Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race

I have a guest author on my blog today. On the occasion of his 175th birthday, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or who we know as Mark Twain.

What you are about to read is one of my favorite pieces of literature ever produced, the essay “The Damned Human Race”. All credits to Mark Twain for writing this and since this blog is titled “The Truth Journal”, it does not get truer than having this essay featured on it.

I read it during my graduation classes and I fell in love with Twain’s work. I dedicate this post to Mark Twain and my favorite teacher Nasimullah Khattak.

Since it is classical literature, there is no harm at all in putting the essay up on a blog and allowing people to read it for free, especially when it is the Truth.

 

The Damned Human Race

by: Mark Twain

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.

In proceeding toward this unpleasant conclusion I have not guessed or speculated or conjectured, but have used what is commonly called the scientific method. That is to say, I have subjected every postulate that presented itself to the crucial test of actual experiment, and have adopted it or rejected it according to the result. Thus I verified and established each step of my course in its turn before advancing to the next. These experiments were made in the London Zoological Gardens, and covered many months of painstaking and fatiguing work. …

Some of my experiments were quite curious. In the course of my reading I had come across a case where, many years ago, some hunters on our Great Plains organized a buffalo hunt for the entertainment of an English earl — that, and to provide some fresh meat for his larder. They had charming sport. They killed seventy-two of those great animals; and ate part of one of them and left the seventy-one to rot. In order to determine the difference between an anaconda and an earl — if any — I caused seven young calves to be turned into the anaconda’s cage. The grateful reptile immediately crushed one of them and swallowed it, then lay back satisfied. It showed no further interest in the calves, and no disposition to harm them. I tried this experiment with other anacondas; always with the same result. The fact stood proven that the difference between an earl and an anaconda is that the earl is cruel and the anaconda isn’t; and that the earl wantonly destroys what he has no use for, but the anaconda doesn’t. This seemed to suggest that the anaconda was not descended from the earl. It also seemed to suggest that the earl was descended from the anaconda and had lost a good deal in the transition.

I was aware that many men who have accumulated more millions of money than they can ever use have shown a rabid hunger for more, and have not scrupled to cheat the ignorant and the helpless out of their poor servings in order to partially appease that appetite. I furnished a hundred different kinds of wild and tame animals the opportunity to accumulate vast stores of food, but none of them would do it. The squirrels and bees and certain birds made accumulations, but stopped when they had gathered a winter’s supply, and could not be persuaded to add to it either honestly or by chicane. In order to bolster up a tottering reputation the ant pretended to store up supplies, but I was not deceived. I know the ant. These experiments convinced me that there is this difference between man and the higher animals: He is avaricious and miserly; they are not.

In the course of my experiments I convinced myself that among the animals man is the only one that harbors insults and injuries, broods over them, waits till a chance offers, then takes revenge. The passion of revenge is unknown to the higher animals. …

Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity — these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them. They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself. He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion. Man is “The Animal that Laughs.” But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass. No — Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it — or has occasion to. …

The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses. Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out, as the Hessians did in our Revolution and as the boyish Prince Napoleon did in the Zulu war, and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.

Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.

Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who enslaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some man’s slave for wages, and does that man’s work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living.

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man” — with his mouth.

Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomet’s time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of centuries, he was at it in England in Mary’s day, he has been at it ever since he first saw the light, he is at it today in Crete — as per the telegrams quoted above — he will be at it somewhere else tomorrow. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: Whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.

In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh — not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.

One is obliged to concede that in true loftiness of character, Man cannot claim to approach even the meanest of the Higher Animals. It is plain that he is constitutionally incapable of approaching that altitude; that he is constitutionally afflicted with a Defect which must make such approach forever impossible, for it is manifest that this defect is permanent in him, indestructible, ineradicable.

