Typos p. 253: awhile [= a while]
In outlining proposals which may be regarded as more satisfactory than Birth Control for dealing with the problem of over-population and poverty, and of the evils which appear to result from them, it should first be pointed out that, by the use of the words "alternative solutions" meaning solutions other than Birth Control we seem to imply that Birth Control is a solution. But, in view of what has been said in the previous chapters, this is obviously not so. It is impossible to regard as a solution a method so full of unscientific and dangerous assumptions as that which we have examined. And the long start which owing to the reluctance of the Government to face and deal with the thorny problem of population on sound and scientific lines Birth Control has had, by no means constitutes the latter a solution.
A proposal that is so clearly dysgenic, careless of women's psychical and physical rights, hostile to the best interests of children, neglectful of the future and genius of the nation, and of the best means of producing the finest specimens from the nation's blood, cannot be regarded as a solution. While the mere fact that, as we have shown, in order to make it pass muster at all, even with the uncritical, it has been found necessary to support it with so much sophistry, suggestio falsi,
Do not let us, therefore, even in the most trivial conversation, dignify it by describing it as a solution of the population problem. And when we set out to outline proposals for the solution of that problem, and of those problems which appear to result from it, we must put out of our minds entirely that there is any other proposal worth considering which is already in possession of the public ear and which has been advanced by those in favour of contraception.
Thus we do not really offer the proposals in this chapter as suggestions intended to compete for popular favour with Birth Control. We offer them rather as contributions to the subject of population in the same line of descent as those of men like Malthus, Alfred Baker Read, Paul Bureau and C. E. Pell i.e. as tentative measures of reform, which will at least simplify the problem, more clearly define its nature, and reduce the present difficulty of dealing with the evils that appear to be connected with it.
Having definitely concluded that, except in pathological cases, when they are recommended and their use supervised by a responsible medical man, contraceptives are to be wholly eschewed, we are faced with this apparently enormously difficult question:
Are we, or are we not, bound to limit the annual increase of our numbers, and if we are, how do we propose to do it?
In preparing to meet this question, it may be as
It may be as well, therefore, in proposing to answer the question we have just put to ourselves, to follow the Euclidian method, and to offer one or two alternative replies, just to see how they would answer.
Let us first suppose, therefore, that we are not effete, that we are not largely degenerate, that our mode of action is not largely determined by the old people, particularly the old women, in our midst, and that, therefore, we still believe in ourselves, genuinely approve of our nation and its people, and think them superior to any other nation or people. Let us suppose, moreover, that if we were asked which people we should prefer to see cover the whole face of the globe, we should answer unhesitatingly and
The natural outcome of such an attitude of self-affirmation and confidence would be that we should wish to increase and multiply, that we should regard the future as belonging to our own people, and would strongly deprecate any wastage or loss which might prevent this future from being realised. While perhaps acknowledging that the increase of A must, in terms of population, ultimately mean the decrease of B, we should refuse to regard ourselves as coming under the category B. While recognising that human sacrifice of some sort, on our limited globe, always has been, is still, and will continue to be, necessary, and that the spreading and sparing of A would mean the sacrifice of B, we should once more decline to be the party that has to be sacrificed, and be prepared to defend this attitude or perish in the attempt to do so. We would scoff at egalitarian principles, according to which, in the present juncture of affairs, the world is mapped out and allotted to certain peoples whose confines are strictly defined and who, as far as we can now tell, are to be left in possession of their limited areas for all time; and we should say: "No, we do not hold that all peoples are equal." And if all peoples are not equal, then one people which is superior to the rest has, on progressive grounds alone, if on no other, a natural and human mandate to supersede all other peoples. And we should make a brave attempt not only to claim that we possessed that natural mandate, but. also to demonstrate both in word and deed that our claim was justified.
Let us now examine why the above solution of the population problem is utterly impossible to-day. We may learn a few useful things on our way.
The first thought that occurs to us is that it will be called inhuman, and condemned on that account. It would mean the methodical and gradual elimination of B by A, and this the modern conscience would not tolerate. It will be as well to deal with this objection straight away.
Now, in the first place, we live in an age in which any number of kindly, reputable, Christian and thoroughly humane people people like Dean Inge, the Bishop of Birmingham, Professor MacBride, Dr. Drysdale. Dr. Meyrick Booth, Miss Anna Martin, and scores of others, against whom no one would dream of bringing a charge of heartlessness are calmly recommending, plotting and trying to bring about just such an alteration in the balance between A and B as we have postulated as a possibility above. But instead of A and B representing different peoples of the world, they are A and B in the sense of Disraeli's two nations the rich and the poor.
