Civilized selfishness leads to a worse kind of barbarism than that of rude and primitive states of society, because it has more resources at its command, as cruelty with refinement has more resources for inflicting pain than cruelty which can only strike hard. Civilized selfishness is worse also in that it has let go of better things; it is not in progress towards a higher plane of life, but has turned its back upon ideals and is slipping on the down-grade without a check. We can see the complete expression of life without conventions in the unrestraint of “hooliganism” with us, and its equivalents in other countries. In this we observe the characteristic product of bringing up without either religion, or conventions, or teaching in good manners which are inseparable from religion. We see the demoralization of the very forces which make both the strength and the weakness of youth and a great part of its charm, the impetuosity, the fearlessness of consequence, the lightheartedness, the exuberance which would have been so strong for good if rightly turned, become through want of this right impetus and control not strong but violent, uncontrollable and reckless to a degree which terrifies the very authorities who are responsible for them, in that system which is bringing up children with nothing to hold by, and nothing to which they can appeal. Girls are inclined to go even further than boys in this unrestraint through their greater excitability and recklessness, and their having less instinct of self-preservation. It is a problem for the local authorities. Their lavish expenditure upon sanitation, adornment, and—to use the favourite word—“equipment” of their schools does not seem to touch it; in fact it cannot reach the real difficulty, for it makes appeal to the senses and neglects the soul, and the souls of children are hungry for faith and love and something higher to look for, beyond the well-being of to-day in the schools, and the struggle for life, in the streets, to-morrow.
It is not only in the elementary schools that such types of formidable selfishness are produced. In any class of life, in school or home, wherever a child is growing up without control and “handling,” without the discipline of religion and manners, without the yoke of obligations enforcing respect and consideration for others, there a rough is being brought up, not so loud-voiced or so uncouth as the street-rough, but as much out of tune with goodness and honour, with as little to hold by and appeal to, as troublesome and dangerous either at home or in society, as uncertain and unreliable in a party or a ministry, and in any association that makes demand upon self-control in the name of duty.