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On Labor and Luxury
by [?]

I concluded, after having said every thing that concerned myself; but I cannot refrain, from a desire to say something more which concerns everybody, from verifying the deductions which I have drawn, by comparisons. I wish to say why it seems to me that a very large number of our social class ought to come to the same thing to which I have come; and also to state what will be the result if a number of people should come to the same conclusion.

I think that many will come to the point which I have attained: because if the people of our sphere, of our caste, will only take a serious look at themselves, then young persons, who are in search of personnel happiness, will stand aghast at the ever-increasing wretchedness of their life, which is plainly leading them to destruction; conscientious people will be shocked at the cruelty and the illegality of their life; and timid people will be terrified by the danger of their mode of life.

The Wretchedness of our Life:–However much we rich people may reform, however much we may bolster up this delusive life of ours with the aid of our science and art, this life will become, with every year, both weaker and more diseased; with every year the number of suicides, and the refusals to bear children, will increase; with every year we shall feel the growing sadness of our life; with every generation, the new generations of people of this sphere of society will become more puny.

It is obvious that in this path of the augmentation of the comforts and the pleasures of life, in the path of every sort of cure, and of artificial preparations for the improvements of the sight, the hearing, the appetite, false teeth, false hair, respiration, massage, and so on, there can be no salvation. That people who do not make use of these perfected preparations are stronger and healthier, has become such a truism, that advertisements are printed in the newspapers of stomach-powders for the wealthy, under the heading, “Blessings for the poor,” {252} in which it is stated that only the poor are possessed of proper digestive powers, and that the rich require assistance, and, among other various sorts of assistance, these powders. It is impossible to set the matter right by any diversions, comforts, and powders, whatever; only a change of life can rectify it.

[Note:

{252} In English in the text.]

The Inconsistency of our Life with our Conscience:–however we may seek to justify our betrayal of humanity to ourselves, all our justifications will crumble into dust in the presence of the evidence. All around us, people are dying of excessive labor and of privation; we ruin the labor of others, the food and clothing which are indispensable to them, merely with the object of procuring diversion and variety for our wearisome lives. And, therefore, the conscience of a man of our circle, if even a spark of it be left in him, cannot be lulled to sleep, and it poisons all these comforts and those pleasures of life which our brethren, suffering and perishing in their toil, procure for us. But not only does every conscientious man feel this himself,–he would be glad to forget it, but this he cannot do.

The new, ephemeral justifications of science for science, of art for art, do not exclude the light of a simple, healthy judgment. The conscience of man cannot be quieted by fresh devices; and it can only be calmed by a change of life, for which and in which no justification will be required.

Two causes prove to the people of the wealthy classes the necessity for a change of life: the requirements of their individual welfare, and of the welfare of those most nearly connected with them, which cannot be satisfied in the path in which they now stand; and the necessity of satisfying the voice of conscience, the impossibility of accomplishing which is obvious in their present course. These causes, taken together, should lead people of the wealthy classes to alter their mode of life, to such a change as shall satisfy their well-being and their conscience.