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Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/366

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"boon of nature" and the "banquet of life'" and the "free gift of land" is more idle than fairy tales. We can speak nowadays with some positive knowledge about the primitive condition of the human race on earth, assuming now that the facts about the primitive condition of man have some bearing on our modern social controversies. We know that the human animal is, by nature, more helpless in the face of nature than many other animals, and that nature did not start the human animal off with any other rights than those of all the other animals. The human race came upon this globe with no outfit at all. The mere task of existing and continuing here was so great that the human race was taxed to the utmost to meet it. The obvious proof of that is that large groups of men have, in innumerable instances, utterly perished from the face of the earth. These are facts of knowledge at the present time and so far as I know they are not disputed by anybody.

I have already intimated that these facts about the primitive order of things have very little value for modern social controversies. Their value lies in quite another direction. If we men have, to any extent, conquered the task of existence, if we have risen to some command over nature, and if we have created a domain of rights between ourselves, it is by civilization that we have done it. The good things were not given to us gratuitously at the outset; they are the product of the toil and suffering of mankind. They belong at the end, not at the beginning. The people who are nowadays examining the product and passing judgment on it are only betraying their own ignorance and folly. They are quite dissatisfied with it; they write books, hold conventions, and pass resolutions about how we ought to change it, and they draft ideas about how they would like to recon-