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Anticipations

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And the type of men that I conceive emerging in the coming years will deal simply and logically not only with the business of death, but with birth. At present the sexual morality of the civilized world is the most illogical and incoherent system of wild permissions and insane prohibitions, foolish tolerance and ruthless cruelty that it is possible to imagine. Our current civilization is a sexual lunatic. And it has lost its reason in this respect under the stresses of the new birth of things, largely through the difficulties that have stood in the way, and do still, in a diminishing degree, stand in the way of any sane discussion of the matter as a whole. To approach it is to approach excitement. So few people seem to be leading happy and healthy sexual lives that to mention the very word "sexual" is to set them stirring, to brighten the eye, lower the voice, and blanch or flush the cheek with a flavour of guilt. We are all, as it were, keeping our secrets and hiding our shames. One of the most curious revelations of this fact occurred only a few years ago, when the artless outpourings in fiction of certain young women who had failed to find light on problems that pressed upon them for solution (and which it was certainly their business as possible wives and mothers to solve) roused all sorts of respectable people to a quite insane vehemence of condemnation. Now, there are excellent reasons and a permanent necessity for the preservation of decency, and for a far more stringent suppression of matter that is merely intended to excite than at present obtains, and the chief of these reasons lies in the need of preserving the young from a premature awakening, and indeed, in the interests of civilization, in positively delaying the period of awakening, retarding maturity and lengthening the period of growth and preparation as much as possible. But purity and innocence may be prolonged too late; innocence is really no more becoming to adults than a rattle or a rubber consoler, and the bashfulness that hampers this discussion, that permits it only in a furtive silly sort of way, has its ugly consequences in shames and cruelties, in miserable households and pitiful crises, in the production of countless, needless, and unhappy lives. Indeed, too often we carry our decency so far as to make it suggestive and stimulating in a non-natural way; we invest the plain business of reproduction with a mystic religious quality far more unwholesome than a savage nakedness could possibly be.

The essential aspect of all this wild and windy business of the sexual relations is, after all, births. Upon this plain fact the people of the emergent New Republic will unhesitatingly go. The pre-eminent value of sexual questions in morality lies in the fact that the lives which will constitute the future are involved. If they are not involved, if we can dissociate this relationship from this issue, then sexual questions become of no more importance than the morality of one's deportment at chess, or the general morality of outdoor games. Indeed, then the question of sexual relationships would be entirely on all fours with, and probably very analogous to, the question of golf. In each case it would be for the medical man and the psychologist to decide how far the thing was wholesome and permissible, and how far it was an aggressive bad habit and an absorbing waste of time and energy. An able-bodied man continually addicted to love-making that had no result in offspring would be just as silly and morally objectionable as an able-bodied man who devoted his chief energies to hitting little balls over golf-links. But no more. Both would probably be wasting the lives of other human beings – the golfer must employ his caddie. It is entirely the matter of births, and a further consideration to be presently discussed, that makes this analogy untrue. It does not, however, make it so untrue as to do away with the probability that in many cases the emergent men of the new time will consider sterile gratification a moral and legitimate thing. St. Paul tells us that it is better to marry than to burn, but to beget children on that account will appear, I imagine, to these coming men as an absolutely loathsome proceeding. They will stifle no spread of knowledge that will diminish the swarming misery of childhood in the slums, they will regard the disinclination of the witless "Society" woman to become a mother as a most amiable trait in her folly. In our bashfulness about these things we talk an abominable lot of nonsense; all this uproar one hears about the Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit and the future of the lower races takes on an entirely different complexion directly we face known, if indelicate, facts. Most of the human types, that by civilized standards are undesirable, are quite willing to die out through such suppressions if the world will only encourage them a little. They multiply in sheer ignorance, but they do not desire multiplication even now, and they can easily be made to dread it. Sensuality aims not at life, but at itself. I believe that the men of the New Republic will deliberately shape their public policy along these lines. They will rout out and illuminate urban rookeries and all places where the base can drift to multiply; they will contrive a land legislation that will keep the black, or yellow, or mean-white squatter on the move; they will see to it that no parent can make a profit out of a child, so that childbearing shall cease to be a hopeful speculation for the unemployed poor; and they will make the maintenance of a child the first charge upon the parents who have brought it into the world. Only in this way can progress escape being clogged by the products of the security it creates. The development of science has lifted famine and pestilence from the shoulders of man, and it will yet lift war – for some other end than to give him a spell of promiscuous and finally cruel and horrible reproduction.

