LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
THE "MESSAGE OF THE EAST" IN AMERICA
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
am convinced that neither the statesmen, nor the, people of England who know what Great Britain has done in India, and I might say in Egypt also (and, beyond that,, what Western civilization means as contrasted with the: Oriental civilization which is now flaunting even its degeneracy' as a virtue especially through Hindu apologists and pro-, pagandists), have any idea of the stupidity of the pro-Hindu mushy maudlinism, in the form of a subtle supposedly literary and spiritual propaganda, which is now being carried on in America. The thing would be grotesque—and it has, indeed, its comic aspects—were it not that for over a year or more it has practically gone unanswered and is having its own, sweet way, not only in all kinds of queer publications that exalt the East over the West (and the worst of the East at that) with a sophistry of a most peculiar and sinister character, but also in club circles. The women's clubs are the special object of solicitude on the part of the propagandists.
To understand this most curious situation it must be remembered that not only is there a vast network of men's, clubs throughout America, which are easily fed by speakers from what are called Lyceum bureaux—and the test of the attractiveness of the speaker is very often that he is an, unconscionable sensationalist—but also that the women's clubs are equally highly organized and go in particularly for anything that is supposed to represent " Art " or the " Higher Things Spiritually," the last word being one of the most abused words to-day in the bright lexicon of feminine clubdom in America. As a result of this it is the easiest thing for a certain kind of propaganda, through crafty individ- uals, to gain a headway, and, as it were, move triumphantly across the country unhindered, indeed, accelerated as if it were on a greased track ; for the clubs are the background, the mechanism of it all.
So what we are seeing is that organizations of men and women which are composed of those who naturally are not specialists are being stampeded by the most stupid but cunning Oriental claptrap that has ever been unloaded on Western peoples. Taking advantage of the lure of the
exotic, and even the interest in sheiks aroused, as all know, by women novelists of British persuasion, these clubs are being lectured to by swarming Swamis and Moslem dervishes, the Saraswatis This and That and the Ali Babas and Mahmuds Sitid.s, who are telling everybody what adorable things are the degradations of social life which the East offers to the West as a real message. Those who do not know a Purana from a Zenana or the Purdah from a Plebiscite, or a Harem from Harlin al Raschid are getting a message as to the beauty of Mohammedan life and the refinements of Hindu and Moslem civilizations, which the crude West—and this means the West of all Latin and Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon, Roman Catholic and Protestant civilization—is supposedly so badly in need of.
It is all clever trickery and sophistry ; but the hysteria about it all is extraordinary and calls for one's sense of humour to let one read the nonsense without anger. For nothing . can exceed the puerile folly of the endorsements which those who are exploiting the Hindu and Moslem prophets print in order to lure other clubs to receive these Oriental lecturers. One reads endorsements which are something like this—I I hardly exaggerate :—" The climax of our club lectures this t year was the appearance of your wonderful Swami. His lovely turban and his beautiful yellow robe fascinated us all, and his pearls of purest wisdom made us feel ashamed to think that we had ever considered Benares a dreadful place or the immolation of Hindu widows so undefendable and 'hideous a thing. Please let us have the Swami again. We :want to sit at his feet and learn more about the deification of monkeys and elephants, to say nothing of the respect for the flea and the mosquito which we in our cruel Western 'manner treat with such brutality, not forgetting the dear cows also."
Or one reads :—" There was never such applause heard in our club as that which greeted Ali Baba from Kismet-Aleikum. We simply wanted to take the next steamer to Egypt and Arabia and meet the dear sheiks and enjoy the beauties of 'harem life which protect women from those competitions with which Western women are so afflicted. We gained a ideeper insight into the spirituality of women who do not have to think for themselves and realized that our Moslem sisters as well as our Hindu sisters have much to teach us as to how to live. We certainly want to have Ali Baba here next year. We were thrilled and he had such beautiful eyes."
And so the thing runs on and as part of the, propaganda one finds people quivering over Mukerji's My Brother's Face, for, of course, Mukerji is quite the thing over here, and those who read this astounding piece of impertinence naturally know nothing of India. They are unprepared to answer anything he may say about the loveliness of red-sashed deities nor do they understand the kind of caricature that is presented when he solemnly quotes some illiterate peasant who condemns England and Western civilization generally and asserts that Great Britain brought malaria and other diseases to India ! And all this in a book which reveals to no one the magnificent work done in India by Sir Ronald Ross between 1881 and 1897 in working out the causation of malaria and other tropical diseases. There is no word in this hypocritical work which tells American or English-speaking readers that the Hindu fought the efforts to put down cholera and the plague, nor is there any recognition of the efforts to protect these peoples from their own follies in the matter of famine. If Mukerji and his brother—as revealed in what many Anglo- Indian specialists regard as a work of fiction not as sincere as Forster's Passage to India—would but read books on India like Carthill's exposure of the policy of scuttling or Nicol MacNicol's book or Lord Ronaldshay's book or any one of a number of excellent works, including the annual Government reports, they would, as the phrase goes, have to put a different face on it. The India of Mukerji is practically a non-existent thing.
But this is not the situation as the women's and men's clubs of America know it, and it is about time that someone came over from England, who, with a quiver full of the real facts and a little vim and vigour and indignation could squelch this mush and maudlinism once and for all.—I am, Sir, &c.,
HARVEY M. WeTTs.,
Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.A., April 28th.