The Unity of Civilization eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about The Unity of Civilization.
there is marked difference of character, where, for instance, a lack of a quality in one nation is counteracted by a surplus in another.  Thus these three forms of unity are distinct, but if distinct they are not unrelated.  Naturally, where there is a common origin, many traits of the primitive unity of character are likely to persist, and where there is effective intercommunication, many differences may be rubbed off.  So, where we start with unity of origin, we are likely to find some measure of unity in other respects, and this is what we do find, in fact, in the case of Western civilization.  It does possess a certain unity of character, and this is largely due to unity of origin, and is maintained in spite of marked divergences, which have not impeded an effective intercommunication but have tended rather to add interest and value to the results which that intercommunication has produced.


There is a certain unity of character running through all civilization, and indeed through all humanity.  Certain fundamental institutions and principles of organization are common to East and West, to the ancient and modern world, to civilization and savagery, and there is not the least evidence that the similarities are the result of historic connexion.  On the contrary, they arise from a human nature which is fundamentally the same, adjusting itself to conditions of life which are fundamentally the same.  But of course it is only the broadest and most general characters that are thus common to all the world.  Within them there is every sort and degree of specific difference.  There are types within types, worlds within worlds, and what we call Western civilization is one of these.  That is to say, it is at the present day a family or group of nations sharing in common certain things which distinguish it from the rest of the world, such things, for instance, as a certain degree of social order, a certain outlook upon life, certain fundamentals of religion and ethics, and an industrial organization based on applied science.  Now to mention any of these points is at once to provoke a criticism.  In each respect, it will be said, the nations of Western Europe and the lands that have been colonized from them differ vastly among themselves.  The social order of Germany is by no means that of England.  The industrial development of southern Italy is very different from that of Belgium.  The Prussian outlook upon life—­this in particular will be emphasized just now—­is quite another thing from the French.  This is true enough, but once again it means only that there are further specific differences within the genus.  We could pursue the differences as far down as we like.  For the United Kingdom, say, is by no means one homogeneous whole.  Even within England alone deep contrasts reveal themselves between the agricultural South and the industrial North.  Yet we do not hesitate to think of the English character, English institutions, the English type as distinct from the rest of the world, and we are right in so doing because there is a real unity pervading all the differences.  Just in the same way at a higher remove there is a certain unity of character pervading the deeper and wider differences that appear in the various centres of Western civilization.

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The Unity of Civilization from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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