H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Anticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought online

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world, consider him carefully, and condemn him,
and remove him from being. All such killing will
be done with an opiate, for death is too grave a
thing to be made painful or dreadful, and used
as a deterrent from crime. If deterrent punish-
ments are used at all in the code of the future, the
deterrent will neither be death, nor mutilation of
the body, nor mutilation of the life by imprison-
ment, nor any horrible things like that, but good,
scientifically caused pain, that will leave nothing
but a memory. Yet even the memory of over-
whelming pain is a sort of mutilation of the soul.
The idea that only those who are fit to live freely
in an orderly world state should be permitted
to live, is entirely against the use of deterrent
punishments at all. Against outrageous conduct

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ANTICIPATIONS

to children or women, perhaps, or for very cowardly
or brutal assaults of any sort, the men of the future
may consider pain a salutary remedy, at least
during the ages of transition while the brute is
still at large. But since most acts of this sort do,
under conditions that neither torture nor exas-
perate, point to an essential vileness in the perpe-
trator, I am inclined to think that even in these
cases the men of the coming time will be far less
disposed to torture than to kill. They will have
another aspect to consider. The conscious in-
fliction of pain, for the sake of the pain, is against
the better nature of man, and it is unsafe and
demoralizing for any one to undertake this duty.
To kill under the seemly conditions science will
afford is a far less offensive thing. The rulers of
the future will grudge making good people into
jailers, warders, punishment-dealers, nurses, and
attendants on the bad. People who cannot live
happily and freely in the world without spoiling
the lives of others are better out of it. That is
a current sentiment even to-day, but the men of
the new republic will have the courage of their
opinions.

And the type of men that I conceive emerging in
the coming years will deal simply and logically not
only with the business of death, but with birth. At
present the sexual morality of the civilized world
is the most illogical and incoherent system of wild
permissions and insane prohibitions, foolish toler-

326



THE NEW REPUBLIC

ance and ruthless cruelty that it is possible to
imagine. Our current civilization is a sexual
lunatic. And it has lost its reason in this respect
under the stresses of the new birth of things, largely
through the difficulties that have stood in the way,
and do still, in a diminishing degree, stand in the
way of any sane discussion of the matter as a
whole.. To approach it is to approach excitement.
So few people seem to be leading happy and healthy
sexual lives that to mention the very word " sexual "
is to set them stirring, to brighten the eye, lower
the voice, and blanch or flush the cheek with a
flavor of guilt. We are all, as it were, keeping
our secrets and hiding our shames. One of the
most curious revelations of this fact occurred only
a few years ago, when the artless outpourings
in fiction of certain young women who had failed
to find light on problems that pressed upon them
for solution (and which it was certainly their busi-
ness as possible wives and mothers to solve) roused
all sorts of respectable people to a quite insane
vehemence of condemnation. Now, there are ex-
cellent reasons and a permanent necessity for
the preservation of decency, and for a far more
stringent suppression of matter that is merely in-
tended to excite than at present obtains, and the
chief of these reasons lies in the need of preserving
the young from a premature awakening, and in-
deed, in the interests of civilization, in positively
delaying the period of awakening, retarding ma-

327



ANTICIPATIONS

turity and lengthening the period of growth and
preparation as much as possible. But purity
and innocence may be prolonged too late; in-
nocence is really no more becoming to adults than
a rattle or a rubber consoler, and the bashfulness
that hampers this discussion, that permits it only
in a furtive, silly sort of way, has its ugly conse-
quences in shames and cruelties, in miserable
households and pitiful crises, in the production
of countless, needless, and unhappy lives. In-
deed, too often we carry our decency so far as
to make it suggestive and stimulating in a non-
natural way; we invest the plain business of
reproduction with a rustic, religious quality far
more unwholesome than a savage nakedness could
possibly be.

