POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INFLUENCESby@hgwells

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INFLUENCES

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There can be few people alive who have not remarked on occasion that men are the creatures of circumstances. But it is one thing to state a belief of this sort in some incidental application, and quite another to realize it completely. Towards such a completer realization we have been working in these papers, in disentangling the share of inheritance and of deliberate schooling and training, in the production of the civilized man. The rest we have to ascribe to his world in general, of which his home is simply the first and most intimate aspect. In every developing citizen we have asserted there is a great mass of fluid and indeterminate possibility, and this sets and is shaped by the world about him as wax is shaped by a mould. It is rarely, of course, an absolutely exact and submissive cast that ensues; few men and women are without some capacity for question and criticism, but it is only very rare and obdurate material—only, as one says, a very original personality—that does not finally take its general form and direction in this way. And it is proposed in this paper to keep this statement persistently in focus, instead of dismissing it as a platitude and thinking no more about it at all after the usual fashion, while we examine certain broad social and political facts and conventions which constitute the general framework of the world in which the developing citizen is placed. I would submit that at the present time with regard to such things as church and kingdom, constitution and nationality, we are altogether too much enslaved by the idea of “policy,” and altogether too blind to the remoter, deeper, and more lasting consequences of our public acts and institutions in moulding the next generation. It will not, I think, be amiss to pass beyond policy for a space, and to insist—even with heaviness—that however convenient an institution may be, however much it may, in the twaddle of the time, be a “natural growth,” and however much the “product of a long evolution,” yet, if it does not mould men into fine and vigorous forms, it has to be destroyed. We “save the state” for the sake of our children, that, at least, is the New Republican view of the matter, and if in our intentness to save the state we injure or sacrifice our children, we destroy our ultimate for our proximate aim.
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H.G. Wells

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by H.G. Wells @hgwells.English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine
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