In the following article, Joseph Lee '83, a leader in the playground movement and the War Camp Community Service in New England, of which he was president during the war, states his views on "The Need for Social Service Work."
A point of great importance in constructive social work at the present time is the necessity of a balanced ration. In the old days of long voyages of sailing ships around the Horn and of whalers, men used to die of scurvy,--not because they did not have plenty to eat but because certain necessary kinds of food were lacking. In the same way a man may have plenty to do and yet be starved for some of the necessary ingredients of human life.
And such is actually the case with the great majority of people under our present industrial system. This is the day of the fool-proof machine. A man in Ford's factory can learn his job in two days. That is the length of professional training required. Compare this with the law school and medical school, which last three and four years and require a college degree before hand. Compare it with the training of an artist or a singer. There you have something of a measure of the comparative value of the expressive pursuits--what we call the professions--and of the sort of work to which the victory of the machine has condemned a large majority of mankind. Our industrial system provides a life of fools to fit the fool-proof machine.
Expression of Human Spirit Lacking.
Some mitigation will come through cooperative management, but effective management must always be more or less autocratic in its application, however the autocrat may be appointed. And we can never make the individual task expressive of the creative instinct by any modification of industrial process that can now be forseen. In short, the man can no longer live in his job. The best part of his life and strength will continue to go to processes almost utterly sterilized of expression of the human spirit.
The alternative is some outside interest or death, his work leaving the man a walking simulacrum from which the spirit has withered for lack of exercise.
This side-stepping of our individual system from the life which nature intended on the one hand--the outdoor life of war and hunting, building and making things--and from the life of art and science on the other, through its failure to provide for the average human being any adequate expression of the artistic or creative instincts, constitutes the greatest tragedy and the great problem of our modern civilization.
The answer, so far as any is now possible, is to be found in leisure time, in community singing, dramatics, social gatherings, celebrations, pageants, neighborhood expression, as compensation for what civilzation has cut out, the balancing of the human ration.