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An Appeal to the Young

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
Interested in your reactions...


An Appeal to the Young

by Peter Kropotkin, 1842-1921

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"Peter Kropotkin...was recognized by friend and foe as one of the greatest minds...of the nineteenth century...The lucidity and brilliance of his mind combined with his warm-heartedness into the harmonious whole of a fascinating and gracious personality. " -Emma Goldman
REVOLT!
Addressed to young men and women preparing to enter the professions, An Appeal to the Young was first published in 1880 in Kropotkin's paper, La Revolte, and was soon thereafter issued as a pamphlet. An American edition was brought out by Charles H. Kerr in 1899, in the wake of the great Anarchist's first U.S. speaking tour; his Memoirs of a Revolutionist was also published (by Houghton-Mifflin) that year. A new edition in Kerr's "Pocket Library of Socialism" appeared in 1901; just after Kropotkin's second U.S. tour. (In Chicago, he had been introduced to a large audience by Clarence Darrow, a close associate of the Kerr Company.) Yet another Kerr edition in the 1910s went through many printings, and was still on the Kerr list well into the 1930s.
Long unavailable in any U.S. edition, it is reprinted here in the standard English translation by pioneer British socialist H.M. Hyndman, whose lush Victorian prose ably captures the eloquence, fervor and charm of this celebrated revolutionary classic.
This work and others available from:
Revolutionary Classics
Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company
Established 1886

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It is to the young that I wish to address myself today. Let the old - I mean of course the old in heart and mind - lay the pamphlet down therefore without tiring their eyes in reading what will tell them nothing.

I assume that you are about eighteen or twenty years of age; that you have finished your apprenticeship or your studies; that you are just entering into life. I take it for granted that you have a mind free from the superstition which your teachers have sought to force upon you; that you don't fear the devil, and that you do not go to hear parsons and ministers rant. More, that you are not one of the fops, sad products of a society in decay, who display their well-cut trousers and their monkey faces in the park, and who even at their early age have only an insatiable longing for pleasure at any price...I assume on the contrary that you have a warm heart, and for this reason I talk to you.

A first question, I know, occurs to you - you have often asked yourself: "What am I going to be?" In fact when a man is young he understands that after having studied a trade or a science for several years - at the cost of society, mark - he has not done this in order that he should make use of his acquirements as instruments of plunder for his own gain, and he must be depraved indeed and utterly cankered by vice who has not dreamed that one day he would apply his intelligence, his abilities, his knowledge to help on the enfranchisement of those who today grovel in misery and in ignorance.

You are one of those who has had such a vision, are you not? Very well, let us see what you must do to make your dream a reality.

I do not know in what rank you were born. Perhaps, favored by fortune, you have turned your attention to the study of science; you are to be a doctor, a barrister, a man of letters, or a scientific man; a wide field opens up before you; you enter upon life with extensive knowledge, with a trained intelligence. Or, on the other hand, you are perhaps only an honest artisan whose knowledge of science is limited by the little that you have learnt at school; but you have had the advantage of learning at first hand what a life of exhausting toil is the lot of the worker of our time.

I stop at the first supposition, to return afterward to the second; I assume then that you have received a scientific education. Let us suppose you intend to be - a doctor. Tomorrow a man in corduroys will come to fetch you to see a sick woman. He will lead you into one of those alleys where the opposite neighbors can almost shake hands over the heads of the passersby; you ascend into a foul atmosphere by the flickering light of a little illtrimmed lamp; you climb two, three, four, five flights of filthy stairs, and in a dark, cold room you find the sick woman, lying on a pallet covered with dirty rags. Pale, livid children, shivering under their scanty garments, gaze at you with their big eyes wide open. The husband has worked all this life twelve or thirteen hours a day at, no matter what; now he has been out of work for three months. To be out of employ is not rare in his trade; it happens every year, periodically. But, formerly, when he was out of work his wife went out a charwoman - perhaps to wash your shirts - at the rate of fifteen pence a day; now she has been bedridden for two months, and misery glares upon the family in all its squalid hideousness.

What will you prescribe for the sick woman, doctor - you who have seen at a glance that the cause of her illness is general anemia, want of good food, lack of fresh air? Say, a good beefsteak every day? a little exercise in the country? a dry and well-ventilated bedroom? What irony! If she could have afforded it this would have been done long since without waiting for your advice.

If you have a good heart, a frank address, an honest face, the family will tell you many things. They will tell you that the woman on the other side of the partition, who coughs a cough which tears your heart, is a poor ironer; that a flight of stairs lower down all the children have the fever; that the washerwoman who occupies the ground floor will not live to see the spring; and that in the house next door things are still worse.

What will you say to all these sick people? Recommend them generous diet, change of air, less exhausting toil...You only wish you could but you daren't and you go out heartbroken, with a curse upon your lips.

The next day, as you still brood over the fate of the dwellers in this dog-hutch, your partner tells you that yesterday a footman came to fetch him, this time in a carriage. It was for the owner of a fine house, for a lady worn out with sleepless nights, who devotes all her life to dressing, visits, balls, and squabbles with a stupid husband. Your friend has prescribed for her a less preposterous habit of life, a less heating diet, walks in the fresh air, an even temperament, and, in order to make up in some measure for the want of useful work, a little gymnastic exercise in her bedroom.

The one is dying because she has never had enough food nor enough rest in her whole life; the other pines because she has never known what work is since she was born.

If you are one of those miserable natures who adapt themselves to anything, who at the sight of the most revolting spectacles console themselves with a gentle sigh and a glass of sherry, then you wilt gradually become used to these contrasts, and the nature of the beast favoring your endeavors, your sole idea will be to lift yourself into the ranks of the pleasure-seekers, so that you may never again find yourself among the wretched. But if you are a Man, if every sentiment is translated in your case into an action of the will; if, in you, the beast has not crushed the intelligent being, then you will return home one day saying to yourself, "No, it is unjust; this must not go on any longer. It is not enough to cure diseases; we must prevent them. A little good living and intellectual development would score off our lists half the patients and half the diseases. Throw physic to the dogs! Air, good diet, less crushing toil - that is how we must begin. Without this, the whole profession of a doctor is nothing but trickery and humbug."

That very day you will understand Socialism. You will wish to know it thoroughly, and if altruism is not a word devoid of significance for you, if you apply to the study of the social question the rigid induction of the natural philosopher, you will end by finding yourself in our ranks, and you will work as we work, to bring about the Social Revolution.

But perhaps you will say, "Mere practical business may go to the devil! I will devote myself to pure science: I will be an astronomer, a physiologist, a chemist. Such work as that always bears fruit, if only for future generations."

Let us first try to understand what you seek in devoting yourself to science. Is it only the pleasure - doubtless immense - which we derive from the study of nature and the exercise of our intellectual faculties? In that case I ask you in what respect does the philosopher, who pursues science in order that he may pass life pleasantly to himself, differ from that drunkard there, who only seeks the immediate gratification that gin affords him? The philosopher has, past all question, chosen his enjoyment more wisely, since it affords him a pleasure far deeper and more lasting than that of the toper. But that is all! Both one and the other have the same selfish end in view, personal gratification.

But no, you have no wish to lead this selfish life. By working at science you mean to work for humanity, and that is the idea which will guide you in your investigations.

A charming illusion! Which of us has not hugged it for a moment when giving himself up for the first time to science?

But then, if you are really thinking about humanity, if you look to the good of mankind in your studies, a formidable question arises before you; for, however little you may have of the critical spirit, you must at once note that in our society of today science is only an appendage to luxury, which serves to render life pleasanter for the few, but remains absolutely inaccessible to the bulk of mankind.

More than a century has passed since science laid down sound propositions as to the origins of the universe, but how many have mastered them or possess the really scientific spirit of criticism? A few thousands at the outside, who are lost in the midst of hundreds of millions still steeped in prejudices and superstitions worthy of savages, who are consequently ever ready to serve as puppets for religious impostors.

Or, to go a step further, let us glance at what science has done to establish rational foundations for physical and moral health. Science tells us how we ought to live in order to preserve the health of our own bodies, how to maintain in good conditions of existence the crowded masses of our population. But does not all the vast amount of work done in these two directions remain a dead letter in our books? We know it does. And why? Because science today exists only for a handful of privileged persons, because social inequality which divides society into two classes - the wage-slaves and the grabbers of capital-renders all its teachings as to the conditions of a rational existence only the bitterest irony to nine-tenths of mankind.

I could give plenty more examples, but I stop short: only go outside Faust's closet, whose windows, darkened by dust, scarce let the light of heaven glimmer on its shelves full of books; look round, and at each step you will find fresh proof in support of this view.

It is now no longer a question of accumulating scientific truths and discoveries. We need above everything to spread the truths already mastered by science, to make them part of our daily life, to render them common property. We have to order things so that all, so that the mass of mankind, may be capable of understanding and applying them; we have to make science no longer a luxury but the foundation of every man's life. This is what justice demands.

I go further: I say that the interests of science itself lie in the same direction. Science only makes real progress when a new truth finds a soil already prepared to receive it. The theory of the mechanical origin of heat, though enunciated in the last century in the same terms that Hirn and Clausius formulate it today, remained for eighty years buried in the academical records until such time as knowledge of physics had spread widely enough to create a public capable of accepting it. Three generations had to go by before the ideas of Erasmus Darwin on the variations of species could be favorably received from his grandson and admitted by academical philosophers, and not without pressure from public opinion even then. The philosopher, like the poet or artist, is always the product of the society in which he moves and teaches.

But, if you are imbued with these ideas, you will understand that it is above all important to bring about a radical change in this state of affairs which today condemns the philosopher to be crammed with scientific truths, and almost the whole of the rest of human beings to remain what they were five, ten centuries ago - that is to say, in the state of slaves and machines, incapable of mastering established truths. And the day when you are imbued with wide, deep, humane, and profoundly scientific truth, that day you will lose your taste for pure science. You will set to work to find out the means to effect this transformation, and if you bring to your investigations the impartiality which has guided you in your scientific researches you will of necessity adopt the cause of Socialism; you .make an end of sophisms and you will come amongst us. Weary of working to procure pleasures for this small group, which already has a large share of them, you will place your information and devotion at the service of the oppressed.

