How stands the war upon nature now? Why, so -that short of a planetary catastrophe, we are certain of the conquest? Consciousness! The alert brain! The dominant will! Invention, discovery, mastery of hidden forces. We are no longer compelled to use the blind method of limitless propagation to equip the race with hunters and trappers and fishers and sheep-keepers and soil-tillers and breeders. Therefore, the original necessity which gave rise to the instinct of prolific parentage is gone; the instinct itself is bound to die, and is dying, but will die faster as men grasp more and more of the whole situation. In proportion as the parenthood of the brain becomes more and more prolific, as ideas spread, multiply, and conquer, the necessity for great physical production declines. This is my first contention. Hence the development of individuality does no longer necessarily imply numerous children, nor indeed, necessarily any children at all. That is not to say that no one will want children, nor to prophecy race suicide. It is simply to say that there will be fewer born, with better chances of surviving, developing, and achieving. Indeed, with all its clash of tendencies, the consciousness of our present society is having this driven home to it.
-Voltairine De Cleyre, 1907 , from
Those who Marry do Ill
Is it today possible to look to a world that seem to be waking, evolving towards a new consciousness, joined in a common goal ? Releasing our hold on the institutions and conceits that have outlived any discernible social necessity?
De Cleyre believed so, nearly a century past. Would that I could feel that optimistic today.
In many ways her ideas are still far ahead of the times- we have not advanced as far as we could have, a progress impeded, perhaps ,not for the best of reasons and motives. In fact, we seem to be plunging headlong into a new Gilded Age, complete with Robber Barons and a timeless antipathy towards the lower , and now , middle classes.(There wasn't much of a middle class during the reign of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Scott, et. al. ;that lack being a conscious goal of their policies).
The gross injustice of that time gave rise to the Labor Movement, the Anarchists, and the Progressive movement, all of which are now held up by the New Military -Industrialists as a great rabble of unpatriotic, dangerous, anti-nationalistic hooligans. Just substitute 'environmentalists' for 'anarchist'. The rhetoric from the right remains almost the same a century later.
An agenda designed to protect the entrenched interests of the powerful few from the needs of the hoi polloi. The railroads are nearly gone, but the war-profiteering machine has swallowed our shining beacon as surely as a Black Hole swallows light from dying stars.
Voices as diverse as De Cleyre's and , fifty years and two World Wars later,Dwight Eisenhower, spoke against the rise of this devouring beast. Ike warned us that any nation that maintained an overwhelmingly powerful standing army would inevitably become a dictatorship.
The earliest Unionists were hung, shot , jailed and blacklisted. Corporate Bosses placed profits over human life, yet encouraged the poor to eschew contraceptive practices, prompting De Cleyre to deplore the idea of the woman as 'breeder', seeing this role, to some extent, as a tool used by the ruling class for producing fodder for the factories; when in fact the rise of knowledge and technology should contraindicate the need for such a cannabilistic approach.
She foresaw a rise in self-empowered individualism that would correspond with the rise of useful technology, when we've seen a decline in the former and an increase of the latter. No balance.
What to do?