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Soul of Man, The

Individualism, then, is what through Socialism we are to attain to.  As a natural result the State must give up all idea of government.  It must give it up because, as a wise man once said many centuries before Christ, there is such a thing as leaving mankind alone; there is no such thing as governing mankind.  All modes of government are failures.  Despotism is unjust to everybody, including the despot, who was probably made for better things.  Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust to the few.  High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.  It has been found out.  I must say that it was high time, for all authority is quite degrading.  It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised.  When it is violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect, by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt and Individualism that is to kill it.  When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoralising.  People, in that case, are less conscious of the horrible pressure that is being put on them, and so go through their lives in a sort of coarse comfort, like petted animals, without ever realising that they are probably thinking other people’s thoughts, living by other people’s standards, wearing practically what one may call other people’s second-hand clothes, and never being themselves for a single moment.  ‘He who would be free,’ says a fine thinker, ‘must not conform.’  And authority, by bribing people to conform, produces a very gross kind of over-fed barbarism amongst us.

With authority, punishment will pass away.  This will be a great gain—a gain, in fact, of incalculable value.  As one reads history, not in the expurgated editions written for school-boys and passmen, but in the original authorities of each time, one is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalised by the habitual employment of punishment, than it is by the occurrence of crime.  It obviously follows that the more punishment is inflicted the more crime is produced, and most modern legislation has clearly recognised this, and has made it its task to diminish punishment as far as it thinks it can.  Wherever it has really diminished it, the results have always been extremely good.  The less punishment, the less crime.  When there is no punishment at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if it occurs, will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care and kindness.  For what are called criminals nowadays are not criminals at all.  Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime.  That indeed is the reason why our criminals are, as a class, so absolutely uninteresting from any psychological point of view.  They are not marvellous Macbeths and terrible Vautrins.  They are merely what ordinary, respectable, commonplace people would be if they had not got enough to eat.  When private property is abolished there will be no necessity for crime, no demand for it; it will cease to exist.  Of course, all crimes are not crimes against property, though such are the crimes that the English law, valuing what a man has more than what a man is, punishes with the harshest and most horrible severity, if we except the crime of murder, and regard death as worse than penal servitude, a point on which our criminals, I believe, disagree.  But though a crime may not be against property, it may spring from the misery and rage and depression produced by our wrong system of property-holding, and so, when that system is abolished, will disappear.  When each member of the community has sufficient for his wants, and is not interfered with by his neighbour, it will not be an object of any interest to him to interfere with anyone else.  Jealousy, which is an extraordinary source of crime in modern life, is an emotion closely bound up with our conceptions of property, and under Socialism and Individualism will die out.  It is remarkable that in communistic tribes jealousy is entirely unknown.

Now as the State is not to govern, it may be asked what the State is to do.  The State is to be a voluntary association that will organise labour, and be the manufacturer and distributor of necessary commodities.  The State is to make what is useful.  The individual is to make what is beautiful.  And as I have mentioned the word labour, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labour.  There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labour at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading.  It is mentally and morally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure, and many forms of labour are quite pleasureless activities, and should be regarded as such.  To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours, on a day when the east wind is blowing is a disgusting occupation.  To sweep it with mental, moral, or physical dignity seems to me to be impossible.  To sweep it with joy would be appalling.  Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt.  All work of that kind should be done by a machine.

And I have no doubt that it will be so.  Up to the present, man has been, to a certain extent, the slave of machinery, and there is something tragic in the fact that as soon as man had invented a machine to do his work he began to starve.  This, however, is, of course, the result of our property system and our system of competition.  One man owns a machine which does the work of five hundred men.  Five hundred men are, in consequence, thrown out of employment, and, having no work to do, become hungry and take to thieving.  The one man secures the produce of the machine and keeps it, and has five hundred times as much as he should have, and probably, which is of much more importance, a great deal more than he really wants.  Were that machine the property of all, every one would benefit by it.  It would be an immense advantage to the community.  All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour, all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasant conditions, must be done by machinery.  Machinery must work for us in coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker of steamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, and do anything that is tedious or distressing.  At present machinery competes against man.  Under proper conditions machinery will serve man.  There is no doubt at all that this is the future of machinery, and just as trees grow while the country gentleman is asleep, so while Humanity will be amusing itself, or enjoying cultivated leisure—which, and not labour, is the aim of man—or making beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight, machinery will be doing all the necessary and unpleasant work.  The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves.  The Greeks were quite right there.  Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible.  Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising.  On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.  And when scientific men are no longer called upon to go down to a depressing East End and distribute bad cocoa and worse blankets to starving people, they will have delightful leisure in which to devise wonderful and marvellous things for their own joy and the joy of everyone else.  There will be great storages of force for every city, and for every house if required, and this force man will convert into heat, light, or motion, according to his needs.  Is this Utopian?  A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.  And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.  Progress is the realisation of Utopias.


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