Crime: Its Cause and Treatment eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 200 pages of information about Crime.
survive.  An idiot is an illustration of one whom environment cannot change.  No heredity will overcome the hardest environment.  The old saying, “every man has his price,” is true in this sense, that every machine will stand just so much and no more.  Some machines reach the breaking point soon and some later, but all have their limit.  Most people have a heredity that is not the best nor yet the worst.  Given an imperfect machine, they are thrown into a certain environment, and then up to the capacity of their machines the outcome depends entirely on the environment.  Given an environment easy enough they will succeed, or at least “get by.”  Given a hard environment they will fail, or “go down.”  Tens of thousands of men live in a comparatively easy environment and pass their lives as useful citizens with no taint of criminality to their names, who under a hard environment would be found in prison.  On the other hand, perhaps most of the inmates of prisons would have lived as respected citizens if their environment had not been so hard.  Heredity has everything to do with making the machine strong and capable, or weak and useless; but when the machine is made and thrown on the world in its imperfect shape, environment has everything to do in determining what its fate shall be.

V

Adjusting heredity and
environment

Most people live a narrow existence.  Perhaps the great majority of men and women find their safety in this kind of a life.  The adjustment of heredity and environment is not an easy task to one who lives an unsheltered life.  The ordinary person, thrown on his own resources, is poorly equipped for existence.  His opinions on most matters are not sound.  He uses poor judgment as to how he shall spend the little money he gets.  He is generally driven by debts and harassed in all his efforts to get a living.  A large family adds to his trouble and his existence is a constant struggle with what, to him, is an almost hopeless fate.

Industrial conditions for the most part are relentless and hard.  The poor man is thrown into competition with his fellows for work.  He may get along when work is easy to get and wages are good, but in dull times he falls behind, and is in hopeless trouble.  His life is a long, hard struggle to make adjustments to his environment, and it is not strange that he goes down so often before the heavy task.  Failure to make proper adjustments directly and indirectly often means prison to him.

Again, the ordinary and especially the weak man is hopelessly puzzled by his environment.  It must never be overlooked that man has a lowly origin.  The marks of his humble birth are in his whole structure and life.  His make-up has been the work of the ages.  He is a late development of a life that knew nothing of law, as law is understood today.  His ancestors were hungry and went out after food, they killed their prey and took their food by main strength whenever they had the power.  They were subject to certain customs which were very strict, but which were few and did not seriously complicate life.  They knew only the law of force.  Their existence was simple and primal, and they were governed by no “rights,” except such simple ones as were made by might and custom.

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Project Gutenberg
Crime: Its Cause and Treatment from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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