No doubt the sentimentalist and all whose moral sense has been vigorously trained in the old school will find this rather a dreadful suggestion; it amounts to saying that for the Abyss to become a "hotbed" of sterile immorality will fall in with the deliberate policy of the ruling class in the days to come. At any rate, it will be a terminating evil. At present the Abyss is a hotbed breeding undesirable and too often fearfully miserable children. That is something more than a sentimental horror. Under the really very horrible morality of to-day, the spectacle of a mean-spirited, under-sized, diseased little man, quite incapable of earning a decent living even for himself, married to some underfed, ignorant, ill-shaped, plain and diseased little woman, and guilty of the lives of ten or twelve ugly ailing children, is regarded as an extremely edifying spectacle, and the two parents consider their reproductive excesses as giving them a distinct claim upon less fecund and more prosperous people. Benevolent persons throw themselves with peculiar ardour into a case of this sort, and quite passionate efforts are made to strengthen the mother against further eventualities and protect the children until they attain to nubile years. Until the attention of the benevolent persons is presently distracted by a new case… Yet so powerful is the suggestion of current opinions that few people seem to see nowadays just what a horrible and criminal thing this sort of family, seen from the point of view of social physiology, appears.

And directly such principles as these come into effective operation, and I believe that the next hundred years will see this new phase of the human history beginning, there will recommence a process of physical and mental improvement in mankind, a raising and elaboration of the average man, that has virtually been in suspense during the greater portion of the historical period. It is possible that in the last hundred years, in the more civilized states of the world, the average of humanity has positively fallen. All our philanthropists, all our religious teachers, seem to be in a sort of informal conspiracy to preserve an atmosphere of mystical ignorance about these matters, which, in view of the irresistible nature of the sexual impulse, results in a swelling tide of miserable little lives. Consider what it will mean to have perhaps half the population of the world, in every generation, restrained from or tempted to evade reproduction! This thing, this euthanasia of the weak and sensual, is possible. On the principles that will probably animate the predominant classes of the new time, it will be permissible, and I have little or no doubt that in the future it will be planned and achieved.

If birth were all the making of a civilized man, the men of the future, on the general principles we have imputed to them, would under no circumstances find the birth of a child, healthy in body and brain, more than the most venial of offences. But birth gives only the beginning, the raw material, of a civilized man. The perfect civilized man is not only a sound strong body but a very elaborate fabric of mind. He is a fabric of moral suggestions that become mental habits, a magazine of more or less systematized ideas, a scheme of knowledge and training and an æsthetic culture. He is the child not only of parents but of a home and of an education. He has to be carefully guarded from physical and moral contagions. A reasonable probability of ensuring home and education and protection without any parasitic dependence on people outside the kin of the child, will be a necessary condition to a moral birth under such general principles as we have supposed. Now, this sweeps out of reason any such promiscuity of healthy people as the late Mr. Grant Allen is supposed to have advocated – but, so far as I can understand him, did not. But whether it works out to the taking over of the permanent monogamic marriage of the old morality, as a going concern, is another matter. Upon this matter I must confess my views of the trend of things in the future do not seem to be finally shaped. The question involves very obscure physiological and psychological considerations. A man who aims to become a novelist naturally pries into these matters whenever he can, but the vital facts are very often hard to come by. It is probable that a great number of people could be paired off in couples who would make permanently happy and successful monogamic homes for their sound and healthy children. At any rate, if a certain freedom of regrouping were possible within a time limit, this might be so. But I am convinced that a large proportion of married couples in the world to-day are not completely and happily matched, that there is much mutual limitation, mutual annulment and mutual exasperation. Home with an atmosphere of contention is worse than none for the child, and it is the interest of the child, and that alone, that will be the test of all these things. I do not think that the arrangement in couples is universally applicable, or that celibacy (tempered by sterile vice) should be its only alternative. Nor can I see why the union of two childless people should have an indissoluble permanence or prohibit an ampler grouping. The question is greatly complicated by the economic disadvantage of women, which makes wifehood the chief feminine profession, while only for an incidental sort of man is marriage a source of income, and further by the fact that most women have a period of maximum attractiveness after which it would be grossly unfair to cast them aside. From the point of view we are discussing, the efficient mother who can make the best of her children, is the most important sort of person in the state. She is a primary necessity to the coming civilization. Can the wife in any sort of polygamic arrangement, or a woman of no assured status, attain to the maternal possibilities of the ideal monogamic wife? One is disposed to answer, No. But then, on the other hand, does the ordinary monogamic wife do that? We are dealing with the finer people of the future, strongly individualized people, who will be much freer from stereotyped moral suggestions and much less inclined to be dealt with wholesale than the people of to-day.

 

I have already shown cause in these Anticipations to expect a period of disorder and hypocrisy in matters of sexual morality. I am inclined to think that, when the New Republic emerges on the other side of this disorder, there will be a great number of marriage contracts possible between men and women, and that the strong arm of the State will insist only upon one thing – the security and welfare of the child. The inevitable removal of births from the sphere of an uncontrollable Providence to the category of deliberate acts, will enormously enhance the responsibility of the parent – and of the State that has failed to adequately discourage the philoprogenitiveness of the parent – towards the child. Having permitted the child to come into existence, public policy and the older standard of justice alike demand, under these new conditions, that it must be fed, cherished, and educated, not merely up to a respectable minimum, but to the full height of its possibilities. The State will, therefore, be the reserve guardian of all children. If they are being undernourished, if their education is being neglected, the State will step in, take over the responsibility of their management, and enforce their charge upon the parents. The first liability of a parent will be to his child, and for his child; even the dues of that darling of our current law, the landlord, will stand second to that. This conception of the responsibility of the parents and the State to the child and the future runs quite counter to the general ideas of to-day. These general ideas distort grim realities. Under the most pious and amiable professions, all the Christian states of to-day are, as a matter of fact, engaged in slave-breeding. The chief result, though of course it is not the intention, of the activities of priest and moralist to-day in these matters, is to lure a vast multitude of little souls into this world, for whom there is neither sufficient food, nor love, nor schools, nor any prospect at all in life but the insufficient bread of servitude. It is a result that endears religion and purity to the sweating employer, and leads unimaginative bishops, who have never missed a meal in their lives, and who know nothing of the indescribable bitterness of a handicapped entry into this world, to draw a complacent contrast with irreligious France. It is a result that must necessarily be recognized in its reality, and faced by these men who will presently emerge to rule the world; men who will have neither the plea of ignorance, nor moral stupidity, nor dogmatic revelation to excuse such elaborate cruelty.

And having set themselves in these ways to raise the quality of human birth, the New Republicans will see to it that the children who do at last effectually get born come into a world of spacious opportunity. The half-educated, unskilled pretenders, professing impossible creeds and propounding ridiculous curricula, to whom the unhappy parents of to-day must needs entrust the intelligences of their children; these heavy-handed barber-surgeons of the mind, these schoolmasters, with their ragtag and bobtail of sweated and unqualified assistants, will be succeeded by capable, self-respecting men and women, constituting the most important profession of the world. The windy pretences of "forming character," supplying moral training, and so forth, under which the educationalist of to-day conceals the fact that he is incapable of his proper task of training, developing and equipping the mind, will no longer be made by the teacher. Nor will the teacher be permitted to subordinate his duties to the entirely irrelevant business of his pupils' sports. The teacher will teach, and confine his moral training, beyond enforcing truth and discipline, to the exhibition of a capable person doing his duty as well as it can be done. He will know that his utmost province is only a part of the educational process, that equally important educational influences are the home and the world of thought about the pupil and himself. The whole world will be thinking and learning; the old idea of "completing" one's education will have vanished with the fancy of a static universe; every school will be a preparatory school, every college. The school and college will probably give only the keys and apparatus of thought, a necessary language or so, thoroughly done, a sound mathematical training, drawing, a wide and reasoned view of philosophy, some good exercises in dialectics, a training in the use of those stores of fact that science has made. So equipped, the young man and young woman will go on to the technical school of their chosen profession, and to the criticism of contemporary practice for their special efficiency, and to the literature of contemporary thought for their general development…

