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- This Simian World - 6/9 -
to be the true parent of such prominent people as simians. They will lose all respect for the dignity of fair Mother Earth, and whisper to each other she is an evil and indecent old person. They will snatch at her gifts, pry irreverently into her mysteries, and ignore half the warnings they get from her about how to live.
Ailments of every kind will abound among such folk, inevitably, and they will resort to extraordinary expedients in their search for relief. Although squeamish as a race about inflicting much pain in cold blood, they will systematically infect other animals with their own rank diseases, or cut out other animals' organs, or kill and dissect them, hoping thus to learn how to offset their neglect of themselves. Conditions among them will be such that this will really be necessary. Few besides impractical sentimentalists will therefore oppose it. But the idea will be to gain health by legerdemain, by a trick, instead of by taking the trouble to live healthy lives.
Strange barrack-like buildings called hospitals will stand in their cities, where their trick-men, the surgeons, will slice them right open when ill; and thousands of zealous young pharmacists will mix little drugs, which thousands of wise-looking simians will firmly prescribe. Each generation will change its mind as to these drugs, and laugh at all former opinions; but each will use some of them, and each will feel assured that in this respect they know the last word.
And, in obstinate blindness, this people will wag their poor heads, and attribute their diseases not to simian-ness but to civilization.
The advantages that any man or race has, can sometimes be handicaps. Having hands, which so aids a race, for instance, can also be harmful. The simians will do so many things with their hands, it will be bad for their bodies. Instead of roaming far and wide over the country, getting vigorous exercise, they will use their hands to catch and tame horses, build carriages, motors, and then when they want a good outing they will "go for a ride," with their bodies slumped down, limp and sluggish, and losing their spring.
Then too their brains will do harm, and great harm, to their bodies. The brain will give them such an advantage over all other animals that they will insensibly be led to rely too much on it, to give it too free a rein, and to find the mirrors in it too fascinating. This organ, this outgrowth, this new part of them, will grow over-active, and its many fears and fancies will naturally injure the body. The interadjustment is delicate and intimate, the strain is continuous. When the brain fails to act with the body, or, worse, works against it, the body will sicken no matter what cures doctors try.
As in bodily self-respect, so in racial self-respect, they'll be wanting. They will have plenty of racial pride and prejuice, but that is not the same thing. That will make them angry when simians of one color mate with those of another. But a general deterioration in physique will cause much less excitement.
They will /talk/ about improving the race--they will talk about everything--but they won't use their chances to /do/ it. Whenever a new discovery makes life less hard, for example, these heedless beings will seldom preserve this advantage, or use their new wealth to take more time thereafter for thought, or to gain health and strength or do anything else to make the race better. Instead, they will use the new ease just to increase in numbers; and they will keep on at this until misery once more has checked them. Life will then be as hard as ever, naturally, and the chance will be gone.
They will have a proverb, "The poor ye have always with you,"--said by one who knew simians.
Their ingenious minds will have an answer to this. They will argue it is well that life should be Spartan and hard, because of the discipline and its strengthening effects on the character. But the good effects of this sort of discipline will be mixed with sad wreckage. And only creatures incapable of disciplining themselves could thus argue. It is an odd expedient to get yourself into trouble just for discipline's sake.
The fact is, however, the argument won't be sincere. When their nations grow so over-populous and their families so large it means misery, that will not be a sign of their having felt ready for discipline. It will be a sign of their not having practised it in their sexual lives.
The simians are always being stirred by desire and passion. It constantly excites them, constantly runs through their minds. Wild or tame, primitive or cultured, this is a brand of the breed. Other species have times and seasons for sexual matters, but the simian-folk are thus preoccupied all the year round.
This super-abundance of desire is not necessarily good or bad, of itself. But to shape it for the best it will have to be studied--and faced. This they will not do. Some of them won't like to study it, deeming it bad--deeming it bad yet yielding constantly to it. Others will hesitate because they will deem it so sacred, or will secretly fear that study might show them it ought to be curbed.
Meantime, this part of their nature will be coloring all their activities. It will beautify their arts, and erotically confuse their religions. It will lend a little interest to even their dull social functions. It will keep alive .degrading social evils in all their great towns. Through these latter evils, too, their politics will be corrupted; especially their best and most democratic attempts at self-government. Self-government works best among those who have learned to self-govern.
In the far distant ages that lie before us what will be the result of this constant preoccupation with desire? Will it kill us or save us? Will this trait and our insatiable curiosity interact on each other? That might further eugenics. That might give us a better chance to breed finely than all other species.
We already owe a great deal to passion: more than men ever realize. Wasn't it Darwin who once even risked the conjecture that the vocal organs themselves were developed for sexual purposes, the object being to call or charm one's mate. Hence--perhaps--only animals that were continuously concerned with their matings would be at all likely to form an elaborate language. And without an elaborate language, growth is apt to be slow.
If we owe this to passion, what follows? Does it mean, for example, that the more different mates that each simian once learned to charm, the more rapidly language, and with it civilization, advanced?
A doctor, who was making a study of monkeys, once told me that he was trying experiments that bore on the polygamy question. He had a young monkey named Jack who had mated with a female named Jill; and in another cage another newly-wedded pair, Arabella and Archer. Each pair seemed absorbed in each other, and devoted and happy. They even bugged each other at mealtime and exchanged bits of food.
After a time their transports grew less fiery, and their affections less fixed. Archer got a bit bored. He was decent about it, though, and when Arabella cuddled beside him he would more or less perfunctorily embrace her. But when he forgot, she grew cross.
The same thing occurred a little later in the Jack and Jill cage, only there it was Jill who became a little tired of Jack.
Soon each pair was quarreling. They usually made up, pretty soon, and started loving again. But it petered out; each time more quickly.
Meanwhile the two families had become interested in watching each other. When Jill had repulsed Jack, and he had moped about it awhile, he would begin staring at Arabella, over opposite, and trying to attract her attention. This got Jack in trouble all around. Arabella indignantly made faces at him and then turned her back; and as for Jill, she grew furious, and tore out his fur.
But in the next stage, they even stopped hating each other. Each pair grew indifferent.
Then the doctor put Jack in with Arabella, and Archer with Jill. Arabella promptly yielded to Jack. New devotion. More transports. Jill and Archer were shocked. Jill clung to the bars of her cage, quivering, and screaming remonstrance; and even blase Archer chattered angrily at some of the scenes. Then the doctor hung curtains between the cages to shut out the view. Jill and Archer, left to each other, grew interested. They soon were inseparable.
The four monkeys, thus re-distributed, were now happy once more, and full of new liveliness and spirit. But before very long, each pair quarreled--and made up--and quarreled--and then grew indifferent, and had cynical thoughts about life.
At this point, the doctor put them back with their original mates.
And--they met with a rush! Gave cries of recognition and joy, like faithful souls re-united. And when they were tired, they affectionately curled up together; and hugged each other even at mealtime, and exchanged bits of food.
This was as far as the doctor had gotten, at the time that I met him; and as I have lost touch with him since, I don't know how things were afterward. His theory at the time was, that variety was good for fidelity.
"So how can /we/ help being that way? It's in the blood," he concluded. "Some creatures, such as wolves, are more serious; or perhaps more cold-blooded. Never mate but once. Well--we're not wolves. We can't make wolves our models. If we want to know how to behave, according to the way nature made us, if we want to know what is good for our instincts, we must study the monkeys."
To be sure, these particular monkeys were living in idleness. This corresponds to living in high social circles with us, where men do not have to work, and lack some of the common incentives to home-building. The experiment was not conclusive.
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