The Significance of the Orient for the Occident

The Manchus have a saving: "The man who comes from a strange locality is contemptible; the thing which comes from a strange locality is precious." [1] The Mongols have a saying: "The thigh-bone of an elk cannot be fitted into a saucepan, and a stranger does not jibe with a stranger." [2] And all large groups of men have similar sayings, representing the recognition of a deep- seated sentiment of hostility to outsiders. Strictly speaking this prejudice toward outsiders must be regarded as an organic attitude common not only to mankind but to all animal forms possessing a certain degree of memory, emotion, and gregariousness. This feeling is of course connected with the struggle for life, and is, in fact, primarily based on the instinct of fear.

Gregariousness not only affords objective benefits in the way of solidarity and co-operation, but on the subjective side involves a recognition of likeness between members of the group, and a limitation of affection to those sharing that likeness. The struggle for existence implies a hostile attitude toward the world at large - toward all objects which have not by association and co-operation become a part of the group personality. In a group whose existence depends on its solidarity, signs of solidarity in the way of similar appearance, behavior, and sentiments give a feeling of security, and any unlikeness is a sign of danger. It is not necessarily felt to be such, but genetically it is such.

A group having a common origin and a common history must have to some degree a memory, a consciousness, and a personality in common, and common emotional reactions. In

(730) nature war is the rule and peace the exception, and the fear-and-hate attitude of a whole group toward another is merely individual fear and hate writ large.

The unlikeness of a different group is brought to the attention and excites prejudice in two ways: (I) by signs manifested in the bodily habits, and (2) by signs manifested in social habits. The surface signs of unlikeness naturally strike the senses more forcibly, and among these the skin is perhaps the bodily characteristic which most provokes prejudice, because most obvious. Every race is habituated to its own skin and has a warm feeling for its own color, and a different hue excites feelings of distrust, fear, and something akin to rage. Livingstone says:

    There must be something in the appearance of white men frightfully repulsive to the unsophisticated natives of Africa; for on entering villages previously unvisited by Europeans, if we met a child coming quietly and unsuspectingly toward us, the moment he raised his eyes and saw the men in"bags," he would take to his heels in an agony of terror, such as we might feel if we met a live Egyptian mummy at the door of the British Museum. Alarmed by the child's wild outcries, the mother rushes out of the hut, but darts back again at the first glimpse of the fearful apparition. Dogs turn tail and scour off in dismay, and hens, abandoning their chickens, fly screaming to the tops of the houses.[3]

    An Australian woman had a child by a white man: she smoked it and rubbed it with oil to give it a darker color.[4] The children that are born [in Mabaar] are black enough, but the blacker they be the more they are thought of; wherefore from the day of their birth their parents do rub them every week with oil of sesame, so that they become as black as devils. Moreover, they make their gods black and their devils white, and the images of their saints they do paint black all over.[5]

In the Malay Archipelago—

    the standard of perfection in color is virgin gold, and as a European lover compares the bosom of his mistress to the whiteness of snow, the East Insular lover compares that of his to the yellowness of the precious metal.[6]

With regard to other physical aspects the same law holds.


    Among the Manchu those women are preferred who have the characteristic Manchu form, that is to say a broad face, high cheek-bones, very broad noses, and enormous ears, and the prize beauty is the one on whose face you can Set a saucepan without touching her nose.[7]

A servant of the king of Cochin China

    spoke with contempt of the wife of the English ambassador, that she had white teeth like a dog, and a rosy color like that of potato flowers.[8]

It is well known also that the predilection for group traits is extended to the characteristic dress, to tattooing, scarification, filed or blackened teeth, flattened head, and other voluntary alterations and deformations of the body. Mrs. Gray remarks in this connection:

A Chinese lady looks elegant until she moves, when she loses all grace to our eyes (not though to the Chinese, who consider the gait of a smallfooted woman most elegant), as she hobbles about supporting herself on the arm of an attendant.[9]

On the other hand the oriental regards some of our fashions with equal horror: The dress of oriental women is designed to conceal the figure while that of our women is designed to accentuate it.

