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TSE  November 2004

TSE November 2004

Subject:

Civilization According to Mark Twain

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 14 Nov 2004 11:28:41 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (241 lines)

To the Person Sitting in Darkness
by Mark Twain

North American Review 172 (Feb. 1901).

        "Christmas will dawn in the United States over a people full of
hope and aspiration and good cheer. Such a condition means contentment
and happiness. The carping grumbler who may here and there go forth will
find few to listen to him. The majority will wonder what is the matter
with him and pass on."--New York Tribune, on Christmas Eve.

    From The Sun, of New York:

        "The purpose of this article is not to describe the terrible
offences against humanity committed in the name of Politics in some of
the most notorious East Side districts. They could not be described,
even verbally. But it is the intention to let the great mass of more or
less careless citizens of this beautiful metropolis of the New World get
some conception of the havoc and ruin wrought to man, woman and child in
the most densely populated and least known section of the city. Name,
date and place can be supplied to those of little faith--or to any man
who feels himself aggrieved. It is a plain statement of record and
observation, written without license and without garnish.

        "Imagine, if you can, a section of the city territory completely
dominated by one man, without whose permission neither legitimate nor
illegitimate business can be conducted; where illegitimate business is
encouraged and legitimate business discouraged; where the respectable
residents have to fasten their doors and windows summer nights and sit
in their rooms with asphyxiating air and 100-degree temperature, rather
than try to catch the faint whiff of breeze in their natural breathing
places, the stoops of their homes; where naked women dance by night in
the streets, and unsexed men prowl like vultures through the darkness on
"business" not only permitted but encouraged by the police; where the
education of infants begins with the knowledge of prostitution and the
training of little girls is training in the arts of Phryne; where
American girls brought up with the refinements of American homes are
imported from small towns up-State, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New
Jersey, and kept as virtually prisoners as if they were locked up behind
jail bars until they have lost all semblance of womanhood; where small
boys are taught to solicit for the women of disorderly houses; where
there is an organized society of young men whose sole business in life
is to corrupt young girls and turn them over to bawdy houses; where men
walking with their wives along the street are openly insulted; where
children that have adult diseases are the chief patrons of the hospitals
and dispensaries; where it is the rule, rather than the exception, that
murder, rape, robbery and theft go unpunished--in short where the
Premium of the most awful forms of Vice is the Profit of the
politicians."

    The following news from China appeared in The Sun, of New York, on
Christmas Eve. The italics are mine:

        "The Rev. Mr. Ament, of the American Board of Foreign Missions,
has returned from a trip which he made for the purpose of collecting
indemnities for damages done by Boxers. Everywhere he went he compelled
the Chinese to pay. He says that all his native Christians are now
provided for. He had 700 of them under his charge, and 300 were killed.
He has collected 300 taels for each of these murders, and has compelled
full payment for all the property belonging to Christians that was
destroyed. He also assessed fines amounting to THIRTEEN TIMES the amount
of the indemnity. This money will be used for the propagation of the
Gospel.

        "Mr. Ament declares that the compensation he has collected is
moderate, when compared with the amount secured by the Catholics, who
demand, in addition to money, head for head. They collect 500 taels for
each murder of a Catholic. In the Wenchiu country, 680 Catholics were
killed, and for this the European Catholics here demand 750,000 strings
of cash and 680 heads.

        "In the course of a conversation, Mr. Ament referred to the
attitude of the missionaries toward the Chinese. He said:

        "'I deny emphatically that the missionaries are vindictive, that
they generally looted, or that they have done anything since the siege
that the circumstances did not demand. I criticise the Americans. The
soft hand of the Americans is not as good as the mailed fist of the
Germans. If you deal with the Chinese with a soft hand they will take
advantage of it.'

        "The statement that the French Government will return the loot
taken by the French soldiers, is the source of the greatest amusement
here. The French soldiers were more systematic looters than the Germans,
and it is a fact that to-day Catholic Christians, carrying French flags
and armed with modern guns, are looting villages in the Province of
Chili."

    By happy luck, we get all these glad tidings on Christmas Eve--just
in time to enable us to celebrate the day with proper gaiety and
enthusiasm. Our spirits soar, and we find we can even make jokes: Taels
I win, Heads you lose.

    Our Reverend Ament is the right man in the right place. What we want
of our missionaries out there is, not that they shall merely represent
in their acts and persons the grace and gentleness and charity and
loving kindness of our religion, but that they shall also represent the
American spirit. The oldest Americans are the Pawnees. Macallum's
History says:

        "When a white Boxer kills a Pawnee and destroys his property,
the other Pawnees do not trouble to seek him out, they kill any white
person that comes along; also, they make some white village pay
deceased's heirs the full cash value of deceased, together with full
cash value of the property destroyed; they also make the village pay, in
addition, thirteen times the value of that property into a fund for the
dissemination of the Pawnee religion, which they regard as the best of
all religions for the softening and humanizing of the heart of man. It
is their idea that it is only fair and right that the innocent should be
made to suffer for the guilty, and that it is better that ninety and
nine innocent should suffer than that one guilty person should escape."

