Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/539

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517
THE WASTES OF MODERN CIVILIZATION.

defense of their oppressors; and the conscious impossibility of relying on the enthusiasm of volunteers obliges every ruler of fifty faithful square miles to surround his throne with a bulwark of dehumanized machine soldiers, who, in obedience to the mandate of the uniformed chief machinist, would shoot their own fathers or bayonet their own children. A territory which once could be easily managed with twenty legions, each of four thousand men, has now to be bullied into submission by standing armies aggregating from five million and a half to six million conscripts. The expenses of maintaining that apparatus for the perpetuation of orthodox despotism cost the nations of Europe a minimum of 8625,000,000 a year, and withdraw from agriculture an amount of labor which otherwise would suffice to support her population in spite of intermittent droughts.

Our elaborate code of by-laws for the suppression of holiday recreations can still be circumvented by the resources of opulence, and the well-known hopelessness of any other expedient has stimulated a race for wealth which does not hesitate to attain its object at any risk of social or sanitary consequences. The number of infants which the superstition of the Ammonites sacrificed to Moloch is a mere trifle compared with the multitude of children now devoted to a far more cruel fate by being literally drudged to death in crowded factories to enable a millionaire to save a few dimes on his weekly pay-roll and add a few per cent to the exorbitant rate of his yearly profits. In times of general scarcity the market has been drained of its scant supplies by speculators trying to coin gain from the distress of their fellow-men and risking, after all, to be foiled by the decay of their hoarded stores or their destruction by fire or flood. Quack nostrums, which not one intelligent man in a hundred would privately hesitate to pronounce infinitely worse than worthless, are sold by ship-loads and carloads to disseminate disease and the seeds of the stimulant-vice, and the saints who contribute thousands to insure the theological soundness of the Quaggalla Hottentots do not care enough for the physical health of their own countrymen to whisper a word against the lawfulness of the infamous traffic.

Nearly two thousand years ago Pliny and Columella denounced the folly of destroying the highland forests that shelter the sources of fertilizing brooks and the nests of insect-destroying birds. "Sacred groves" were not limited to the land of the Phoenicians. The Celtic and German Druids protected the forests of their native lands; and even the barbarous Huns seem dimly to have recognized the climatic influence of arboreal vegetation, since we read of their chiefs enacting laws for the protection of the mountain woods in the lower valley of the Danube.

The mediæval reign of Antinaturalism, however, inaugurated