THE REVOLT AGAINST CIVILIZATION.*
IT must not be supposed that in the sketch of his policy given by us last week we exhausted Mr. Stoddard's book. Incident- ally, and in making good his thesis that the world, as at present organized, is becoming unable to bear the burden of a progressive civilization, he shows us that amongst the under-men there are a great many people who consciously, or more often uncon- sciously, hate civilization and would like to destroy it. Very interesting is Mr. Stoddard's analysis of these internal foes to civilization and to its development. The fact that he does not quite substantiate his distinction between " degenerate " and " primitive " does not harm the practical value of his argument.
" The truth is that as a civilization advances it leaves behind multitudes of human beings who have not the capacity to keep pace. The laggards, of course, vary greatly among themselves. Some are congenital savages or barbarians ; men who could not fit into any civilization, and who consequently fall behind from the start. These are not ' degenerates ' ; they are ' primitives,' carried over into a social environment in which they do not belong, They must be clearly distinguished from the true degenerates : the imbecile, the feeble-minded, the neurotic, the insane—all those melancholy waste-products which every living species excretes but which are promptly extirpated in the state of nature, whereas in human societies they are too often preserved. Moreover, besides primitives and degenerates, civilization by its very advance automatically condemns fresh multitudes to the ranks of the ' inferior.' Just as primitives ' who would be quite at home in savage or barbarian environments are alien to any sort of civilization, so many individuals who rub along well enough in civilization's early phases have neither the wit nor the moral fibre to meet tho sterner demands of high, complex civilizations. Most poignant of all is the lot of the border- liners '—those who just fail to achieve a social order, which they can comprehend but in which they somehow cannot succeed. Such are the ranks of the inferior—the vast army of the unadapt- able and the incapable. Let me again emphasize that ` inferior ' does not necessarily mean ' degenerate.' The degenerate are, of course, included, but the word ' inferior ' is a relative term signifying ` below ' or ` beneath,' in this case meaning persons beneath or below the standard of civilization. The word inferior has, however, been so often employed as a synonym for dege- nerate that it tends to produce confusion of thought, and to avoid this I have coined a term which seems to describe collectively all those kinds of persons whom I have just discussed. This term is The Under-Man—the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives. And this term I shall henceforth employ. Now how does the Under-Man look at civilization ? This civilization offers him few benefits and fewer hopes. It usually affords him little beyond a meagre subsistence. And, sooner or later, he in- stinctively senses that he is a failure ; that civilization's prizes are not for him. But this civilization, which withholds benefits, does not hesitate to impose burdens. We have previously stated that civilization's heaviest burdens are borne by the superior. Absolutely, this is true ; relatively, the Under-Man's intrinsically lighter burdens feel heavier because of his innate incapacity. The very discipline of the social order oppresses the Under-Man ; it thwarts and chastises him at every turn. To wild natures society is a torment, while the congenital caveman, placed in civilization, is always in trouble and usually in jail. All this seems to be inevitable. But, in addition to these social handicaps, the Under-Man often suffers from the action of better-placed indi- viduals, who take advantage of his weakness and incapacity to exploit him and drive him down to social levels even lower than those which he would normally occupy. Such is the Under- Man's unhappy lot. Now, what is his attitude toward that civilization from which he has so little to hope ? What but instinctive opposition and discontent ? These feelings, of course, vary all the way from dull, unreasoning dislike to flaming hatred and rebellion. But, in the last analysis, they are directed not merely against imperfections in the social order, but against the social order itself. This is a point which is rarely mentioned, and still more rarely understood. Yet it is the meat of the whole matter. We must realize clearly that the basic attitude of the Under-Man is an instinctive and natural revolt against civilization. The reform of abuses may diminish the intensity of social dis- content. It may also diminish the numbers of the discontented, because social abuses precipitate into the depths many persons who do not really belong there ; persons who were innately capable of achieving the social order if they had had a fair chance. But, excluding all such anomalous cases, there remains a vast residue of unadaptable, depreciated humanity, essentially un- civilizable and incorrigibly hostile to civilization. Every society engenders within itself hordes of savages and barbarians, ripe for revolt and ever ready to pour forth and destroy."
Mr. Stoddard points out that in normal times the elements of chaos go almost unperceived, or, at any rate, unchecked, and when those changes, which we call revolutions, occur, the people
• The Revolt against Civilization : the Menace of the Under-Man. By Lothrop Stoddard. London: Chapman and Hall. 1922. (16a. net.]