The essential aspect of all this wild and windy
business of the sexual relations is, after all, births.
Upon this plain fact the people of the emergent new
republic will unhesitatingly go. The pre-emi-
nent value of sexual questions in morality lies in
the fact that the lives which will constitute the
future are involved. If they are not involved, if
we can dissociate this relationship from this issue,
then sexual questions become of no more impor-
tance than the morality of one's deportment at
chess, or the general morality of out-door games.
Indeed, then the question of sexual relationships
would be entirely on all fours with, and probably
very analogous to, the question of golf. In each

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THE NEW REPUBLIC

case it would be for the medical man and the
psychologist to decide how far the thing was whole-
some and permissible, and how far it was an ag-
gressive bad habit and an absorbing waste of time
and energy. An able-bodied man continually
addicted to love-making that had no result in
offspring would be just as silly and morally ob-
jectionable as an able-bodied man who devoted his
chief energies to hitting little balls over golf-links.
But no more. Both would probably be wasting the
lives of other human beings the golfer must
employ his caddie. It is entirely the matter of
births, and a further consideration to be presently
discussed, that makes this analogy untrue. It
does not, however, make it so untrue as to do away
with the probability that in many cases the emer-
gent men of the new time will consider sterile grat-
ification a moral and legitimate thing. St. Paul
tells us that it is better to marry than to burn, but
to beget children on that account will appear, I
imagine, to these coming men as an absolutely
loathsome proceeding. They will stifle no spread
of knowledge that will diminish the swarming
misery of childhood in the slums, they will regard
the disinclination of the witless " society " woman
to become a mother as a most amiable trait in her
folly. In our bashfulness about these things
we talk an abominable lot of nonsense; all this
uproar one hears about the rapid multiplication of
the unfit and the future of the lower races takes on

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ANTICIPATIONS

an entirely different complexion directly we face
known, if indelicate, facts. Most of the human
types, that by civilized standards are undesirable,
are quite willing to die out through such sup-
pressions if the world will only encourage them a
little. They multiply in sheer ignorance, but
they do not desire multiplication even now, and
they can easily be made to dread it. Sensuality
aims not at life, but at itself. I believe that the
men of the new republic will deliberately shape
their public policy along these lines. They will
rout out and illuminate urban rookeries and all
places where the base can drift to multiply; they
will contrive a land legislation that will keep the
black, or yellow, or mean-white squatter on the
move; they will see to it that no parent can make
a profit out of a child, so that child-bearing shall
cease to be a hopeful speculation for the unem-
ployed poor; and they will make the maintenance
of a child the first charge upon the parents who
have brought it into the world. Only in this way
can progress escape being clogged by the prod-
ucts of the security it creates. The development
of science has lifted famine and pestilence from
the shoulders of man, and it will yet lift war
for some other end than to give him a spell of pro-
miscuous and finally cruel and horrible repro-
duction.

No doubt the sentimentalist, and all whose moral
sense has been vigorously trained in the old school.

330



THE NEW REPUBLIC

will find this rather a dreadful suggestion; it
amounts to saying that for the abyss to become
a " hot-bed " of sterile immorality will fall in with
the deliberate policy of the ruling class in the
days to come. At any rate, it will be a terminat-
ing evil. At present the abyss is a hot-bed breed-
ing undesirable and too often fearfully miserable
children. That is something more than a sen-
timental horror. Under the really very horrible
morality of to-day, the spectacle of a mean-spirited,
under-sized, diseased little man, quite incapable
of earning a decent living for himself, married
to some under-fed, ignorant, ill-shaped, plain, and
diseased little woman, and guilty of the lives of
ten or twelve ugly, ailing children, is regarded
as an extremely edifying spectacle, and the two
parents consider their reproductive excesses as
giving them a distinct claim upon less fecund
and more prosperous people. Benevolent persons
throw themselves with peculiar ardor into a case
of this sort, and quite passionate efforts are made to
strengthen the mother against further eventualities
and protect the children until they attain to nubile
years. Until the attention of the benevolent per-
sons is presently distracted by a new case. . . .
Yet so powerful is the suggestion of current opin-
ions that few people seem to see nowadays just
what a horrible and criminal thing this sort of
family, seen from the point of view of social phys-
iology, appears.