To an Oriental a corset, which increases the waist line and the plasticity of the figure, is the extreme of indecency—far worse than nudity. It seems like an application of the art of the courtesan to appeal to sensuality. [10]

These skin and other surface prejudices are, however, really in a sense superficial, wearing off with long-continued familiarity. The Egyptian women are slender, and that type is preferred by the men, and the slender form is praised in Egyptian love songs, but the Egyptian who long resides among the corpulent and unctuous black women of Africa comes to prefer their color and their form. Livingstone and Stanley both report in this connec-

(732)-tion that they were much shocked at the cadaverous appearance of whites after a long residence among blacks. [11]

This same degree of preference and prejudice exists in the region of social habits. Aversions in this connection are well): illustrated by the food tabus. Food prejudices have no logical basis, but are the result of group usage. Not to speak of our unreasonable aversion to horse and dog flesh, in the face of our consumption of swine, cannibalism, the strongest of all our food tabus, is very superficial in its nature. Those who practice it do so with complete naivete and those who do not can become accommodated to the practice when circumstances force them to begin it. [12]

One of the most striking features of these race aversions, however, is their violent and uncompromising character under the ordinary run of habit and their rapid and complete conversion into their opposites when some advantage in the way of distinction or security is involved in the new attitude.

The negro loses his prejudice against the white skin in America and seeks to acquire it. Slaves returning to Sierra Leone in 1820 assumed the role of whites, even called themselves white, and the natives "bush riggers." The successful activity of the white stimulated them to acquire, if possible, the signs of whiteness. Similarly the Japanese for fifty years have been diligently acquiring our habits, with the view of equaling our activities, and in the degree that they showed ability equal to ours along our own lines we began to have a fellow-feeling for them, and even a very warm admiration. They looked charming to us in their own country, and we were progressing toward social, political, commercial, and matrimonial alliances with them, when the genial currents of our soul were frozen by the discovery that they were dangerous. In our own country they are better fruit growers and farmers than we are and their standard of living is lower. They are therefore a menace, and there begins to be a

(733) reinstatement of the hate attitude, especially on our western coast; but it is to be noted that this feeling is now rather a class prejudice, based on economic fear, than the original race prejudice.

It is usually held that the conflict of races is fundamentally economic, and in a proximate sense this is true. The bulk of conflict has always turned on food and on the territory involving the food supply. But it is important to note in the first place, that gregariousness and tribal organization have both been the outgrowth of the fact that food is secured to better advantage in combination than in isolation, and in the second place that in the early forms of society, as in the later, there has always been an eagerness to establish trade connections with outsiders, even when no thought of any other connection was entertained. In many cases trade has been carried on between savage tribes who were unable to overcome their fear and prejudice sufficiently to meet each other, and who secured interchange of commodities either through the mediation of an old woman, or by depositing wares at a given point and leaving them, with an indication of the price. The other party either accepted the proposition and left goods in payment, or left notice of a counter proposition and temporarily retired. In many cases also trade relations were kept up between savage tribes actually at war, it being agreed that traders from either tribe would not be molested. The whole history of the relation of England and China has likewise been a remarkable anti almost comic illustration of the fact that two groups instinctively antipathetic may yet feel driven to come into economic relations. The establishment of the "Co-Hong," as a trade intermediary between these two countries and the employment of the old woman as a go-between in savage tribes are, in fact, the same type of mediation. I take it that the whole history of trade is an experiential expression of the fact that wider relations really mean greater security on the food side; and I see no reason either why there should be any limitation to the operation of the principle, under proper control, short of the inclusion of the population of the whole world. The question of economic adjustment is merely a particular phase of the question

of adjustment in general, and this is after all a question of mental conditions. The mind is the organ of adjustment, and it is in conditions of consciousness that we must look both for the origin and the resolution race race conflict.

When we come, then, to examine this question on the side of consciousness, we find that when the mind of the group has a certain degree of homogeneousness there is little tendency to change and little conflict. In animal societies we find a stable equilibrium, because the consciousness is instinctive, representing typical reactions to habitually recurring types of situation. In the family, as it is constituted among ourselves, consciousness is relatively uniform and conflict is reduced to a minimum. Similarly, early tribal society and the half-cultural stages represented by China, and by Japan before her awakening, have a relatively uniform and simple consciousness. The basis of life is habitual, and the traditional stimuli are mandatory. Such peoples are not distinguished by the transmission of a body of scientific knowledge to the younger generation, but by their insistence on certain traditions and forms which are deeply stamped on the character of every individual. Less plasticity and originality are thus secured but greater conformity and solidarity. The population acts as one man, but it is not an intelligent population, because habits of skepticism, dissent, and change are absent. Their solidarity is gained at the expense of plasticity, and is based on the activity of the spinal cord rather than the cerebral cortex. We may suspect indeed that some groups remain stationary primarily because the fixation of habit so essential to groupwise action has been overdone, and the power of change lost.

The scientific and speculative habits which lead to skepticism, dissent, and change are particularly difficult where a people has reached a considerable level of culture, as in the case of the Hindus, the Chinese, and the Jews, where a theocratic or aristocratic form of government tends to consecrate and perpetuate old habits, or where the oral word is reinforced by the written record. Such a people is inclined to associate its grandeur, of

(735) whatever type that may be, with its characteristic habits and to identify its very existence with their perpetuation.