And be sure that, the feeling of duty accomplished and of a real accord established between your sentiments and your actions, you will then find powers in yourself of whose existence you never even dreamed. When, too, one day - it is not far distant in any case, saving the presence of our professors - when one day, I say, the change for which you are working shall have been brought about, then, deriving new forces from collective scientific work, and from the powerful help of armies of laborers who will come to place their energies at its service, science will take a new bound forward, in comparison with which the slow progress of today will appear the simple exercises of tyros.

Then you will enjoy science; that pleasure will be a pleasure for all.

If you have finished reading law and are about to be called to the bar, perhaps you, too, have some illusions as to your future activity - I assume that you are one of the nobler spirits, that you know what altruism means. Perhaps you think, "To devote my life to an unceasing and vigorous struggle against all injustice! To apply my whole faculties to bringing about the triumph of law, the public expression of supreme justice - can any career be nobler?" You begin the real work of life confident in yourself and in the profession you have chosen.

Very well: let us turn to any page of the Law Reports and see what actual life will tell you.

Here we have a rich landowner; he demands the eviction of a cotter tenant who has not paid his rent. From a legal point of view the case is beyond dispute; since the poor farmer can't pay, out he must go. But if we look into the facts we shall learn something like this: The landlord has squandered his rents persistently in rollicking pleasure; the tenant has worked hard all day and every day. The landlord has done nothing to improve his estate. Nevertheless its value has trebled in fifty years owing to rise in price of land due to the construction of a railway, to the making of new highroads, to the draining of a marsh, to the enclosure and cultivation of wastelands. But the tenant, who has contributed largely towards this increase, has ruined himself; he fell into the hands of usurers, and, head over ears in debts, he can no longer pay the landlord. The law, always on the side of property, is quite clear: the landlord is in the right. But you, whose feeling of justice has not yet been stifled by legal fictions, what will you do? Will you contend that the farmer ought to be turned out upon the high road? - for that is what the law ordains - or will you urge that the landlord should pay back to the farmer the whole of the increase of value in his property which is due to the farmer's labor? - that is what equity decrees. Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?

Or when workmen have gone out on strike against a master without notice, which side will you take then? The side of the law, that is to say, the part of the master who, taking advantage of a period of crisis, has made outrageous profits? or against the law, but on the side of the workers who received during the whole time only 2s. A day as wages, and saw their wives and children fade away before their eyes? Will you stand up for that piece of chicanery which consists in affirming "freedom of contract"? Or will you uphold equity, according to which a contract entered into between a man who has dined well and the man who sells his labor for bare subsistence, between the strong and the weak, is not a contract at all?

Take another case. Here in London a man was loitering near a butcher's shop. He stole a beefsteak and ran off with it. Arrested and questioned, it turns out that he is an artisan out of work, and that he and his family have had nothing to eat for four days. The butcher is asked to let the man off, but he is all for the triumph of justice! He prosecutes, and the man is sentenced to six months' imprisonment. Blind Themis so wills it! Does not your conscience revolt against the law and against society when you hear similar judgments pronounced every day?

Or again, will you call for the enforcement of the law against this man who, badly brought up and ill-used from his childhood, has arrived at man's estate without having heard one sympathetic word, and completes his career by murdering his neighbor in order to rob him of a shilling? Will you demand his execution, or - worse still - that he should be imprisoned for twenty years, when you know very well that he is rather a madman than a criminal, and in any case, that his crime is the fault of our entire society?

Will you claim that these weavers should be thrown into prison who in a moment of desperation have set fire to a mill; that this man who shot at a crowned murderer should be imprisoned for life; that these insurgents should be shot down who plant the flag of the future on the barricades? No, a thousand times no!

If you reason instead of repeating what is taught you; if you analyze the law and strip off those cloudy fictions with which it has been draped in order to conceal its real origin, which is the right of the stronger, and its substance, which has ever been the consecration of all the tyrannies handed down to mankind through its long and bloody history; when you have comprehended this, your contempt for the law will be profound indeed. You will understand that to remain the servant of the written law is to place yourself every day in opposition to the law of conscience, and to make a bargain on the wrong side; and, since this struggle cannot go on forever, you will either silence your conscience and become a scoundrel, or you will break with tradition, and you will work with us for the utter destruction of all this injustice, economic, social and political.

But then you will be a Socialist, you will be a Revolutionist.

And you, young engineer, you who dream of improving the lot of the workers by the application of science to industry - what a sad disappointment, what terrible disillusions await you! You devote the useful energy of your mind to working out the scheme of a railway which, running along the brink of precipices and burrowing into the very heart of mountains of granite, will bind together two countries which nature has separated. But once at work, you see whole regiments of workers decimated by privations and sickness in this dark tunnel - you see others of them returning home carrying with them, maybe, a few pence, and the undoubted seeds of consumption; you see human corpses - the results of a groveling greed - as landmarks along each yard of your road; and, when the railroad is finished, you see, lastly, that it becomes the highway for the artillery of an invading army...

You have given up the prime of your youth to perfect an invention which will facilitate production and, after many experiments, many sleepless nights, you are at length master of this valuable discovery. You make use of it and the result surpasses your expectations. Ten, twenty thousand "hands" are thrown out upon the streets! Those who remain, most of them children, will be reduced to mere machines! Three, four, ten masters will make their fortunes and will drink deep on the strength of it...Is this your dream?

Finally, you study recent industrial advances, and you see that the seamstress has gained nothing, absolutely nothing, by the invention of the sewing machine; that the laborer in St. Gothard tunnel dies of ankylosis, not - withstanding diamond drills; that the mason and the day-laborer are out of work, just as before, at the foot of the Giffard lifts. If you discuss social problems with the same independence of spirit which has guided you in your mechanical investigations, you necessarily come to the conclusion that under the domination of private property and wage-slavery, every new invention only makes his slavery heavier, his labor more degrading, the periods of slack work more frequent, the crisis sharper, and that the man who already has every conceivable pleasure for himself is the only one who profits by it.

What will you do when you have once come to this conclusion? Either you will begin by silencing your conscience by sophisms; then one fine day you will bid farewell to the honest dreams of your youth and you will try to obtain, for yourself, what commands pleasure and enjoyment - you will then go over to the camp of the exploiters. Of, if you have a tender heart, you will say to yourself: "No, this is not the time for inventions. Let us work first to transform the domain of production. When private property is put to an end, then each new advance in industry will be made for the benefit of all mankind; and this mass of workers, mere machines as they are today, will then become thinking beings who apply to industry their intelligence, strengthened by study and skilled in manual labor, and thus mechanical progress will take a bound forward which will carry out in fifty years what nowadays we cannot even dream of."

And what shall t say to the schoolmaster - not to the man who looks upon his profession as a wearisome business, but to him who, when surrounded by a joyous band of young pickles, feels exhilarated by their cheery looks and in the midst of their happy laughter - to him who tries to plant in their little heads those ideas of humanity which he cherished himself when he was young?

Often I see that you are sad, and I know what it is that makes you knit your brows. This very day, your favorite pupil who is not very well up in Latin, it is true, but who has nonetheless an excellent heart, recited the story of William Tell with so much vigor! His eyes sparkled; he seemed to wish to stab all tyrants there and then; he gave with such fire the passionate lines of Schiller:
Before the slave when he breaks his chain,
Before the free man tremble not.
But when he returned home, his mother, his father, his uncle sharply rebuked him for want of respect to the minister or the rural policeman; they held forth to him by the hour on "prudence, respect of authority, submission to his betters," till he put Schiller aside in order to read "Self-Help."

And then, only yesterday, you were told that your best pupils have all turned out badly. One does nothing but dream of becoming an officer; another in league with his master robs the workers of their slender wages; and you, who brood over the sad contrast between your ideal, and life as it is.

You still brood over it! Then I foresee that in two years, at the outside, after having suffered disappointment after disappointment, you will lay your favorite authors on the shelf, and you will end by saying that Tell was no doubt a very honest fellow, but after all a trifle cracked; that poetry is a first-rate thing for the fireside, especially whan a man has been teaching the rule-of-three all day long, but still poets are always in the clouds and their views have nothing to do with the life of today, nor with the next visit of the Inspector of Schools...

Or, on the other hand, the dreams of your youth will become the firm convictions of your mature age. You will wish to have wide, human education for all, in school and out of school; and seeing that this is impossible in existing conditions, you will attack the very foundations of bourgeois society. Then, discharged as you will be by the Education Department, you will leave your school and come among us and be of us; you will tell men of riper years but of smaller attainments than yourself how enticing knowledge is, what mankind ought to be - nay, what we could be. You will come and work with Socialists for the complete transformation of the existing system, will strive side by side with us to attain true equality, real fraternity, never-ending liberty for the world.

Lastly, you, young artist, sculptor, painter, poet, musician, do you not observe that the sacred fire which inspired your predecessors is wanting in the men of today? that art is commonplace and mediocrity reigns supreme?

Could it be otherwise? The delight of having rediscovered the ancient world, of having bathed afresh in the springs of nature which created the masterpieces of the Renaissance no longer exists for the art of our time; the revolutionary ideal has left it cold until now, and, failing an ideal, our art fancies that it has found one in realism when it painfully photographs in colors the dewdrop on the leaf of a plant, imitates the muscles in the leg of a cow, or describes minutely in prose and verse the suffocating filth of a sewer, the boudoir of a whore of high degree.

"But, if this is so, what is to be done?" you say. If, I reply, the sacred fire that you say you possess is nothing better than a smoldering wick, then you will go on doing as you have done, and your art will speedily degenerate into the trade of decorator of tradesmen's shops, of a purveyor of librettos to third-rate operettas, and tales for Christmas Annuals - most of you are already running down that grade with a head of steam on...

But, if your heart really beats in unison with that of humanity, if like a true poet you have an ear for Life, then gazing out upon this sea of sorrow whose tide sweeps up around you, face to face with these people dying of hunger, in the presence of these corpses piled up in the mines, and these mutilated bodies lying in heaps on the barricades, looking on these long lines of exiles who are going to bury themselves in the snows of Siberia and in the marshes of tropical islands; in full view of this desperate battle which is being fought, amid the cries of pain from the conquered and the orgies of the victors, of heroism in conflict with cowardice, of noble determination face to face with contemptible cunning - you cannot remain neutral; you will come and take the side of the oppressed because you know that the beautiful, the sublime, the spirit of life itself are on the side of those who fight for light, for humanity, for justice!

You stop me at last!

