REVIEWS AND CRITIQUE
"We are tired to death of "Equality." Gods are at a discount, devils are in demand." —Ragnar Redbeard, Might is Right.
One of the drawbacks of keeping an open mind is that one is liable to become the receptacle of a fair percentage of intellectual sewage. The habit of recognizing certain facts that escape the observation of the majority is apt to necessitate the patient's consideration of all loud-mouthed abnormal vituperations whatsoever. To wade through the disjointed ravings of the harbinger of a fresh gospel is irksome enough if one happens to have gone in for a little private cogitation on the cosmic scheme, but to the book-lover who cherishes literature for its own sake, with an eye to the structural beauty of language and the artistry of bindings, the very handling of such books gives rise to feelings that "may not be expressed outside of profanity," as Mark Twain would say.
The name of Ragnar Redbeard, LL.D., is ominous. One's mind involuntarily reverts to Bluebeard. Dr. Redbeard is an American, his book, "The Survival of the Fittest," which came to hand the other day from Chicago, more than justifies the suspicious ominousness of its author's name. The book is abominably printed on compressed wood pulp, a kind of thin lath which breaks if you bend it. The publisher's name is not given, and the sender seems to have taken the precaution to cut out one or two leaves at the end-for which thanks.
"Broadly speaking, therefore, might [brute violence] is incarnated right and rights are metamorphosed mights. Power and justice are synonyms; for might is mighty and does prevail. They who possess the undisputable might (be they one, ten, or ten million) may and do proclaim the right [to plunder and terrorize their victims]. Government is founded on property [legalized robbery], property is founded on conquest [brute violence], and conquest is founded on power [brute violence] —and power is founded on brain and brawn—an organic animality. Just as parents dictate rights to their children, so masterful animals dictate right [impose their will and greed upon] to millions and millions of sodden-livered, baby-minded men. Monarchic rulers are the gaudy jumping-jacks, and representative institutions the tax-gathering mechanism of the Mighty-Ones [the unscrupulous plotting scoundrels]. Banks and safe-deposits are their treasure stores, and armies and navies their sentinels, executioners, and watchmen.
An editorial preface by Douglas K. Handyside, M.D., Ph.D., informs us that—
This is no ordinary book. Nothing like it has ever been permitted to see the light since A.D. 300. In strict sequence, this volume supplements Darwin, Gibbon, Spencer; concentrating that their Principia into one scientific and logical Assertive. "The Logic of Power" is a most remarkable contribution o the study of racial decay. It would have been brought out in '95, but that much time was wholly wasted searching for a publisher.
Verily a most right worshipful and not too modest editor! A postscript somewhere near the end promises the issue of Book II. "when circumstances demand it." Let us hope that circumstances will be sparing in their demands for some time to come. In a rash moment, I undertook the perusal of Book I., but when Book II., comes along I will beg to be excused. Enough is preferable to a feast of this sort of thing.
But, joking aside, let us examine this wild caricature of Darwin, Machiavelli, and Nietzche. The argument may be briefly stated thus: The only true morality is Nature's un-morality a la Darwin. There is no "right" outside of the right of the strong to prove their fitness to survive by the merciless extermination of the weak, and THE GREAT WRONG is the morality of the Sermon on the Mount. The greatest virtue is strength with courage to exercise it, and the greatest benefactors have been Caesar, Napoleon, Bismarck, Cecil Rhodes, and Dr. Jamieson.
The greatest vices are idealism, humility, and submissiveness; and Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Karl Marx have been among the arch-malefactors of the race. This is hopeless trash, and it is not nearly so new as the author seems to imagine; but, as one may suppose, a writer with a fair knowledge of the facts who thinks along these lines has plenty of scope for scathing ribaldry-that is, if the im-moderate, splenetic language of the gutter be his organ of expression.
"Mankind is aweary of its sham prophets, its demagogues, and its statesmen. It crieth out for kings and heroes. It demands a nobility-a nobility that cannot be hired with money like slaves or beasts of burden. The world awaits the coming of mighty men of valor, great destroyers (destroyers of all that is vile), angels of death."
That is one-half of a paragraph, and there are many men (Carlyle, for instance), who have already said the same thing far more forcibly. but, then, here is the other half of the same paragraph:
"We are sick, unto nausea, of the "Good Lord Jesus," terror-stricken under the executive of priest, mob, and proconsul. We are tired to death of "Equality." Gods are at a discount, devils are in demand. He who would rule the coming age must be hard, cruel, and deliberately intrepid."
This is not torn out of its context. What goes before and comes immediately after this is far worse.
