Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 5)

As part of our commitment to the celebration of forgotten classics—i.e., great works of the past which have been intentionally flushed down the memory hole by our Orwellian overlords—National Vanguard is proud to present a condensed edition of Lothrop Stoddard’s pioneering treatise The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman, originally published in 1922.

To appreciate the significance of this work, one must understand that in his day Stoddard was a certified member of America’s (now-former) WASP establishment. An old-stock Yankee from Brookline, Massachusetts, Stoddard held a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and was one of the most prominent intellectuals in the country prior to the Second World War. It is only because of the triumph of Jewish propaganda from that war that racialists like Stoddard have since been relegated to obscurity.

By Lothrop Stoddard

CIVILIZATION DEPENDS upon superior racial stocks. But stocks are made up of individuals, who, far from being precisely equal, differ widely in qualities and capacities. At one end of the human scale are a number of superior individuals, at the other end a number of inferior individuals, while between the two extremes stands the mass of intermediate individuals, who likewise grade up or down the scale.

Of course, these “superiors,” “inferiors,” and “intermediates,” are not parked off by clear-cut lines; on the contrary, they shade imperceptibly into each other, and between the classes there lie intermediate zones composed of “border-line” individuals whose exact classification is hard to determine. Nevertheless, these classes do exist, just as day and night exist. At dawn or twilight, we cannot say of any particular minute: “This is day, and next minute will be night.” Yet day and night are facts of transcendent importance, and we accordingly grade the hours into categories of light and darkness which, though slightly arbitrary, are essentially true.

Now, among our human categories we have observed that progress is primarily due to the superiors. It is they who found and further civilizations. As for the intermediate mass, it accepts the achievements of its creative pioneers. Its attitude is receptive. This receptivity is due to the fact that most of the intermediate grades are near enough to the superiors to understand and assimilate what the superiors have initiated.

But what about the inferiors? Hitherto we have not analyzed their attitude. We have seen that they are incapable of either creating of furthering civilization, and are thus a negative hindrance to progress. But the inferiors are not mere negative factors in civilized life; they are also positive — in an inverse, destructive sense. The inferior elements are, instinctively or consciously, the enemies of civilization. And they are its enemies, not by chance, but because they are more or less uncivilizable. We must remember that the level of society never coincides with the levels of its human units. The social level is a sort of compromise — a balance of constituent forces. This very fact implies that the individuals must be differentially spaced. And so it is. Superior individuals stand above the social level; sometimes far above that level — whence the saying about men “ahead of their times.” But what about men “behind their times”? They have always been numerous, and, the higher the civilization, the more of them there are apt to be.

The truth is that as a civilization advances it leaves behind multitudes of human beings who have not the capacity to keep pace. The laggards, of course, vary greatly among themselves. Some are congenital savages or barbarians; men who could not fit into any civilization, and who consequently fall behind from the start. These are not “degenerates”; they are “primitives,” carried over into a social environment in which they do not belong. They must be clearly distinguished from the true degenerates: the imbecile, the feeble-minded, the neurotic, the insane — all those melancholy waste-products which every living species excretes but which are promptly extirpated in the state of nature, whereas in human societies they are too often preserved.

Moreover, besides primitives and degenerates, civilization by its very advance automatically condemns fresh multitudes to the ranks of the “inferior.” Just as “primitives” who would be quite at home in savage or barbarian environments are alien to any sort of civilization, so, many individuals who rub along well enough in civilization’s early phases have neither the wit nor the moral fibre to meet the sterner demands of high, complex civilizations. Most poignant of all is the lot of the “border-liners” — those who just fail to achieve a social order, which they can comprehend but in which they somehow cannot succeed.

Such are the ranks of the inferior — the vast army of the unadaptable and the incapable. Let me again emphasize that “inferior” does not necessarily mean “degenerate.” The degenerate are, of course, included, but the word “inferior” is a relative term signifying “below” or “beneath,” in this case meaning persons beneath or below the standard of civilization. The word inferior has, however, been so often employed as a synonym for degenerate that it tends to produce confusion of thought, and to avoid this I have coined a term which seems to describe collectively all those kinds of persons whom I have just discussed. This term is The Under-Man — the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives. And this term I shall henceforth employ.

Now how does the Under-Man look at civilization? This civilization offers him few benefits and fewer hopes. It usually affords him little beyond a meagre subsistence. And, sooner or later, he instinctively senses that he is a failure; that civilization’s prizes are not for him. But this civilization, which withholds benefits, does not hesitate to impose burdens. We have previously stated that civilization’s heaviest burdens are borne by the superior. Absolutely, this is true; relatively the Under-Man’s intrinsically lighter burdens feel heavier because of his innate incapacity. The very discipline of the social order oppresses the Under-Man; it thwarts and chastises him at every turn. To wild natures society is a torment, while the congenital caveman, placed in civilization, is always in trouble and usually in jail.

All this seems inevitable. But, in addition to these social handicaps, the Under-Man often suffers from the action of better-placed individuals who take advantage of his weakness and incapacity to exploit him and drive him down to social levels even lower than those which he would normally occupy.

Such is the Under-Man’s unhappy lot. Now, what is his attitude toward that civilization from which he has so little to hope? What but instinctive opposition and discontent? These feelings, of course, vary all the way from dull, unreasoning dislike to flaming hatred and rebellion. But, in the last analysis, they are directed not merely against imperfections in the social order, but against the social order itself. This is a point which is rarely mentioned, and still more rarely understood. Yet it is the meat of the whole matter. We must realize clearly that the basic attitude of the Under-Man is an instinctive and natural revolt against civilization. The reform of abuses may diminish the intensity of social discontent. It may also diminish the numbers of the discontented, because social abuses precipitate into the depths many persons who do not really belong there; persons who were innately capable of achieving the social order if they had had a fair chance. But, excluding all such anomalous cases, there remains a vast residue of unadaptable, depreciated humanity, essentially uncivilizable and incorrigibly hostile to civilization. Every society engenders within itself hordes of savages and barbarians, ripe for revolt and ever ready to pour forth and destroy.

In normal times these elements of chaos go almost unperceived. Civilization automatically evolves strong social controls which keep down the antisocial elements. For one thing, the civilized man instinctively supports his civilization, just as the Under-Man instinctively opposes it; and when civilization is threatened, its supporters instantly rise in its defense. Again society maintains a permanent standing army (composed of policemen, soldiers, judges, and others), which is usually quite capable of keeping order. The mere presence of this standing army deters the antisocial elements from mass action. Desperate individuals, of course, break forth into crime, but society hunts them down and eliminates them by prison and the scaffold.

The Under-Man may thus be controlled. But he remains; he multiplies; he bides his time. And, now and then, his time comes. When a civilization falters beneath its own weight and by the decay of its human foundations; when its structure is shaken by the storms of war, dissension, or calamity; then the long-repressed forces of atavistic revolt gather themselves together for a spring.

And (noteworthy fact!) such revolts usually have able leaders. That is what makes them so formidable. This revolutionary officers-corps is mainly composed of three significant types: the “border-liner,” the “disinherited,” and the “misguided superior.” Let us consider them in turn…

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Source: Dissident Millennial

For Further Reading

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