The persistence of the Jews as a peculiar people in the midst of Christian states can be explained only if we have in mind the fact that they have carried with them the extremely formal ritual of the Old Testament and persisted in its practice among a people peculiarly inhospitable to begin with -- on account of the association of this race with the death of Jesus. The result is that the Jew has preserved his characteristic forms and his characteristic consciousness, to such a degree that even today Kosher kitchens are being installed on the great ocean liners. In contrast with this the European peasant, having no great past and anxious to get away from his past whatever it may be, becomes characteristically American in the second generation.

In contrast with the eastern, the western nations have the habit of change. We are the people of the "multiple hypothesis." We have an experimental method in science, with a large body of general ideas, and their application in different practical fields, and we have the historical method, enabling us to see principles behind a mass of details. The white nations are also all well advanced toward the democratic regime, which means at bottom that freedom of action and a reasonable protection in such a course secures more invention in every sense of the word, and a consequent increase in power. With the cortex in control, in the possession of many general and useful scientific notions, and with a premium on invention, we are rapidly increasing our control at least over the inorganic world.

But on the social side we are not doing well. The common consciousness developed in tribal society through the participation o f all in enterprises involving common food and common defense, has been destroyed by the enlargement of the group beyond tribal proportions, the differentiation of occupations and the division of labor, we have a divided consciousness. l he old instinctive solidarity developed largely through activities of the spinal cord has been broken up and has been only incompletely restored through the operations of the cortex. The human mind is a very precious possession, but it is also a very dangerous one.


Its exercise implies the breaking up of old habits, both those growing out of animal instinct and those established through "folk- thought," and the interval between the disturbance and the reaccommodation is necessarily one of and laissez faire.

There is at present a general disturbance of consciousness and failure of ideals among ourselves, indicated by the manipulation of the many by the few in industrial life, by the failure of many, indeed of most, to command the leisure and the access to copies which would develop their characteristic powers, by the fact that the reproductive life is so little controlled that idiots and imbeciles are increasing at a more rapid rate in some localities than the normal population, while at the same time the half of the population consisting of women is largely excluded from constructive work and given over to the vanities.

That control, indeed, which we have regained in our enlarged society is almost wholly through mechanical aids, and these are applied to the human environment with the precision and ruthlessness which characterizes their application to the inorganic world. We have freed our slaves, recognizing in this that no man is an alien, to be treated as an economic value, as we treat inanimate things. But psychologically speaking our population is still divided into alien classes and the negro is not only still in virtual slavery, but the capitalistic manipulator treats the laborer and the public as inanimate things, possessing only economic value -- or is only just beginning not to do so.

It appears, therefore, that our class problem and our race problem are at bottom the same thing, differing only in degree. The disparity in consciousness is greater between races than between classes, and in addition our race-prejudice and tribal arrogance survive and inhibit human reactions toward the oriental and the negro, cutting them out of our system and leaving them completely alien. At the same time the oriental is getting possession of our system or of that part of it which is superior to his own from the standpoint of control, and we begin to feel that our civilization is threatened. Owing to ease of communication a rapid movement of integration is going on,

(737) and while all people will not rapidly become of one blood, they are with the swiftness of thought becoming of one consciousness. In the hands of one alien race white methods are having a more complete and rigid application than we have been able to make of them, and we begin to fear that we have raised a devil which we cannot lay. On the score of hard labor and a low standard of living we cannot compete with the oriental, and the oriental world is large enough to overwhelm us and smite us with a sword which we have put into his hands. And when we reflect that if a world- conflict for racial supremacy arises, all the colored races of the world will inevitably combine against the white, and that the yellow and black races are even now vaguely contemplating such a combination, we may well be affrighted.

I cannot here rehearse the historical relations of the West and the East, but in any comparison of the Orient and Occident we must not disregard the fact that we are in the habit of overestimating our own superiority, and ignoring traits of the oriental which have value either from his standpoint or in point of fact. We have a passion for change, the oriental has a profound respect for permanence.

