The Salvaging of Civilization: The Probable Future of Mankind

by H. G. Wells. New York: The Macmillan Company. 1921. 8vo., 199 pp. $2.00.
WITH the motive that actuated Mr. Wells in writing this book, it is impossible not to sympathize. He is trying whole-heartedly to do his bit toward making another great war and the collapse of our civilization impossible. Whether his proposals are sound, and whether his manner of offering them is judicious, are questions on which readers will disagree.
He can see no hopeful future for mankind except under the organization of a World-State, in which all the nations shall merge their nationality and their sovereignty. For the existing League of Nations, he has undisguised contempt — ‘the League of Nations at Geneva, this little corner of Balfourian jobs and gentility. He thinks that salvation cannot come though any league of nations, and in support of his policy he cites the history of the thirteen States, which, under the Articles of Confederation ‘made a Union so lax and feeble that it could neither keep order at home nor maintain respect abroad. Then they produced another constitution. . . They based their union on a wider idea: the people of the United States. Now Europe, if it is not to sink down to anarchy, has to do a parallel thing.'
Mr. Wells should remember that a child creeps before it walks; he should not assail an infant that might conceivably, with nourishment, attain the stature that he desires. He admits that the World-State is not likely to be created out of hand, and he advocates directing propaganda at the children rather than the adults of the present generalion.
He outlines a plan of universal education. Fundamental in this plan is the Bible of Civilization, to consist of the present Bible, very much reduced and revised; of’ a number of passages from poets and essayists bearing upon the social and individual responsibilities of man; and of a collection of forecasts for the future, provided by statesmen, and constantly undergoing revision. Besides mastering the Bible of Civilization, each child will acquire a practical command of three or four languages, including the mother-tongue, and will study four or five other languages ‘in skeleton.’
At the age of seventeen, the pupil will have a much more advanced knowledge of mathematics than is attainable in most of our schools now, as well as knowledge of universal history and of general physical and biological science, and skill in drawing and manual work. Of course, in Mr. Wells’s scheme, sex education is by no means neglected.
In comparison with the putting through of such an educational programme, the institution of a World-State, to which it is preliminary, may seem a simple matter. But Mr. Wells finds the difficulties that his programme suggests not at all insurmountable. They will vanish with the arrival of improved school-equipment and improved methods of teaching.
Mr. Wells envisages the present situation of the world vividly, impressively; he offers a good many flashing and pungent observations, — as, ‘Labor is a rebel because property is a libertine,’—but as a thinker he has all the faults of the variable enthusiast. ft should not be forgotten that in 1919 he produced, with others, a little book, ‘The Idea of a League of Nations.’ The existing realization of the idea does not satisfy him. The doctrinaire habit of his mind is shown in his premise that the world either must be saved according to his formula, or must go on its way to perdition. And though he writes at times in this book with an unwonted humility, in general his manner is such as to leave the reader quite reconciled to the belief that Mr. Wells is neither solitary nor supreme in his wisdom.