idea; without that—no nation. Yo_ade settlements, you grew strong and bold, you shook off the old government.
  • you set up a new flag, and then——!"
  • "Then," said I proudly, we opened our arms to all the world, if that is wha_ou are finding fault with. We welcomed other people to our big new country—
  • 'the poor and oppressed of all nations!' I quoted solemnly.
  • "That's what I mean by saying you i were ignorant of sociology," was her _heerful reply. "It never occurred to you , that the poor and oppressed wer_ot necessarily good stuff for a democracy."
  • I looked at her rather rebelliously.
  • "Why just study them," she went on, in that large sweeping way of hers.
  • "Hadn't there been poor and oppressed enough in the past? In Chaldaea an_ssyria and Egypt and Rome—in all Europe—every where ? Why, Van, it is th_oor and oppressed who make monarchy and despotism—don't you see that ?'
  • "Hold on, my dear—hold on! This is too much. Are you blaming the poor helples_hings for their tyrannical oppression ?"
  • "No more than I blame an apple-tree for bearing apples," she answered. "Yo_on't seriously advance the idea that the oppressor began it, do you ? Jus_ne oppressor jumping on the necks of a thousand free men ? Surely you se_hat the general status and character of a people creates and maintains it_wn kind of government ?"
  • "Y-e-es," I agreed. "But all the same, they are human, and if you give the_roper conditions they can all rise— surely we have proved that."
  • "Give them proper conditions, and give them time—yes."
  • "Time! They do it in one generation. We have citizens, good citizens, of al_aces, who were born in despotic countries, all equal in our democracy."
  • "How many Chinese and Japanese citizens have you ?" she asked quietly. "Ho_re your African citizens treated in this 'equal' democracy!"
  • This was rather a facer.
  • "About the first awful mistake you made was in loading yourself up with thos_eluctant Africans," Ellador went on. "If it wasn't so horrible, it would b_unny, awfully funny. A beautiful healthy young country, saddling itself wit_n antique sin every other civilized nation had repudiated. And here they are, by millions and millions, flatly denied citizenship, socially excluded, a_normous alien element in your democracy."
  • "They are not aliens," I persisted stoutly. "They are Americans, loya_mericans; they make admirable soldiers "
  • "Yes, and servants. You will let them serve you and fight for you—but that'_ll, apparently. Nearly a tenth of the population, and not part of th_emocracy. And they never asked to come!"
  • "Well," I said, rather sullenly. "I admit it—everyone does. It was an enormou_ostly national mistake, and we paid for it heavily. Also it's there yet, a_nsolved question. I admit it all. Go on please. We were dead wrong on th_lacks, and pretty hard on the reds; we may be wrong on the yellows. I gues_his is a white man's country, isn't it? You're not objecting to the whit_mmigrants, are you ?"
  • "To legitimate immigrants, able and willing to be American citizens, there ca_e no objection, unless even they come too fast. But to millions o_eliberately imported people, not immigrants at all, but victims, poo_gnorant people scraped up by paid agents, deceived by lying advertisements, brought over here by greedy American ship owners and employers of labor—ther_re objections many and strong."
  • "But, Ellador—even granting it is you say, they too can be made into America_itizens, surely?"
  • "They can be, but are they ? I suppose you all tacitly assume that they are; but an outsider does not see it. We have been all over the country now, prett_horoughly. I have met and talked with people of all classes and all races, both men and women. Remember I'm new to 'the world,' and I've just come her_rom studying Europe, and Asia, and Africa. I have the hinterland of histor_retty clearly summarized, though of course I can't pretend to be thorough, and I tell you, Van, there are millions of people in your country who do no_elong to it at all."
  • She saw that I was about to defend our foreign born, and went on:
  • "I do not mean the immigrants solely. There are Bostonians of Beacon Hill wh_elong in London; there are New Yorkers of five generations who belong i_aris; there are vast multitudes who belong in Berlin, in Dublin, i_erusalem; and there are plenty of native Sons and Daughters of the Revolutio_ho are aristocrats, plutocrats, anything but democrats."
  • "Why of course there are! We believe in having all kinds—there's room fo_verybody—this is the 'melting-pot,' you know."
  • "And do you think that you can put a little of everything into a melting-po_nd produce a good metal? Well fused and flawless? Gold, silver, copper an_ron, lead, radium, pipe clay, coal dust, and plain dirt ?"
  • A simile is an untrustworthy animal if you ride it too hard. I grinned an_dmitted that there were limits to the powers of fusion.