At the present moment thousands of perfectly kind people or people who pass as perfectly kind are not only solemnly advocating the reduction of the biologically unfit, but are also offering the means
1 Birth-controllers would reply that one of their principal points is that by contraception they set about reducing B relative to A by painless methods, whereas the self-affirming nation knows only painful methods of achieving this object. This reply, however, is not entirely satisfactory, because war is not the only means of reducing B relative to A. B might, for instance, be forced or induced, just as the poor are being induced, by a self-affirming A to use Birth Control while A could abolish it
So it appears that the objection based on the inhumanity of the proceeding of encouraging A to supersede B on international lines cannot be upheld. On the contrary, we would suggest that, as a people deals with its own blood in imposing reduction on one class and multiplication on another in the same nation, it is actually more inhuman to encourage A to supersede B intra-nationally than internationally. And if intra-nationally it is not regarded as inhuman, then a fortiori it cannot be held to be inhuman internationally. In other words, it cannot, ceteris paribus, be more inhuman to kill somebody else's child than to kill your own. If, therefore, it is not considered inhuman for you to kill your own child, then it follows that it is all the less inhuman for you to kill somebody else's child.
The objection that the attitude of the self-affirming people above described would be inhuman may, therefore, be dismissed as a piece of muddled thinking. Life means sacrifice of some or many, 1 and since, in the end, it cannot be more inhuman to sacrifice Tom rather than Dick or Harry, we cannot sustain the charge of inhumanity against any scheme which
1 For a complete discussion of the ineluctable law of sacrifice, see the author's False Assumptions of Democracy, Chapter V.
But there are graver objections, and these are: (1) That we have long ceased to be a self-affirming people, believing in our desirability and striving by all means in our power to preserve it. The very strenuousness of the thought is too much for our modern weariness, our modern comfortableness, and, above all, our modern veracity. For we have only to look around us in order to see how many millions of us are plainly undesirable. When enthusiasm about our Empire, about our power and vast opportunities for good, has to be artificially engineered, when large sections of the nation are setting signs of interrogation against that Empire itself, and when even the very popular, patriotic song, "Land of Hope and Glory," with its curious lines,
"Wider still and wider let thy bounds be set,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,"
has to be sung with a certain wavering insincerity on the one hand, or half-conscious hypocrisy on the other, we cannot hope, even in pretence, to assume the optimistic and self-approving attitude of a people confident in the possession of its mandate to subdue and populate the globe. (2) That we have too long interpreted our weariness and lack of self-affirmation euphemistically as the recognition of the rights of others ("live and let live," to be understood only in an international sense), the right of self-determination for small nations (again only in an international, not in a Disraelian sense), and the brotherhood of mankind, to be able now, except theatrically, to think of our
The chief objection of all, then, is our consciousness of our own degeneracy, our grave doubts regarding our desirability, our utter abandonment of any particular sense of privilege in the international struggle for existence. And this is now so insuperable, and has reached a point when it has become such a deep conviction in all of us, that now most people are hardly aware of its genesis in self-doubt. We can hardly recognise our present attitude as pessimistic and desperate because we have no means of comparing it with an attitude of optimism and hope. Instead of a Land of Hope and Glory, we have become a land of Hopelessness and Comfort, in which the command, "be fruitful and multiply," has been transmuted into the more rationally sounding, more up-to-date and more civilised, "be unfruitful and decrease."
Here, then, is a solution which has become impossible, because we are no longer up to the standard which it presupposes. We may cloak the truth in softer words; we may delude ourselves that we are above, and not beneath, the standard which would make this solution of our population question possible; in fact, we may put it more comfortingly. But the unpalatable fact remains that degeneracy bars our way to such a solution, and that this degeneracy has not only become a spectacle which we can observe in our midst, both in its acute and its sub-acute physical forms, but also a phenomenon which we can feel in our own selves, in our own minds and sensibilities, and in the foregone conclusions with which we are prone to approach
Let us now suppose that we are about to adopt Mr. Alfred Baker Read's solution, which is infanticide. 1 According to this solution, the unwanted child, whether of a poor servant-girl or a well-to-do lady in Mayfair, is to be simply put out of the way without its parents or parent being liable to prosecution for the deed. Mr. Read argues very cogently that whereas this method of reduction would relieve the womanhood of civilisation of the evil consequences of non-functioning, it would also remove the penalty of sacrifice from the adults of each generation to a section of the infant arrivals. The merely potential, that is to say, would be sacrificed, since sacrifice of some sort is inevitable, and the full-grown, those who presumably had won their spurs, would be spared.