    Our Reverend Ament is justifiably jealous of those enterprising
Catholics, who not only get big money for each lost convert, but get
"head for head" besides. But he should soothe himself with the
reflection that the entirety of their exactions are for their own
pockets, whereas he, less selfishly, devotes only 300 taels per head to
that service, and gives the whole vast thirteen repetitions of the
property-indemnity to the service of propagating the Gospel. His
magnanimity has won him the approval of his nation, and will get him a
monument. Let him be content with these rewards. We all hold him dear
for manfully defending his fellow missionaries from exaggerated charges
which were beginning to distress us, but which his testimony has so
considerably modified that we can now contemplate them without
noticeable pain. For now we know that, even before the siege, the
missionaries were not "generally" out looting, and that, "since the
siege," they have acted quite handsomely, except when "circumstances"
crowded them. I am arranging for the monument. Subscriptions for it can
be sent to the American Board; designs for it can be sent to me. Designs
must allegorically set forth the Thirteen Reduplications of the
Indemnity, and the Object for which they were exacted; as Ornaments, the
designs must exhibit 680 Heads, so disposed as to give a pleasing and
pretty effect; for the Catholics have done nicely, and are entitled to
notice in the monument. Mottoes may be suggested, if any shall be
discovered that will satisfactorily cover the ground.

    Mr. Ament's financial feat of squeezing a thirteen-fold indemnity
out of the pauper peasants to square other people's offenses, thus
condemning them and their women and innocent little children to
inevitable starvation and lingering death, in order that the blood-money
so acquired might be "used for the propagation of the Gospel," does not
flutter my serenity; although the act and the words, taken together,
concrete a blasphemy so hideous and so colossal that, without doubt, its
mate is not findable in the history of this or of any other age. Yet, if
a layman had done that thing and justified it with those words, I should
have shuddered, I know. Or, if I had done the thing and said the words
myself--however, the thought is unthinkable, irreverent as some
imperfectly informed people think me. Sometimes an ordained minister
sets out to be blasphemous. When this happens, the layman is out of the
running; he stands no chance.

    We have Mr. Ament's impassioned assurance that the missionaries are
not "vindictive." Let us hope and pray that they will never become so,
but will remain in the almost morbidly fair and just and gentle temper
which is affording so much satisfaction to their brother and champion
to-day.

    The following is from the New York Tribune of Christmas Eve. It
comes from that journal's Tokio correspondent. It has a strange and
impudent sound, but the Japanese are but partially civilized as yet.
When they become wholly civilized they will not talk so:

        "The missionary question, of course, occupies a foremost place
in the discussion. It is now felt as essential that the Western Powers
take cognizance of the sentiment here, that religious invasions of
Oriental countries by powerful Western organizations are tantamount to
filibustering expeditions, and should not only be discountenanced, but
that stern measures should be adopted for their suppression. The feeling
here is that the missionary organizations constitute a constant menace
to peaceful international relations."

    Shall we? That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon
the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a
rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and
commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down
and think it over first? Would it not be prudent to get our
Civilization-tools together, and see how much stock is left on hand in
the way of Glass Beads and Theology, and Maxim Guns and Hymn Books, and
Trade-Gin and Torches of Progress and Enlightenment (patent adjustable
ones, good to fire villages with, upon occasion), and balance the books,
and arrive at the profit and loss, so that we may intelligently decide
whether to continue the business or sell out the property and start a
new Civilization Scheme on the proceeds?

    Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in
Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and
there is money in it yet, if carefully worked--but not enough, in my
judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit
in Darkness are getting to be too scarce--too scarce and too shy. And
such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality,
and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in
Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or
profitable for us. We have been injudicious.

    The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously
administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory,
more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any
other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of
late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been
so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the
People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it--they have noticed it, and
have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings
of Civilization. More--they have begun to examine them. This is not
well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial
property; there could not be a better, in a dim light. In the right kind
of a light, and at a proper distance, with the goods a little out of
focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the Gentlemen who Sit in
Darkness:

        LOVE, LAW AND ORDER,
        JUSTICE, LIBERTY,
        GENTLENESS, EQUALITY,
        CHRISTIANITY, HONORABLE DEALING,
        PROTECTION TO THE WEAK, MERCY,
        TEMPERANCE, EDUCATION,

    --and so on.

    There. Is it good? Sir, it is pie. It will bring into camp any idiot
that sits in darkness anywhere. But not if we adulterate it. It is
proper to be emphatic upon that point. This brand is strictly for
Export--apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially, it is
nothing of the kind. Privately and confidentially, it is merely an
outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special
patterns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption,
while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in
Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual
Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a
difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.

    We all know that the Business is being ruined. The reason is not far
to seek. It is because our Mr. McKinley, and Mr. Chamberlain, and the
Kaiser, and the Czar and the French have been exporting the Actual Thing
with the outside cover left off. This is bad for the Game. It shows that
these new players of it are not sufficiently acquainted with it.

-----

Full at:

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/general/twain/personsitting.htm

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