Here you have four sentences, each containing a statement without either sequence or sence. Such a phrase as "The Good Lord Jesus," for example, is doubtless nauseous to the blood-thirsty mental palate of Dr. Redbeard; but since it is never heard on our side of the "pond," except from the mouth of well-meaning effeminacy at an occasional street corner, we are unable to appreciate this shallow claptrap about being "sickened unto nausea with the Good Lord Jesus." The three other sentences are mere stalking vulgar puerility, unworthy of comment.
A few extracts, taken at random, will show the author's attitude towards Christ. The introductory chapter is summarised in the contents thus:
"The living forces of evil are to be found in the moral ideals of to-day," and so set out under the delusion that the moral ideals of to-day are synonymous with the teachings of Christ, all unconsciously he manages to pass by on the other side of the former, and in his lust for verbal carnage or something to howl about, he gets hopelessly lost in imaginary slashings at the latter.
"If we only lived as Christ lived, what a beautiful world this would be," saith all the thoughtless. if we lived as Christ lived, there would be none of us left to live. he begat no children. He laboured not for his bread (that is a lie, of course.) He possessed neither house nor home-he merely talked. Consequently, he must have existed on charity or have stolen bread.
If we all lived like Christ would anyone have been left to labour, to be begged from, to be stolen from? "If we all lived like Christ" is thus a self-evident absurdity. . . . Both ancient and modern Christianism and all that has its roots therein is the negation of everything grand, noble, generous, heroic, and the glorification of everything feeble, atrocious, dishonorable, dastardly. The cross is now and has ever been, an escutcheon of shame. It represents a gallows and a semite slave swinging thereon. For two thousand years it has absolutely overturned human reason; overthrown commonsense, infected the world with madness, submissiveness, degeneracy. . . .
A god begging his bread from door to door!
A god without a place to lay his head!
A god stabbed to death by an hired officer!
A god executed by order of a stipendiary magistrate!
What an insane idea! is it an idea or rather a wasting cranial disease! . . .
The divine Democrat was executed upon a government gibbet. . . . He died an abysmal failure—a Redeemer who did not redeem, a Savior who did not save, a Messiah whipped like a calf—a slave agitator deservedly destroyed for preaching a falsehood, the monstrous gospel of love, brotherhood, and equality.
If Ragnar Redbeard, LL.D., or his admiring editor imagines that this is the sort of stuff that "is destined to have a potent influence over the destiny of this and other nations" they add hopeless idiocy to their raving mania.
One owes an apology to his readers for the reproduction of this fulsome twaddle, freely interspersed as it is with wilful misstatements of truth.
Passing the second chapter, which is a further impeachment of "Jesus the true Prince of Evil, the Mephistopheles of the World, the King of Slaves"; and the third, which miserable attempt to refute the Socialistic doctrine of Equality; and the fourth, which preaches a gospel of cannibalism (a trifle belated, one would say) we come to the third last chapter of the book. Here we have our author as he really is, for better or for worse; and he is a man, take him all in all, let us hope we will never, never look upon his like again.
Self-preservation first, foremost, above all things, and at WHATEVER cost, is the law of the jungle. So must it be among human carnivores? So it is, for Society is a jungle. . . . Possess all you can of earth's good things. . . . Nothing succeeds like success. Do not quibble over the order of your succeeding, but-succeed. Thou shalt give thy heart to no god, for that is idiocy; neither shalt thou love thy neighbor as thyself, for that is madness. . . . If you fail you are righteously detestable, but if you triumph thrice-blessed art thou. . . . Battle and conquer HERE and NOW, for behold to-morrow you die! You die, and that IS the end of you.
Let Napoleon's ideal be thine. Napoleon was Darwin on horseback. . . . There is land for the taking and gold for the raking, and the fame and power and the song for the brave, the bold, and the strong, AND FOR NONE OTHER. Therefore, be thou a Napoleon; don't be a Christ. . . . "It is more blessed to give than to receive" is the vacuous baby prattle of the pastor. it is more blessed to CAPTURE than to receive is ordinary common-sense.
He who denies man's right to exploit man impeaches not the conduct of man, but the order of nature. Who, then, is right-the Anglo-Saxon or the Israelite? The scientist or the oratorical wonder-worker? The Western thinker or the Eastern dreamer? Which is the true faith - Japhet's logic or Shem's fabulism?
A host of other questions could easily be added to this list. For instance: Is Ragnar Redbeard the name or nom-de-plume of a would-be satirist, a prating knave or an informal fool? Has the author of "Might is Right" ever heard of a city called Glasgow, where a paper is published entitled The Clincher? If not, why not? Comparisons are generally odious, but they are sometimes also flattering.
If Book II. should come this way I will consult our editor about utilizing it for firewood, for the might of our office hatchet is my right to convert a useless wooden book into serviceable combustion. While leaving the author, or his printer, with the credit of the free distribution of capitals, dashes, and italics in the extracts given here, I may say I am responsible for most of the punctuation and much of the spelling.
The Labour Leader, 27 November 1897