China is one of the oldest and most respectable nations in the world. Her moral and social systems are in some points superior to our own. She is inclined to peace and is the mother of useful arts. Her people are the most industrious in the world anti feel least the irksomeness of labor. What superiority we possess over them we owe to the habit of looking for the general law behind particular details, a trick which we caught from the Greeks, who perhaps themselves caught it from Asia, and bettered the instruction. Our advancement is slight, except in the development of a control of nature. In the slums of our great cities and in the lot of our very poor we present a spectacle more unrelieved of misery than can be found in China or perhaps in the whole world. Historically also our demonstrations toward China have been both so good and so bad, and withal so inconsistent, that her attitude toward us has necessarily remained suspicious and hostile. The operations of General Gor-

(738)-don in suppressing the Tai-ping rebellion gave her a profound impression of power and justice, but must at the same time have excited her fears; while our magnanimity in connection with the famine of 1878 was more than offset by our action in forcing her to continue tile opium traffic, our seizure of her territory, and our exclusion of her citizens.

From the standpoint of China we are an upstart, bullying an older and dignified nation. She loves peace, but she is obliged to prepare for war. We have hectored her until like an elderly and retiring citizen beset by young Hooligans she is reluctantly arming herself. That Christian civilization should force a great and peaceful people to devote its resources to the imitation of our hideous preparation for war is a mockery and a debauchery and that is the view the Chinese take of it.

The case of Japan is different. She was not debauched, at lease not in the fighting line. She went on a spree in the 80's and adopted the French corset, the code Napoleon (the latter with modifications), and other European habits which did not represent the genius of her national life, but it was only a spree, and she is coming to her senses. On the fighting side Japan has had a history very similar to that of Europe. She had the same feudalism, the same wars between great houses, and a system of Bushido closely resembling the fighting side of our chivalry, but of so finished and exquisite detail that chivalry looks coarse beside it. Moreover Japan is young, almost as young as we are, and her habits were more broken up in course of the historical changes through which she had passed. Her modernity enabled her to see the advantage of our science and firearms. When Commodore Perry made a demonstration of them she said on the spot: "We must have them." She was already the fighting cock of the Far East and was easily lessoned in the fighting line. No nation indeed ever accepts anything from another unless it is ready for it. A jump from savagery to civilization would be like a jump from arithmetic to calculus, and could not be made. Japan was ready and waiting. The colony is always more ready to change than the mother country -- the very fact of movement in space and the new accommodations

(739) involved set up a habit of change -- and both Europeans and Japanese are, I take it, colonists from Asia.

At the same time Japan has a juster appreciation of the elements of grandeur in Chinese civilization than we have anti is actually deriving her moral and aesthetic stimulations from China, or is beginning to turn back to China and away from us. China is the Greece of Japan.

In spite of all this, we have the grand advantage of being in possession of general ideas and of the habit of developing general ideas, and these are the secret of progress.

While we are working under strain, I cannot think that we are in danger of making a failure. Psychology teaches us that what a situation dominated by habit or by inadequate ideas needs is shock; and this, at any rate, is coming from the Orient. The mind is never inclined to work up to the limit of its capacity unless a strain is thrown on the attention through the failure of old habits to work satisfactorily; and it is probable that in connection with the disturbance of western habits by pressure from the East, stimulation will not only be provided for a recommendation which will avert catastrophe in that direction but also for a radical revision of our western civilization.

Human progress seems much to resemble the principle of change of type called by De Vries mutation. Contrary to the old theory held by Linnaeus, that nature never makes a leap, De Vries holds that specific changes in nature are always by leaps. In human society also some crisis or incident -- the emergence of a great man, of a new mechanical force, of an idea like liberty, the discovery of a new continent or the impingement of one group upon another -- causes a new focusing of attention, new directions of energy, new strains, new ideas, and a leap in progress. The history of mankind shows also that a large group is favorable to progress. Invention in mental life corresponds to variation in nature, and in both cases change is favored if the scale of operations is enlarged. Isolation not only does not provide the proper stimulation and suggestion, but results in a hardening of habits and

(740) aversion to change. With every extension of intercourse --as in the case of the contact of central Europe with Greece and the addition of America to the old world -- there follows a change of pace and of copies. But America and Europe, Europe and Greece, represent essentially the same type of life, and the younger group has had no stimulation to depart from the copies of the old. The contact of Orient and Occident means a world-wide enlargement of environment, richer not only in the raw stuffs for new social and mental constructs, but in the stimulations to work out these constructs. On the theory of probabilities, the vast population of China and the fresh and brilliant minds of the Mikado's empire, unprepossessed by western habits, and their vision unobscured by western blindspots, but possessed of western ideas and equipped with western standpoint, will contribute materials which will tend at once to unify and to enrich our common consciousness.

