"The ownership of the world . . . lies between the trusts and labor. That is the battle alignment . . . . The middle class is a pygmy between two giants. Don't you see, you poor perishing middle class, you are caught between the upper and nether millstones, and even now has the grinding begun." (p. 101) (1)
This quote is preceded and followed by illiterate Marxist claptrap, but the quote itself is illuminating, for it shines a light on the desire of the Leftist or Socialist to destroy what he hates the most, namely, the middle class, the people who by their success in life have taken away the power of the élite, of which he considers himself a part by virtue of his superior intellectual ability. And why does he hate the middle class so much? It probably goes beyond a mere gospel of envy (Churchill's phrase) and into the pathology of self-loathing diagnosed by Eric Hoffer in The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements (1951). We should note that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and countless others of their kind emanated from the middle class they so wished to destroy. A point for Jack London.
In The Iron Heel, Bishop Morehouse is
led away to a private sanitarium for mental disease . . . . a sane, normal, saintly man . . . crushed by the brutal will of society. (p. 126)
The bishop's crime? Giving voice to unpopular ideas. In the parlance of 1984, he has committed a thoughtcrime, and like Winston Smith, he is classed as a lunatic. So where in the United States today are the laws against thoughtcrime enforced? In the hotbeds of leftism and statism, that is, in academia, government, media, and entertainment, and probably few other places, although the Thought Police have now extended their reach into the private sector and soon into our private lives. Jack London: right in general, wrong in the specifics.
Science fiction may not be about prediction, but try this on for size: In the winter of 1912, war with Germany threatens, that is, between the United States and Germany--a year and a half early for the war that really came about, five years early for war between the two nations. There's more: On December 4, 1912, a German fleet launches an attack on Honolulu, sinking four ships. Jack London got the month right and was pretty close on the day. He was also right about the place and about an attack on naval vessels. He was just twenty-nine years off on the actual date and marginally off on the attacker. In any case, you've got to give London points for those two predictions, even if they're not really pertinent to this essay.
And through it all . . . continued to rise the form of that monster of the ages, the Oligarchy. (p. 157)
Jack London recognized the monstrousness of the totalitarian state, even at that early date. Score a point for him.
A plot to explode a bomb in Congress is hatched among the oligarchs, who will blame the socialists for the attack. (pp. 171-172) Twenty years later, the Nazis hatched a similar plot with the firing of the Reichstag. London was right in predicting the ruthless machinations of statism.
Avis Everhard travels undercover as a wealthy woman, complete with a maid to attend to her lapdog. The author of the footnotes opines:
This ridiculous picture well illustrates the heartless conduct of the masters. While people starved, lap-dogs were waited upon by maids. (p. 177)
One of the hallmarks of a socialist or statist society is the destruction of the family, for the State cannot tolerate anything that separates the individual from itself. George Orwell foresaw it 1984, Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, and William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson in Logan's Run. Did any authors of the past foresee, however, that dogs would one day--meaning now--take the place of children? (2) I'm not sure that they did, just as no one seems to have predicted that the highest sexual license of the future would involve something other than heterosexuality. In any case, the wealthy woman's dog in The Iron Heel is probably not an expression of the Statist desire to destroy the family. More likely, it's an expression of the fact that when people are powerful, they are easily corrupted, a corruption that includes elevating animals to the level of human beings and/or demoting human beings to the level of animals or even of inanimate objects.
To be continued . . .
(1) The image of the upper and lower grindstones may have come from Henry George (1839-1897), who wrote:
Private ownership of land is the nether mill-stone. Material progress is the upper mill-stone. Between them, with an increasing pressure, the working classes are being ground.Somehow or other, that quote became transmogrified into a supposed quote from Lenin:
The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them down between the millstones of taxation and inflation.That's a good quote, and I wish it were attributable to the demonic, mummified Bolshevik himself, but alas, no. A blogger called "The Skeptical Libertarian" has puzzled it all out here.
(2) It occurs to me that the craze for purebred and designer dogs may represent a kind of eugenics practiced by people who own dogs and view them as their surrogate children. Their message seems to be: better dog = better child = better parent = better dog owner. Instead of a bumper sticker that reads, "My child is an honor student at Springfield Middle School," the contemporary dog owner should have one that reads, "My dog is genetically superior to your dog (or child)." He might as well add, "My self-esteem is so fragile that my status as I perceive it is dependent upon my choice in designer dogs."
Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley