Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK V: THE WORK OF DEATH - The Comedy of Protection
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BOOK V: THE WORK OF DEATH - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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THE WORK OF DEATH
FOOD AND EFFORT
The diet of the French soldier—Insufficient nourishment and work—Temperance of the Japanese soldier.
The diet of the French soldier has been taken as the standard. Allowing for waste it is a good deal below Atwater’s estimate of the necessary diet for an adult occupied in moderately active work, nevertheless it is among the highest. Although French army bread is only made of meal containing 29 per cent. of chaff, it stands first among the military rations of the world, containing 14·69 of azotic matter to 7·20 in the Prussian army bread. The meat ration is about 13 oz. in England, about 12 in Germany, and 101/2 in France; but in Austria it is only 67/9 oz., in Italy and Russia 71/9, in Belgium 88/9, and in Sweden 93/6. Since humanity has survived and developed on a diet much below that established physiologically by Atwater, or empirically in the case of the French soldier, neither can be assumed as absolutely necessary. But neither the Neapolitan lazzarone who lies in the sun and feeds on a slice of melon, or the Russian moujik sleeping on his stove in winter and satisfied with some cabbages and cucumber cooked in pickle, is capable of effort. At any particular moment an underfed man may make an effort, but he cannot sustain it for long. The Kabyle is sober and a hard worker, but all over Algeria they say, “You can tell the mark of a Frenchman’s ploughshare from that of a Kabyle.” Teachers of the young, moralists who assume the direction of others without always being able to direct themselves, are always praising temperance, and that to men who have not food enough for their physical needs; talking of the dignity of labour to men with empty stomachs. It would be just as reasonable to expect an engine to move without coal. They might think of the letter Marshal St. Arnaud wrote to Ducos, the Naval Minister, at the end of April, 1854, “There is no coal anywhere; Ducos orders us to stoke with the sailors’ patriotism!”1
Those doctors who, apparently inheritors of the theories of Diaforus and M. Purgon, ordered their patients a diet of hot water, thought to score a triumph in the victory of the Japanese in the late war. But the Japanese do not live on air. Lieutenant-Colonel Gertsch, Swiss Chief of Staff with the Japanese army, states: “The diet of the regiments in the field was excellent. There was plenty of rice; also spiced preserved meat in a sort of tomato sauce, and dried fish.”
NUTRITION AND EVOLUTION
M. Niceforo’s observations—Children of poor and well-to-do parents—Black spots of Limousin and Brittany.
All experience proves the validity of Dr. Gaétan Delaunay’s axiom, “Evolution advances with nutrition, pari passu.” M. Alfred Niceforo, a professor at the University of Lausanne, in a well-to-do neighbourhood, stated from his inspection of the schools that children insufficiently nourished were physically inferior. He published his results in a book called “The Poorer Classes,” in which from a comparison of groups of children from the working classes with groups taken from the well-to-do children in the Lausanne schools he extracted the following results:
M. Niceforo applied the dynamometer ten times in succession to ten poor and ten well-to-do children with a minute’s interval between.
Thus poor children not only have less energy to start with; they also have a less power of resistance to fatigue; at the tenth series where the well-off children lost 36 per cent. they lost 62 per cent. Masons work in the open air, and they are employed in muscular exercise; à priori the hereditary strength of their children should be greater than that of the children of well-to-do sedentary people who spend their lives in offices. A comparison of fifty masons’ children of nine years of age and fifty children of the same age of men of comfortable circumstances engaged in the liberal professions, gives the following results:—
Niceforo’s inquiries confirm the earlier results of Quételet, Broca, and Manouvrier, into the heights of the dwellers in the different districts of Paris. Dr. Collignon calls the zone separating Limousin from Périgord, in which all the people are much below the average in height, “black Limousin,” on the analogy of Broca’s “black Brittany.” This smallness is not racial, for the three principal races of France mix there, and are alike arrested in their development; it is due to poverty.
Roberts’ “Manual of Anthropology” (1878) gives the height of 10,000 Englishmen; the height of the aristocracy and the liberal professions is 5 ft. 9 in. at twenty, and 5 ft. 91/2 in. at sixty-nine, while that of the town artisan is 5 ft. 7 in.
Those legislators who establish Customs duties in the interest of a small class thereby reduce the food of their countrymen, and condemn numbers of them to stagnation, deterioration, and a premature death.
NOURISHMENT AND MORTALITY
M. Jacques Bertillon and the mortality of large towns—M. Verrijn Stuart and infant mortality in Amsterdam—“Social Hygiene”—The Tuberculosis League and Protection—Longet of Hamburg—Dr. Livi’s Italian experiments—Mortality and the price of corn.
M. Jacques Bertillon made a classification of the districts of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in six divisions, according to their standard of comfort: as very poor, poor, well-to-do, very well-to-do, rich, very rich; and he found that the sickness and mortality of each district was in direct relation to its economic condition.
M. C. A. Verrijn Stuart, Director of Statistics for the Low Countries, divided Amsterdam into six quarters, according to a standard of comfort fixed with reference to four elements—
Then comparing the mortality of children of less than one year of age with the birth-rate for the same year he obtained the following table:—
And these figures are the more striking as being drawn from one of the richest countries in the world, where housekeepers are justly renowned. I recommend it to the notice of those who are so ready to say to others, “Bear children,” while they at the same time bend all their energies to raising the price of food and all the other necessaries of life. It is not enough to bear children, they must be brought up. Every birth followed by a death is a waste of effort and expense.
