I’m still a few days behind the news cycle, what with volcanoes and not picking up people to take them to the airport, so I just now ran across this item which, for reasons that boggle the mind, has been linked pretty much everywhere. As someone who, unlike Kagan, wrote an actual dissertation on the impact of early 20th Century socialism on American thought—reconciling Jack London’s Darwinism and socialism requires discussing his socialism, after all—I wondered how easily I could be branded a traitor to this great nation on the basis of cherry-picked quotations, and as it turns out I’m doomed. Just consider the charges against me.
Of course I believe in change:
[Jack] London wanted to believe that if industrial life could ravage a body in so short a time, social and cultural change could improve a society over a shorter span than the “deep time” geology-influenced evolutionists believed was required. London wanted to believe that a new social order could create a new, superior species in units calculable in years instead of eons.
Of course I believe in progress:
Received wisdom had the trajectory of social evolution necessarily moving—progressing—toward increasingly complex forms of collective behavior.
Of course I want an undemocratic socialist tyrant in charge:
Telic actions cannot be performed by acephalous organizations; democracy is hamstrung by “by the arrant idiocy of political organization.” Such actions can only be undertaken by undemocratic organizations whose leaders are chosen not because they represent society at large, but because they do not. Such leaders will accelerate the process London believes already at work: namely, that “from the facts of [human] history . . . the trend of [social] development is toward greater and greater collective wisdom.”
Of course I believe socialism is the product of natural selection:
As Thomas Huxley wrote in a letter (27 October 1890) to William Ball: Have you considered that State Socialism—for which I have little enough love—may be a product of Natural Selection? The societies of Bees and Ants exhibit socialism in excelsis.
Of course I believe that the death of capitalism is the fiat of evolution and the word of God:
You are perishing, and you are doomed to perish utterly from the face of society. This is the fiat of evolution. It is the word of God. Combination is stronger than competition.
Of course I believe the Fish-Eaters are the chosen of God:
When the tribe complains of hunger, the Bug “sang a song of how good it was to be a Fish-Eater[, how] the Fish-Eaters were the chosen of God and the finest men God had made[, and] how fine and good it was for the Fish-Eaters to fight and die doing God’s work, which was the killing of the Meat-Eaters.”
And if that weren’t enough, of course I want to kill puppies:
For a week it appears as if Big-Tooth may indeed bring about the domestication of the dog, but then he returns home one day to find his friend Lop-Ear “had killed the puppy and was just beginning to eat him.”
If some patriot doesn’t put a stop to me soon, I’m gonna be forced to take action myself.