"What the devil!" you say. "But if abstract science is a luxury and practice of medicine mere chicane; if law spells injustice, and mechanical invention is but the means of robbery; if the school, at variance with the wisdom of the `practical man,' is sure to be overcome; and art without the revolutionary idea can only degenerate, what remains for me to do?"

Well, I will tell you.
 
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deafplayer

TRIBE Member
[the rest of it...: ]



A vast and most enthralling task; a work in which your actions will be in complete harmony with your conscience, an undertaking capable of rousing the noblest and most vigorous natures.

What work? - I will now tell you.

It rests with you either to palter continually with your conscience, and in the end to say, one fine day: "Perish humanity, provided I can have plenty of pleasures and enjoy them to the full, so long as the people are foolish enough to let me." Or, once more the inevitable alternative, to take part with the Socialists and work with them for the complete transformation of society. Such is the irrefragable consequence of the analysis we have gone through. That is the logical conclusion which every intelligent man must perforce arrive at, provided that he reasons honestly about what passes around him, and discards the sophisms which his bourgeois education and the interested views of those about him whisper in his ear.

This conclusion once arrived at, the question "What is to be done?" is naturally put.

The answer is easy.

Leave this environment in which you are placed and where it is the fashion to say that the people are nothing but a lot of brutes; come among these people - and the answer will come of itself.

You will see that everywhere, in England as well as in France, in Germany as well as in Italy, in Russia as welt as in the United States, everywhere where there is a privileged and an oppressed class, there is a tremendous work going on in the midst of the working class, whose object is to break down forever the slavery enforced by the capitalist feudality and to lay the foundation of a society established on the basis of justice and equality. It is no longer enough for the man of the people today to pour forth his complaints in one of those songs whose melody breaks your heart, such as were sung by the serfs of the eleventh century, and are still sung by the Slav peasant; he labors with his fellow toilers for the enfranchisement, with the knowledge of what he is doing, and against every obstacle put in his way.

His thoughts are constantly exercised in considering what should be done in order that life, instead of being a curse for three-fourths of mankind, may be a real enjoyment for all. He takes up the hardest problems of sociology and tries to solve them by his good sense, his spirit of observation, his hard experience. In order to come to an understanding with others as miserable as himself, he seeks to form groups, to organize. He forms societies, maintained with difficulty by small contributions; he tries to make terms with his fellows beyond the frontier; and he prepares the days when wars between peoples shall be impossible, far better than the frothy philanthropists who now potter with the fad of universal peace. In order to know what his brothers are doing, to have a closer connection with them, to elaborate his ideas and pass them around, he maintains - but at the price of what privations, what ceaseless efforts! - his working press. At length, when the hour has come, he rises, reddening the pavements and the barricades with his blood, he bounds forward to conquer those liberties which the rich and powerful will afterward know how to corrupt and to turn against him again.

What an unending series of efforts! What an incessant struggle! What toil perpetually begun afresh; sometimes to fill up the gaps occasioned by desertion - the results of weariness, corruption, prosecutions; sometimes to rally the broken forces decimated by the fusillades and cold-blooded butchery! At another time to recommence the studies sternly broken off by wholesale slaughter.

The newspapers are set on foot by men who have been obliged to force from society scraps of knowledge by depriving themselves of sleep and food; the agitation is kept up by halfpence deducted from the amount needed to get the barest necessaries of life; and all this under the constant dread of seeing his family reduced to the most fearful misery, as soon as the master learns that "his workman, his slave, is tainted with Socialism."

This is what you will see if you go among the people.

And in this endless struggle how often has not the toiler vainly asked, as he stumbled under the weight of his burden:

"Where, then, are these young people who have been taught at our expense? These youths whom we fed and clothed while they studied? Where are those for Whom, our backs bent double beneath our burdens and our bellies empty, we have built these houses, these colleges, these lecture-rooms, these museums? Where are the men for whose benefit we, with our pale, worn faces, have printed these fine books, most of which we cannot even read? Where are they, these professors who claim to possess the science of mankind, and for whom humanity itself is not worth a rare caterpillar? Where are the men who are ever speaking in praise of liberty, and never think to champion our freedom, trampled as it is each day beneath their feet? Where are they, these writers and poets, these painters and sculptors? Where, in a word, is the whole gang of hypocrites who speak of the people with tears in their eyes, but who never, by any chance, find themselves among us, helping us in our laborious work?"
Where are they, indeed?

Why, some are taking their ease with the most cowardly indifference; others, the majority, despise the "dirty mob," are ready to pounce upon them if they dare touch one of their privileges.

Now and then, it is true, a young man comes among us who dreams of drums and barricades and seeks sensational scenes, but he deserts the cause of the people as soon as he perceives that the road to the barricade is long, that the work is heavy, and that the crowns of laurel to be won in the campaign are intermingled with thorns. Generally these are ambitious schemers, out of work, who, having failed in their first efforts, try in this way to cajole people out of their votes, but who a little later will be the first to denounce them when the people wish to apply the principles which they themselves have professed; perhaps will even be ready to turn artillery and Gatlings upon them if they dare to move before they, the heads of the movement, give the signal.

Add mean insult, haughty contempt, cowardly calumny from the great majority, and you know what the people may expect nowadays from most of the youth of the upper and middle classes in the way of help towards the social evolution.

But then, you ask, "What shall we do?" When there is everything to be done! When a whole army of young people would find plenty to employ the entire vigor of their youthful energy, the full force of their intelligence and their talent to help the people in the vast enterprise they have untertaken!

What shall we do? Listen.

You lovers of pure science, if you are imbued with the principles of Socialism, if you have understood the real meaning of the revolution which is even now knocking at the door, don't you see that all science has to be recast in order to place it in harmony with the new principles; that it is your business to accomplish in this field a revolution far greater than that which was accomplished in every branch of science during the eighteenth century? Don't you understand that history - which today is an old wives' tale about great kings, great statesmen and great parliaments - that history itself has to be written from the point of view of the people, from the point of view of work done by the masses in the long evolution of mankind? That social economy - which today is merely the sanctification of capitalist robbery - has to be worked out afresh in its fundamental principles as well as in its innumerable applications? That anthropology, sociology, ethics, must be completely recast, and that the very natural sciences themselves, regarded from another point of view, must undergo a profound modification, alike in regard to the conception of natural phenomena and with respect to the method of exposition.

Very well, then, set to work! Place your abilities at the command of the good cause. Especially help us with your clear logic to combat prejudice and to lay, by your synthesis, the foundations of a better organization; yet more, teach us to apply in our daily arguments the fearlessness of true scientific investigation and show us, as your predecessors did, how men dare sacrifice even life itself for the triumph of the truth.

You, doctors, who have learnt Socialism by a bitter experience, never weary of telling us today, tomorrow, onward to decay if men remain in the present conditions of existence and work; that all your medicaments must be powerless against disease while the majority of mankind vegetate in conditions absolutely contrary to those which science tells us are healthful; convince the people that it is the causes of disease which must be uprooted, and show us all what is necessary to remove them.

Come with your scalpel and dissect for us, with an unerring hand, this society of ours, hastening to putrefaction. Tell us what a rational existence should and might be. Insist, as true surgeons, that a gangrenous limb must be amputated when it may poison the whole body.

You, who have worked at the application of science to industry, come and tell us frankly what has been the outcome of your discoveries. Convince those who dare not march boldly toward the future what new inventions the knowledge we have acquired carried in its womb, what industry could do under better conditions, what man might easily produce if he produced always with a view to enhance his own productions.

You poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, if you understand your true mission and the very interests of art itself, come with us. Place your pen, your pencil, your chisel, your ideas at the service of the revolution. Figure forth to us, in your eloquent style, or your impressive pictures, the heroic struggles of the people against their oppressors; fire the hearts of our youth with that revolutionary enthusiasm which inflamed the souls of our ancestors; tell women what a noble career is that of a husband who devotes his life to the great cause of social emancipation! Show the people how hideous is their actual life, and place your hand on the causes of its ugliness; tell us what a rational life would be if it did not encounter at every step the follies and the ignominies of our present social order.

Lastly, all of you who possess knowledge, talent, capacity, industry, if you have a spark of sympathy in your nature, come, you and your companions, come and and place your services at the disposal of those who most need them. And remember, if you do come, that you come not as masters, but as comrades in the struggle; that you come not to govern but to gain strength for yourselves in a new life which sweeps upward to the conquest of the future; that you come less to teach than to grasp the aspirations of the many; to divine them, to give them shape, and then to work, without rest and without haste, with all the fire of youth and all the judgment of age, to realize them in actual life. Then and then only will you lead a complete, a noble, a rational existence. Then you will see that your every effort on this path bears with it fruit in abundance, and this sublime harmony once established between your actions and the dictates of your conscience will give you powers you never dreamt lay dormant in yourselves.

The never-ceasing struggle for truth, justice and equality among the people, whose gratitude you will earn - what nobler career can the youth of all nations desire than this?

It has taken me long to show you, of the well-to-do classes, that in view of the dilemma which life presents to you, you will be forced, if courageous and sincere, to come and work side by side with the Socialists, and champion in their ranks the cause of the social revolution. And yet how simple this truth is after all! But when one is speaking to those who have suffered from the effects of bourgeois surroundings, how many sophisms must be combated, how many prejudices overcome, how many interested objections put aside!

It is easy to be brief today in addressing you, the youth of the people. The very pressure of events impels you to become Socialists, however little you may have the courage to reason and to act.

To rise from the ranks of the working people, and not to devote oneself to bringing about the triumph of Socialism, is to misconceive the real interests at stake, to give up the cause and the true historic mission.

Do you remember the time, when still a mere lad, you went down one winter's day to play in your dark court? The cold nipped your shoulders through your thin clothes, and the mud worked into your worn-out shoes. Even then when you saw chubby children richly clad pass in the distance, looking at you with an air of contempt, you knew right well that these imps, dressed up to the nines, were not the equals of yourself and your comrades, either in intelligence, common sense, or energy. But, later, when you were forced to shut yourself up in a filthy factory from five or süc o'clock in the morning, to remain twelve hours on end close to a whirling machine, and, a machine yourself, were forced to follow, day after day, for whole years in succession, its movement with relentless throbbing - during all this time they, the others, were going quietly to be taught at fine schools, at academies, at the universities. And now these same children, less intelligent, but better taught than you, have become your masters, are enjoying all the pleasures of life and all the advantages of civilization. And you? What sort of lot awaits you?