33i



ANTICIPATIONS

And directly such principles as these come into
effective operation, and I believe that the next
hundred years will see this new phase of the human
history beginning, there will recommence a process
of physical and mental improvement in mankind, a
raising and elaboration of the average man, that
has virtually been in suspense during the greater
portion of the historical period. It is possible
that in the last hundred years, in the more civilized
states of the world, the average of humanity has
positively fallen. All our philanthropists, all our
religious teachers, seem to be in a sort of informal
conspiracy to preserve an atmosphere of mystical
ignorance about these matters, which, in view of
the irresistible nature of the sexual impulse, results
in a swelling tide of miserable little lives. Consider
what it will mean to have perhaps half the popula-
tion of the world, in every generation, restrained
from or tempted to evade reproduction! This
thing, this euthanasia of the weak and sensual,
is possible. On the principles that will probably
animate the predominant classes of the new time,
it will be permissible, and I have little or no doubt
that in the future it will be planned and achieved.

If birth were all the making of a civilized man,
the men of the future, on the general principles
we have imputed to them, would under no circum-
stances find the birth of the child, healthy in body
and brain, more than the most venial of offences.
But birth gives only the beginning, the raw ma-

332



THE NEW REPUBLIC

terial, of a civilized man. The perfect civilized
man is not only a sound, strong body, but a very
elaborate fabric of mind. He is a fabric of moral
suggestions that become mental habits, a maga-
zine of more or less systematized ideas, a scheme
of knowledge and training and an aesthetic cult-
ure. He is the child not only of parents but of a
home and of an education. He has to be carefully
guarded from physical and moral contagions. A
reasonable probability of insuring home and edu-
cation and protection without any parasitic de-
pendence on people outside the kin of the child, will
be a necessary condition to a moral birth under
such general principles as we have supposed. Now,
this sweeps out of reason any such promiscuity of
healthy people as the late Mr. Grant Allen is sup-
posed to have advocated but, so far as I can
understand him, did not. But whether it works
out to the taking over of the permanent monogamic
marriage of the old morality, as a going concern,
is another matter. Upon this matter I must con-
fess my views of the trend of things in the future
do not seem to be finally shaped. The question
involves very obscure physiological and psycho-
logical considerations. A man who aims to be-
come a novelist naturally pries into these matters
whenever he can, but the vital facts are very often
hard to come by. It is probable that a great
number of people could be paired off in couples
who would make permanently happy and success-

333



ANTICIPATIONS

ful monogamic homes for their sound and healthy
children. At any rate, if a certain freedom of re-
grouping were possible within a time limit, this
might be so. But I am convinced that a large pro-
portion of married couples in the world to-day are
not completely and happily matched, that there
is much mutual limitation, mutual annulment,
and mutual exasperation. Home with an atmos-
phere of contention is worse than none for the
child, and it is the interest of the child, and that
alone, that will be the test of all these things. I
do not think that the arrangement in couples is
universally applicable, or that celibacy (tempered
by sterile vice) should be its only alternative.
Nor can I see why the union of two childless peo-
ple should have an indissoluble permanence or pro-
hibit an ampler grouping. The question is great-
ly complicated by the economic disadvantage of
women, which makes wifehood the chief feminine
profession, while only for an incidental sort of man
is marriage a source of income, and further by the
fact that most women have a period of maximum
attractiveness after which it would be grossly
unfair to cast them aside. From the point of view
we are discussing, the efficient, mother who can
make the best of her children is the most important
sort of person in the state. She is a primary neces-
sity to the coming civilization Can the wife in
any sort of polygamic arrangement, or a woman
of no assured status, attain to the maternal pos-

334



THE NEW REPUBLIC

sibilities of the ideal monogamic wife? One is
disposed to answer, No. But then, on the other
hand, does the ordinary monogamic wife do that?
We are dealing with the finer people of the future,
strongly individualized people, who will be much
freer from stereotyped moral suggestions and
much less inclined to be dealt with wholesale than
the people of to-day.

