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desert in yourself which no one, even in your own family has ever fully recognized? True, you have your faults, but, unlike the faults of so many other people, they are the defects of your qualities. And then there is in you a sensitiveness, a delicacy of perception, a baffled creative faculty even, in fact, an unrealized genius, which might any day realize itself to the surprise of a stupid world. Of all this you never speak; and in that you are like everyone else in the stupid world; for all mankind shares with you, dumbly, this sense of their own profound desert and unexpressed genius; and if, by some ring of Solomon or other talisman, we were suddenly forced to speak out the truth, we should all proclaim our genius without listening to each other.
I, for my part, believe in it, believe that it does exist, not only in myself, but in all men, and the men of acknowledged genius are those who have found a technique for realizing it. I say realizing, because, until it is expressed in some kind of action, it does not fully exist; and the egos of most of us are exorbitant, however much we may suppress their outward manifestations, because they do not succeed in getting themselves born. The word in us is never made flesh; we stammer and bluster with it, we seethe and simmer within; and, though we may submit to a life of routine and suppression, the submission is not of the whole self: it is imposed on us by the struggle for life and for business purposes: and, unknown to ourselves, the exorbitant, because unexpressed, unsatisfied ego finds a vent somehow and somewhere.
Self-esteem is the consolation we offer to the self because it cannot, by full expression, win esteem from others. Each one of us is to the self like a fond mother to her least gifted son: we make up to it for the indifference of the world;
but not consciously, for in conscious selfesteem there is no consolation. If I said to myself, 'No one else esteems me; therefore I will practise self-esteem, the very statement would make the practice impossible. It must be done unconsciously and indirectly, if it is to be done at all and to give us any satisfaction. Most of us have now enough psychology to detect ourselves in the practice of self-esteem, unless it is very cunningly disguised: and, what is more, we are quick to detect each other. It is, indeed, a convention of our society, and a point of good manners, to conceal our self-seteem from others, and even from ourselves, by a number of instinctive devices. One of the chief of these is our humor, much of which consists of selfdepreciation, expressed or implied; and we delight in it in spite of the subtle warning of Doctor Johnson, who said, 'Never believe a man when he runs himself down; he only does it to show how much he has to spare.'
By all these devices we persuade ourselves that we have got rid of the exorbitant ego, that we live in a happy, free, civilized, de-egotized world. We are not troubled by the contrast between our personal modesty and our national boasting, because we are not aware of the connection between them. But the connection, I believe, exists; the national boasting proves that we have not got rid of our self-esteem, but only pooled it, so that we may still enjoy and express it, if only in an indirect and not fully satisfying manner. The pooling is a pis-aller, like the floating of a limited company when you have not enough capital to finance some enterprise of your own; but it is the best we can do with an egotism that is only suppressed and disguised, not transmuted.
If I have an exorbitant opinion of myself, it is continually criticized and thwarted by external criticism; I learn, therefore, not to express it, and even
that I have it; but all the while I am seeking, unconsciously, for some means by which I can give it satisfaction. It becomes impossible for me to believe that I am a wonder in the face of surrounding incredulity; so I seek for something, seeming not to be myself, that I can believe to be a wonder, without arousing criticism or incredulity; in fact, something which others also believe to be a wonder, because it seems to them not to be themselves.
There are many such things, but the largest, the most convincing, and the most generally believed in, is Our Country. A man may, to some extent, pool his self-esteem in his family; but the moment he goes out into the world, he is subject to external criticism and incredulity. Or he may pool it in his town; but, as I have heard, the Bostonian-born is subject to the criticism and incredulity of the inhabitants of other towns. What, therefore, we need, and what we get, is a something which at the same time distinguishes us from a great part of the human race, and yet is shared by nearly all those with whom we come in contact. That we find in our country; and in our country we do most successfully and unconsciously pool our self-esteem. True, there are other countries also pooling their self-esteem in the same way, and apt to criticize us and to question our preeminence; but they are far away and we can think of them as an absurd, degenerate horde or rabble; we can look at their newspapers and cartoons in our own atmosphere, and laugh at them securely. They have, indeed, a useful function in the heightening of our own pooled self-esteem; for we are able, from a distance, to compare ourselves, en masse, with them, and to feel how fortunate we are, with a kind of hereditary merit, to be born different from them —
When Britain first, at Heaven's command,
then also it was the command of Heaven that we should in due course be born Britons, and share in the glory of the mariners of England who guard our native seas; and there is not one of us who, crossing from Dover to Calais for the first time, does not feel that he is more at home on his native seas than any seasick Frenchman.
