Home >> The-normal-life-1915 >> Accidents to Working Conditions >> Standard of Life

Standard of Life

normal, people, disaster, standards, appeal, conditions and native

STANDARD OF LIFE What kind of homes they shall be—whether normal or abnormal—depends largely upon our standard of living: that spiritual atmosphere, that indefinable force, compounded of income and what we buy with it, ideals and tastes and the environ ment provided by our fellows, which is something more than the sum of its parts, something different from any of them, a power to which unconsciously we defer in every choice we make, and which we frequently invoke to sustain arguments or justify general policies.

When this standard becomes consciously ideal ized, when it has become ingrained in the habits and instincts of a group of people, when it extends to activities as well as to pleasures, when it oper ates to fix the age of marriage, the hours of the working day, the issues of war and peace, of life and death, of the here and the hereafter, we may justly call it the standard of life.

The greatest national asset of any civilized, en lightened, prosperous, and progressive people is the standard of life of its adult population. Undigged minerals and soils and water power and harbors, accumulated capital in manufacturing plants and road-beds and rolling stock, native shrewdness in bargaining, native energy in labor, acquired knowl edge of the arts of industry, are all of less signifi cance, less fundamental importance, than that com plex, subtle, intangible reality—the standard of life of the working people.

Trade unions exist mainly to protect the stand ard of life. When laborers in some great conflict seek to show that their cause is just because the low wages against which they protest are not sufficient to maintain their standard of life, they make, if they are sincere, the one irresistible appeal to which every patriot must pay heed, the appeal by which, if their evidence is sufficient, they will best be justi fied in the long-range view of human welfare. If war or industrial depression or irregular employ ment or famine or pestilent epidemic or demoraliz 11 ing poor relief or the luxurious indulgence of vice breaks down the standard of life, this is for civiliza tion its one real disaster, retrievable, it may be, by long and painful effort, but very probably not in the same nation or community. Such a disaster is

not easily retrieved. Earthquake or flood or fire or defeat in arms may be but a slight disaster in the larger perspective of history, but any force which reaches the inner standards of the people, their ideas as to what manner of life they should lead, has a cumulative and incalculable effect on all their future welfare.

This standard of life, however, fortunately is not determined mainly by wars or famines or any other external accidents. It is the direct product of that good inheritance, that healthy infancy, that pro tected and sufficiently prolonged childhood, con secrated to education in its broadest sense, that youth spent in the upbuilding of sound character, that rational organization of the occupations into which the young enter at the threshold of matur ity, that attention to the conditions under which the wealth of the world is produced and distributed, which have occupied our attention as we have dwelt upon the successive stages in a normal life.

Tainted, corrupt, diseased stock should be elim inated if by any means it can be done: if for no other reason, because it lowers the standard of life of all whom it touches in the family either to cor rupt or to burden. Sickly babies should be made strong, bottle-fed babies nursed at the breast, that the physical basis for a high standard of life may be laid secure. Children should be informed and disciplined, made strong and fit for life in ways thought through deliberately with the end in view of maintaining the highest standards to which men have risen, and creating the conditions which will lead to the spontaneous, inevitable realization of higher standards still. These things are implied in all those policies of social selection, protection, nurture, and adaptation which the interests of the unfolding normal life of man require.

Now, however, we may think of the standard of life as exhibited in the normal family household, in the home where man and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, in mutual interdependence live the life which the passing generations have made possible for them.