I find this Defect to be the Moral Sense. He is the only animal that has it. It is the secret of his degradation. It is the quality which enables him to do wrong. It has no other office. It is incapable of performing any other function. It could never have been intended to perform any other. Without it, man could do no wrong. He would rise at once to the level of the Higher Animals.

Since the Moral Sense has but the one office, the one capacity — to enable man to do wrong — it is plainly without value to him. It is as valueless to him as is disease. In fact, it manifestly is a disease. Rabies is bad, but it is not so bad as this disease. Rabies enables a man to do a thing which he could not do when in a healthy state: kill his neighbor with a poisonous bite. No one is the better man for having rabies. The Moral Sense enables a man to do wrong. It enables him to do wrong in a thousand ways. Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense. No one, then, can be the better man for having the Moral Sense. What, now, do we find the Primal Curse to have been? Plainly what it was in the beginning: the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to do evil; for there can be no evil act without the presence of consciousness of it in the doer of it.

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor — some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance — insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development — namable as the Human Being. Below us – nothing. …

 

A Brave Beginning At Least…

November 25, 2010 was a historic day in the history of legislation in Pakistan. One of the more sensible MPs finally took the initiative of proposing amendments in the Blasphemy Laws of the country. It was none other than Sherry Rehman who took the brave initiative after contributing a brilliant article to the Express Tribune.

I congratulate Sherry Rehman for breaking the ice and touching this “taboo subject”. She surely deserves a pat on the back and this is what PPP should be doing. The Governor of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer also deserves applause for his efforts after Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was  sentenced to death for blasphemy by a local civil magistrate. I am only disappointed that there is silence from other political parties like MQM, ANP and PML-Q, and also PML-N. I even expect some sense from the JUI-F and the JI.

While I completely agree with the opinion in the legal circles that the President is talking about using his right of pardon prematurely, since the case can move on to the higher courts, and with the decision of the LHC of directing the President to abstain from using the right until the hearing of the petition against it, I was really disappointed to learn that some lawyers maintained that the law did not permit the President to pardon the person who had allegedly committed a blasphemy because it did not pertain to the crimes against the State, and pertained to a crime against Allah and His Prophet. If that is our law, we need to change it.

But the real divide is this.  The secular school of thought maintains that the blasphemy laws should be repealed because it is not an offense in the first place, at least not worthy of a death sentence, if any at all. The right wing, in this case, the religious political parties representing Islam, think that the blasphemy law is more like an article of faith and that any amendments are unacceptable. Though mentioning this was totally unnecessary, but anyway.

While both the groups keep on loathing each other and have no patience to listen to and appreciate each other’s viewpoint, we will not be able to move a single inch towards making any progress in this regard. As a matter of principle, I oppose any blasphemy laws, but since it concerns the feelings of such a large majority of population, I would at least go for softening the “punishment” instead of letting the brutal death penalty stand, which is why I think this bill is important.

We should actually be starting a debate about abolishing the death penalty altogether, or minimize its implementation in the courts. We should at least make the judges think twice, or thrice, before inking such a verdict, especially when it is a blasphemy that you can never prove in the court of law unless it is published in some way, apart from the account of witnesses.

You can simply make the religious groups understand why death in general, and in the case of Asia Bibi in particular, should not be enforced by telling them what Prophet Muhammad would have done in this regard. Rauf Klasra wrote a very good piece on that in Urdu, which you could read to get a very good idea about that viewpoint. We must upkeep the basic human rights in any case and supersede any other laws which lead to their violation.

Courtesy: Reuters

While I cannot help but think about the poor and innocent children of Asia Bibi who are anxiously waiting for their mother to return to them, I can never imagine, as far my understanding of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet is concerned, that the Prophet would have meant any harm to the woman in the first place. It was contrary to his values, since he even pardoned Hind, the wife of Abu Sufian, a Meccan Lord, who had murdered his uncle Hamza in the most brutal manner.