All this is amusing enough to Americans in an Englishman, or to Englishmen in an American; but it is also very dangerous. In fact, it is the chief danger that threatens our civilization, that prevents it from being civilized, and so, secure. We are all aware of private vices, even of individual self-esteem and its dangers; but this great common vice, this pooled self-esteem, we still consider a virtue and encourage it by all means in our power. And this we do because we are not aware of its true nature and causes. We think that it is disinterested, when it is only the starved ego, consoling itself with a pis-aller; we suppose that it is necessary to the national existence, when the Germans have just proved to us that it may ruin a most prosperous nation. Still we confuse it with real patriotism, which is love of something not ourselves, of our own people and city and our native fields, and which, being love, does not in the least insist that that which is loved is superior to other things, or people, unloved because unknown. We know that where there is real affection, there is not this rivalry or enmity; no man, because he loves his wife, makes domestically patriotic songs about her, proclaiming that she is superior to all other wives; nor does he hate or despise the wives of other men. In true love there is no selfesteem, pooled or latent, but rather it increases the capacity for love; it makes the loving husband see the good in all women; and he would as soon boast of his own wife as a religious man would boast of his God.
So the true love of country may be clearly distinguished from the patriotism that is pooled self-esteem, by many symptoms. For the patriotism that is pooled self-esteem, though it make a man boast of his country, does not make him love his countrymen. Germans, for instance, before the war, showed no great love of other Germans, however much they might sing 'Deutschland über Alles'; and in England, the extreme Jingoes, or nationalists, are always reviling their countrymen for not making themselves enough of a nuisance to the rest of the world. To them the British Empire is an abstraction, something to be boasted about and intrigued for; but real, living Englishmen are, for the most part, unworthy of it. Their patriotism, because it is pooled self-esteem, manifests itself in hatred rather than in love; just because it cannot declare itself for what it is, because it is suppressed and diverted, its symptoms are always negative rather than positive. For, being suppressed and diverted, it can never find full satisfaction like the positive passion of love. So it turns from one object of hate to another, and from one destructive aim to another. Germany was the enemy and Germany is vanquished; another enemy must be found, another danger scented; and there are always enough patriots in every country, suffering from pooled self-esteem, to hail each other as enemies, and to play the game of mutual provocation.
So no league of nations, no polite speeches of kings and presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors, will keep us from hating each other and feeling good when we do so, unless we can attain to enough self-knowledge to understand why it is that we hate each other, and to see that this mutual hate and boasting are but a suppressed and far more dangerous form of that vanity which we have learned, at least, not to betray in our personal relations. In fact, the only
thing that can end war is psychology applied to its proper purpose of selfknowledge and self-control. If once it can convince us that, when we boast of our country, we are suffering from pooled self-esteem, then we shall think it as vulgar and dangerous to boast of our country as to boast of ourselves. And, further, we shall be ashamed of such boasting, as a symptom of failure in ourselves. For pooled self-esteem is selfesteem afraid to declare itself, and it exists because the self has not found a scope for the exercise of its own faculties.
Why did the Germans suffer so much from pooled self-esteem before the war? Because they were a suppressed and thwarted people. The ordinary German was wounded in his personal selfesteem by all the social conventions of his country; he was born and bred to a life of submission; and, though consciously he consented to it, unconsciously his self-esteem sought a vent and found it in the belief that, being a German, he was in all things superior to those who were not Germans. The more submissive he was as a human being, the more arrogant he became as a German; and, with unconscious cunning, his rulers reconciled him to a life of inferiority by encouraging him in his collective pride. So, even while he behaved as if he were the member of an inferior, almost conquered, race, to his military caste, he told himself that this was the price he gladly paid for national preeminence.
Before and during the war the Germans were always saying that they had found a new way of freedom through discipline and obedience; unlike the vulgar, anarchical, democracies of the West, they stooped to conquer; and, since they did it willingly, it was freedom, not servitude. But their psychology was as primitive as it was dangerous. That willingness of theirs was but making the best of a bad job. If only they had known
it, they were not content with their submission; no people so intelligent in some things, so industrious and so self-conscious, could be content. There was in them a dangerous, unsatisfied stock of self-esteem, which, since they dared not express it in their ordinary behavior, found expression at last in a collective national madness. It seems to us now that the German people suffered from persecution mania; but that mania was the vent by which every German eased his sense of individual wrong and soothed his wounded personal pride. By a kind of substitution, he took revenge for the sins of his own Junkers upon all rival nations; and hence the outbreak which seemed to us incredible even while it was happening.
