A Spirit More Evil Than Alcohol.

A Spirit More Evil Than Alcohol.

[Liberty, August 13, 1887.]

The authority of learning, the tyranny of science, which Bakounine foresaw, deprecated, and denounced, never found blunter expression than in an article by T. B. Wakeman in the August number of the Freethinkers’ Magazine in which the writer endeavors to prove, on scientific grounds alone, that alcohol is an evil, a poison that ought never to be taken into the human system. My knowledge of chemistry and physiology is too limited to enable me to judge of the scientific soundness of the attempted demonstration; but I do know that it is admirably well written, wonderfully attractive, powerfully plausible, important if true, and therefore worthy of answer by those who alone are competent to answer it if it can be answered. Such an answer I hope to see; and, if it arrives, I shall weigh it against Mr. Wakeman’s argument, award a verdict for myself, and act upon it for myself,—if I am allowed to do so.(49 ¶ 1)

But it is plain that, if Mr. Wakeman’s party gets into power, no such privilege will be granted me. For, after having asserted most positively that this verdict of science can be made so manifest that it will become a personal prohibition law, which no person in his senses would violate any more than he would cut his own throat, in which case its compulsory enforcement will be entirely unnecessary except upon persons out of their senses, Mr. Wakeman goes on to say that it is the duty of the lawyers (of whom he is one) to see to it that the manufacture, sale, and use of alcohol as a beverage shall be outlawed, proscribed, and prohibited just as arsenic is, and that, like arsenic, it shall be sold only as a labelled poison. Rather a summary way, it seems to me, of cramming science down the throats of people who like a glass of claret better! Ah! some reader will say, you forget that this compulsory abstinence is only to be enforced upon people out of their senses, probably hopeless sots who are a public danger.(49 ¶ 2)

This consideration possibly would afford a grain of consolation, had not Mr. Wakeman taken pains in another paragraph to leave no one in doubt as to the meaning of the phrase in his senses. It is not applicable, he declares, to any drinker of alcohol who claims to know when he has had enough, for that very remark shows that alcohol has already stolen away his brains. His position, then, is that the law of total abstinence will enforce itself upon all men in their senses, for no man in his senses will drink alcohol after hearing the verdict of science; but that men who drink alcohol, however moderately, are out of their senses, and must be treated, by force if necessary, as diseased lunatics.(49 ¶ 3)

Was any priest, any pope, any czar ever guilty of teaching a more fanatical, more bigoted, more tyrannical doctrine?(49 ¶ 4)

Does Mr. Wakeman imagine that he can restore men to their senses by any such disregard of their individualities?(49 ¶ 5)

Does he think that the way to strengthen the individual’s reason and will is to force them into disuse by substituting for them the reason and will of a body of savants?(49 ¶ 6)

In that case I commend him to the words of Bakounine: A society which should obey legislation emanating from a scientific academy, not because it understood itself the rational character of this legislation (in which case the existence of the academy would become useless), but because this legislation, emanating from the academy, was imposed in the name of a science which it venerated without comprehending,—such a society would be a society, not of men, but of brutes. It would be a second edition of those missions in Paraguay which submitted so long to the government of the Jesuits. It would surely and rapidly descend to the lowest stage of idiocy.(49 ¶ 7)

The mightiest foe of the human mind is not alcohol, by any means. It is that spirit of arrogance which prompts the conclusion of Mr. Wakeman’s essay, and which, encouraged, would induce a mental paralysis far more universal and far more hopeless than any science will ever be able to trace to the spirit of alcohol.(49 ¶ 8)