“Yes, but I was very much interested by your irritable neighbor,” said Levin, sighing. “He’s a clever fellow, and said a lot that was true.”
“Oh, get along with you! An inveterate supporter of serfdom at heart, like all of them!” said Sviazhsky.
“Whose marshal you are.”
“Yes, only I marshal them in the other direction,” said Sviazhsky, laughing.
“I’ll tell you what interests me very much,” said Levin. “He’s right that our system, that’s to say of rational farming, doesn’t answer, that the only thing that answers is the money-lender system, like that meek-looking gentleman’s, or else the very simplest.... Whose fault is it?”
“Our own, of course. Besides, it’s not true that it doesn’t answer. It answers with Vassiltchikov.”
“But I really don’t know what it is you are surprised at. The people are at such a low stage of rational and moral development, that it’s obvious they’re bound to oppose everything that’s strange to them. In Europe, a rational system answers because the people are educated; it follows that we must educate the people—that’s all.”
“But how are we to educate the people?”
“To educate the people three things are needed: schools, and schools, and schools.
“But you said yourself the people are at such a low stage of material development: what help are schools for that?”
“Do you know, you remind me of the story of the advice given to the sick man—You should try purgative medicine. Taken: worse. Try leeches. Tried them: worse. Well, then, there’s nothing left but to pray to God. Tried it: worse. That’s just how it is with us. I say political economy; you say—worse. I say socialism: worse. Education: worse.”
“But how do schools help matters?”
“They give the peasant fresh wants.”
“Well, that’s a thing I’ve never understood,” Levin replied with heat. “In what way are schools going to help the people to improve their material position? You say schools, education, will give them fresh wants. So much the worse, since they won’t be capable of satisfying them. And in what way a knowledge of addition and subtraction and the catechism is going to improve their material condition, I never could make out. The day before yesterday, I met a peasant woman in the evening with a little baby, and asked her where she was going. She said she was going to the wise woman; her boy had screaming fits, so she was taking him to be doctored. I asked, ’Why, how does the wise woman cure screaming fits?’ ’She puts the child on the hen-roost and repeats some charm....’ "
“Well, you’re saying it yourself! What’s wanted to prevent her taking her child to the hen-roost to cure it of screaming fits is just...” Sviazhsky said, smiling good-humoredly.
“Oh, no!” said Levin with annoyance; “that method of doctoring I merely meant as a simile for doctoring the people with schools. The people are poor and ignorant—that we see as surely as the peasant woman sees the baby is ill because it screams. But in what way this trouble of poverty and ignorance is to be cured by schools is as incomprehensible as how the hen-roost affects the screaming. What has to be cured is what makes him poor.”