Again -- The Dragon's Teeth
Post-War Note on the Fruits of Intolerance
By ROBERT M. MacIVER
There was a French philosopher and sociologist who said: "All I owe to you, I owe to myself. What I do for you, I do for myself. What I do against you, I do against myself." These words contain the core of the lesson we must seek to learn.
The greatest peril of modern society is the exclusiveness of group against group, in which the stronger groups shut out the weaker from sharing the benefits and opportunities of the commonwealth, in which the stronger grow proud and hard and intolerant and prejudiced, depriving their common humanity, in which the weaker groups grow bitter and frustrated. So that on all sides rancor increases, and the energies of men are turned from creativeness to destructiveness, from cooperation and gain to universal loss. And the consummation of this evil thing is here before our eyes, the final inhumanity of man to man.
Let us ask ourselves; What have the intolerant gained from their intolerance? What have the persecutors reaped after the persecution? They have gained the most terrible of all retributions, such ruin upon ruin as has never been visited on a country since civilization began. What they did against all groups but their own, they did against themselves. The same law holds, though it may wait its time, though the persecutors may triumph for a season. Hatred breeds hatred as fear breeds fear. Men sow the dragon's teeth, and the dragons at last arise and devour them.
Our Spotted Record
But let us not look only at Europe, where the dragons have finished their job. Let us look at ourselves. We, too, as a people, as men and women, are guilty. We, too, practice the exclusiveness of the grout); we, too, discriminate, discriminate grossly; we, too, reject difference and deny it equal rights. We, too, sow the dragon seed.
Even when we fight against its fruits we are fostering their growth. The evil is widespread among us. In every part of this land there is prejudice and strong intolerance, and on the other side there is frustration and there is fear. The Jewish people suffer much from it. The Negro suffers grievously. Many other groups suffer in varying degree. There is perilous indoctrination, there is pernicious propaganda. It is not confined to the rabble of Silver Shirts and Cough-linists and their kind. It flourishes in the most respectable quarters.
Sometimes it is soft and insidious and whispering, sometimes it is loud-voiced.
Can we bring home to them, to the respectable, to the complacent, the lesson of Europe? Can we teach them that they, too, in their respectability and in their pride, are guilty? Can we teach them to see something that touches themselves? Can we ever teach them to say as they look on the ravagers of Europe, what a good Scottish divine said when he saw a criminal led to the scaffold, "There, but for the grace of God, go I? "
We should seek to make this an object-lesson in a great campaign. There are strong forces on our side, too. The anti-discrimination law of New York state is a splendid achievement.* Similar laws are in effect in a number of states, and are being considered in others. But we must attack on other fronts as well. In Europe, a spirit of intolerance and discrimination brought destruction upon its perpetrators. Yet even as we fought to burn away the evil growth of hatred there, we continued to sow the seeds of hatred here and still do! In these excerpts from a speech by Robert MacIver, a Columbia University Professor, (reported in NOW) the query is put: "Can we bring home the lesson of Europe?"
Above all, we must attack on the educational front. In the last resort we must trust to social education, and we must muster our forces to reform our education everywhere to this end, in the school and in the home and in the church and in the exclusive club. We should and we can maintain a great continuous educational assault upon the forces of darkness.
There is urgent need for it. We have never tried it. Now is the time. There is another and even harder victory to win, a victory of the mind not of the sword. For this fight we have never yet formed our ranks.
We shall be fighting for the truth, for the brotherhood of man, for the well-being and the unity of our land. If we keep these banners before us we shall conquer in the end.
Return to Index