You return to little, dark, damp lodgings where five or six human beings pig together within a few square feet; where your mother, sick of life, aged by care rather than years, offers you dry bread and potatoes as your only food, washed down by blackish fluid called, in irony, tea; and to distract your thoughts, you have ever the same never-ending question, "How shall I be able to pay the baker tomorrow, and the landlord the day after?"

What! Must you drag on the same weary existence as your father and mother for thirty and forty years? Must you toil your life long to procure for others all the pleasures of well-being, of knowledge, of art, and keep for yourself only the eternal anxiety as to whether you can get a bit of bread? Will you wear yourself out with toil and have in return only trouble, if not misery, when hard times - the fearful hard times - come upon you? Is this what you long for in life?

Perhaps you will give up. Seeing no way out of your condition whatever, maybe you say to yourself, "Whole generations have undergone the same lot, and I, who can alter nothing in the matter, I must submit also. Let us work on, then, and endeavor to live as well as we can!"

Very well. In that case life itself will take pains to enlighten you.

One day a crisis comes, one of those crises which are no longer mere passing phenomena, as they were a while ago, but a crisis which destroys a whole industry, which plunges thousands of workers into misery, which crushes whole families. You struggle like the rest against the calamity. But you will soon see how your wife, your child your friend, little by little succumb to privations and fade away under your very eyes. For sheer want of food for lack of care and of medical assistance, they end their days on the pauper's stretcher, while the life of the rich sweeps past in joyous crowds through the streets of the great city gleaming in the sunlight - utterly careless and indifferent to the dying cries of those who perish.

Then you will understand how utterly revolting this society is; you will reflect upon the causes of this crisis and your examination will go to the very depths of this abomination which puts millions of human beings at the mercy of the brutal greed of a handful of useless triflers; then you will understand that Socialists are right when they say that our present society can be, that it must be reorganized from top to bottom.

To pass from general crises to your particular case. One day when your master tires by a new reduction of wages to squeeze out of you a few more pence in order to increase his fortune still further, you will protest; but he will haughtily answer, "Go and eat grass, if you will not work at the price I offer." Then you will understand that your master not only tries to shear you like a sheep, but that looks upon you as an inferior kind of animal altogether; that, not content with holding you in his relentless grip by means of the wage-system, he is further anxious to make you a slave in every respect. Then you will either bow down before him, you will give up the feeling of human dignity, and you will end by suffering every possible humiliation; or the blood will rush to your head, you shudder at the hideous slope on which you are slipping down, you will retort, and, turned out workless on the street, you will understand how right Socialists are when they say, "Revolt! Rise against this economical slavery!" Then you will come and take your place in the ranks of the Socialists and you will work with them for the complete destruction of all slavery - economic, social and political.

Some day, again, you will learn the story of that charming young girl whose brisk gait, frank manners, and cheerful conversation you so lovingly admired. After having struggled for years and years against misery, she left her native village for the metropolis. There she knew right well that the struggle for existence must be hard, but she hoped at least to be able to gain her living honestly. Well, now you know what has been her fate. Courted by the son of some capitalist, she allowed herself to be enticed by his fine words, she gave herself up to him with all the passion of youth, only to see herself abandoned with a baby in her arms. Ever courageous, she never ceased to struggle on; but she broke down in this unequal strife against cold and hunger, and she ended her days in one of the hospitals, no one knows which...

What will you do? Once more there are two courses open to you. Either you will push aside the whole unpleasant reminiscence with some stupid phrase. "She wasn't the first and won't be the last," you will say. Perhaps, some evening, you will be heard in a public room, in company with other beasts like yourself, outraging the young girl's memory by some dirty stories; or, on the other hand, your remembrances of the past will touch your heart; you will try to meet the seducer to denounce him to his face; you will reflect upon the causes of these events which recur every day, and you will comprehend that they will never cease so long as society is divided into two camps; on one side the wretched and on the other the lazy - the jugglers with fine phrases and bestial lusts. You will understand that it is high time to bridge over this gulf of separation, and you will rush to place, yourself among the Socialists.

And you, woman of the people, has this left you cold and unmoved? While caressing the pretty head of that child who nestles close to you, do you never think about the lot that awaits him, if the present social conditions are not changed? Do you never reflect on the future awaiting your young sister, and all your own children? Do you wish that your sons, they too, should vegetate as your father vegetated, with no other care than how to get his daily bread, with no other pleasure than that of the gin-palace? Do you want your husband, your lads, to be ever at the mercy of the first comer who has inherited from his father a capital to exploit them with? Are you anxious that they should remain slaves for master, food for powder, mere dung wherewith to manure the pasture lands of the rich exproprietor?

Nay, never; a thousand times no! t know right well that your blood has boiled when you have heard that your husbands, after they entered on a strike, full of fire and determination, have ended by accepting, cap in hand, the conditions dictated by the bloated bourgeois in a tone of haughty contempt! I know that you have admired those Spanish women who in a popular rising presented their breasts to the bayonets of the soldiery, in the front ranks of the insurrectionists. I am certain that you mention with reverence the name of the woman who lodged a bullet in the chest of that ruffianly official who dared to outrage a Socialist prisoner in his cell. And I am confident that your heart beats faster when you read how the women of the people in Paris gathered under a rain of shells to encourage "their men" to heroic action.

Every one of you, then, honest young folks, men and women, peasants, laborers, artisans and soldiers, you will understand what are your rights and you will come along with us; you will come in order to work with your brethren in the preparation of that Revolution which, sweeping away every vestige of slavery, tearing the fetters asunder, breaking with the old worn-out traditions, and opening to all mankind a new and wider scope of joyous existence, shall at length establish true Liberty, real Equality, ungrudging Fraternity throughout human society: work with all, work for all - the full enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, the complete development of all their faculties; a rational, human and happy life!

Don't let anyone tell us that we - but a small band - are too weak to attain unto the magnificent end at which we aim.

Count and see how many of us there are who suffer this injustice.

We peasants who work for others and who mumble the straw while our masters eat the wheat, we by ourselves are millions of men.

We workers who weave silks and velvets in order that we may be clothed in rags, we, too, are a great multitude; and when the clang of the factories permits us a moment's repose, we overflow the streets and squares like the sea in a spring tide.

We soldiers who are driven along to the word of command, or by blows, we who receive the bullets for which our officers get crosses and pensions, we, too, poor fools who have hitherto known no better than to shoot our brothers, why, we have only to make a right-about-face towards these plumed and decorated personages who are so good as to command us, to see a ghastly pallor overspread their faces.

Ay, all of us together, we who suffer and are insulted daily, we are a multitude whom no man can number, we are the ocean that can embrace and swallow up all else.

When we have but the will to do it, that very moment will Justice be done: that very instant the tyrants of the Earth shall bite the dust.
 
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SellyCat

TRIBE Member
I think it would be better for you to isolate the high-lights of this peice, because for a forum--and how peple use it, typically perusing it at work--this is a truly staggering amount of text. Over 9,000 words: three times as a long as a long university essay.

If you want people to get something out of it, it's always, always better to be short; as distilled as possible while maintaining its integrity. I fear that, unfortunately, nobody is going to read any of it, because they can't read all of it. You should summaraise it and add the best, most salient exerpts and that way people could get the most out of it.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
I have read some Kropotkin before, and have come across his name numerous times, especially when reading about anarchism.

I will read through this at some point today (hopefully), but I do somewhat agree with SellyCat in this case.
 
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deafplayer

TRIBE Member
cmon people, its a fucking pamphlet!

I have it printed out on 9 single-sided pages is a font bigger than most of my coursekit articles
According to estimates from my Centre for Eyeballed Direct Object Area Comparison Study it could fit comfortably on 2 1/2 Globe & Mail pages if it were reproduced in that paper (which would trigger a stock market crash)

If you want people to get something out of it, it's always, always better to be short; as distilled as possible while maintaining its integrity. I fear that, unfortunately, nobody is going to read any of it, because they can't read all of it. You should summaraise it and add the best, most salient exerpts and that way people could get the most out of it.
I dont know how people can get the most out of it by reading the least possible that I judge will maintain its integrity


In any case internal structure happens to be of the exceptionally clear sort
('I am going to talk about - this.
heres a paragraph
or two
about it
And now - this second topic!
And some paragraphs
clearly about it
And what about this third example, I am clearly introducing here in this sentence?
why, I shall also
write a paragraph
or two - perhaps three - about it as well)

.......ie its well suited to 'skimming' if the mood should strike you
 

SellyCat

TRIBE Member
I think my mood is to strike YOU....I'm sorry that was very violent of me. You have to understand that it's the circumstances that are currently prevailing for me.
 

Colm

TRIBE Member
It's too long, pamphelt or otherwise guy! Besides, this guy's socialism is ancient history, swallowed up by the sands of time. Still, I used to read this stuff all the time in school - it'd be great if you could condense it for us lazyasses.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
I would like to retract my earlier remarks. This "pamphlet" is worthwhile and more valuable in its entirety than as a series of excerpts. Consider stripping Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal for parts: its worth is observed as a complete text, not as a footnote in our ADD-afflicted society. I spent my lunch reading through the article -- I will refer to it as such given its current presentation, despite its historical relevance to the contrary -- and
find it not only a worthwhile piece of literature, but extremely impactful and quite relevant. This despite Colm's remarks, suggesting Kropotkin to be irrelevant, and without justification, leaving us curious as to what precisely constitutes "the sands of time" and who or what has "swallowed" them up.

While I will leave someone else with the task of deciding Kropotkin's role in history1, the article does indeed make an appeal -- an appeal suggests an emotive argument intended to convince others -- to the younger generation who are just recently experiencing the harsh realities of employment. Kropotkin argues for the futility of "work" in the presence of a system of oppression that necessarily introduces classes of rich and poor to a population. He suggests that your skill as a doctor or labourer is for nothing -- and more assertively he implies passive engagement in work as immoral -- without first addressing the underlying faults of the system.

