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The Man Made World by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - HTML preview

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3

The Man‐Made World

More prominent than either of these is the social nature of humanity.

We are by no means the only group‐animal; that ancient type of industry the ant, and even the well‐worn bee, are social creatures.

But insects of their kind are found living alone. Human beings never.

Our human‐ness begins with some low form of social relation and increases as that relation develops.

Human life of any sort is dependent upon what Kropotkin calls

“mutual aid,” and human progress keeps step absolutely with that interchange of specialized services which makes society organic. The nomad, living on cattle as ants live on theirs, is less human than the farmer, raising food by intelligently applied labor; and the extension of trade and commerce, from mere village market‐places to the world‐exchanges of to‐day, is extension of human‐ness as well.

Humanity, thus considered, is not a thing made at once and unchangeable, but a stage of development; and is still, as Wells describes it, “in the making.” Our human‐ness is seen to lie not so much in what we are individually, as in our relations to one another; and even that individuality is but the result of our relations to one another. It is in what we do and how we do it, rather than in what

we are. Some, philosophically inclined, exalt “being” over “doing.”

To them this question may be put: “Can you mention any form of life that merely ‘is,ʹ without doing anything?”

Taken separately and physically, we are animals, genus homo; taken socially and psychically, we are, in varying degree, human; and our real history lies in the development of this human‐ness.

Our historic period is not very long. Real written history only goes back a few thousand years, beginning with the stone records of ancient Egypt. During this period we have had almost universally what is here called an Androcentric Culture. The history, such as it was, was made and written by men.

The mental, the mechanical, the social development, was almost wholly theirs. We have, so far, lived and suffered and died in a man-made world. So general, so unbroken, has been this condition, that to mention it arouses no more remark than the statement of a natural law. We have taken it for granted, since the dawn of civilization, that

“mankind” meant men‐kind, and the world was theirs.