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Freeland - A Social Anticipation
by Theodor Hertzka
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That under the new order the earth will be transformed into a swarming ant-hill of thickly crowded inhabitants, that complete control over the elemental forces will lead to a destruction of all primitive natural fertility, there is therefore no reason whatever to fear. On the contrary, the more rationally distributed inhabitants will not crowd upon each other in the way in which they do at present in most civilised countries; and the greater fertility of the cultivated land of the future, in connection with the improved methods of cultivation, will make it possible to obtain from a smaller area a ten-fold greater supply for a double or a triple number of people than can be now obtained by the plough. The beauty and romance of nature are exposed to no danger whatever of being destroyed by the levelling instruments of future engineers; nay, it may be anticipated that a loving devotion to nature will be one of the chief pleasures of those future generations, who will treasure and guard in every natural wonder their inalienable and undivided property.

It is impossible to predict what course the development of material progress will take under the dominion of the new social principle. So much is evident, that the spirit of invention will apply itself far more than it has hitherto done to the task of finding out fresh methods of saving labour. This is a logical consequence of the fact that arrangements for the sparing of labour will now become profitable and applicable under all circumstances—which has hitherto been the case only exceptionally. But it is probable that the future will surpass the present also in its comparative estimate of intellectual as more valuable than material progress. Hitherto the reverse has been the case: material wealth and material power have been the exclusive aims of human endeavour; intellectual culture has been at best prized merely as the means of attaining what was regarded as the real and final end. There have always been individuals who looked upon intellectual perfection as an end in itself; but there have always been isolated exceptions who have never been able to impress their character upon the whole race. The immense majority of men have been too ignorant and rude even to form a conception of purely intellectual endeavour; and the few who have been able to do so have been so absorbed in the reckless struggle for wealth and power, that they have found neither time nor attention for anything else. In fact, it lay in the essence of the exploiting system that under its dominion intellectual interests should be thrust into the background. In the mutual struggle for supremacy only those could succeed in becoming the hammer instead of the anvil who knew how to obtain control of material wealth; hence it was only these latter who could imprint their character upon the society they dominated, whilst the 'impractical,' who chased after intellectual aims, were forced down into the great subjugated herd. And the teaching of the history of civilisation compels us to admit that in the earlier epochs the chase after wealth could legitimately claim precedence over purely intellectual endeavour. It is true that intellectual perfection is the highest and final end of man; but as a certain amount of wealth is an indispensable condition of success in that highest sphere of effort, man must give to the acquisition of wealth his chief attention until that condition of higher progress is attained. That condition has now been attained, that amount of wealth has been acquired which makes the supply of the highest intellectual needs possible to all men; and there can be no doubt whatever that man will now awake to a consciousness of his proper destiny. That which he has hitherto striven after only incidentally, and, as it were, accidentally, will now become the object of his chief endeavour.

That this intellectual progress must produce a radical revolution in the sentiments and ideas of the coming generations is a matter of course. This holds good also of religious ideas. These have always been the faithful and necessary reflection of the contemporary conditions of human existence. In primitive times, so long as man carried on the struggle for existence only passively, like the beasts, he, like them, was without any religious conceptions. When he had taken the first step towards active engagement in the struggle for existence, and his dependence upon nature was to some extent weakened, but peace had not yet been broken with his fellow-men, he began to believe in helpful higher Powers that should fill his nets and drive the prey into his hands. When the war of annihilation broke out between man and man, then these higher Powers acquired a cruel and sanguinary character corresponding to the horribly altered form of the struggle for existence; the devil became the undisputed master of the world, which, regarded as thoroughly bad, was nevertheless worshipped as such. Next the struggle for supremacy superseded the struggle of annihilation; the first traces of humanity, consideration for the vanquished, showed itself, and in harmony with this the good gods were associated with the gods of evil, Ormuzd with Ahriman; and the more the horrors of cannibalism were forced into the background by the chivalrous virtues of the new lords of the world, the more pronounced became the authority of the good gods over the bad. But since it was the dominant classes who created the new faith, and since they needed for their prosperity the obedience of the subjugated, they naturally transplanted the principle of servitude into their heaven. The gods became severe, jealous masters; they demanded blind obedience, and punished with tyrannical cruelty every resistance to their will. This did not prevent the rulers from holding this to be the best of all worlds, despite its servitude and its vices; for to them servitude was well-pleasing, and as to the vices, they would be rid of the 'evil gods' if only the last remnant of resistance and disobedience—the only sources of all evil—were rooted out.