  • "Please understand," she urged gently. "I am not looking down on one kind o_eople because they are different from others. I like them all. I think you_rejudice against the black is silly, wicked, and—hypocritical. You have n_dea how ridiculous it looks, to an outsider, to hear your Souther_nthusiasts raving about the horrors of 'miscegenation' and then to count th_ulattos, quadroons, octoroons and all the successive shades by which th_lack race becomes white before their eyes. Or to see them shudder at 'socia_quality' while the babies are nourished at black breasts, and cared for i_heir most impressionable years by black nurses—their children!"
  • She stopped at that, turned away from me and walked to the opposite window, where she stood for some time with her hands clenched and her shoulder_eaving.
  • "Where was I?" she asked presently, definitely dropping the question o_hildren. "Black—yes, and how about the yellow? Do they 'melt'? Do you wan_hem to melt? Isn't your exclusion of them an admission that you think som_inds of people unassimilable ? That democracy must pick and choose a little ?"
  • "What would you have us do ?" I asked rather sullenly. "Exclude everybody?
  • Think we are superior to the whole world?"
  • Ellador laughed, and kissed me. "I think you are," she whispered tenderly.
  • "No—I don't mean that at all. It would be too great a strain on th_magination! If you want a prescription—far too late —it is this: i Democrac_s a psychic relation. It requires the intelligent conscious co-operation of _reat many persons all 'equal' in the characteristics required to play tha_ind of a game. You could have safely welcomed to your great undertakin_eople of every race and nation who were individually fitted to assist. Not b_ny means because they were 'poor and oppressed,' nor because of tha_littering generality that 'all men are born free and equal,' but because th_uman race is in different stages of development, and only some the races—o_ome individuals in a given race—have reached the democratic stage."
  • "But how could we discriminate?"
  • "You mustn't ask me too much, Van. I'm a stranger; I don't know all I ough_o, and, of course I'm all the time measuring by my background of experienc_n my own country. I find you people talk a good bit about the Brotherhood o_an, but you haven't seemed to think about the possibilities of a sisterhoo_f women."
  • I looked up alertly, but she gave a mischievous smile and shook her head. "Yo_o not want to hear about the women, I remember. But seriously, dear, this i_ne of the most dangerous mistakes you have made; it complicates everything.
  • It makes your efforts to establish democracy like trying to make a ship go b_team and at the same time admitting banks of oars, masses of sails an_ordage, and mere paddles and outriggers."
  • "You can certainly make some prescription for this particularly dreadfu_tate, can't you?" I urged. "Sometimes 'an outsider' can see better than thos_ho are—being melted."
  • She pondered awhile, then began slowly: "Legitimate immigration is like th_oming of children to you,—new blood for the nation, citizens made, not born.
  • And they should be met like children, with loving welcome, with adequat_reparation, with the fullest and wisest education for their new place. Wher_ou have that crowded little filter on Ellis Island, you ought to hav_mmigration Bureaus on either coast, at ports so specified, with a grea_dditional department to definitely Americanize the newcomers, to teach the_he language, spirit, traditions and customs of the country. Talk abou_ffering hospitality to all the world! What kind of hospitality is it to le_our guests crowd and pack into the front hall, and to offer them neither bed, bread nor association? That's what I mean by saying that you are no_onscious. You haven't taken your immigration seriously enough. Th_onsequence is that you are only partially America, an American clogged an_onfused, weakened and mismanaged, for lack of political compatibility."
  • "Is this all?" I asked after a little. "You make me feel as if my country wa_ cross between a patchwork quilt and a pudding stone.'
  • "Oh, dear, no f" she cheerfully assured me. "That's only a beginning of m_iagnosis. The patient's worst disease was that disgraceful out-of-date attac_f slavery, only escaped by a surgical operation, painful, costly, and not b_ny means wholly successful. The second is this chronic distension fro_bsorbing too much and too varied material, just pumping it in at wild speed.
  • The third is the most conspicuously foolish of all —to a Herlander."
  • "Oh—leaving the women out ?"
  • "Yes. It's so—so—well, I can't express to you how ridiculous it looks.
  • "We're getting over it," I urged. "Eleven states now, you know—it's gettin_n."
  • "Oh, yes, yes, it's getting on. But I'm looking at your history, and you_onditions, and your loud complaints, and then to see this great mass o_ellowcitizens treated as if they weren't there— it is unbelievable!"
  • "But I told you about that before we came," said I. "I told you in Herland —you knew it."
  • "I knew it, truly. But, Van, suppose anyone had told you that in Herland wome_ere the only citizens—would that have prevented your being surprised ?"
  • I looked back for a moment, remembering how we men, after living there s_ong, after "knowing" that women were the only citizens, still never got ove_he ever recurring astonishment of realising it.
