Chapter Eleven. The Japanese Smile
'Order or disorder in a nation does not depend upon some-thing that falls from the sky or rises from the earth. It is determined by the disposition of the people. The pivot on which the public disposition turns towards order or disorder is the point where public and private motives separate. If the people be influenced chiefly by public considerations, order is assured; if by private, disorder is inevitable. Public considerations are those that prompt the proper observance of duties; their prevalence signifies peace and prosperity in the case alike of families, communities, and nations. Private considerations are those suggested by selfish motives: when they prevail, disturbance and disorder are unavoidable. As members of a family, our duty is to look after the welfare of that family; as units of a nation, our duty is to work for the good of the nation. To regard our family affairs with all the interest due to our family and our national affairs with all the interest due to our nation - this is to fitly discharge our duty, and to be guided by public considerations. On the other hand, to regard the affairs of the nation as if they were our own family affairs - this is to be influenced by private motives and to stray from the path of duty. ...
'Selfishness is born in every man; to indulge it freely is to become a beast. Therefore it is that sages preach the principles of duty and propriety, justice and morality, providing restraints for private aims and encouragements for public spirit.. . . . What we know of Western civilisation is that it struggled on through long centuries in a confused condition and finally attained a state of some order; but that even this order, not being based upon such principles as those of the natural and immutable distinctions between sovereign and subject, parent and child, with all their corresponding rights and duties, is liable to constant change according to the growth of human ambitions and human aims. Admirably suited to persons whose actions are controlled by selfish ambition, the adoption of this system in Japan is naturally sought by a certain class of politicians. From a superficial point of view, the Occidental form of society is very attractive, inasmuch as, being the outcome of a free development of human desires from ancient times, it represents the very extreme of luxury and extravagance. Briefly speaking, the state of things obtaining in the West is based upon the free play of human selfishness, and can only be reached by giving full sway to that quality. Social disturbances are little heeded in the Occident; yet they are at once the evidences and the factors of the present evil state of affairs. . . . Do Japanese enamoured of Western ways propose to have their nation's history written in similar terms? Do they seriously contemplate turning their country into a new field for experiments in Western civilisation? . . .
'In the Orient, from ancient times, national government has been based on benevolence, and directed to securing the welfare and happiness of the people. No political creed has ever held that intellectual strength should be cultivated for the purpose of exploiting inferiority and ignorance. . . . The inhabitants of this empire live, for the most part, by manual labour. Let them be never so industrious, they hardly earn enough to supply their daily wants. They earn on the average about twenty sen daily. There is no question with them of aspiring to wear fine clothes or to inhabit handsome houses. Neither can they hope to reach positions of fame and honour. What offence have these poor people committed that they, too, should not share the benefits of Western civilisation? . . . By some, indeed, their condition is explained on the hypothesis that their desires do not prompt them to better themselves. There is no truth in such a supposition. They have desires, but nature has limited their capacity to satisfy them; their duty as men limits it, and the amount of labour physically possible to a human being limits it. They achieve as much as their opportunities permit. The best and finest products of their labour they reserve for the wealthy; the worst and roughest they keep for their own use. Yet there is nothing in human society that does not owe its existence to labour. Now, to satisfy the desires of one luxurious man, the toil of a thousand is needed. Surely it is monstrous that those who owe to labour the pleasures suggested by their civilisation should forget what they owe to the labourer, and treat him as if he were not a fellow-being. But civilisation, according to the interpretation of the Occident, serves only to satisfy men of large desires. It is of no benefit to the masses, but is simply a system under which ambitions compete to accomplish their aims. . . . That the Occidental system is gravely disturbing to. the order and peace of a country is seen by men who have eyes, and heard by men who have ears. The future of Japan under such a system fills us with anxiety. A system based on the principle that ethics and religion are made to serve human ambition naturally accords with the wishes of selfish individuals; and such theories as those embodied in the modem formula of liberty and equality annihilate the established relations of society, and outrage decorum and propriety. . . .