This kind of despotism was first attacked when the slaves found spokesmen. The most logical of these was Buddha, who, as he necessarily must from the standpoint of the slaves, again declared the world to be evil, and thence arrived at the only conclusion consistent with this assumption—namely, that its non-existence, Nirvana, was to be preferred to its continued existence. Christ, on the other hand, opposed to the optimism of domination the optimism of redemption. Like Buddha, he saw evil in oppression, not in disobedience; whilst, in the imagination of other nations, the good gods had fought for the conquerors and the bad ones for the subjugated, he now represented the Jewish Jehovah as the Father of the poor and Satan as the idol of those who were in power. To him also the world was bad, but—and this was the decisive difference between him and Buddha—not radically so, but only because of the temporary sway of the devil. It was necessary, not to destroy the world, but to deliver it from the power of the devil, and therefore, in contrast to Buddhistic Quietism, he rightly called his church a 'militant' one. Both founders, however, being ignorant of the law of natural evolution, were at one in regarding the contemporary condition of civilisation as a permanent one, and therefore they agreed that oppression could be removed only by condemning riches and declaring poverty to be the only sinless state of man. The Indian king's son, familiar with all the wisdom of the Indians of his day, saw that reversion to universal poverty meant deterioration, therefore destruction, and, in his sympathy with the oppressed in their sorrow, he did not shrink from even this. The carpenter's Son from Galilee held the equality of poverty to be possible, and He was therefore far removed from the despondent resignation of His Indian predecessor—He proclaimed the optimism of poverty.

The later official Christianity has nothing at all in common with this teaching of Christ. The official Christianity is the outcome of the conviction, derived from experience, that the millennial kingdom of the poor preached by Christ and the Apostles is an impossibility, and of the consequent strange amalgamation of practical optimism with theoretical pessimism. Jehovah now again became the gaoler of the powerful, Satan the tempter who incites to disobedience to the commands of God; at the same time, however, the order of the world—though instituted by God—was declared to be fundamentally bad and incapable of improvement, the work of redemption no longer being regarded as referring to this world, but merely to the next. The exploiting world for the last fifteen centuries has naturally adhered to the new doctrine, leaving asceticism to a few anchorites and eccentric persons, whose conduct has remained without influence upon the sphere of practical human thought. Not until the last century, when the old industrial system approached its end, and the incipient control of man over nature gradually made the institution of servitude a curse to the higher classes, did pessimism—this time, philosophic pessimism—lift up its head once more. The world became more and more unpleasant even to the ruling classes; they were made to feel fettered and anxious by the misery around them, which they had previously been able easily to explain by a reference to the inscrutable counsels of God; they were seized by a dislike to those enjoyments which could be obtained only by the torture of their brethren, and, as they held this system, despite its horrible character, to be unchangeable, they gave themselves up to pessimism—the pessimism of Buddha, which looked for redemption only in the annihilation of just those more nobly constituted minds who did not allow themselves to be forced by the hereditary authoritative belief to mistake a curse for a blessing.

But another change is now about to be effected. The gods can no longer rule by terror over a race that has robbed the clouds of their lightning and the underworld of its fire; and, now that servitude has ceased to be the basis of the terrestrial order, it must also disappear from the celestial. The fear of God is as inconceivable as pessimism of any kind whatever as a characteristic of the coming generations, who, released from the suffering of the world, will pass their existence in the enjoyment of a lifelong happiness. For the great thinkers who, looking beyond their own times, give expression to truths the full meaning of which is understood only by subsequent generations, have never failed to see that this suffering, this 'original sin,' is based upon nothing else than the injustice of exploitation. The evils which mankind brought upon itself—want and vice—were what converted earth into hell; what nature imposed upon us—sickness and death—can no more embitter life to us than it can any other kind of living creatures. Sickness cannot, because it is only transitory and exceptional, especially since misery and vice no longer minister to it; and death cannot, because, in reality, it is not death, but merely the fear of it, which is an evil.