And while the emergent New Republic is deciding to provide for the swarming inferiority of the Abyss, and developing the morality and educational system of the future, in this fashion, it will be attacking that mass of irresponsible property that is so unavoidable and so threatening under present conditions. The attack will, of course, be made along lines that the developing science of economics will trace in the days immediately before us. A scheme of death duties and of heavy graduated taxes upon irresponsible incomes, with, perhaps, in addition, a system of terminable liability for borrowers, will probably suffice to control the growth of this creditor elephantiasis. The detailed contrivances are for the specialist to make. If there is such a thing as bitterness in the public acts of the New Republicans, it will probably be found in the measures that will be directed against those who are parasitic, or who attempt to be parasitic, upon the social body, either by means of gambling, by manipulating the medium of exchange, or by such interventions upon legitimate transactions as, for example, the legal trade union in Great Britain contrives in the case of house property and land. Simply because he fails more often than he succeeds, there is still a disposition among sentimental people to regard the gambler or the speculator as rather a dashing, adventurous sort of person, and to contrast his picturesque gallantry with the sober certainties of honest men. The men of the New Republic will be obtuse to the glamour of such romance; they will regard the gambler simply as a mean creature who hangs about the social body in the hope of getting something for nothing, who runs risks to filch the possessions of other men, exactly as a thief does. They will put the two on a footing, and the generous gambler, like the kindly drunkard, in the face of their effectual provision for his little weakness, will cease to complain that his worst enemy is himself. And, in dealing with speculation, the New Republic will have the power of an assured faith and purpose, and the resources of an economic science that is as yet only in its infancy. In such matters the New Republic will entertain no superstition of laissez faire. Money and credit are as much human contrivances as bicycles, and as liable to expansion and modification as any other sort of prevalent but imperfect machine.

And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? how will it deal with the yellow man? how will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized woodwork, the Jew? Certainly not as races at all. It will aim to establish, and it will at last, though probably only after a second century has passed, establish a world-state with a common language and a common rule. All over the world its roads, its standards, its laws, and its apparatus of control will run. It will, I have said, make the multiplication of those who fall behind a certain standard of social efficiency unpleasant and difficult, and it will have cast aside any coddling laws to save adult men from themselves.52 It will tolerate no dark corners where the people of the Abyss may fester, no vast diffused slums of peasant proprietors, no stagnant plague-preserves. Whatever men may come into its efficient citizenship it will let come – white, black, red, or brown; the efficiency will be the test. And the Jew also it will treat as any other man. It is said that the Jew is incurably a parasite on the apparatus of credit. If there are parasites on the apparatus of credit, that is a reason for the legislative cleaning of the apparatus of credit, but it is no reason for the special treatment of the Jew. If the Jew has a certain incurable tendency to social parasitism, and we make social parasitism impossible, we shall abolish the Jew, and if he has not, there is no need to abolish the Jew. We are much more likely to find we have abolished the Caucasian solicitor. I really do not understand the exceptional attitude people take up against the Jews. There is something very ugly about many Jewish faces, but there are Gentile faces just as coarse and gross. The Jew asserts himself in relation to his nationality with a singular tactlessness, but it is hardly for the English to blame that. Many Jews are intensely vulgar in dress and bearing, materialistic in thought, and cunning and base in method, but no more so than many Gentiles. The Jew is mentally and physically precocious, and he ages and dies sooner than the average European, but in that and in a certain disingenuousness he is simply on all fours with the short, dark Welsh. He foregathers with those of his own nation, and favours them against the stranger, but so do the Scotch. I see nothing in his curious, dispersed nationality to dread or dislike. He is a remnant and legacy of mediævalism, a sentimentalist, perhaps, but no furtive plotter against the present progress of things. He was the mediæval Liberal; his persistent existence gave the lie to Catholic pretensions all through the days of their ascendency, and to-day he gives the lie to all our yapping "nationalisms," and sketches in his dispersed sympathies the coming of the world-state. He has never been known to burke a school. Much of the Jew's usury is no more than social scavenging. The Jew will probably lose much of his particularism, intermarry with Gentiles, and cease to be a physically distinct element in human affairs in a century or so. But much of his moral tradition will, I hope, never die… And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?

 

Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear.

The world has a purpose greater than happiness; our lives are to serve God's purpose, and that purpose aims not at man as an end, but works through him to greater issues… This, I believe, will be the distinctive quality of the New Republican's belief. And, for that reason, I have not even speculated whether he will hold any belief in human immortality or no. He will certainly not believe there is any post mortem state of rewards and punishments because of his faith in the sanity of God, and I do not see how he will trace any reaction between this world and whatever world there may be of disembodied lives. Active and capable men of all forms of religious profession to-day tend in practice to disregard the question of immortality altogether. So, to a greater degree, will the kinetic men of the coming time. We may find that issue interesting enough when we turn over the leaf, but at present we have not turned over the leaf. On this side, in this life, the relevancy of things points not in the slightest towards the immortality of our egotisms, but convergently and overpoweringly to the future of our race, to that spacious future, of which these weak, ambitious Anticipations are, as it were, the dim reflection seen in a shallow and troubled pool.

For that future these men will live and die.

THE END
52Vide Mr. Archdall Read's excellent and suggestive book, "The Present Evolution of Man."