Peter Kropotkin said:
If you are one of those miserable natures who adapt themselves to anything, who at the sight of the most revolting spectacles console themselves with a gentle sigh and a glass of sherry, then you wilt gradually become used to these contrasts, and the nature of the beast favoring your endeavors, your sole idea will be to lift yourself into the ranks of the pleasure-seekers, so that you may never again find yourself among the wretched.
Peter Kropotkin said:
Perhaps you will give up. Seeing no way out of your condition whatever, maybe you say to yourself, "Whole generations have undergone the same lot, and I, who can alter nothing in the matter, I must submit also. Let us work on, then, and endeavor to live as well as we can!"

Very well. In that case life itself will take pains to enlighten you.
I am generally in complete agreement with the rational aspects of his argumentation, and (significantly) with his analyses of human experiences; they are quite poignant. There is great value (and not nearly enough emphasis) in offering human anecdote in academic discussions and Kropotkin uses it effectively here. As much as I would laud this article for all its merits, I have difficulty with its implications and outcomes, which I can actually extend quite broadly to many socialist and anarchist writing. Kropotkin appeals repeatedly for "us" to join the cause of Socialism:

Peter Kropotkin said:
And the day when you are imbued with wide, deep, humane, and profoundly scientific truth, that day you will lose your taste for pure science. You will set to work to find out the means to effect this transformation, and if you bring to your investigations the impartiality which has guided you in your scientific researches you will of necessity adopt the cause of Socialism; you .make an end of sophisms and you will come amongst us. Weary of working to procure pleasures for this small group, which already has a large share of them, you will place your information and devotion at the service of the oppressed.
While I use the above statement from Kropotkin as an example, I object adamantly -- in discussions relating to oppressive systems of control -- to the polarization caused by the implied causal relationship between master and slave described through invective and emotive writing; Kropotkin leaves the reader quite suggestively on the edge of one side of a canyon, across which are the owners and managers and other "wretched, lazy capitalists". This is not a fair implication, even when it is not stated explicitly.

To elaborate further: what needs to be discussed with some significance is that criticism of our present economic condition as a form of imprisonment does not exonerate or victimize one class and convict another to the extent that it is righteous to pit an entire class against another. While victimization and conviction should occur, the propensity of that criticism's weight should be conferred more on the system in place: a thing that is greater than any or all classes and constitutes generations of crafting, circumstance, blind leadership, environmental and human contributions; it is not something that can be morally judged without evaluating the morality of all humans equally, and when examined from this perspective the judgement becomes absurd.

Systems of power (Capitalism, for example) have arisen out of history as a representation of many contributions, including circumstance, the environment and other factors beyond human control. One cannot judge Capitalism as a moral entity unless you are willing to make a judgement of all humans, and doing so is absurd in this case, as such a judgement necessarily implies that we had complete awareness during its construction. Certainly, there are various members of the elite throughout history that have played a significant role in its development and we may choose to request indemnification for that role, but we cannot, clearly, request that of an entire class of people. Which is effectively what Kropotkin and more generally, socialist rhetoric, constantly suggests.

Historically, one might argue that this sort of invective was more relevant and ethically sound given the distorted relationship between owner and worker. Nevertheless, it is the solution that is important, and a disagreement on the source of the oppression is fundamentally divisive. It is interminably frustrating to listen to extensive (and often beautiful) rants on injustice yet after a patient expose, the solution is merely implied, or at best, described loosely as a "Social Revolution".



1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin and http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/kropotkin/chronology.html may be a good start.
 

Ditto Much

TRIBE Member
Although I have read only half of this so far I have found it entertaining.

However I also find it limited in that he suggests that life will only inspire singular occupations of effort. Although i agree that ones career might in fact be a close relation to the classic issue of class struggle ones other pursuits may in fact compliment or detract.

If I finish my day working for the man and now use my skills to help other within my community in a completely separate manor the singular argument he presents is difficult to use as metaphor. Ultimately I compare this to software developers working on open source in there spare time, however the same model can be used in the example of volunteer firemen. The economic benefits of working within the classist system informally also provide the tools and time to create the competing public domain replacement.

I think this is what dates the concepts within this article. I agree that in his time extracurricular activities would have been limited and likely occupied with family. However we now have the ability to operate in multiple environments and projects due to the changes in our society.
 
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~atp~

TRIBE Member
Firstly, I disagree with your argument regarding extracurricular activity and its relative predominance between the two periods of our cultural history, and secondly (and far more importantly), how does such an argument bear down on the ideas presented in the article? Kropotkin discusses the economic system as a mechanism of class creation and oppression and suggests any engagement in such a system as necessarily unethical. His recommendation is that we directly address the injustices by joining the Social Revolution and actively use tools at our disposal (education included) to make ammends. The degree to which extracurricular activities affect our lives has little bearing on the injustice present within such an economic system.
 

Ditto Much

TRIBE Member
~atp~ said:
Firstly, I disagree with your argument regarding extracurricular activity and its relative predominance between the two periods of our cultural history,

Really and I thought that was the cake walk argument being that every historical account is in my favour on this one.

~atp~ said:
and secondly (and far more importantly), how does such an argument bear down on the ideas presented in the article?

remember this is upon reading the first half where he basically tells how each career is empty and meaningless as it all enforces a predetermined structure of society. I argue that we have systems that have developed beyond this.


~atp~ said:
Kropotkin discusses the economic system as a mechanism of class creation and oppression and suggests any engagement in such a system as necessarily unethical. His recommendation is that we directly address the injustices by joining the Social Revolution and actively use tools at our disposal (education included) to make ammends.

I agree this would be my boot lick book report version

~atp~ said:
The degree to which extracurricular activities affect our lives has little bearing on the injustice present within such an economic system.


I'll come back to this in the morning. In short I state that overthrowing the economic system is a secondary effort while collecting payment to fund it from the current economic system. Overthrowing the pig mans system (~atp~ you are a coder right who works for the man and was educated by the mans classist system) is a worthy goal but as your primary goal it leaves you on your parents coach kind of like a pimple on there asses.

This is why your educated and yet still collecting a check.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
I assume that you are about eighteen or twenty years of age; that you have finished your
apprenticeship or your studies; that you are just entering into life. I take it for granted that
you have a mind free from the superstition which your teachers have sought to force upon you;
that you don't fear the devil, and that you do not go to hear parsons and ministers rant. More,
that you are not one of the fops, sad products of a society in decay, who display their well-cut
trousers and their monkey faces in the park, and who even at their early age have only an
insatiable longing for pleasure at any price...I assume on the contrary that you have a warm
heart, and for this reason I talk to you.

Well, he has certainly outlined his intended audience; the 'warm-hearted' vs. those cold-hearted
stuffy religious types.

It is now no longer a question of accumulating scientific truths and discoveries. We need
above everything to spread the truths already mastered by science, to make them part of our daily
life, to render them common property. We have to order things so that all, so that the mass of
mankind, may be capable of understanding and applying them; we have to make science no longer a
luxury but the foundation of every man's life. This is what justice demands.

preach the gospel brother!

...if you bring to your investigations the impartiality which has guided you in your
scientific researches you will of necessity adopt the cause of Socialism; you will make an end of
sophisms and you will come amongst us. Weary of working to procure pleasures for this small
group, which already has a large share of them, you will place your information and devotion at
the service of the oppressed.

Nicely put...if however idealistic... ahhh...

Here we have a rich landowner; he demands the eviction of a cotter tenant who has not paid his
rent. From a legal point of view the case is beyond dispute; since the poor farmer can't pay, out
he must go. But if we look into the facts we shall learn something like this: The landlord has
squandered his rents persistently in rollicking pleasure; the tenant has worked hard all day and
every day. The landlord has done nothing to improve his estate. Nevertheless its value has
trebled in fifty years owing to rise in price of land due to the construction of a railway, to
the making of new highroads, to the draining of a marsh, to the enclosure and cultivation of
wastelands. But the tenant, who has contributed largely towards this increase, has ruined
himself; he fell into the hands of usurers, and, head over ears in debts, he can no longer pay
the landlord. The law, always on the side of property, is quite clear: the landlord is in the
right. But you, whose feeling of justice has not yet been stifled by legal fictions, what will
you do? Will you contend that the farmer ought to be turned out upon the high road? - for that is
what the law ordains - or will you urge that the landlord should pay back to the farmer the whole
of the increase of value in his property which is due to the farmer's labor? - that is what
equity decrees. Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and
against the law?

Justice must come from just people, the law is not always just on it's own, but the hope is that
those who wield it and shape it will be just. Obviously this is not always the case. Which
brings up a side question, where does ones sense of justice come from?

Or again, will you call for the enforcement of the law against this man who, badly brought up and
ill-used from his childhood, has arrived at man's estate without having heard one sympathetic
word, and completes his career by murdering his neighbor in order to rob him of a shilling? Will
you demand his execution, or - worse still - that he should be imprisoned for twenty years, when
you know very well that he is rather a madman than a criminal, and in any case, that his crime is
the fault of our entire society?

Nuthouse anyone?

You will understand that to remain the servant of the written law is to place yourself
every day in opposition to the law of conscience, and to make a bargain on the wrong side; and,
since this struggle cannot go on forever, you will either silence your conscience and become a
scoundrel, or you will break with tradition, and you will work with us for the utter destruction
of all this injustice, economic, social and political.

Rings similar to a letter Bush has recently received.

What will you do when you have once come to this conclusion? Either you will begin by silencing
your conscience by sophisms; then one fine day you will bid farewell to the honest dreams of your
youth and you will try to obtain, for yourself, what commands pleasure and enjoyment - you will
then go over to the camp of the exploiters.

Oh no. But... I, uh... just wanted a nice TV... a nice house, good life for my kids ahhhhh.

When private property is put to an end, then each new advance in industry will be made for the
benefit of all mankind; and this mass of workers, mere machines as they are today, will then
become thinking beings who apply to industry their intelligence, strengthened by study and
skilled in manual labor, and thus mechanical progress will take a bound forward which will carry
out in fifty years what nowadays we cannot even dream of."

riiiigght.


Or, on the other hand, the dreams of your youth will become the firm convictions of your mature
age. You will wish to have wide, human education for all, in school and out of school; and seeing
that this is impossible in existing conditions, you will attack the very foundations of bourgeois
society. Then, discharged as you will be by the Education Department, you will leave your school
and come among us and be of us; you will tell men of riper years but of smaller attainments than
yourself how enticing knowledge is, what mankind ought to be - nay, what we could be.

Which is???? Let humanism reign supreme!!

This is what you will see if you go among the people.

I wonder, was he 'of the people'?

