Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 6)

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

WE HAVE ALREADY noted the “border-liner,” the man who cannot quite “make good.” We have seen how hard is his lot and how hotly he turns against that social order which he just fails to achieve. Most of such persons fail because of some fatal defect — a taint of character or a mental “twist.” In other respects they may be very superior, and possess brilliant talents which they can use against society with powerful effect.

We have also noted the “disinherited,” the man innately capable of civilized success but cast into the depths by social injustice or individual wrong-doing. Deprived of their birthright, the disinherited are like-wise apt to be bitter foes of society. They enlist gladly in the army of chaos (where they do not really belong), and if they possess marked talents they may be very dangerous enemies.

Lastly, there is the “misguided superior.” He is a strange phenomenon! Placed by nature in the van of civilization, he goes over to its enemies. This seems inexplicable. Yet it can be explained. As the Under-Man revolts because civilization is so far ahead of him, so the misguided superior revolts because it is so far behind. Exasperated by its slow progress, shocked at its faults, and erroneously ascribing to mankind in general his own lofty impulses, the misguided superior dreams short cuts to the millennium and joins the forces of social revolt, not realizing that their ends are profoundly different even though their methods may be somewhat the same.

The misguided superior is probably the most pathetic figure in human history. Flattered by designing scoundrels, used to sanctify sinister schemes, and pushed forward as a figurehead during the early stages of revolutionary agitation, the triumph of the revolution brings him to a tragic end. Horrified at the sight of barbarism’s unmasked face, he tries to stay its destructive course. In vain! The Under-Man turns upon his former champion with a snarl and tramples him into the mud.

The social revolution is now in full swing. Such upheavals are profoundly terrible. I have described them as “atavistic.” And that is just what they are — “throw backs” to a far lower social plane. The complex fabric of society, slowly and painfully woven, is torn to tatters; the social controls vanish, and civilization is left naked to the assaults of anarchy. In truth, disruption goes deeper still. Not only is society in the grip of its barbarians, but every individual falls more or less under the sway of his own lower instincts. For, in this respect, the individual is like society. Each of us has within him an “Under-Man,” that primitive animality which is the heritage of our human, and even our prehuman, past. This Under-Man may be buried deep in the recesses of our being; but he is there, and psychoanalysis informs us of his latent power. This primitive animality, potentially present even in the noblest natures, continuously dominates the lower social strata, especially the pauper, criminal, and degenerate elements — civilization’s “inner barbarians.” Now, when society’s dregs boil to the top, a similar process takes place in individuals, to whatever social level they may belong. In virtually every member of the community there is a distinct resurgence of the brute and the savage, and the atavistic trend thus becomes practically universal.

This explains most of the seemingly mysterious phenomena of revolution. It accounts for the mental contagion which infects all classes; the wild elation with which the revolution is at first hailed; the way in which even well-poised men throw themselves into the stream, let it carry them whither it lists, and commit acts which they afterward not only cannot explain but cannot even remember. General atavistic resurgence also accounts for the ferocious temper displayed, not merely by the revolutionists, but by their counter-revolutionary opponents as well. However much they may differ in their principles, “Reds” and “Whites” display the same savage spirit and commit similar cruelties. This is because society and the individual have been alike rebarbarized.

In time the revolutionary tempest passes. Civilized men will not forever endure the misrule of their own barbarians; they will not lastingly tolerate what Burke rightly termed the tyranny of a “base oligarchy.” Sooner or later the Under-Man is again mastered, new social controls are forged, and a stable social order is once more established.

But — what sort of social order? It may well be one inferior to the old. Of course, few revolutions are wholly evil. Their very destructiveness implies a sweeping away of old abuses. Yet at what a cost! No other process is so terribly expensive as revolution. Both the social and the human losses are usually appalling, and are frequently irreparable. In his brief hour, the Under-Man does his work. Hating not merely civilization but also the civilized, the Under-Man wreaks his destructive fury on individuals as well as on institutions. And the superior are always his special targets. His philosophy of life is ever a levelling “equality,” and he tries to attain it by lopping off all heads which rise conspicuously above his own. The result of this “inverse selection” may be such a decrease of superior persons that the stock is permanently impoverished and cannot produce the talent and energy needed to repair the destruction which the revolutionary cataclysm has wrought. In such cases civilization has suffered a mortal wound and declines to a permanently lower plane.

This is especially true of higher civilizations. The more complex the society and the more differentiated the stock, the graver the liability to irreparable disaster. Our own civilization is a striking example. The destruction today being wrought by the social revolution in Russia, great as it is, would pale beside the far greater destruction which such an upheaval would produce in the more advanced societies of western Europe and America. It would mean nothing short of ruin, and would almost infallibly spell permanent decadence. This grim peril to our civilization and our race future we will carefully examine in subsequent chapters.

So ends our preliminary survey. We have sketched man’s ascent from bestiality through savagery and barbarism to civilized life.* We have considered the basic reasons for his successes and his failures. Let us now pass to a more detailed examination of the great factors in human progress and decline, with special reference to the possibilities and perils of our own civilization.

* For an excellent historical survey of racial movements, see Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (Fourth Revised Edition with Documentary Supplement), New York, 1921.

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Source: Dissident Millennial

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