Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays.
and that might be effective enough under simpler conditions.  An old-fashioned shopkeeper might have locked up his apprentice in his coal-cellar; but his coal-cellar would be a real, pitch dark coal-cellar, and the rest of his house would be a real human house.  Everybody (especially the apprentice) would see a most perceptible difference between the two.  But, as I pointed out in the article before this, the whole tendency of the capitalist legislation and experiment is to make imprisonment much more general and automatic, while making it, or professing to make it, more humane.  In other words, the hygienic prison and the servile factory will become so uncommonly like each other that the poor man will hardly know or care whether he is at the moment expiating an offence or merely swelling a dividend.  In both places there will be the same sort of shiny tiles.  In neither place will there be any cell so unwholesome as a coal-cellar or so wholesome as a home.  The weapon of the prison, therefore, like the weapon of the fine, will be found to have considerable limitations to its effectiveness when employed against the wretched reduced citizen of our day.  Whether it be property or liberty you cannot take from him what he has not got.  You cannot imprison a slave, because you cannot enslave a slave.

The Barbarous Revival

(3) Most people, on hearing the suggestion that it may come to corporal punishment at last (as it did in every slave system I ever heard of, including some that were generally kindly, and even successful), will merely be struck with horror and incredulity, and feel that such a barbarous revival is unthinkable in the modern atmosphere.  How far it will be, or need be, a revival of the actual images and methods of ruder times I will discuss in a moment.  But first, as another of the converging lines tending to corporal punishment, consider this:  that for some reason or other the old full-blooded and masculine humanitarianism in this matter has weakened and fallen silent; it has weakened and fallen silent in a very curious manner, the precise reason for which I do not altogether understand.  I knew the average Liberal, the average Nonconformist minister, the average Labour Member, the average middle-class Socialist, were, with all their good qualities, very deficient in what I consider a respect for the human soul.  But I did imagine that they had the ordinary modern respect for the human body.  The fact, however, is clear and incontrovertible.  In spite of the horror of all humane people, in spite of the hesitation even of our corrupt and panic-stricken Parliament, measures can now be triumphantly passed for spreading or increasing the use of physical torture, and for applying it to the newest and vaguest categories of crime.  Thirty or forty years ago, nay, twenty years ago, when Mr. F. Hugh O’Donnell and others forced a Liberal Government to drop the cat-o-nine-tails like a scorpion, we could have counted on a mass of honest hatred of such things.  We cannot count on it now.

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Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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