And in this endless struggle how often has not the toiler vainly asked, as he stumbled under the
weight of his burden:
"Where, then, are these young people who have been taught at our expense? These youths whom we
fed and clothed while they studied? Where are those for Whom, our backs bent double beneath our
burdens and our bellies empty, we have built these houses, these colleges, these lecture-rooms,
these museums? Where are the men for whose benefit we, with our pale, worn faces, have printed
these fine books, most of which we cannot even read? Where are they, these professors who claim
to possess the science of mankind, and for whom humanity itself is not worth a rare caterpillar?
Where are the men who are ever speaking in praise of liberty, and never think to champion our
freedom, trampled as it is each day beneath their feet? Where are they, these writers and poets,
these painters and sculptors? Where, in a word, is the whole gang of hypocrites who speak of the
people with tears in their eyes, but who never, by any chance, find themselves among us, helping
us in our laborious work?"

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Woe oh woe.


What shall we do? Listen.

Sheesh, get to it already.


Do you remember the time, when still a mere lad, you went down one winter's day to play in your
dark court? The cold nipped your shoulders through your thin clothes, and the mud worked into
your worn-out shoes. Even then when you saw chubby children richly clad pass in the distance,
looking at you with an air of contempt, you knew right well that these imps, dressed up to the
nines, were not the equals of yourself and your comrades, either in intelligence, common sense,
or energy.

But fair justice for all, I say!!! Damn them to their impish ways and unintelligible religions, myths and oppression. May they choke on their silver spoons.

while the life of the rich sweeps past in joyous crowds through the streets of the great city gleaming in the sunlight -utterly careless and indifferent to the dying cries of those who perish.

Oh sweet Germany. Do not wail any longer. We must take back from the Jews what is rightfully ours... oops, sorry.


Overall... Socialist propaganda. But some great ideas especially surrounding justice.

When we have but the will to do it, that very moment will Justice be done: that very instant the
tyrants of the Earth shall bite the dust.

That's all I can handle...

Meh, very emotionally rousing. I can see that he would have been a successful recuiter for the socialist movement. Times have changed though.... or have they??? oooh.
 
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Genesius

TRIBE Member
I prefer this quote

The only hope of socialism resides in those who have already brought about in themselves, as far as is possible in the society of today, that union between manual and intellectual labor which characterizes the society we are aiming at.
Simone Weil
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]SellyCat
I think my mood is to strike YOU....I'm sorry that was very violent of me. You have to understand that it's the circumstances that are currently prevailing for me.


Its the hot desert air... Your blood is too thick for Dubai: You have never been able to properly explain yourself in that climate.


Colm
this guy's socialism is ancient history

maaan have you read Mutual Aid?? Its fuckin science - literally science!!!
He PROVES it, like only science can absolutely prove things: Anarchism is correct.



~atp~
I would like to retract my earlier remarks.


KROPOTKIN: 1 .......TRIBE: 0


...Kropotkin leaves the reader quite suggestively on the edge of one side of a canyon, across which are the owners and managers and other "wretched, lazy capitalists". This is not a fair implication, even when it is not stated explicitly.

To elaborate further: what needs to be discussed with some significance is that criticism of our present economic condition as a form of imprisonment does not exonerate or victimize one class and convict another to the extent that it is righteous to pit an entire class against another. While victimization and conviction should occur, the propensity of that criticism's weight should be conferred more on the system in place: a thing that is greater than any or all classes and constitutes generations of crafting, circumstance, blind leadership, environmental and human contributions; it is not something that can be morally judged without evaluating the morality of all humans equally, and when examined from this perspective the judgement becomes absurd.

Systems of power (Capitalism, for example) have arisen out of history as a representation of many contributions, including circumstance, the environment and other factors beyond human control. One cannot judge Capitalism as a moral entity unless you are willing to make a judgement of all humans, and doing so is absurd in this case, as such a judgement necessarily implies that we had complete awareness during its construction. Certainly, there are various members of the elite throughout history that have played a significant role in its development and we may choose to request indemnification for that role, but we cannot, clearly, request that of an entire class of people. Which is effectively what Kropotkin and more generally, socialist rhetoric, constantly suggests.

Historically, one might argue that this sort of invective was more relevant and ethically sound given the distorted relationship between owner and worker. Nevertheless, it is the solution that is important, and a disagreement on the source of the oppression is fundamentally divisive. It is interminably frustrating to listen to extensive (and often beautiful) rants on injustice yet after a patient expose, the solution is merely implied, or at best, described loosely as a "Social Revolution".


I dont get you on two or three points
You say criticism should be concentrated on the system in place, rather than the people who happen to be in the system, which is 'bigger than' them people
I tend to agree
But then you say you can't judge the system unless you are willing to make a judgement of all humans and doing so in this case is absurd because this necessitates assuming that ppl had awareness during the system's construction (if unaware, one cannot be responsible)
but social systems do not need conscious architects and I dont understand why they would need to be contrived in order to be judged

People are shaped by the spot in the system they occupy
But systems are also produced and sustained by the humans in them (through their behaviour), and one does not have to have some master understanding of the big picture to be socially responsible for their share - at least for their day-to-day activities, Kropotkin's doctor for example. You dont have to have some advanced theory of society to know if youre using your facilities as a doctor - educated at society's expense - to perform cosmetic surgery for millionaires for a living, well, frankly, its not the most honourable or moral choice, and it is a choice
Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, the more privilege (and freedom) you have the greater the moral weight on your shoulders
I think Kropotkin's appeal is essentially an appeal to try, and try hard, as the problem is so immense it is worthy of dedicating onesself to
This presumes that currently you are not trying, that you are compliant and complicit (which makes me feel bad), and that seems to be generally accurate of probably almost everyone in our demographic, increasing in proportion to one's privilege and freedom



Ditto Much
If I finish my day working for the man and now use my skills to help other within my community in a completely separate manor the singular argument he presents is difficult to use as metaphor. Ultimately I compare this to software developers working on open source in there spare time, however the same model can be used in the example of volunteer firemen. The economic benefits of working within the classist system informally also provide the tools and time to create the competing public domain replacement.


Fire-fighting is not social activism, its not trying to change and improve society
Creating a volunteer fire dept could be

If we spend 40 hours a week 'working for the man', and then go help people in the rest of our time, that 40 hours a week is not some neutral block of time

I dont know how far you got in the appeal, but he states:
...it is above all important to bring about a radical change in this state of affairs...

...That is the logical conclusion which every intelligent man must perforce arrive at, provided that he reasons honestly about what passes around him, and discards the sophisms which his bourgeois education and the interested views of those about him whisper in his ear.


This conclusion once arrived at, the question "What is to be done?" is naturally put.

The answer is easy.

Leave this environment in which you are placed and where it is the fashion to say that the people are nothing but a lot of brutes; come among these people - and the answer will come of itself.

You will see that everywhere, in England as well as in France, in Germany as well as in Italy, in Russia as welt as in the United States, everywhere where there is a privileged and an oppressed class, there is a tremendous work going on in the midst of the working class, whose object is to break down forever the slavery enforced by the capitalist feudality and to lay the foundation of a society established on the basis of justice and equality. It is no longer enough for the man of the people today to pour forth his complaints in one of those songs whose melody breaks your heart, such as were sung by the serfs of the eleventh century, and are still sung by the Slav peasant; he labors with his fellow toilers for the enfranchisement, with the knowledge of what he is doing, and against every obstacle put in his way.


So its an appeal for quite dramatic measures to be taken
Personally it seems the "state of affairs" is accurately as horrible and enormously wrong as Kropotkin asserts, and as deserving of radical change
it seems obviously accurate that there are people in society dedicating themselves more to, if not 'radical change' or 'social revolution', to social justice, and others who care and act less, and others who cynically swish their glasses of sherry and and sigh ;)
..while they comment on how horrible things are, all the while dedicating themselves to nicer cars, flatter TVs, etc
I dont think its unreasonable or impossible or wrong to judge such behaviour - such judgement is very very very very well established to some extent already, in laws about the way you run businesses, in biblical laws about holding slaves, and more general appeals to "encourage the oppressed" etc...
...doesnt it seem such appeals are appropriate?
This is kind of getting to my point: Kropotkin's appeal assumes that people know how wrong things are, that they avoid their consciences, that they're nto doing all they can to act good, obviously far from it, probably closer to doing as little as possible
And its exactly the people who pofit off the system who are doubly responsible: the responsibility that comes with their freedom and privilege, and the responsibility that comes from the fact that they are personally gaining wealth from such horrible processes
As for "the young", they still have potential. They have yet to invest themselves fully in the system; they have even more freedom than privileged adults (probably the freest stage of life); and they are currently making constitutive choices that will determine the rest of their lives

His appeal is not that insane: "leave this environment"

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] the owners and managers and other "wretched, lazy capitalists". This is not a fair implication
[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]
I think it IS... there ARE groups in society in conflict - I dont think anyone can deny that - and its not unclear where we sit in that conflict, we're nto ambiguously in the middle somewhere, we live in one of the most privileged, wealthiest places on the face of the earth. I dont think anyone can claim to be unimplicated in that setting

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]
I hope this doesnt come off as self-rightous and judgemental
Its not like im some social activist living among peasents who can judge you decedant "
[/FONT]fops, sad products of a society in decay, who display their well-cut trousers and their monkey faces in the park, and who even at their early age have only an insatiable longing for pleasure at any price" (honestly I thought that was very funny in respect to TRIBE :))
[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]but we are an important demographic (for the reasons outlined above) in the conflicts in society, and at a personal level this is an important time in our lives again in ways outlined above, even you over-the-hill late-twenty-somethings
I was reminded of this thing by some comments in the 'man fucking life is dissapointing' thread (which Ive been meaning to post to..... and obviously cannot recall the correct title of at the moment)
I think being at peace with ones conscience, as Kropotkin suggests, matters in being satisfied and feeling productive and worthwhile and so on
[/FONT]
 
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deafplayer

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
Well, he has certainly outlined his intended audience; the 'warm-hearted' vs. those cold-hearted
stuffy religious types.
....and..... anyone whos been educated? ie everyone?
no theres a pretty obvious difference between what he said and what youre ridiculing

Justice must come from just people, the law is not always just on it's own, but the hope is that
those who wield it and shape it will be just. Obviously this is not always the case. Which
brings up a side question, where does ones sense of justice come from?
Well isnt a more pertinent question (more, because its fairly clear that to a substantial extent morality such as that in the examples of law Kropotkin uses is fairly universal) who weilds and shapes it? Ie if its the early 1800s, would you really even have to ask if the particular slave-owners who write and interpret the laws happen to be just or not?
its not that they are unjust people (though maybe they are), but that their social position clearly is, and that the institutions of law are not neutral and are integrated very blatantly with oppressive and exploititive institutions
Thus to "hope... that those who weild it and shape it will be just" is insane
But in response to your "side question", Im sure you'll agree ones social position has an enormous formative influence on their perceptions of justice and 'real-world' morality
hence, if I may quote the bible in response to you, which I will now gleefully proceede to do, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man. . ." read the shocking conclusion of this metaphore in Luke 18!

