Wednesday, 7 October 2015


 Hard Work Absolutely Degrading
 To Live is the Rarest Thing on Earth :
 Most People Merely Exist.

Now that Oscar Wilde has been dead long enough to enable us to separate the man's genius from his crime, we are beginning to see the unwisdom of refusing the benefit of the fruits of his intellect because in the days of his degeneracy, he once fell into crime. Dean Jonathan Swift died mad, but the world still admires his "Gulliver's Travels," and other scathing satires. Sir Walter Scott died of softening of the brain, but the world still delights in his "Ivanhoe." We admire the products of genius, notwithstanding the fact that the misfortune of mental alienation may extinguish the genius. So it should be with Oscar Wilde. He has told us, in his latest work, "De Profundis," how he became so profoundly an egotist that he cared nothing for others except as
 "I grew careless," he says, "of the lives of others: I ended in horrible disgrace." But before Wilde became an execrable egoist—in the old days when his genius had not sunk into the slough of detestable degeneracy—he wrote a book which the prevading principle was not egotism but Socialism. The title of the book is "The Soul of Man under Socialism." This has been recently republished, and we here present our readers with some extracts from the truly brilliant work.
 • • •
"The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will he impossible," he says. "Under Socialism there will be no people living in foetid dens and foetid rags, and bringing up wretched, unhealthy and hunger-pinched children in the midst of impossible, and absolutely repulsive surroundings. The security of society will not depend, as it does now, on the state of the weather. If a frost comes we shall not have a bundled thousand men out of work, tramping about the streets in a state of disgusting misery, or whining to their neighbors for alms, or crowding around the doors of loathsome shelters to try and secure a hunk of bread and
 Each member of the society will share in the general prosperity and happiness of the society. Socialism itself will be of value, simply because it will lead to individualism. Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material well-being of each member of the community. It will, in fact, give life its proper basis and proper environment. The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are
 We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are no doubt, but the best among the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculous and inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalists to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table? They should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it. As for being discontented, a man. who would not be discontented with suck surroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute. Agitators are a set of
 who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent Among them. This is the reason why the agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation. Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even an express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor bad anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing. And it is curious to note that from the slaves themselves they received, not merely very little assistance, but hardly any sympathy even. And when, at the close of the war, the slaves found themselves free—found themselves indeed so absolutely free that they were free to starve—many of them bitterly regretted the new state of things. To the thinker the most tragic fact in the whole of the French Revolution is, not that Marie Antoinette was
but that this starved peasants of the Vendee voluntarily went out to die for the hideous cause of Feudalism. The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is. Private property has crushed true individualism and set up act individualism that is false. It has debarred one part of the community from being individual by starving them. With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful healthy individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the
 Most people exist—that is all. The State is to make what is useful. The individual to make what is beautiful. And as I have mentioned the word Labor, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labor. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labor at all, and post of it is absolutely degrading. It is mentally and morally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure, and many forms of labor are quite pleasureless activities, and should be regarded as such. To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours on a day when the east wind is blowing is a disgusting occupation. To sweep it with mental, moral or physical dignity seems to me to be impossible. To sweep it with joy would be appalling. Man is made for something better
 All work of that kind should be done by a machine. And I have no doubt that it will be so. Up to the present, man has been to a certain extent the slave of machinery, and there is something tragic in the fact that as soon as man had invented a machine to do his work he began to starve. This, however, is the result of our property system of competition. One man owns a machine that does the work of 500 men. Five hundred men are, in consequence, thrown out of employment and, having no work to do, become hungry, and take to thieving. At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions, machinery will serve man. For what man has sought for is indeed neither pain nor pleasure but simply life. Man has sought to live intensely, fully, perfectly. When he can do so without exercising restraint on others, or suffering' it ever, and his activities are
 He will be saner, healthier, more civilised, more himself. Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment. The new individualism, for whose service Socialism, whether it wills or not, is working, will be perfect harmony. It will be what the Greeks sought for, but could not except in thought realise completely, because they had slaves, and fed them. It will be what the Renaissance sought for, but could not realise completely except in Art, because they had slaves, and starved them. It will be complete, and through it each man will, attain to his perfection. The new Individualism is the new Hellenism."

Truth 12 August 1905

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