Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/55

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THE ALCOHOL-HABIT (concluded).


BUT, in tracing the causes which led to the present development of the poison-vice, we should not overlook the working of another principle which I must call a reaction against the effect of a wrong remedy. We can not serve our cause by ignoring its weak points, for, if we persist in closing our eyes to the significance of our mistakes, our enemies will not fail to profit by our blindness. We can not work in the dark. In order to reach our goal, we must see our way clear; and I. trust that no earnest fellow-laborer will misconstrue my motive if I dare to say the whole truth.

The matter is this: At a time when the civilization of antiquity had become extremely corrupt, a society of ethical reformers tried to find the panacea for vice, as we now seek the remedy for intemperance. But, instead of recognizing the local causes of the evil, they ascribed it to the general perversity of the human heart. They, too, failed to distinguish between natural appetites and morbid appetencies, and, misled by the glaring consequences of perverted passions, they conceived the unhappy idea that man's natural instincts are his natural enemies. In order to crush a few baneful nightshades and poppy-blossoms, they began a war of extermination against the flowers of this earth. But that attempt led to an unexpected result: the soil of the trampled fields engendered weeds that were far harder to destroy than the noxious herbs of the old flower-garden. The would-be reformers had overlooked the fact that it is easier to pervert than to suppress a natural instinct; but the history of the last twelve hundred years has illustrated that truth by many dreadful examples. The suppression of rational freedom led to anarchy. Celibacy became the mother of the ugliest vices. The attempt to suppress the pursuit of natural science led to the pursuit of pseudo-science—astrology, necromancy, and all sorts of dire chimeras. The suppression of harmless pleasures has always fostered the penchant for vicious pleasures. The austerity of the Stoics helped to propagate the doctrines of Epicurus; in Islam the era of the Hanbalite ascetics was followed by the riots of the Bagdad caliphate; and the open licentiousness of the English anti-Puritans, as well as the secret excesses of their northern neighbors, can be distinctly traced to the mistaken zeal of the party which had waged a long and unrelenting war against every form of physical pleasure, and hoped to find salvation in the suppression of all natural desires. That doctrine has never become the permanent faith of any Aryan nation, though now and then it has reached a local ascendency which