I wonder, was he 'of the people'?
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/kropotkin/chronology.html


Meh, very emotionally rousing.
Heh, very genuine.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
deafplayer said:
....and..... anyone whos been educated? ie everyone?
no theres a pretty obvious difference between what he said and what youre ridiculing

I don't see it. How does he single out everyone educated? How are those educated everyone? I don't understand your point.

Well isnt a more pertinent question (more, because its fairly clear that to a substantial extent morality such as that in the examples of law Kropotkin uses is fairly universal) who weilds and shapes it?

Yes, exactly what I meant.

Ie if its the early 1800s, would you really even have to ask if the particular slave-owners who write and interpret the laws happen to be just or not?
its not that they are unjust people (though maybe they are), but that their social position clearly is, and that the institutions of law are not neutral and are integrated very blatantly with oppressive and exploititive institutions

Ones status in life does not indicate their integrity or how just they can be.
Also, I wasn't talking about the institutions, I was talking individuals. And...I was speaking in general not about a specific industry, country or time. But point taken.

Thus to "hope... that those who weild it and shape it will be just" is insane

Wow, that is a true anarchist speaking. So somehow, we can't trust people to be just, (especailly those in "power") yet we are supposed to trust that as humans in general we can work it out, we will live in bliss and harmony???
You'll need to convince me of that argument.

Im sure you'll agree ones social position has an enormous formative influence on their perceptions of justice and 'real-world' morality

Yes, 100%. But you are judging one better than the other. As if the poor have a better perception of justice than the rich, or those who wield justice. There must always be a figure of superiority, always someone who must be in power. Don't you agree? And power of course, corrupts. Now someone maybe able to fight off that corruption and be for the 'most part' just. The poor may revolt and murder all those who are rich and the impish fat kids will be killed by a mass of scrawny hungry kids... is that justice???

hence, if I may quote the bible in response to you, which I will now gleefully proceede to do, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man. . ." read the shocking conclusion of this metaphore in Luke 18!

Who then can be saved?
Also the kingdom of heaven and kingdoms we try to build on earth are completely different things.

Anyway, the point of the scripture you quoted is that wealth can cloud men's sight and spirits, but the grace of God saves. Notice how Jesus responds to the rich ruler by asking him "Why do you call me good?" The man was a poor judge, no doubt. The rich man was trying to justify himself through all of his "keeping the commands", so Jesus says to him fine, you want to be "good" give away all you have, you want to justify yourself give all you have to the poor. Can a camel go through the eye of a needle? No. Can a man justify himself? No.

I wonder why you were so gleeful in quoting that?


Heh, very genuine.

It did appear disingenuous. I was trying to say, "meh, doesn't convince me intellectually, but emotionally rousing."
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
I don't see it. How does he single out everyone educated? How are those educated everyone? I don't understand your point.
He doesn't single out everyone educated
Nor does he single out religious people
He singles out supersticious people who've been indoctrinated whether through "education" or "ranting ministers", p
eople who do not "reason instead of repeating what is taught [them]"
....not "
the 'warm-hearted' vs. those cold-hearted stuffy religious types"


Ones status in life does not indicate their integrity or how just they can be.

Also, I wasn't talking about the institutions, I was talking individuals.
Thats my point, thats whats crazy
Wow, that is a true anarchist speaking. So somehow, we can't trust people to be just, (especailly those in "power") yet we are supposed to trust that as humans in general we can work it out, we will live in bliss and harmony???
its EXACTLY "those in 'power'" who should not be "trusted" to be just
not because of anything personal, not really about them as individual humans
but because having one person in a position of illegitimate power over other people strongly invites injustice, or so strongly that it is simply unjust itself, or, beyond simply inviting injustice, it by definition implies the institutionalized general imposition of one will over another........ (take your pick)

You could replace them with "a mass of scrawny hungry kids" and it would be the same (though theyd likely not remain scrawny & hungry), because its the social position

Living "in bliss and harmony" is obviously an ideal
But it does seem reasonable that (as you say "power, of course, corrupts") the more cooperative, equal, 'brotherly' a society, the more it will reflect its members' interests and work to their benefit

Thus its very consistent and complementary to both distrust 'power' and trust that humans in general can work together
Yes, 100%. But you are judging one better than the other. As if the poor have a better perception of justice than the rich, or those who wield justice.
No, Im not. I explicitly said " its not that they are unjust people"
There must always be a figure of superiority, always someone who must be in power. Don't you agree?
:eek:
NO!
And power of course, corrupts.
or power IS corrupt (this is optimistic, assuming that there is a natural just tendency that power is subverting)
Now someone maybe able to fight off that corruption and be for the 'most part' just. The poor may revolt and murder all those who are rich and the impish fat kids will be killed by a mass of scrawny hungry kids... is that justice???
no of course not! did you even read my post? I repeatedly said (in agreement w/ ~atp~ and seperately) that its not the individual ppl in positions of power, its the positions themselves, as in, the institutional social structures that should be the target of change
No need to punish the rich as individuals merely for being rich
But one can acknowledge the pretty clear ties, not absolute but clear tendencies, between tyranny, evil, and material wealth

And one can acknowledge that there are also very common and strong tendencies to try to depoliticize and neutralize wealth, to steer away from threatening questions concerning it

But there is a very strong moral imperative to encourage the oppressed and help the poor, and this naturally leads, if successful,to less oppression, less poverty (the ideal of course being 'none'), and such a change as that directly implies institutional change (since poverty and opression are deeply institutionalized)
This does imply destroying social concentrations of power/wealth - they are not politically or morally neutral - but not punishing wealthy humans
There is, on the other hand, no moral imperative to help the rich, to protect their wealth and power - although there are strong socio-political imperatives to do so (hence the existence of that wealth and power in the first place), they are not moral, and they are often in hiding and disguised, because they are so obviously immoral
Who then can be saved?
Also the kingdom of heaven and kingdoms we try to build on earth are completely different things.
Didnt that line have implications for life on earth? wasnt relevant to the earthly, human world?
Anyway, the point of the scripture you quoted is that wealth can cloud men's sight and spirits, but the grace of God saves.
There are many ways to interpret things
Notice how Jesus responds to the rich ruler by asking him "Why do you call me good?" The man was a poor judge, no doubt. The rich man was trying to justify himself through all of his "keeping the commands",
like the Pharisees, the privileged liberal intellectuals of their day who follow the showy rules but "neglect justice"
And he says the most important commandment is to love god and the second one is to love your brother as yourself, and that this second one "is like" the first, and from these two all the others follow
So, social responsibility is or is like the supreme moral imperative
So "a rich ruler" in a place where there are poor (recall: rich) and oppressed (recall: ruler) who suffer has some answerin' to do
so Jesus says to him fine, you want to be "good" give away all you have, you want to justify yourself give all you have to the poor. Can a camel go through the eye of a needle? No. Can a man justify himself? No.
Can and should people try to enter the kingdom of heaven? yes obviously
One does so by being good, to put it in the simplist terms
He made a very explicit generalization specific to rich men.. given the constant emphasis on helping the poor, being selfless, etc, the meaning seems pretty obviously exactly what you said it was (in part).. personally I would leave out the attribution to the supernatural 'saving' people and leave them in their own hands


the point is there are some apparently pretty obvious and well established ties between wealth and imorality that like to get ignored while we worry about the precious rights of the wealthy - preach revolution, but you cant justify hurting the rich! omg are you suggesting violence against the rich?!
Of course you can not justify hurting anyone, generally speaking, but the point really is this: suspending for a moment preoccupation with concern for potential unjust harm to people who happen to be rich, presently someone is already experiencing unjust harm at the hands of someone else
The poor and oppressed are already being hurt (we dont call it 'violence'), and by who? by god? no.. by nature? no.. by "rich rulers"? hm..... well, all signs point to yes (I mean simply logically, not because of scripture)
So maybe Kropotkin does have a legitimate point when he specifically challenges, on moral grounds, the privileged and wealthy and powerful, apparently simply for being privileged and wealthy and powerful

I wonder why you were so gleeful in quoting that?
really?
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
^^^^
Deaf...

I am pretty much in agreement with everything you stated now that I understand better.

So the question is so what? Now what?

People always look to leaders. They will trust them and follow them. We will look to them for inspiration and guidance. Someone, through personality, intellect, appearance and or speach will lead. Brother helping brother is wonderful, to be in the trenches together, to be looking after our families and countries together is a great idea. But how do you prevent someone/something from takin power, from taking the role of leadership. People are selfish and will generally act in self interest. If there are only so many resources, who decides who gets what? Comon...really what would be the moral compass? Who will sort out conflicts?


I'll post more later, I gotta go now.


as a side...
I don't want to make this a theological arguement, but I'll just state my position, though we must love one another as ourselves, we know not everyone will follow this rule. I believe there is no "earthly" solution to the problem, that is why God wants to be God, and instead we choose governments, laws, science, politics and anything else to cling to some form of "Justice".
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Thought this was a nice compliment to the original post, Bill Moyers strikes again! (Link Here)

Published on Monday, May 22, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Pass the Bread
by Bill Moyers
Text of Baccalaureate Address
Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
May 20, 2006


I will make this brief because I know you have much to do between now and your farewell to Hamilton tomorrow, and that you are eager to get out and enjoy this perfect day in this glorious weather that somehow never gets mentioned in your promotional and recruitment literature.

