REVIEWS AND CRITIQUE
Sometime ago in this column I allured to the “Philosophy of Power” by Ragnar Redbeard, LL.D., of Chicago. Then I had not fully examined the work in question, and did not wish to say anything definite until I had read it for myself. I have done so now, and I must say it has shocked me—even me. Not that I was wholly unacquainted with the basic truths upon which the work is built. No one who is tolerable well versed in his Darwin can be that. But I was hardly prepared for the brutal logic which Mr. Redbeard employs to demonstrate the idea of the Survival of the Fittest. It is nature red in tooth and claw, and man without mercy or pity. War, says the author, is the natural state of man, and it is only the slaves, the weaklings and the “good” who shrink from exercising it. Might is Right all over the universe; and all laws are framed merely to keep the slaves in order. The freeman and the hero scorn all laws except those which they make themselves. Says the author:—
“I proclaim death to the weakling, and wealth to the strong.
I request reasons for the Golden Rule and the why and wherefore of your ten commands.
Before none of your printed idols do I bend in acquiescence, and he who saith “thou shalt” to me is my mortal foe. Death! I say death to every lie.
Gather around me, oh! Ye death defiant, and the earth itself shall be thine to have and to hold.
What is your ‘civilisation and progress,’ if its only outcome is hysteria and downgoing?
What is ‘government and law,’ if their ripened harvests are men without sap?
What are ‘religious and literatures,’ if their grandest productions are hordes of faithful slaves?
Human rights and wrongs are not determined by justice, but by might.
I want courage that has made up its mind to conquer or—perish.
Courage that ask no quarter even with the knife at its throat—unyielding, sullen, pitiless.
That is the courage that has never turned a master’s mill.
That is the courage that never will turn it—that will die rather than turn it.”
In this view of the universe there is room for neither mercy nor pity nor charity. It is a sermon on the text—
"Let him take who has the power,
And let him keep who can. "
It is the creed of the pure individualist who scorns all restraint of an objective kind. There is nothing great but might. Rights are wholly denied, and it is by might that all things are decided. The prizes of the earth belong to the strong. The weak are merely rubbish to be cleared out of the way. Granted that the animal is all there is in man, this creed would be wholly unanswerable, for what applies to lower types applies also to man, and unquestionable on the material plane it is still an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. But the fact that man has a soul that abhor cruelty, and is not responsible for the fact that it does abhor cruelty, seems to me to show that man is more than a bundle of tissues, brain, and nerves, and that the “beyond man” in him seeks union with a greater spirit than is made wholly manifest in material things. But I do not press this view. I only throw out the suggestion, as I know right well that my proofs are poor.
Buchman, 1899, May 16