"There is that scattereth and yet increaseth." Ideas tend to disturb habits, but it is ideas which again establish habits of a larger content. The failure of a group to progress is due to the failure of crises to break up old habits, and the decadence of a group which has once made progress is due to the failure to produce ideas rapidly enough or to disseminate them widely enough to accommodate to the strain introduced through internal change or external shock. The downfall of the Roman Empire, for instance, is popularly attributed to luxury, but was it not rather due to the fact that the means of communication, especially printing, were not developed to the point of reconstructing the consciousness of the rapidly inflowing barbarian population? We are safe because we have the habit of seeking change. We produce our own crises, and we have the means of communicating the resulting ideas rapidly and universally.

While it is evident that increasing communication between the white and yellow races means more strains, new accommodations, new ideas, a fuller and richer consciousness, and a more rational control, it is, I think, impossible to predict the precise steps which will be taken in further development, or the order in which these steps will be taken.

(741) We have, however, a general indication of the method of progress in the history of general ideas, and in the fact that a people may become dominated by useful ideas almost to the point of mania, and to the exclusion of non-useful or harmful interests. The Germans, became obsessed by the idea of research early in the last century, and their results have contributed incalculably to the increase of rational control. The newest branch of sociology, eugenics or conscious race-culture, has possibilities of race amelioration second, perhaps, to no other single science, if only it can once possess the minds of men, push out the flimsy, tawdry, formal, and ostentatious ideals of society life, inspire the world with the idea of children untainted alike in body and mind, and purify the race by the elimination of the insane, the idiotic, the diseased from birth or from excess, and the habitual criminal.

And if also the ideas implied in eugenics come to the front and touch our imaginations, the production of new, beautiful, and superior types by the mixture of races will be watched with scientific interest and even with artistic enthusiasm. From this point of view race differences will become a trait of attraction rather than repulsion, and all sentiments about the life or death of any particular group will fade out of the feelings. Or rather, our prepossess ions and repugnances will be constantly reforming with different contents, but with that degree of open-mindedness which characterizes our adhesion to and dissent from scientific theories. For I myself do not look for the elimination of personal, sectional, and racial difference in type and feeling, nor do I think such a consummation a thing to be wished. Variety is itself a delight. Difference, dissent, and conflict answer to our psychological make- up and are bound up with our stimulations. But that degree of consciousness of kind represented by advocates at law who "fight manfully and eat and drink as friends" will leave our emotions running high without rendering us too soft for practical purposes.

Both ethnology and trial by combat have demonstrated that the Oriental is not our inferior by endowment, but only by habit. In some respects, indeed, he is not our inferior at all. On the emotional side he is our superior, as we are his superior on

(742) the intellectual side. And from the standpoint of the reconstruction of our own consciousness the yellow races are of far greater immediate significance to us than the black. The Black race as a whole is so completely out of our class and has so completely failed to develop any values peculiar to itself that we find it difficult to have intellectual commerce with it, even when it is near at hand. The unlike-mindedness of the white and yellow races is very great also but the difference is one of kind, not degree, and culture finds its way across on the same level more easily than it works up and down. I think it is not improbable, therefore, that the yellow peril will not only provide us with stimulation for the reformation of our own consciousness but that the practice work in that connection -- the technique of transformation thus developed and the softening of our prejudices -- will put us in the way of handling the black question also. I recognize that the great masses of the negro are just above the threshold of the brute in consciousness but I believe this is a defect of copies more than of mental machinery. I am aware also that you cannot hustle the East, and that racial repugnance seems to us to be rooted in our nature almost as deep as appetite itself. But the capacity of the mind and feelings to adjust to changing conditions is almost without limit. To acquire the degree of like-mindedness which will secure the pursuit of life under conditions fair to all, will of course require time; but when ideas are once set in the saddle they ride very fast, and while the unification of human consciousness may not be a matter of a few generations, and probably will not be, it may well be accomplished within a period of historical rather than geological time.


  1. Rochet, Sentences, Maximes et Proverbes Mantchoux et Mongols, p. 62.
  2. Ibid., p. 111.
  3. The Zambesi and its Tributaries, p. 181.
  4. Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvolker, English translation, Vol. I, p. 263.
  5. Marco Polo, The Book of Marco Polo concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, Book III, chap. 18.
  6. Crawfurd, History of the Indian Archipelago, Vol. I, p. 23.
  7. Cf. Pallas, in Prichard, Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, 4th ea., Vol. IV, p. 519.
  8. Waitz, Op. cit., Vol. I, p, 305.
  9. Fourteen Months in Canton, p, 51
  10. Cf. Vamberry, Sittenbilder aus dem Morgenlande, p. 49, quoted by Sumner, Folkways, p. 426.
  11. Livingstone, loc. cit., p. 379; Stanley, Through the Dark Continent, Vol. II, p. 462.
  12. Steinmentz, "Endo-Kannibalismus," Mittheilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft im Wien, Vol. XXVI, pp. I ff.

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