Classic Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 3)

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 OBSERVED how civilizations, as they progress, inevitably become more complex. Each succeeding generation elaborates the social environment of the past, makes fresh additions, and passes on to the next generation, which repeats the process in turn. This ability to transmit social acquirements, both material and mental, is one of the chief points marking man off from the animals. It has, in fact, been happily termed “social heredity.” Because of “social heredity” each human generation is able to start at a higher environment level, and is not forced, like the animals, to depend upon instinct and blind experience. Indeed, “social heredity” forms the basis of all those theories which assert that environment is the chief factor in human progress and which minimize true (i.e., biological) heredity as a minor or even negligible factor.

These “environmentalist” arguments, however, omit one essential fact which vitiates their conclusions. This fact is that, while hereditary qualities are implanted in the individual with no action on his part, social acquirements are taken over only at the cost of distinct effort. How great this effort may become is easily seen by the long years of strenuous mental labor required in modern youth to assimilate the knowledge already gained by adults. That old saying, “There is no royal road to learning,” illustrates the hard fact that each successive generation must tread the same thorny path if the acquirements of the past are to be retained. Of course, it is obvious that the more acquirements increase, the longer and steeper the path must be. And this raises the query: May there not come a point where the youthful traveller will be unable to scale the height — where the effort required will be beyond his powers?

Well, this is precisely what has happened numberless times in the past. It is happening to multitudes of individuals about us every day. When it occurs on a sufficiently grand scale we witness those social regressions of entire communities which we call a “decline in civilization.” A “decline in civilization” means that the social environment has outrun inherited capacity. Furthermore, the grim frequency of such declines throughout history seems to show that in every highly developed society the increasingly massive, complex superstructure of civilization tends to overload the human foundations.

Now why does this overloading in high civilizations always tend to take place? For the very simple reason that the complexity (and, therefore, the burden) of a civilization may increase with tremendous rapidity to an inconceivable degree; whereas the capacity of its human bearers remains virtually constant or positively declines.

The sobering truth was until recently obscured by the wide-spread belief (first elaborated about a century ago by the French scientist Lamarck) that acquired characteristics were inherited. In other words, it used to be thought that the acquirements of one generation could be passed on by actual inheritance to the next. Lamarcks’s theory excited enthusiastic hopes, and young men contemplating matrimony used to go in for “high thinking” in order to have brainy sons, while expectant mothers inspired their months of gestation by reading the classics, confident that their offspring would be born with a marked taste for good literature. To-day this amiable doctrine is exploded, virtually all biologists now agreeing that acquired characteristics are not inherited.

An abundant weight of evidence proves that, during the entire historic period at any rate, mankind has made no racial progress in either physical power or brain capacity. The skeletal remains of the ancients show them to have possessed brains and bodies fully equal to our own. And these anatomical observations are confirmed by the teachings of history. The earliest civilized peoples of whom we have any knowledge displayed capacities, initiative, and imagination quite comparable to ours. Of course, their stock of social experience was very much less than ours, but their inherent qualities cannot be deemed inferior. Certainly these ancient peoples produced their full share of great men. Can we show greater philosophers than Plato or Aristotle, greater scientists than Archimedes or Ptolemy, greater generals than Caesar or Alexander, greater poets than Homer or Hesiod, greater spiritual guides than Buddha or Jesus? Surely, the peoples who produced such immortal personalities ranked not beneath us in the biological scale.

But if this is not so; if even the highest human types have made no perceptible biological advance during the last ten thousand years; what does this mean? It means that all the increasingly vast superstructures of civilization which have arisen during those millennia have been raised on similar human foundations. It means that men have been called upon to carry heavier loads with no correlative increase of strength to bear them. The glitter of civilization has so blinded us to the inner truth of things that we have long believed that, as a civilization progressed, the quality of the human stock concerned in building it progressed too. In other words, we have imagined that we saw an improving race, whereas all we actually saw was a race expressing itself under improving conditions.

A dangerous delusion this! Especially for us, whose civilization is the most complex the world has ever seen, and whose burden is, therefore, the heaviest ever borne. If past civilizations have crushed men beneath the load, what may happen to our civilization, and ourselves?

Our analysis has thus far shown that civilizations tend toward structural overloading, both from their own increasing complexity and also from the influence of other civilizations, which add sudden strains and stresses hitherto unknown. Even if this were the only danger to which civilizations were exposed, the matter would be serious enough. But the problem is more complex. We have already indicated that other destructive tendencies exist. To the second of these tendencies — biological regression — let us now turn…

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Source: Dissident Millennial

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