who are essentially in revolt against civilization see their oppor- tunity and attempt the work of destruction. Nor do these revolters ever want for leaders. They find them in what Mr. Stoddard calls the border-liners, the disinherited, and the misguided superior. If we go back to the French Revolution, or if we look at Russia of to-day, we shall find examples of all these classes. Of course, the misguided superior is far the most dangerous of these three types. Mr. Stoddard draws a very able picture of him :- " Lastly, there is the ' misguided superior.' He is a strange phenomenon ! Placed by nature in the van of civilization, he goes over to its enemies. This seems inexplicable. Yet it can be explained. As the Under-Man revolts because civilization is so far ahead of him, so the misguided superior revolts because it is so far behind. Exasperated by its slow progress, shocked at its faults, and erroneously ascribing to mankind in general his own lofty impulses, the misguided superior dreams short cuts to the millennium and joins the forces of social revolt, not realizing that their ends are profoundly different even though their methods may be somewhat the Farina. The misguided superior is probably the most pathetic figure in human history. Flattered by designing scoundrels, used to sanctify sinister schemes, and pushed forward as a figurehead during the early stages of revolutionary agitation, the triumph of the revolution brings him to a tragic end. Horrified at sight of barbarism's un- masked face, he tries to stay its destructive course. In vain ! The Under-Man turns upon his former champion with a snarl and tramples him into the mud. The social revolution is now in full swing. Such upheavals are profoundly terrible. I have de- scribed them as ' atavistic.' And that is just what they aro- ' throw backs' to a far lower social plane. The complex fabric of society, slowly and painfully woven, is torn to tatters ; the social controls vanish, and civilization is left naked to the assaults of anarchy. In truth, disruption goes deeper still. Not only is society in the grip of its barbarians, but every individual falls more or less under the sway of his own lower instincts. For, in this respect, the individual is like society. Each of us has within him an Under-Man,' that primitive animality which is the heritage of our human, and even our prehuman, past. This Under-Man may be buried deep in the recesses of our being ; but he is there, and psychoanalysis informs us of his latent power. This primitive animality, potentially present even in the noblest natures, continuously dominates the lower social strata, especially the pauper, criminal, and degenerate elements—civilization's inner barbarians.' Now, when society's dregs boil to the top, a similar process takes place in individuals, to whatever social level they may belong. In virtually every member of the com- munity there is a distinct resurgence of the brute and the savage, and the atavistic trend thus becomes practically universal. This explains most of the seemingly mysterious phenomena of revolu- tion. It accounts for the mental contagion which infects all classes ; the wild elation with which the revolution is at first hailed ; the way in which even well-poised men throw themselves into the stream, let it carry them whither it lists, and commit acts which they afterward not only cannot explain but cannot even remember. General atavistic resurgence also accounts for the ferocious temper displayed, not merely by the revolutionists, but by their counter-revolutionary opponents as well. How-ever much they may differ in their .principles, Reds ' and ' Whites ' display the same savage spirit and commit similar cruelties. This is because society and the individual have been alike rebar- barized. In time the revolutionary tempest passes. Civilized men will not for ever endure the misrule of their own barbarians ; they will not lastingly tolerate what Burke rightly termed the tyranny of a ` base oligarchy.' Sooner or later the Under-Man is again mastered, new social controls are forged, and a stable social order is once more established. But—what sort of a social order ? It may well be one inferior to the old. Of course, few revolutions are wholly evil. Their very destructiveness implies a sweeping away of old abuses. Yet at what a cost No other process is so terribly expensive as revolution. Both the social and the human losses are usually appalling, and are frequently irreparable. In his brief hour, the Under-Man does his work, Hating not merely civilization but also the civilized, the Under. Man wreaks his destructive fury on individuals as well as on institutions."
We wish we had space to touch on the chapters which deal with " The Iron Law of Inequality," " The Lure of the Primitive," " The War against Chaos," and finally, the last chapter of all " Neo-Aristocracy." It is in this summing-up we discover i strong and stimulating strain of optimism in Mr. Stoddard. To make our readers appreciate this aspect of the book perhaps the best thing we can do is to quote a portion of what he says as to " race cleansing " :—
" When eugenics says ` the degenerate must be eliminated,' it refers, not to existing degenerates, but to their potential offspring. Those potential children, if eugenics has its way, will never be. This supreme object once accomplished, however, there is every reason why the defective individual should be treated with all possible consideration. In fact, in a society animated by eugenic principles, degenerates, and inferiors generally, would be treated far better than they are to-day ; because such a society would not have to fear that more charity would spell more inferiors. . . Legal measures like segregation and sterilization would apply in practice only to the most inferior elements, whose lack of intel- ligence and self-control render them incapable of appreciating the
interests of society and thus make legal compulsion necessary. The higher grades of unsoundness would not be directly affected. Right here, however, the pressure of enlightened public opinion would come into play. . . . In a society animated by a eugenic conscience the begetting of unsound children would be regarded with horror, and public opinion would instinctively set up strong social taboos which would effectively restrain all except reckless and anti-social individuals—who, of course, would be restrained by law. Such social taboos would not, however, mean wholesale celibacy. In the first place, a large proportion of those persons who carry hereditary taints in their germ-plasm carry them in latent form. These latent or ' recessive' taints do their bearers personally no harm, and in most cases will not appear in their children unless the bearers marry persons carrying like taints. By avoiding unions with these particular people, not only will sound children be reasonably assured by wise matings, but the taints themselves will ordinarily be bred out of the stock in a couple of generations, and the germ-plasm will thus be purified. Furthermore, even those persons who carry taints which make parenthood inadvisable need not be debarred from marriage. The sole limitation would be that they should have no children. And this will be perfectly feasible, because, when public opinion acquires the racial view-point, the present silly and vicious attitude toward birth control will be abandoned, and undesirable children will not be conceived. By the combination of legal, social, and individual action above described, the problems of degeneracy and inferiority, attacked both from above and from below, would steadily diminish, and the racial stream would be as steadily purified. The point to be emphasized is that this can be effected almost wholly by a broader and more intelligent application of processes already operating and already widely sanctioned by public opinion. Segregation of defectives, appre- ciation of racial principles, wise marriage selection, birth control : these are the main items in the programme of race purification. This programme is thus seen to be strictly evolutionary and essentially conservative. The first steps are so simple and so obvious that they can be taken without any notable change in our social or legal standards, and without any real offence to intelligent public opinion. Further steps can safely be left to the future, and there is good reason to believe that those steps will be taken far sooner than is generally imagined, because the good results of the first steps will be so apparent and so convincing. Such, briefly, is the process of race cleansing known as ' negative ' eugenics."
J. ST. LOB STRACHEY.