Had Prophet Muhammad been a man who approved of murder, violence and killings, then he would have done otherwise, and there are countless other examples, such as the Amnesty on the Conquest of Mecca. And yes, I think that despite those Islamic laws of stoning to death on adultery, the conditions of the enforcement of which are actually so strict, that it is near impossible that anyone could be condemned to death for that offense, let alone approving of it.

Unfortunately, the religious groups are not able to understand this simple fact due to the overzealous nature of their politics. Supporting death for committing blasphemy is clearly a political matter instead of a religious one, and I have reasons to believe that the leaders and scholars who understand Islam know it themselves. Whether they want to go for the change or not is another matter.

But don’t forget, they are not the only ones to be blamed for this. The supposedly sensible politicians and the elements in the civil, judicial and military bureaucracy have also played their due role in the creation and approval of these laws. They did not consider the possibility that these laws could possibly be misused, as they are misused most of the time.

Not only the “minorities” or the non-Muslims in Pakistan are at risk due to the abuse of the law, but even Muslims themselves are not safe from it. You could accuse anyone of committing a blasphemy that you hold a grudge against and the crowds would rage and come roaring to get that person. The people need to develop some patience, and both the secular and religious groups need to come together to discuss the issue to reach a sensible solution.

I know that even if we get the text book right, vigilante violence is a problem that will remain very much there as far as the accusations of blasphemy are concerned, but it is important to get the textbook right. That is why I advocate a Secular Constitution for Pakistan. However, as far as making the general public realize is concerned, only Humanitarian Education is a solution, which is unfortunately, not a priority at all in the plans of the Government of Pakistan.

The secular circles of the country should be happy that someone at least made a start towards bringing an amendment to the law, something which people were even afraid to talk about earlier. I am anxiously waiting to see how the MPs vote on this, especially the members of the PPP, the MQM and the ANP, you know, the supposed secular political parties in Pakistan.

 

Maybe someday this could possibly lead to the abrogation of these laws.

Mumbai is Where My Friends Live: A Pakistani on 26/11

I wanted to write something on this day which marks the second year since the occurrence of the tragic 26/11 Mumbai Attacks to honor the memory of the people who lost their lives on that tragic day, but it was too overwhelming, words failed me. So I thought maybe the eloquent words of the President of the United States could help me.

As a Pakistani, I feel an unspoken guilt that Kasab was a Pakistani national and that the attacks were planned by Pakistani terrorist groups, but also the confidence and relief that the people of Pakistan have nothing to do with those terrorists.

Why?

Because I and We don’t mean any harm to the Indian people.

Mumbai is where my friends live.

Among other places.

I condemn wars and violence.

No wars.

Not for Kashmir, not for anything.

It was plainly terrorism. A common enemy of India and Pakistan.

 

Shalom and Peace friends, in Mumbai and wherever you are. And Be Safe.

 

The Iqbal Day Post: Pakistan Need to Revisit Iqbal for Inspiration

On this day, November 9, in 1877, Allama Muhammad Iqbal was born. His works had great impact on whoever they reached, particularly the Muslim community of India. Like the undying words of a Philosopher-Poet, his legacy lives on.

The Poet of the East and the Sage of the Nation.

We are good at bestowing titles, but never following what the Great Sage would say.

While Pakistan is in a state of shambles thanks to a morally corrupt mechanism of government and disenchanted masses with a lack of direction, it will not take more than a minute to get everything fixed.

Not more than a minute to find direction, not more than a minute if the intentions were right.

Adversity is not misfortune. It is in fact, the best of the teachers and trainers.

In the words of Nietzsche, What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

However, snap out of false pride, megalomania and blind patriotism. If you need to build a strong fortress, then build on the foundation of honesty, truth and if there is any such thing, justice.

Maybe this is what you need to fly higher, the resistance of a strong gust of wind.

Only struggling will keep you afloat, keep you from drowning.

 

The Words of Iqbal.