One of my closest friends and colleagues, David Bate, graduated in 1938, and patriot that he is, headed right for the U.S. Navy where he served throughout World War II. David's father graduated from Hamilton in 1908 and two of his children continued the tradition. I asked David what he learned at Hamilton and he told me Hamilton is where you discover that being smart has nothing to do with being warm and dry...Just kidding! Thank you for inviting Judith and me to share this occasion with you. Fifty years ago both of us turned the same corner you are turning today and left college for the great beyond. Looking back across half a century I wish our speaker at the time had said something really useful--something that would have better prepared us for what lay ahead. I wish he had said: "Don't Go."

So I have been thinking seriously about what I might say to you in this Baccalaureate service. Frankly, I'm not sure anyone from my generation should be saying anything to your generation except, "We're sorry. We're really sorry for the mess you're inheriting. We are sorry for the war in Iraq. For the huge debts you will have to pay for without getting a new social infrastructure in return. We're sorry for the polarized country. The corporate scandals. The corrupt politics. Our imperiled democracy. We're sorry for the sprawl and our addiction to oil and for all those toxins in the environment. Sorry about all this, class of 2006. Good luck cleaning it up."

You're going to have your hands full, frankly. I don't need to tell you of the gloomy scenarios being written for your time. Three books on my desk right now question whether human beings will even survive the 21st century. Just listen to their titles: The Long Emergency: Surviving the Convergence Catastrophe; Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; The Winds of Change: Weather and the Destruction of Civilizations.

These are just three of the recent books that make the apocalypse prophesied in the Bible...the Revelations of St. John...look like child's play. I won't summarize them for you except to say that they spell out Doomsday scenarios for global catastrophe. There's another recent book called The Revenge of Gaia that could well have been subtitled, "The Earth Strikes Back," because the author, James Lovelock, says human consumption, our obsession with technology, and our habit of "playing God" are stripping bare nature's assets until the Earth's only consolation will be to take us down with her. Before this century is over, he writes, "Billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be kept in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable." So there you have it: The future of the race, to be joined in a final and fatal march of the penguins.

Of course that's not the only scenario. You can Google your way to a lot of optimistic possibilities. For one, the digital revolution that will transform how we do business and live our lives, including active intelligent wireless devices that in just a short time could link every aspect of our physical world and even human brains, creating hundreds of thousands of small-scale business opportunities. There are medical breakthroughs that will conquer many ills and extend longevity. Economic changes will lift hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty in the next 25 years, dwarfing anything that's come along in the previous 100 years. These are possible scenarios, too. But I'm a journalist, not a prophet. I can't say which of these scenarios will prove true. You won't be bored, that's for sure. I just wish I were going to be around to see what you do with the peril and the promise.

Since I won't be around, I want to take this opportunity to say a thing or two that have nothing to do with my professional work as a journalist. What I have to say today is very personal. Here it is:

If the world confuses you a little, it confuses me a lot. When I graduated fifty years ago I thought I had the answers. But life is where you get your answers questioned, and the odds are that you can look forward to being even more perplexed fifty years from now than you are at this very moment. If your parents level with you, truly speak their hearts, I suspect they would tell you life confuses them, too, and that it rarely turns out the way you thought it would.

I find I am alternatively afraid, cantankerous, bewildered, often hostile, sometimes gracious, and battered by a hundred new sensations every day. I can be filled with a pessimism as gloomy as the depth of the middle ages, yet deep within me I'm possessed of a hope that simply won't quit. A friend on Wall Street said one day that he was optimistic about the market, and I asked him, "Then why do you look so worried?" He replied, "Because I'm not sure my optimism is justified." Neither am I. So I vacillate between the determination to act, to change things, and the desire to retreat into the snuggeries of self, family and friends.

I wonder if any of us in this great, disputatious, over-analyzed, over-televised and under-tenderized country know what the deuce we're talking about, myself included. All my illusions are up for grabs, and I find myself re-assessing many of the assumptions that served me comfortable much of my life.

Earlier this week I heard on the radio a discussion in New York City about the new Disney Broadway production of Tarzan, the jungle hero so popular when I was growing up. I remember as a kid almost dislocating my tonsils trying to recreate his unearthly sound, swinging on a great vine in a graceful arc toward the rescue of his distressed mate, Jane, hollering bloody murder all the time. So what have we learned since? That Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller, who played Tarzan in the movies, never made that noise. It was a recording of three men, one a baritone, one a tenor, and one a hog caller from Arkansas--all yelling to the top of their lungs. This world is hard on believers.

As a young man I was drawn to politics. I took part in two national campaigns, served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and have covered politics ever since. But I understand now what Thomas Jefferson meant back in 1789 when he wrote: "I am not a Federalist because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men, whether in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or anything else. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all." Of course we know there'll be no parties in Heaven. No Democrats, no Republicans, no liberals, no conservatives, no libertarians or socialists. Just us Baptists.

The hardest struggle of all is to reconcile life's polar realities. I love books, Beethoven, and chocolate brownies. Yet how do I justify my pleasure in these in a world where millions are illiterate, the music never plays, and children go hungry through the night? How do I live sanely in a world so unsafe for so many?

I don't know what they taught you here at Hamilton about all this, but I trust you are not leaving here without thinking about how you will respond to the dissonance in our culture, the rivalry between beauty and bestiality in the world, and the conflicts in your own soul. All of us have to choose sides on this journey. But the question is not so much who we are going to fight against as it is which side of our own nature will we nurture: The side that can grow weary and even cynical and believe that everything is futile, or the side that for all the vulgarity, brutality, and cruelty, yearns to affirm, connect and signify. Albert Camus got it right: There is beauty in the world as well as humiliation, "And we have to strive, hard as it is, not to be unfaithful...in the presence of one or the other.

That's really what brings me here this afternoon. I did put myself in your place, and asked what I'd want a stranger from another generation to tell me if I had to sit through his speech. Well, I'd want to hear the truth: The truth is, life's a tough act, the world's a hard place, and along the way you will meet a fair share of fools, knaves and clowns--even act the fool yourself from time to time when your guard is down or you've had too much wine. I'd like to be told that I will experience separation, loss and betrayal, that I'll wonder at times where have all the flowers gone.

I would want to be told that while life includes a lot of luck, life is more than luck. It is sacrifice, study, and work; appointments kept, deadlines met, promises honored. I'd like to be told that it's okay to love your country right or wrong, but it's not right to be silent when your country is wrong. And I would like to be encouraged not to give up on the American experience. To remember that the same culture which produced the Ku Klux Klan, Tom DeLay and Abu Ghraib, also brought forth the Peace Corps, Martin Luther King and Hamilton College.

And I would like to be told that there is more to this life than I can see, earn, or learn in my time. That beyond the day-to-day spectacle are cosmic mysteries we don't understand. That in the meantime--and the meantime is where we live--we infinitesimal particles of creation carry on the miracle of loving, laughing and being here now, by giving, sharing and growing now.

Let me tell you one of my favorite stories. I read it a long time ago and it's stayed with me. There was a man named Shalom Aleicheim. He was one of the accursed of the Earth. Every misfortune imaginable befell him. He lost his wife, his children neglected him, his house burned down, his job disappeared--everything he touched turned to dust. Yet through all this Shalom kept returning good for evil everywhere he could until he died. When the angels heard he was arriving at Heaven's gate, they hurried down to greet him. Even the Lord was there, so great was this man's fame for goodness. It was the custom in Heaven that every newcomer was interrogated by the prosecuting angel, to assure that all trespasses on Earth had been atoned. But when Shalom reached those gates, the prosecuting angel arose, and for the first time in the memory of Heaven, said, "There are no charges." Then the angel for the defense arose and rehearsed all the hardships this man had endured and recounted how in all the difficult circumstances of his life he had remained true to himself and returned good for evil.

When the angel was finished, the Lord said, "Not since Job himself have we heard of a life such as this one." And then, turning to Shalom, he said, "Ask, and it shall be given to you."

The old man raised his eyes and said, "Well, if I could start every day with a hot buttered roll..." And at that the Lord and all the angels wept, at the preciousness of what he was asking for, at the beauty of simple things : a buttered roll, a clean bed, a beautiful summer day, someone to love and be loved by. These supply joy and meaning on this earthly journey.

So I brought this with me. It's an ordinary breakfast roll, perhaps one like Shalom asked for. I brought it because it drives home the last thing I want to say to you. Bread is the great re-enforcer of the reality principle. Bread is life. But if you're like me you have a thousand and more times repeated the ordinary experience of eating bread without a thought for the process that brings it to your table. The reality is physical: I need this bread to live. But the reality is also social: I need others to provide the bread. I depend for bread on hundreds of people I don't know and will never meet. If they fail me, I go hungry. If I offer them nothing of value in exchange for their loaf, I betray them. The people who grow the wheat, process and store the grain, and transport it from farm to city; who bake it, package it, and market it--these people and I are bound together in an intricate reciprocal bargain. We exchange value.

This reciprocity sustains us. If you doubt it, look around you. Hamilton College was raised here by people before your time, people you'll never know, who were nonetheless thinking of you before you were born. You have received what they built and bequeathed, and in your time you will give something back. That's the deal. On and on it goes, from generation to generation.

Civilization sustains and supports us. The core of its value is bread. But bread is its great metaphor. All my life I've prayed the Lord's Prayer, and I've never prayed, "Give me this day my daily bread." It is always, "Give us this day our daily bread." Bread and life are shared realities. They do not happen in isolation. Civilization is an unnatural act. We have to make it happen, you and I, together with all the other strangers. And because we and strangers have to agree on the difference between a horse thief and a horse trader, the distinction is ethical. Without it, a society becomes a war against all, and a market for the wolves becomes a slaughter for the lambs. My generation hasn't done the best job at honoring this ethical bargain, and our failure explains the mess we're handing over to you. You may be our last chance to get it right. So good luck, Godspeed, enjoy these last few hours together, and don't forget to pass the bread.
 
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Genesius

TRIBE Member
Bread and life are shared realities. They do not happen in isolation. Civilization is an unnatural act. We have to make it happen, you and I, together with all the other strangers. And because we and strangers have to agree on the difference between a horse thief and a horse trader, the distinction is ethical. Without it, a society becomes a war against all, and a market for the wolves becomes a slaughter for the lambs. My generation hasn't done the best job at honoring this ethical bargain, and our failure explains the mess we're handing over to you. You may be our last chance to get it right. So good luck, Godspeed, enjoy these last few hours together, and don't forget to pass the bread

Here here.

Well said.
 
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