Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/166

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
140
EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

Now, it is a remarkable fact that if we confine our attention to that conception of liberty which consists in wild unrestraint, the realization of it is not found on any of the lowest stages of civilization at all, but on one which is comparatively high, viz., the pastoral or nomadic stage; it is among the nomadic hordes of Central Asia or among the men of the Bedouin type that the wildest and most untamed form of personal liberty is to be found. Along with it, however, goes ferocity, the practise of plunder as a virtue, blood-thirstiness, and brutishness. Most remarkable of all, however, is the fact that slavery begins on this stage; it appears that men subjugated each other on the same stage on which they subjugated animals. If this observation is true (and although not completely established it has been accumulating evidence in its favor), then it is to be noted that the notion of wild, unrestrained, personal liberty found an approximate realization only when society was so differentiated that some could get this freedom because others had been reduced to servitude.

The notion that liberty was a primitive endowment of the race, which has been lost or stolen in the course of civilization, must be abandoned; study of primitive society shows that it is all false and unfounded. It is an exploded myth like the "state of nature" or the "social compact." We shall next see whether there can be liberty, in the sense of unconstraint, in civilization.

Who Is Free? Is It the Civilized Man?

A schoolboy looks through the window and wishes that the hours of restraint were over so that he could run free; he regards with envy the animals which run "at liberty" and the birds which fly in the air. The