طالب علم

خدا تجھے کسی طوفاں سے آشنا کر دے

کہ تیرے بحر کی موجوں میں اضطراب نہی

تجھے کتاب سے ممکن نہیں فراغ کہ تو

کتاب خواں ہے مگر صاحب کتاب نہیں

To the Student

May God Offer Thee a Storm to Fight

A Challenge for the Ship of Thy Effort

Have Ye Time to Ponder, O Reader of the Book

That Ye Read Without Learning

We know everything we need to know.

Do we want to act is the question?

You could keep on sleeping though.

I hope I never wake up after I fall asleep.

Therefore, today

If only for a moment

Revisit Iqbal.

Remembering Yitzhak Rabin: A Peacemaker Shot Down

November 4, 1995.

Tel Aviv, Israel. A peace rally was held in the Kings of Israel Square of the Israeli city to support the recent Oslo accords with the Palestinian leadership. Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel at the time and the central figure in making peace with the Palestinians was the most important figure attending the rally. While the participants of the rally, along with Rabin, Foreign Minister and party rival Shimon Peres and singer Miri Aloni were singing the “Song for Peace“, some people present at the rally had completely different plans.

Shalom, Salaam, Peace

The Oslo Peace Accord was led by Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had successfully agreed on a “Land for Peace” deal during the Oslo Accords in 1993, which involved Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank territory. The world witnessed the amazing sight of Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat at the White House on September 13, 1993, with President Bill Clinton standing along side the two leaders.

The Israeli right wing was furious, as is the norm for the right wing anywhere, over the Oslo Accords, maintaining their point that Rabin’s steps has taken Israel away from the Jewish values. He was criticized by Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for taking the peace steps. Netanyahu is currently the Prime Minister of Israel on the date of publishing of this post.

While Rabin was returning from the rally, a right wing extremist Yigal Amir was waiting for Rabin, who amazingly managed to by-pass the security for the rally and reportedly shot Rabin three times. Rabin was  rushed to the Ichilov Hospital of Tel Aviv and lost his life during the operation, while Amir was arrested a bit too late by Rabin’s bodyguard. Amir is serving life imprisonment for his crime while the world lost a very good opportunity towards a peaceful solution to Middle East peace process, despite assurances from Shimon Peres, who shortly became Prime Minister after this tragic event, which has been the center of many conspiracy theories.

The importance of this peace deal can be realized even more today, seventeen years from the Oslo accord, when peace appears bleaker than ever between the two nations as Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. While Israelis are not comfortable about the security of their country, the Palestinian people are struggling even to make a decent living. The truth is that everyone knows that they have to depend on the State of Israel for their lives and that they are a people without a country.

This post is not to illustrate that Rabin’s murder has led to the failure of the Middle East peace process, nor that Rabin had a completely uncontroversial record as a peacemaker, but that this is the way the world treats the peacemakers. It also illustrate how dangerous and damaging right wing extremism can be. He was not the first man in history who talked about peace and was shot dead. There are many examples, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. Rabin and his administration were the peacemakers of their time and I salute Rabin for his courage and initiative towards peace.

Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.

– Yitzhak Rabin

What started as the Oslo Peace Accord was a hope for a Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine. Both the people deserve peace and to live their lives in harmony and prosperity, but it is not possible without the creation of a Palestinian State. Muslim countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should step up to recognize the right of the Israelis to live as free people and Israel, the United States and the EU should step up to recognize that Palestinian people have an equal right to live in freedom and peace, and that Israel should not be permitted to do whatever they like to them, like the manslaughter in Gaza in the late 2007 and 2008.

It is up to the current Israeli leadership to realize the importance of making peace in the Middle East, if not for themselves, for their children.

It is a choice between peace and harmony and bloodbath and manslaughter. Those responsible should think about it.

On Rabin’s funeral, President Bill Clinton concluded his eulogy with two words in Hebrew in his honor. But it was as if he was talking to peace in the Middle East.

 

Shalom, Haver.

Goodbye, Friend.