In June, 1903, a Congress of Social Hygiene met at Montpellier. I am most ready to do justice to the intentions of its organisers and members, but why the title? Private hygiene consists of the rules which the individual has to observe for his own preservation; public hygiene has to do with the cleanliness of public streets, the supply of drinking water, the removal of dirt of every sort—but what is the meaning of social hygiene? An anti-social hygiene is inconceivable. One meets the word “social” everywhere; people talk of “social justice” as if justice could exist outside of society. To what idea does this strangely misused word correspond?
I did not know the exact objects which the organisers of the Congress of Social Hygiene set before themselves, but I should have imagined that they would concern themselves with the reform of the laws and institutions which stand in the way of individual development; with the removal of those economic obstacles which prevent prudent men from having large families; the total or partial abolition of those “impedimenta” to sufficient nutrition which lower the vitality of children, hasten the advance of old age, and condemn so many to consumption. Of all this not a word was said. The Tuberculosis League made a great noise. With the help of lotteries it got hold of millions of money, but it paid no attention to the effect of Customs duties on diet. If the directors did not see this effect, such shortsightedness makes me sceptical as to their insight; if they did see but dared not speak for fear of alienating their patrons and subscribers, they sacrificed the truth to their interests. They attack tuberculosis, which represents no vested interest; they propose means of dealing with its victims; but they salute, hat in hand, or pretend not to know, those who are in a great measure responsible for its ravages, who invite and support it by robbing each of their fellow-countrymen of a part of his bread and his meat. How can one take philanthropists seriously who pour forth sympathy like water and groan over the misfortunes of their neighbours, while they obstinately shut their eyes to the real cause of it all because it is an established power, and, in the words of St. Paul, “One must have respect to the powers that be”? Longet’s formula is entirely valid: “Insufficient nourishment is a chronic disease, of which starvation is the acute stage, and consumption is the result.”
Mr. Gebhard, Director of the German Old Age and Invalid Benefit Assurance Bureau, published the following figures for Hamburg:—
It has been shown that in Germany out of 112,000 cases of consumption in a year 80,000 are workmen. In the north Italian provinces the peasants who cultivate the corn are too poor to buy it; they are forced to live upon maize, which engenders pellagra. Our inquiry made in 1900 proves the existence of 72,000 cases of the disease with an annual mortality of from 2,000 to 4,000. Dr. Livi’s inquiry into the state of the army shows the extent to which the Italians suffer from insufficient food; the ration of the Italian army is below the French; the meat ration is 67/9 instead of 101/2 oz., and yet during their first two years of service the recruits gain in weight, and the increase both in height, weight, and girth is much greater in the case of peasants than students. The death rate rose in 1867 with the rise in the price of wheat and maize; nevertheless, although the price of corn and maize rose still further in 1880 wages rose also—a hundredweight of wheat or maize cost 132 hours work instead of 183, and the death rate was lower than in 1867. And in 1881, 1884, 1885 it fell in proportion to the fall in the price of corn and maize. If a fall in the price of corn lowers the death rate, a rise in price raises it. Those who force its rise by Customs Duties are doing the work of death, but since they only murder indirectly their scruples are few in proportion to their ignorance of their victims. M. Méline said calmly, “The food of the great towns where people live crowded together and workers require to be specially well nourished often leaves much to be desired.”1 Whose fault is that but the man’s who taxes every pound of bread 1/2d. and every pound of meat 2d.? Surely Méline is not so stupid as not to know what he is doing.
But not only Méline: in 1894 the Socialists, with Jaurès at their head, cut off a slice from the bread of all those who were forced to buy it; led away by the mirage of political power, they dreamed of winning over the rural electors by Protection, as if the peasant proprietor and the agricultural labourer had anything to gain by it! Thus the friends of the poor, the humble, and the disinherited, joined in the work of death carried on by the agrarians.
JUSTICE AND CHARITY
Many agrarians put down their names for subscriptions to distress funds, distributed bread tickets, organised charity balls and bazaars, took tickets in the tuberculosis lottery. The members representing them in Parliament multiplied laws and relief works, and heartily applauded their own generous sentiments. They were the tender-hearted as opposed to the rigid school of political economists—their policy was that of the open hand and not the closed fist. All the same they refused to their countrymen the right to cheap bread and meat. This introduction of charity falsified economic relations. It lowered the rate of wages by exposing the workman who had to live on his wages to competition with workmen assisted by the State, and laid upon the whole community the cost of supporting certain privileged industries. As a form of subvention it tended not to progress but to depression.
M. Victor Modeste made an investigation into the registers of public relief, and finding there the same families again and again, one generation after another, he drew the conclusion, “The poor are becoming poorer, the rich richer.” The true conclusion is that people in receipt of relief, accustomed to live upon it with the minimum of effort, make no attempt on their own behalf, or on that of their descendants, to become independent. Considering themselves as annuitants, they come to think that their submission and importunity gives them a claim to permanent relief. Cheap and showy sentimentalism, as incoherent as it is inconsistent, may well be answered in the courageous words spoken by Madame Ashurst Venturi at the Neuchâtel Conference for the Abolition of Recognised Prostitution, held in 1878. She said, “No doubt the charity whose aim is to succour the unfortunate is worthy of praise, but it must be left to the weak, to those tender and pious creatures whose task is to lift up the wounded from the battlefield where the brave and strong must fight. The work of our Federation is a work not of charity, but of justice. Justice is the highest charity, for its aim is to substitute certainty for the chance operation of pity and of philanthropy. More is done for humanity by the abolition of a bad law or a vicious system than by succouring its victims, for if such help assuages individual misery it yet leaves intact, if it does not actually help to support, the state of things which has caused that misery.”
Camille Rousset, “History of the Crimean War,” Vol. I., p. 95.
“Back to the Land and Industrial Over-production,” p. 245.