I have already shown cause in these Anticipa-
tions to expect a period of disorder and hypocrisy
in matters of sexual morality. I am inclined to
think that, when the new republic emerges on
the other side of this disorder, there will be a great
number of marriage contracts possible between
men and women, and that the strong arm of the
state will insist only upon one thing the security
and welfare of the child. The inevitable removal
of births from the sphere of an uncontrollable
Providence to the category of deliberate acts, will
enormously enhance the responsibility of the
parent and of the state that has failed to ade-
quately discourage the philoprogenitiveness of
the parent towards the child. Having permitted
the child to come into existence, public policy
and the older standard of justice alike demand,
under these new conditions, that it must be fed,
cherished, and educated, not merely up to a re-
spectable minimum, but up to the full height of
its possibilities. The state will, therefore, be the
reserve guardian of all children. If they are

335



ANTICIPATIONS

being under-nourished, if their education is being
neglected, the state will step in, -take over the re-
sponsibility of their management, and enforce
their charge upon the parents. The first liability
of a parent will be to his child, and for his child;
even the dues of that darling of our current law,
the landlord, will stand second to that. This con-
ception of the responsibility of the parents arid
the state to the child and the future runs quite
counter to the general ideas of to-day. These
general ideas distort grim realities. Under the
most pious and amiable professions, all the Chris-
tian states of to-day are, as a matter of fact, en-
gaged in slave-breeding. The chief result, though
of course it is not the intention, of the activities of
priest and moralist to-day in these matters, is to
lure a vast multitude of little souls into this world
for whom there is neither sufficient food, nor love,
nor schools, nor any prospect at all in life but
the insufficient bread of servitude. It is a result
that endears religion and purity to the sweating
employer, and leads unimaginative bishops who
have never missed a meal in their lives, and who
know nothing of the indescribable bitterness of a
handicapped entry into this world, to draw a com-
placent contrast with irreligious France. It is a
result that must necessarily be recognized in its
reality and faced by those men who will present-
\y emerge to rule the world; men who will have
neither the plea of ignorance nor moral stupidity,

336



THE NEW REPUBLIC

nor dogmatic revelation to excuse such elaborate
cruelty.

And having set themselves in these ways to raise
the quality of human birth, the new republicans
will see to it that the children who do at last effect-
ually get born come into a world of spacious op-
portunity. The half-educated, unskilled pretend-
ers, professing impossible creeds and propounding
ridiculous curricula, to whom the unhappy parents
of to-day must needs intrust the intelligences of their
children these heavy-handed barber-surgeons of
the mind, these school-masters, with their rag-tag
and bob-tail of sweated and unqualified assistants,
will be succeeded by capable, self-respecting men
and women, constituting the most important pro-
fession of the world. The wind3 7 pretences of
"forming character/' supplying moral training,
and so forth, under which the educationalist of
to-day conceals the fact that he is incapable of his
proper task of training, developing, and equipping
the mind, will no longer be made by the teacher.
Nor will the .teacher be permitted to subordinate
his duties to the entirely irrelevant business of
his pupils' sports. The teacher will teach, and
confine his moral training, beyond enforcing
truth and discipline, to the exhibition of a capable
person doing his duty as well as it can be done. He
will know that his utmost province is only a part
of the educational process, that equally important
educational influences are the home and the world

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ANTICIPATIONS

of thought about the pupil and himself. The whole
world will be thinking and learning ; the old idea of
"completing" one's education will have vanished
with the fancy of a static universe; every school
will be a preparatory school, every college. The
school and college will probably give only the keys
and apparatus of thought, a necessary language or
so, thoroughly done, a sound mathematical train-
ing, drawing, a wide and reasoned view of philoso-
phy, some good exercises in dialectics, a training
in the use of those stores of fact that science has
made. So equipped, the young man and young
woman will go on to the technical school of their
chosen profession, and to the criticism of contem-
porary practice for their special efficiency, and to
the literature of contemporary thought for their
general development.

