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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/763

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THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE: A PROGRAMME.

for forms of government or ideal considerations of any sort; and nothing really stirs the great multitude of mankind to break with custom and incur the manifest perils of revolt except the belief that misery in this world or damnation in the next, or both, are threatened by the continuance of the state of things in which they have been brought up. But when they do attain that conviction, society becomes as unstable as a package of dynamite, and a very small matter will produce the explosion which sends it back to the chaos of savagery.

It needs no argument to prove that, when the price of labor sinks below a certain point, the worker infallibly falls into that condition which the French emphatically call la misère—a word for which I do not think there is any exact English equivalent. It is a condition in which the food, warmth, and clothing which are necessary for the mere maintenance of the functions of the body in their normal state can not be obtained; in which men, women, and children are forced to crowd into dens wherein decency is abolished and the most ordinary conditions of healthful existence are impossible of attainment; in which the pleasures within reach are reduced to bestiality and drunkenness; in which the pains accumulate at compound interest, in the shape of starvation, disease, stunted development, and moral degradation; in which the prospect of even steady and honest industry is a life of unsuccessful battling with hunger, rounded by a pauper's grave.

That a certain proportion of the members of every great aggregation of mankind should constantly tend to establish and populate such a Malebolge as this is inevitable, so long as some people are by nature idle and vicious, while others are disabled by sickness or accident, or thrown upon the world by the death of their bread-winners. So long as that proportion is restricted within tolerable limits, it can be dealt with; and, so far as it arises only from such causes, its existence may and must be patiently borne. But, when the organization of society, instead of mitigating this tendency, tends to continue and intensify it; when a given social order plainly makes for evil and not for good, men naturally enough begin to think it high time to try a fresh experiment. The animal man, finding that the ethical man has landed him in such a slough, resumes bis ancient sovereignty and preaches anarchy; which is, substantially, a proposal to reduce the social cosmos to chaos and begin the brute struggle for existence once again.

Any one who is acquainted with the state of the population of all great industrial centers, whether in this or other countries, is aware that, amid a large and increasing body of that population, la misère reigns supreme. I have no pretensions to the character of a philanthropist, and I have a special horror of all sorts of sentimental rhetoric; I am merely trying to deal with facts, to some extent within my own knowledge, and further evidenced by abundant testimony, as a naturalist; and I take it to be a mere plain truth that, throughout Indus-