Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/239

This page has been validated.
213
EXAMINATION OF A NOBLE SENTIMENT

and a half; the mechanic at two dollars will say that it would cost three; a man whose income is a thousand dollars will say that it costs fifteen hundred. I once heard a man, whose salary was twelve thousand dollars, speak of five thousand a year as misery. A menschenwürdiges Dasein, therefore, at the first touch gives us the first evidence of something wrong. It sounds like a concrete and definite thing, but it is not such; a menschenwürdiges Dasein is the most shifting and slippery notion which the human mind can try to conceive. In general it is about fifty per cent more than each one of us is getting now, which would, for a time, mean happiness, prosperity, and welfare to us all. It is to be remembered, also, that most of the people who, not in their own opinion, but in that of their neighbors, have not a menschenwürdiges Dasein are those who do not like that kind of an existence or want it, but have turned their backs upon it, and are in fact rather more contented than any other class of people with their situation as they are now.

The next question is: for how many people must a menschenwürdiges Dasein be provided? The provision of such an existence is the first necessity which meets one of us when he comes to understand the world in which he lives,—that is, he has to earn his living,—for the exceptions, those who inherit a living, are so few that they may be disregarded by the rest of us on whom this proposed duty will fall. The task of earning a living is found, generally, to be a somewhat heavy one, chiefly for the reason, as shown in the former paragraph, that a man's definition of a decent living will not stay fixed long enough for him to realize it. As soon as he thinks that he sees his way to it he wants to marry; then he becomes responsible for the menschenwürdiges Dasein of a number of other persons. His whole energy, his