There is some plausibility in this suggestion, because there is no doubt that, at present, the sanctity of infant life brings untold misery, not only upon thousands of women and men who dread the advent of the baby, but also on thousands of women who remain functionless because of the dread of the baby. The under and hidden world of abortionists, with their wretched, frequently blackmailed clients, most of whom risk either their lives, their liberty, or their financial security, or all three, by coming together for the illegal purpose of ridding the world of an unwanted ftus, are chiefly adults in the prime of life, whose peace of
1 See Social Chaos and the Way Out (London, Henderson, 1914).
There can be no doubt that a relaxation of this rigid regard for the sanctity of infant life would lift, as it were, an iron cowl from the heads of adult humanity all over the civilised world, and restore an enormous amount of lost joie de vivre. and innocence to the life of millions of people. And the fact that this iron cowl is gradually being lifted is, of course, undeniable. As Mr. Baker points out, the present leniency of judges and juries in cases of infanticide, when mothers of illegitimate offspring are the culprits, is becoming notorious. And the recent law for dealing with such cases, according to which it may be pleaded, if the death has occurred reasonably soon after birth, that the mother was not in a fit state of mind to be responsible for her actions, shows which way public
But we suggest that it is a wrong direction. It is a solution that cannot and ought not to be adopted. And the recent law regarding infanticide is a sign of how much more we are led by sentimentality and comfort than by wisdom in deciding these questions.
To relax the laws against infanticide would be to leave to the ignorant, the tasteless and the careless, the task of deciding who should and who should not survive. It would mean that artificial selection, if we are to have it, would be in the hands of the inexpert. But if even the amateur dog or pig breeder is wise to seek advice before sacrificing any of the young of a too plentiful litter, how can we trust the unqualified parent to judge prudently concerning the survival value of a particular child? The illegitimate child of a poor servant girl, to the knowledgeable eye,
Infanticide, carried on indiscriminately, au bon plaisir of anyone and everyone, would, in fact, be but little better than Birth Control. It would decimate the sound with the unsound. It would leave the proportion of degenerates more or less as it is, besides denying millions of. women the function of lactation. For, although in our degenerate times, this is gladly foregone by thousands, it nevertheless constitutes, as we have seen, an essential part of the female sexual cycle. The proposal would gain in feasibility and wisdom, if it included the limitation of the right to infanticide to women who could not suckle, to women whose babies bore any of the stigmata of degeneration, or who were with their husbands undesirable from the standpoint of the race's future. But otherwise it would tend merely to reduce the sound with the unsound, and this, in the present conjuncture of our affairs, we cannot by any means afford to do.
Thus, once again, degeneracy stands in the way; and this time, not as an obstacle to a very heroic or glorious solution, but merely to a drastic modification of the sanctity of infant life, and a better adjustment of our feelings in regard to that sanctity and to the happiness and freedom of the adult.
The solution is thus on a lower plane than the one that preceded it. It makes no inquiry regarding our state of body or mind. It does not ask whether we
The same criticism applies to Malthus's scheme of late marriage with continence, Mr. Pell's suggested suppression of the conditions which, in the "lower" classes, he alleges to be productive of great fertility, and to Mr. Paul Bureau's restatements of Malthus's scheme. All these, by taking no cognisance of degeneracy, 1 by accepting the status quo, and by betraying only the intention of making this status quo more tolerable, more comfortable for the time being, cannot be regarded as much more useful than Birth Control. For it is frequently forgotten that prolonged continence also means prolonged non-functioning. In all these writers, moreover, there is no consciousness or awareness of the extent to which degeneracy and its atmosphere may be influencing and directing their choice of a particular solution, and their disinclination to consider other possible solutions.
Thus it would seem that degeneracy in some form or other were constantly barring the way to a satisfactory solution as if, in fact, while degeneracy remains as an element in the calculation, whether as an objective reality, or as a factor in the mind of the subject,
1 This is not strictly true of Paul Bureau, who aims at least at a spiritual elevation of the masses.
The only solution, therefore, which, in our opinion, can or ought to be reckoned with, either as a practical or safe means of attacking the problem, is one which takes as its first step the removal of degeneracy as an objective and subjective reality i.e. from the world about the thinking sociologist, and from the mind of the thinking sociologist himself. Otherwise, how are we to know that our very solutions may not be part of our degeneracy? If our state of degeneracy is admitted, how do we know that any further tinkering with our oldest institutions, with the object of reforming them, may not simply be part of the degenerative process?
