The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
II. The Future
II. The Future
The Pacific Ocean was untraversable except by the only oceanic navigators, the Polynesians, till the mariner's compass came into universal use. Then the peoples that faced oceans began to cross them; and, when steam displaced sail, even the coastal peoples of inland seas have become oceanic. And now the greatest ocean in the world is about to lose its isolation and will ultimately become the busiest. For round it are gathering the advanced races of the world; and the day is not far distant when half mankind will occupy its shores. In late palaeolithic and in neolithic times Caucasian, Mongol and Negroid mingled and blended on its Asiatic coasts and islands. Now they and the cross-breeds face each other in sullen silence and reciprocal quarantine, the more primitive races as a rule fading away, the more advanced struggling for the mastery and waiting events. All page 99 feel consciously or subconsciously that this ocean is going to be the great arena of history. The Suez and Panama canals are the concrete expression of this truth. Here have come into conflict the Western and Eastern ideals, and here must the struggle between them be fought out. The difference between them seems unbridgeable because of their long isolation by mountain and plateau when they were in process of developing.
It is only superficially that color and physiognomy divide the cultivated races. The fundamental differences are economical and social. The religious differences are rather phases and results of these, and are intertwined with both.
In our modern world the economic difference is by far the most important; it is the gap between the Eastern standard of comfort and the Western that makes the two stand so far apart. The long quarantine of Oriental labor in its three great centers, China, India and Japan, dragged the standard down into the closest proximity to starvation; nothing but periodical famines and plagues, sweeping out their millions, made any progress, even the most infinitesimal, possible. When the bulk of a people are at the intermittent mercy of these two brooms of humanity, there must be stagnation, in spite of occasional spurts of progress. To admit this Eastern standard into immediate competition with the Western would end in dragging the latter down more than raising the former up. Western nations must, in order to save themselves from the long stagnation of the East, exclude Eastern labor till its standard is greatly raised. That this process of elevation has begun we can see. In India famines and plagues, thanks to British rule, have no longer the omnipotence they had; and education and Western manufacture and markets are raising the value and wages of labor. On the coasts of China the process has begun and it will slowly spread inland. In Japan it is well on its way; strikes are weekly occurrences, because of the expansion of experience and ideas by contact with the West.
Almost as important a differentiation of ideal is the position of woman. All these Eastern centers still abase her not page 100 only in social but in household life. This is perhaps the more patent difference in ideals; but it is not the more potent; for the Western emancipation of woman is comparatively recent; what made it easy was the monogamy of Western peoples. The process will be longer in the East because of the long recognition and approval of polygamy. It has already begun in Japan, and the big schoolhouse one sees in every village will accelerate it, and admit Japan ultimately into the social comity of nations. There can be no real admixture of the races till the position of woman in the household is as secure in Japan as in the West. In India and China the process will be much more prolonged because they are not insular, and hence are not easily opened to foreign influences and ideas. But the growth of Western education in both is quickening the life and will lead to vast social and political changes.
Japan is the only Eastern nation that the Western people on the Pacific have to fear; for she has Westernized most efficiently in arts, sciences and armaments. But with the advantages of Westernism she must take, and is rapidly taking, its defects; in her future wars there will be less patriotism, less concentration of power and less national plasticity. And meantime her hands are so full with Korea and Manchuria and the development of her own resources and wealth that it would be madness on her part to seek a conflict with any great power. Her last conflict has left her too exhausted financially to admit of another of the sort for a century at least, except to save her life. And at her doors there is a potentiality that will strain her energies for centuries,—the labor quarry, the coal and iron fields and the markets of China. And there undoubtedly she will have to watch with an interested eye the death throes of the Manchu dynasty within a generation, and will doubtless be called in as bedside physician, if not heir. Her clear duty is to keep free of all entanglements and conflicts at a distance in order to reserve and concentrate her energy for the great tasks that lie to her hand. Under her guidance the process of levelling up Eastern standards, economical and social page 101 to proximity to those of the West will grow quicker. And within a definite number of centuries man may see the Pacific again the blender of his races and the assimilator of his racial ideals.