The Angel and the Author HTML version

[Civilization and the Unemployed.]
Where Civilization fails is in not providing men and women with sufficient work. In the
Stone Age man was, one imagines, kept busy. When he was not looking for his dinner, or
eating his dinner, or sleeping off the effects of his dinner, he was hard at work with a
club, clearing the neighbourhood of what one doubts not he would have described as
aliens. The healthy Palaeolithic man would have had a contempt for Cobden rivalling that
of Mr. Chamberlain himself. He did not take the incursion of the foreigner "lying down."
One pictures him in the mind's eye: unscientific, perhaps, but active to a degree difficult
to conceive in these degenerate days. Now up a tree hurling cocoa-nuts, the next moment
on the ground flinging roots and rocks. Both having tolerably hard heads, the argument
would of necessity be long and heated. Phrases that have since come to be meaningless
had, in those days, a real significance.
When a Palaeolithic politician claimed to have "crushed his critic," he meant that he had
succeeded in dropping a tree or a ton of earth upon him. When it was said that one bright
and intelligent member of that early sociology had "annihilated his opponent," that
opponent's friends and relations took no further interest in him. It meant that he was
actually annihilated. Bits of him might be found, but the most of him would be hopelessly
scattered. When the adherents of any particular Cave Dweller remarked that their man
was wiping the floor with his rival, it did not mean that he was talking himself red in the
face to a bored audience of sixteen friends and a reporter. It meant that he was dragging
that rival by the legs round the enclosure and making the place damp and untidy with
[Early instances of "Dumping."]
Maybe the Cave Dweller, finding nuts in his own neighbourhood growing scarce, would
emigrate himself: for even in that age the politician was not always logical. Thus roles
became reversed. The defender of his country became the alien, dumping himself where
he was not wanted. The charm of those early political arguments lay in their simplicity. A
child could have followed every point. There could never have been a moment's doubt,
even among his own followers, as to what a Palaeolithic statesman really meant to
convey. At the close of the contest the party who considered it had won the moral victory
would be cleared away, or buried neatly on the spot, according to taste: and the
discussion, until the arrival of the next generation, was voted closed.
All this must have been harassing, but it did serve to pass away the time. Civilization has
brought into being a section of the community with little else to do but to amuse itself.
For youth to play is natural; the young barbarian plays, the kitten plays, the colt gambols,
the lamb skips. But man is the only animal that gambols and jumps and skips after it has
reached maturity. Were we to meet an elderly bearded goat, springing about in the air and
behaving, generally speaking, like a kid, we should say it had gone mad. Yet we throng in