We need have no difficulty in convincing ourselves of our degeneracy the statistics of this condition in its acute form are all there for us to read in hundreds of Government and private publications from the Annual Reports of the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education 1 to Burdett's Hospitals and Charities. We can see it in our Census Reports for the years 1911 and 1921, in which the figure given merely for the mental defectives, the insane, the totally blind, the crippled, the deaf, the deaf and dumb, and the dumb, is 260,239 for England and Wales. And we can see it in our annual charities and expenses for every kind of physiological botchedness. In its sub-acute form, we can see it in those about us, and
1 See an examination of the latest reports from this department published by the author in the English Review, March, 1927. For a review of the statistics of degeneracy, see also the author's Man: An Indictment, Chapters V, VI and VII.
Now, not only is it essential, as we have already shown, that this element of acute and sub-acute degeneracy should be removed before we can speak of reducing the population as a whole, but it is also none the less essential that we should be free from the taint and atmosphere of degeneracy before we begin to devise remedies for the reduction of the population. Otherwise it is certain that our solution will partake of our morbidity, and be in harmony with it. As
Nothing can be done, then, and nothing ought to be thought, about the problem of over-population before:
(a) It is extricated from the problem of degeneracy, which disfigures and obscures it.
(b) Degeneracy is rigorously combated and removed.
We can trust neither ourselves nor others so long as we know that we are either acute or sub-acute examples of modern degeneracy, and, seeing that the hordes of acute degenerates alone are so vast at the present moment, that a reduction in their numbers would constitute an immense reduction in our population, and therefore an immense reduction in our burdens, the most prudent, the safest, and the only justifiable way to set about solving the question of over-population is to proceed drastically with the elimination of the undesirable. Since sparing them means sacrificing their betters, since pity for them means cruelty towards their betters, and since accumulating and preserving them imposes such intolerable burdens on their betters that the latter cannot be allowed to breed, 1 we must boldly rid ourselves of the feminine and morbid sentimentality which, long enough, has caused us to sacrifice the greater for the less, the sound for the unsound, and deliberately turn our minds to the purging of society of its human foulness. Our whole attitude towards sacrifice must
1 This is proved by the Birth Control movement.
How the legislature will ultimately be moved to act in the manner required, how Parliament will ultimately be made to tackle this most urgent of questions as it should be tackled, is not for us to say; it is rather a matter which lies in the hands of all those who can make a direct appeal to public opinion the daily Press, the leading publicists, and the public educators. But this is certain as long as the legislature can possibly avoid approaching this most thorny of all questions it will undoubtedly do so. And if Birth Control, by alleviating immediate pressure, can enable the legislature to shelve the real problem, while allowing degeneracy to remain and the sound to be reduced still further, there is no doubt that the legislature will be inclined to look favourably upon the movement.
The fact that the two objects which are most imme-
As to the actual means whereby degeneracy is to be combated and removed, we would suggest that:
(1) The sanctity of human life be re-defined in accordance with some standard of physical and mental desirability. Only that life should have sanctity which offers some guarantee of future worthiness. Infant life, therefore, should be sacred only to the extent to which it represents desirable life. All acute cases of malformation, degenerative stigmata, crippledom, abnormality, should unhesitatingly be done away with. And if the law does not move, it only requires a few brave, tasteful and merciful fathers to lead the way in this direction, for the law to follow. Even now public opinion is so deeply prepared that the nation is ripe for such a reform. The nation would approve.
(2) The murderer does less harm to society than the incurable lunatic or other sufferer, because while the murderer kills only one fellow-man, the incurable sufferer, by the continuous burden he imposes on all, prevents the life of hundreds of his fellow-creatures.
(3) Marriage between all defectives and degenerates should be forbidden by law, and the law should be strictly enforced. At present even the statutory supervision of mental defectives, which is provided for by legislation, is so carelessly carried out that large numbers of these undesirables find opportunities to breed in spite of it.
In 1925, out of 15,783 1 mental defectives who were allowed comparative freedom and were placed under statutory supervision,
252 contracted immoral relations or perverted sexual habits,
181 committed criminal offences,
195 married, and
1 The total number of mental defectives in 1925 was 55,480, of which 21,082 were under care in special institutions. This, of course, has nothing to do with the 136,626 insane.
The reasons given for this inadequate supervision were that
"statutory supervision is carried out by the same persons to whom the Local Authority have entrusted their duties of ascertainment. Among these are a large number of public officials appointed primarily for other duties such as Health Visitors, Relieving Officers, District Nurses, School Attendance Officers, Probation Officers, etc. In estimating the efficiency of these officers for supervision, two points should be borne in mind (1) their ordinary duties leave little time for additional work; (2) very few of them have had any training in work for the mentally defective." 2
If we are to have laws limiting the freedom of degenerate people, of human rubbish, they must be properly enforced, without any sentimentality. And, in order to enlist the help and sympathy of the poor in preparing such legislation, we must make it as rigorous for the defective among the rich and well-to-do as for the defectives among the indigent.
(4) We must apply our energy and scientific knowledge to studying much more closely than we have done hitherto the symptomology of desirability in infants, so that there may be some means of selecting desirable children at birth. The science of human "points" must be brought at least up to the level at which animal connoisseurs have brought the points of horses, cattle, dogs, etc. Ultimately this science must far surpass the degree of perfection at which
1 See Twelfth Report of the Board of Control, Lunacy and Mental Deficiency, p. 74.
2 Ibid., p. 72.
(5) Values must be transformed, so that beauty, which always goes with health and vigour (only tasteless people call pallid, delicate, fireless looks "beautiful"), is more highly valued than it is to-day, and so that abnormality and ugliness may provoke not pity, but repugnance. No elimination of degenerates can possibly do any good, unless at the same time a change in taste is effected which will make it impossible for any girl or man to look fondly, as the hero and heroine in Pilgrims On The Rhine do, upon physical imperfection.
(6) For awhile contraceptives might be sold as some poisons are now, only on a doctor's prescription, and it might be made a criminal offence to pass them on, just as it is a criminal offence to hand on morphia or cocaine. Doctors might, in addition, be forbidden to prescribe contraceptives to any but degenerate people, and this degeneracy could be determined, as it was during the war, by careful auscultation and other methods of examination. C3 people might even be compelled to use contraceptives, so that their elimination could be gradually effected without dis-
(7) In any case it might be made a criminal offence to sell contraceptives without a doctor's prescription: while the sale or handing on of contraceptives to desirable and sound couples might be as severely punished as at the present day we punish attempts at poisoning.
These, or measures like them, might be adopted straight away, and continue to be put in force until we have rid ourselves at least of the most acute forms of degeneracy; whereupon milder measures might gradually rid us of the sub-acute forms.
But it may be questioned whether the standard demanded even by this solution is not too high, whether it is not too late, and whether we are not too far gone in degeneracy, to show the necessary firmness and vigour to adopt such means as would be necessary to solve the problem of over-population in this way. At all events no other solution recommends itself so well, no other solution lies so completely in our power, or is so perfectly commensurate with our knowledge and our present condition. And if we insist on turning to easier and more convenient proposals, we may find out too late that they were less solutions than anodynes, less remedies than palliatives, and then there may no longer be any hope of a solution.
As to what a regenerate England, a population of wholly sound people, would do to deal with their problem of over-population that is a question which it is quite impossible to answer. How the brain of modem man will work when he has rid himself and
1. Whichever way we turn for a solution of the problem of population the spectre degeneracy bars our way, and renders the obvious solution, which is uniform reduction, impossible, or certainly most inadvisable.
2. Before the problem of population can be properly dealt with, therefore, it is essential that it should be extricated from the problem of degeneracy. Because, we cannot even begin to examine its nature before it is freed from its present complicated association with the burdens of decay, effeteness and general loss of stamina and vitality.
3. When once, however, by the determined and gradual removal of degeneracy from our midst, we shall have become faced with a simple and definitely recognisable problem of population alone, we shall have become another people, differently orientated not only towards the problem of population but towards
4. Stupendous as is the task of ridding ourselves of degeneracy, it cannot be said that it is one which lies beyond or above our power. We still possess both the strength and the courage to take this most essential of steps into the future. Neither is it one for which our present knowledge is inadequate. All it requires is the firmness and determination to break with the self-indulgent thoughts of the last hundred years. The emotion that will help us to survive the first feelings of repulsion that it provokes is the immense pity we all must learn to feel for the dwindling sound stocks on which the hope of the future depends.