And while the emergent new republic is decid-
ing to provide for the swarming inferiority of the
abyss, and developing the morality and educa-
tional system of the future in this fashion, it will
be attacking that mass of irresponsible property
that is so unavoidable and so threatening under
present conditions. The attack will, of course,
be made along lines that the developing science
of economics will trace in the days immediately
before us. A scheme of death duties and of heavy
graduated taxes upon irresponsible incomes, with
perhaps, in addition, a system of terminable lia-
bility for borrowers, will probably suffice to control

338



THE NEW REPUBLIC

the growth of this creditor elephantiasis. The
detailed contrivances are for the specialist to make.
If there is such a thing as bitterness in the public
acts of the new republicans, it will probably be
found in the measures that will be directed against
those who are parasitic, or who attempt to be
parasitic, upon the social body, either by means
of gambling, by manipulating the medium of
exchange, or b\^ such interventions upon legitimate
transactions as, for example, the legal trade union
in Great Britain contrives in the case of house
property and land. Simply because he fails more
often than he succeeds, there is still a disposition
among sentimental people to regard the gambler
or the speculator as rather a dashing, adventurous
sort of person, and to contrast his picturesque
gallantry with the sober certainties of honest men.
The men of the new republic will be obtuse to the
glamour of such romance; they will regard the
gambler simply as a mean creature who hangs
about the social body in the hope of getting some-
thing for nothing, who runs risks to filch the pos-
sessions of other men, exactly as a thief does.
They will put the two on a footing, and the gener-
ous gambler, like the kindly drunkard, in the face
of their effectual provision for his little weakness,
will cease to complain that his worst enemy is him-
self. And, in dealing with speculation, the new re-
public will have the power of an assured faith and
purpose, and the resources of an economic science

339



ANTICIPATIONS

that is as yet only in its infancy. In such matters
the new republic will entertain no superstition of
laissez faire. Money and credit are as much hu-
man contrivances as bicycles, and as liable to ex-
pansion and modification as any other sort of
prevalent but imperfect machine.

And how will the new republic treat the in-
ferior races? How will it deal with the black?
how will it deal with the yellow man? how will
it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized wood-
work, the Jew? Certainly not as races at all.
It will aim to establish, and it will at last, though
probably only after a second century has passed,
establish a world state with a common language
and a common rule. All over the world its roads,
its standards, its laws, and its apparatus of control
will run. It will, I have said, make the multiplica-
tion of those who fall behind a certain standard
of social efficiency unpleasant and difficult, and
it will have cast aside any coddling laws to save
adult men from themselves.* It will tolerate no
dark corners where the people of the abyss may
fester, no vast, diffused slums of peasant proprie-
tors, no stagnant plague-preserves. Whatever
men may come into its efficient citizenship it will
let come white, black, red, or brown; the ef-
ficiency will be the test. And the Jew also it will
treat as any other man. It is said that the Jew

* Vide Mr. Archdall Read's excellent and suggestive book,
The Present Evolution of Man.

340



THE NEW REPUBLIC

is incurably a parasite on the apparatus of credit.
If there are parasites on the apparatus of credit,
that is a reason for the legislative cleaning of the
apparatus of credit, but it is no reason for the
special treatment of the Jew. If the Jew has a
certain incurable tendency to social parasitism,
and we make social parasitism impossible, we shall
abolish the Jew, and, if he has not, there is no
need to abolish the Jew. We are much more
likely to find we have abolished the Caucasian
solicitor. I really do not understand the excep-
tional attitude people take up against the Jews.
There is something very ugly about many Jewish
faces, but there are Gentile faces just as coarse
and gross. The Jew asserts himself in relation
to his nationality with a singular tactlessness,
but it is hardly for the English to blame that.
Many Jews are intensely vulgar in dress and
bearing, materialistic in thought, and cunning
and base in method, but not more so than many
Gentiles. The Jew is mentally and physically
precocious, and he ages and dies sooner than the
average European, but in that and in a certain dis-
ingenuousness he is simply on all fours with the
short, dark Welsh. He foregathers with those of
his own nation, and favors them against the stran-
ger, but so do the Scotch. I see nothing in his


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Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought → online text (page 20 of 21)