Fights between individuals, as well as
governments and nations, invariably result from misunderstandings in the
broadest interpretation of this term. Misunderstandings are always
caused by the inability of appreciating one another's point of view.
This again is due to the ignorance of those concerned, not so much in
their own, as in their mutual fields. The peril of a
clash is aggravated by a more or less predominant sense of
combativeness, posed by every human being. To resist this inherent
fighting tendency the best way is to dispel ignorance of the doings of
others by a systematic spread of general knowledge. With this
object in view, it is most important to aid exchange of thought and
Mutual understanding would
be immensely facilitated by the use of one universal tongue. But
which shall it be, is the great question. At present it looks as
if the English might be adopted as such, though it must be admitted that
it is not the most suitable. Each language, of course, excels in
some feature. The English lends itself to a terse, forceful
expression of facts. The French is precise and finely distinctive.
The Italian is probably the most melodious and easiest to learn.
The Slavic tongues are very rich in sound but extremely difficult to
master. The German is unequaled in the facility it offers for
coining and combining words. A practical answer to that momentous
question must perforce be found in times to come, for it is manifest
that by adopting one common language the onward march of man would be
prodigiously quickened. I do not believe that an artificial
concoction, like Volapuk, will ever find universal acceptance, however
time-saving it might be. That would be contrary to human nature.
Languages have grown into our hearts. I rather look to the
possibility of a reversion to the old Latin or Greek mother tongues,
basing myself in this conclusion on the Spencerian law of rhythm [see
First Principles]. It seems unfortunate that the
English-speaking nations, who are now fittest to rule the world, while
endowed with extraordinary energy and practical intelligence, are
singularly wanting in linguistic talent.
Next to speech we must
consider permanent records of all kinds as a means for disseminating
general information, or that knowledge of mutual endeavor which
is chiefly conducive to harmony. Here the newspapers play by far
the most important part. They are undoubtedly more effective than
institutions of learning, libraries, museums and individual
correspondence, all combined. The knowledge they convey is, on the
whole, superficial and sometimes defective, but it is poured out in a
mighty stream that reaches far and wide. Disregarding the force of
electrical invention, that of journalism is the greatest in urging
peace. Our schools are instrumental, mainly, in the furtherance of
special thorough knowledge in our own fields, which is
destructive of concordance. A world composed of crass specialists
only would be perpetually at war. The diffusion of general
knowledge through libraries and similar sources of information is very
slow. As to individual correspondence, it is principally useful as
an indispensable ingredient of the cement of commercial interest, that
most powerful binding material between heterogeneous masses of humanity.
It would be hard to overestimate the beneficial influence of the
marvelous and precise art of photography, nor can that of other arts or
means of recording be ignored. But a simple reflection will show
that the peace-making force of all permanent, printed, printed or other
records, resides not in themselves. It must be sought elsewhere.
This is also true of speech.