  • "No wonder it surprises you, dear,—I should think it would. But go on abou_he women."
  • "I'm not touching on the women at all, Van. This is only in treating o_emocracy—of your country and what ails it. You see: "
  • "Well, dear? See what?"
  • "It is so presumptuous of me to try to explain democracy to you, an America_itizen. Of course you understand, but evidently the country at large doesn't.
  • In a monarchy you have this one allowed Ruler, and his subordinate rulers, an_he people submit to them. Sometimes it works very well, but in any case it i_omething done for and to the people by someone they let do it.
  • "A democracy, a real one, means the people socially conscious and doing i_hemselves—doing it themselves! Not just electing a Ruler and subordinates an_ubmitting to them—transferring the divine right of kings to the divine righ_f alderman or senators. A democracy is a game everybody has to play—has to —else it is not a democracy. And here you people deliberately left out half!"
  • "But they never had been 'in'; you know, in the previous governments."
  • "Now, Van—that's really unworthy of you. As subjects they were the same a_en, and as queens they were the same as kings. But you began a new game— tha_ou said must be 'by the people'— and so on, and left out half."
  • "It was—funny," I admitted, "and unfortunate. But we're improving. Do go on.
  • "That's three counts, I believe," she agreed. "Next lamentabl_istake,—failure to see that democracy must be economic."
  • "Meaning socialism?"
  • "No, not exactly. Meaning what Socialism means, or ought to mean. You coul_ot have a monarchy where the king was in no way different from his subjects.
  • A monarchy must be expressed not only in the immediate symbols of robe an_rown, throne and sceptre, but in the palace and the court, the list of lord_nd gentlemen-in-waiting. It's all part of monarchy.
  • "So you cannot have a democracy while there are people markedly differentiate_rom the others, with symbolism of dress and decoration, with courts an_alaces and crowds of servitors."
  • "You can't except all the people to be just alike, can you ?"
  • "No, nor even to be 'equal.' Some people will always be more valuable tha_thers, and some more useful than others; but a poet, a blacksmith, and _ancing master might all be friends and fellow-citizens in a true democrati_ense. Your millionaires vote and your daylaborers vote, but it does not brin_hem together as fellow citizens. That's why your little old New England town_nd your fresh young western ones, have more of 'America' in them than i_ossible—could ever be possible—in such a political menagerie as New York, fo_nstance.
  • "Meaning the Tiger?" I inquired.
  • "Including the Tiger, with the Elephant, the Moose and the Donkey—especiall_he Donkey! No—I do not really mean those—totems. I mean the weird collectio_f political methods, interests, stages of growth.
  • "New York's an oligarchy; it's a plutocracy; it's a hierarchy; it reverts t_he clan system with its Irishmen, and back of that, to the patriarchy, wit_ts Jews. It's anything and everything you like— but it's not a democracy."
  • "If it was, what would it do to prove it ? Just what do you expect of what yo_all democracy? Don't you idealize it?" I asked.
  • "No." She shook her head decidedly. "I do not idealize it. I'm familiar wit_t, you see—we have one at home, you know."
  • So they had. I had forgotten. In fact I had not very clearly noticed. We ha_een so much impressed by their all being women that we had not done justic_o their political development."
  • "It's no miracle," she said. "Just people co-operating to govern themselves.
  • We have universal suffrage, you know, and train our children in the use of i_efore they come to the real thing. That farseeing Mr. Gill is trying to d_hat in your public schools, I notice, and Mr. George of the Junior Republics.
  • It requires a common knowledge of the common need, local self-management, recognizing the will of the majority, and a big ceaseless loving effort t_ake the majority wiser. It's surely nothing so wonderful, Van, for a lot o_ntelligent people to get together and manage their common interests."
  • It certainly had worked well in Herland. So well, so easily, so smoothly, tha_t was hardly visible.
  • "But the people who get together have got to be within reach of one another,"
  • she went on. "They've got to have common interests. What united action can yo_xpect between Fifth Avenue and— Avenue A?"
  • "I've had all I can stand for one dose, my lady," I now protested. "From wha_ou have said I should think your 'Splendid Child' would have died in infancy— a hundred years ago. But we haven't you see. We're alive an_icking—especially kicking. I have faith in my country yet."
  • "It is still able to lead the world—if it will," she agreed. "It has still al_he natural advantages it began with, and it has added new ones. I'm no_espairing, nor blaming, Van—I'm diagnosing, and pretty soon I'll prescribe.
  • But just now I suggest that we change politics for tennis."
  • We did. I can still beat her at tennis— having played fifteen years to he_ne— but not so often as formerly.