SOCIALISM AND ANARCHISM BY WILL DURANT (1914) – Part 5

V.
I think the great majority of us socialists to-day
agree with Kautsky’s statement that we are socialists
in economics, but anarchists in almost everything
else. We are convinced, with Elisee Reclus,
that “there can be no morality without freedom.”
Of course for those of us who are determinists there
can be morality at all in the old sense of a distinction
between “virtue” and “vice;” reinterpreting
the term I think we might say, following Spinoza,
that morality is deliberate self-expression. So far
as self-expression is limited, so far is morality made
null ; so far as an act follows from one’s reasoned
inner desire, so far is it moral. If, being an out-and-
out anarchist at heart, one preaches socialism,
or, being a socialist at heart, one preaches progressivism,
-and this deliberately, on some counsel of
expediency,- one is, in our sense of the word, immoral:
one is serving as the instrument for the
expression of another self, one is failing to play
one’s own needed part in human development, one
betrays the most sacred thing in any of us-the
uniqueness of one’s personality, the very thing in
one which can be replaced by no other self, no other
mind, on earth. It is of the new ethic that differences
are holy things, not to be shaved off the soul
by external compulsion, nor allowed to atrophy
by concealment. The most different man among
us may be the most valuable: he is a mutation, as
the biologists say; he may be a retrogressive or a
progressive mutation, but it will be well for us to
take our time settling our opinion on the point.
The man who has no differences, and the man who
having differences forever suppresses them, are,
for the purposes of human development, mere zeros
suffixed to a decimal.
I have laid emphasis on deliberation in self-expression;
it is a point which needs emphasis. The
anarchist is too fond of saying, “Be yourself,” and
assuming that in so saying he has exhausted all
ethics. From the determinist viewpoint, of course,
this “Be yourself” is superfluous counsel: man’s
character, as Heraclitus said, is his fate; one is
oneself, willy-nilly, down to the end of one’s chapter.
But though one is always oneself, one is not always
one’s d e 1 i b e r a t e self. For. example, the vast
play of direct emotional expression is almost entirely
indeliberate: if you are greatly surprised your
lips part, your eyes open a trifle wider, your pulse
quickens, your respiration is affected ; and if I am
surprised, though you be as different from me as
Hyperion from a satyr, my respiration will be af-
fected, my pulse will quicken, my eyes will open a
trifle wider, and my lips will part;-my direct
reaction will be essentially the same as yours. The
direct expression of surprise is practically the same
in all the higher animals. Darwin’s classical description
of the expression of fear is another example; it
holds for every normal human, not to speak of the
lower species. So with egotism, jealousy, anger, and a
thousand other instinctive reaction-complexes; they
are common to the species, and when we so react
we are expressing not our individual selves so much
as the species to which we happen to belong.
Indeliberate action which is the result of inherited
tendency, is, therefore, for the purposes of ethics,
not really individual action at all. When you hit a
man because he has “insulted” you, when you
swagger a little after delivering a successful speech,
when you push aside women and children in order
to take their place in the rescue boat, when you do
any one of a million indeliberate things like these,
it is not y o u that act, it is your species, it
is your ancestors, acting through you; your “self,”
your individual difference, is lost in the whirlwind
of inherited impulse. But subject the inherited
tendency to the scrutiny of your individual experience,
deliberate,-and then, though you act like a thousand
other men, you will be different, and the
more different the more you deliberate, the
more your action is permitted to take on
the color of your essentially peculiar experience.
Only so can you learn, only so can you
advance, only so can you be really yourself. If you
act without such deliberation, your act, as the old
scholastics put it, is not a “human” act, you yourself
are not really acting at all, but are merely playing
slave to your ancestors; you are, as we moderns
say, “unmoral.” If, after deliberation, you choose
to suppress your own inner desire, and for expediency’s
sake act out the desire of another, you are,
psychologically speaking, still expressing yourself,
in so far as your experience may have taught you
to prefer expediency to sincerity; but ethically
speaking, you are “going back” on yourself, you
are “immoral.” But if you rise above the instinct –
that is not you but is the race, and above the will
of another human who is not you, to act out, ‘so
far as external circumstance will permit, the inner
desire that has survived deliberation, survived the
scrutiny of your personal experience,-then at last
you are truly a “self,” invaluably you, and
“moral.”
So interpreted, the mottoes, “Be yourself” and
“Live your own life,” take on a slightly different
meaning than that which they have usually been
assumed to convey. To live our own lives does not
necessarily mean to become the slaves of our passions,
nor does it sufficiently excuse our orgies to
say that we are being ourselves. To get drunk once
is an experience; but to get drunk every week or so
is-well, inartistic, like all excess. And to indulge
the polygamous in us to such an extent that we
crush out of ourselves all capacity for that soul-
possessing,soul-expanding mystery called love (one
must be hardy to use the word seriously in these
days!) is not so much an expression, as a maiming,
of the self. After all, if we aspire to be the exponents
of a new ethic we shall be doing our doctrine
immeasurable and unmerited wrong if we interpret
it at the outset not in lives of courageous devotion
to our common cause-not in such a life as Peter
Kropotkin has lived,-but in lives that reek with the
heat of passion and smack of insufficient evolution.

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