I speak of this now only because it is a lesson to all of us, Americans and English. We too are thwarted, not so systematically as the Germans, but still constantly, in our self-esteem; and we too are constantly tempted to console ourselves by pooling it. In all industrial societies, the vast majority never find a scope for the full exercise of their faculties, and are aware of their inferiority to the successful few. This inferiority may not be expressed politically or in social conventions; in America, and even in England, the successful may have the wit not to insist in any open or offensive manner upon their success; but, all the same, it gives them a power, freedom, and celebrity which others lack. And this difference is felt far more than in the past, because now the poor live more in cities and know better what the rich are doing. Unconsciously, they are wounded in their self-esteem by all that they read in the papers of the doings of the rich; they have become spectators of an endless feast, which they do not share, with the result that they pool their wounded self-esteem either in revolutionary exasperation or in national pride. But, since national pride seems
far less dangerous to the rich and successful than revolutionary exasperation, with the profound, unconscious cunning of instinct, they encourage national pride by all means in their power.
There, I think, they are wrong. I believe that national pride, and the hatred of other nations, is a more dangerous vent for pooled self-esteem even than revolutionary exasperation; for, sooner or later, it will, as in Russia, produce a revolutionary exasperation all the more desperate because it has been deferred and deceived. If we have another world war, and we shall have one unless we discover and prevent the causes of war in our own minds, there will be revolutionary exasperation everywhere; and it will be vain to tell starving mobs that it is all the fault of the enemy. The chauvinism of the disinherited mob is but a drug, which increases the evil it pretends to heal. Behind revolutionary exasperation, and behind chauvinism, there is the same evil at work, namely, the thwarting of faculties, the sense of inferiority, the disappointed ego; and we must clearly understand the disease if we are to find the remedy.
The remedy, of course, is a society in which faculties will no longer be suppressed, in which men will cure themselves of their self-esteem, not by pooling it, but by caring for something not themselves more than for themselves. To dream of such a society is as easy as to accomplish it is difficult; but we shall have taken the first step toward the accomplishment of it when we see clearly that we have no alternative except a relapse into barbarism. Suppression, good manners, discipline, will never rid us of our self-esteem; still it will find a vent in some collective, and so more dangerous, form, unless we can, as the psychologists say, sublimate it into a passion for something not ourselves. If we believe that our country is not ourselves, we deceive ourselves; we
may give our lives for it, but it is still the idol in which we pool our self-esteem; and the only way to escape from the worship of idols is to find the true God.
I am not now talking religion; I am talking psychology, though I am forced to use religious terms. The true God is to be found by every man only through the discovery of his deepest, most permanent desires; and these he can discover only through the exercise of his highest faculties. So that is the problem for all of us, and, as we now know, it is a collective problem, one which we can solve only all together. So long as other men are thwarted in the exercise of their highest faculties, you are thwarted also; you are kept always from happiness by the unhappiness of others.
You may be rich, brilliant, and a lover of peace; but, so long as the mass of men can do nothing with their self-esteem but pool it, you will live in a world of wars and rumors of wars. You may be an artist, a philosopher, a man of science; but, so long as the mass of men are set by division of labor to tasks in which they cannot satisfy the higher demands of the self, any demagogue may tempt them to destroy all that you value. Until they also enjoy and so value it, it is not secure for you or for the world.
In the past religion has failed because the problem of release from self-esteem
has been for it a private and personal one. That is where psychology can now come to its aid. When once we understand that our self-esteem, if suppressed, is pooled, not destroyed, and that we can escape from it only by the exercise of our higher faculties, we shall see also that the problem of release is collective. We are, indeed, all members one of another, as the masters of religion have always said; but only now is it possible for us to see the full truth of their saying. In the past there often seemed to be some incompatibility between religion and civilization; but now we are learning that they are one, and have the same enemy. Once men sought for God alone, and in the wilderness; now we may be sure that they will not find Him unless they search all together. Salvation itself is not a private making of our peace with God: it is a common making of our peace with each other; and that we shall never do until, by self-knowledge, we remove the causes of war from our own minds.
All that I have said in this article is vague, loose, and amateurish; and I have fallen into religious language now and again because there was no other that I could use. But the science that we all need, if we are all together to be saved, does not yet exist. I have written to point out our bitter need of it, and in the hope that the demand will produce the supply.