But it will be said that this fear of death, foolish as it may be in itself, is a real evil which is infinitely more painful to man, who reflects upon the future, than to the animal that lives merely in the present and knows of and fears death only when it is imminent. This was, in fact, the case, but it will not continue to be so when man, by his return to the innocence of nature, has won back his right to the painlessness of death. The fear of death is only one of the many specific instincts by which nature secures the perpetuation of species. If the beasts did not fear destruction, they would necessarily all perish, for their means of warding off the powerful dangers with which they are threatened are but weak. It is different with man, who has not merely become king of the living world, but has at last made himself master of the elements. In order to preserve the human species from perishing, nature needed to give to man the blind fear of death only so long as he had to defend himself against himself and his fellow-men. So long as he was the victim of the torture of subjection, man had also to think of death with emotions of invincible shuddering if he would not prefer destruction to suffering. Just because it was so painful, life had to be fenced round with the blind dread of death even in the case of that highest species, man, which did not need protection from external dangers. But now is this last and worst danger overcome; the dread of death has become superfluous even as a protection against suicide; it has no longer any use as a specific instinct of man, and it will disappear like every specific character which has become useless. This evil, also, will vanish with injustice from mankind; life spreads out full of serene joyousness before our successors, who, free from the crippling influence of pessimism, will spend their days in unending progress towards perfection.

But we, my friends, now hasten to open the doors to this future!

Here closed the sixth and last day of the Universal Congress of Eden Vale.



CONCLUSION

The history of 'Freeland' is ended. I could go on with the thread of the narrative, and depict the work of human emancipation as it appears to my mental eye, but of what use would it be? Those who have not been convinced, by what I have already written, that we are standing on the threshold of a new and happier age, and that it depends solely upon our discernment and resolve whether we pass over it, would not be convinced by a dozen volumes.

For this book is not the idle creation of an uncontrolled imagination, but the outcome of earnest, sober reflection, and of profound scientific investigation. All that I have described as really happening might happen if men were found who, convinced as I am of the untenability of existing conditions, determined to act instead of merely complaining. Thoughtlessness and inaction are, in truth, at present the only props of the existing economic and social order. What was formerly necessary, and therefore inevitable, has become injurious and superfluous; there is no longer anything to compel us to endure the misery of an obsolete system; there is nothing but our own folly to prevent us from enjoying that happiness and abundance which the existing means of civilisation are capable of providing for us.

It will perhaps be objected, 'Thus have numberless reformers spoken and written, since the days of Sir Thomas More; and what has been proposed to mankind as a panacea for all suffering has always proved to be Utopian.' And I am willing to admit that the dread of being classed with the legion of authors of Utopian romances at first filled my mind with not a few qualms as to the form which I had chosen for my book. But, upon mature deliberation, I decided to offer, not a number of dry abstractions, but as vivid a picture as possible, which should clearly represent in concrete conceptions what abstract ideas would have shown in merely shadowy outlines. The reader who does not for himself discover the difference between this book and the works of imagination above referred to, is lost to me; to him I should remain the 'unpractical enthusiast' even if I were to elaborate ever so dry a systematic treatise, for it is enough for him to know that I believe in a change of the existing system to condemn me as an enthusiast. It matters not, to this kind of readers, in what form I state my proofs; for such readers, like fanatics in the domain of religion, are simply disqualified to estimate aright the evidence which is pointed against what exists.

The impartial reader, on the other hand, will not be prevented by the narrative form of this book from soberly endeavouring to discover whether my propositions are essentially true or false. If he should find that I have started from false premises, that the system of freedom and justice which I have propounded is inconsistent in any way with the natural and universally recognised springs of human action—nay, if, after reading my book, he should not have attained to the firm conviction that the realisation of this new order—apart, of course, from unimportant details—is absolutely inevitable, then I must be content to be placed in the same category as More, Fourier, Cabet, and the rest who have mistaken their desires for sober reality.

I wish once more expressly to state that the intrinsic practicability of my book extends beyond the economic and ethical principles and motives underlying it, to the actual stage upon which its scenes are placed. The highlands in Equatorial Africa exactly correspond to the picture drawn in the book. In order that 'Freeland' may be realised as I have drawn it, nothing more is required, therefore, than a sufficient number of vigorous men. Shall I be privileged to live until these men are found?

THE END

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