Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
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You won't find that term in any dictionary that I know of, nor any textbook on psychology, but I think it's a term needed to describe one of America's most widespread neurotic tendencies. It means "having a neurotic and excessive fondness for the underdog" without having the slightest interest in finding out why he is in the infra position.
For example, let's consider the poor people that great "war against poverty" is supposed to help.
Now I've been looking into the situation of a group of people in one area on the fringe of that Appalachia region who have some very tough conditions to contend with. Their region is very backward, very underdeveloped, and astonishingly underindustrialized. The people in that area aren't able to buy tractors, and have to do all their farming - most of them are farmers - entirely by their own hard work. They don't even have electric power, and hence no electric lights or power-driven equipment. Of course that also means no radio or television for relief, during the long evenings, from the hard work of their living. Their children can't go to the public schools. They don't have automobiles to get around in, but travel by horse and buggy. These poor people...
Oh, you know about the Amish people, huh? You've seen their beautiful, lush farms, their big, sturdy barns and their spotlessly-kept homes? Well, I know they almost universally have good, fat bank accounts, but aren't they "poor people" in that they don't have the conveniences of modern life?
Well, what do you mean by "poor people"? Perhaps you mean "poor" in the sense of "genetically incompetent, lacking the qualities of intelligence, ambition, self-respect and determination necessary to adequate accomplishment". Certainly the Amish aren't "poor people" in that sense; what they have proven a man - and this does, of course, mean he has to be a man, not a whimpering bum - can accomplish with his own muscles, using intelligence, determination, and willingness to work adequately demonstrates that they aren't "poor" genetically.
The next time some victim of hyperinfracaniphilia tells you how this, that or the other group or individual "didn't have a proper chance" it may be appropriate to compare the situation of the named group or individual with the standard Pennsylvania Dutch situation. What would have happened to an Amish family dropped into the situation? Would they be living in a leaky shack, in ragged clothes, unwashed, ill-fed, and penniless?
Take a run through the areas full of those "poor people" look at the tumbling shacks, slovenly men and women, the TV antennas decorating every ill-patched roof, the fairly late-model automobile standing in the ruts across the grassless lawn - and not so much as a well-tended vegetable garden in the empty acres of land. They've got electricity, TV, a car... and are ill-clothed, ill-fed, and ill-housed in an area where there's acres of unused land.
Oh, it's poor land, that won't raise good crops?
You can't teach those people anything useful, so it would be useless to import some Scottish farmers, men accustomed to farming barren, treeless hillsides, with soil leached of practically all plant nutrient by the nearly ceaseless rains, with a growing season shortened by the fact that they're as far north as Hudson's Bay - and men not accustomed to whining about their hard lot.
You won't see any sheep on the hillsides in Appalachia, either, nor appropriate breeds of cattle. Sheep yield wool as well as meat, which, with a bit of effort, can be turned into excellent clothing - without the need for a major industrial complex. Ask your nearest librarian.
There is a great deal of talk, too, about the selfishness of the better-off people, and the hyperinfracaniphilia type insists that we should help these poor people.
It is certainly true that those poor people are completely unselfish. No one can accuse them of having done anything for themselves, and isn't it held that the mark of selfishness is that you do things for your own interest?
How can you help people who are so unselfish that they practically never do anything for themselves? Of course you can rebuild their shacks, make new clothes for them, and guarantee them a life-time supply of quick-frozen TV dinners... but the new clothes are no better than the old. They don't keep themselves clean, repair their own careless rips and burns, or adjust size to match growing children. The new houses aren't a bit better than the old; their windows break, and the wind lifts shingles just the same, and the poor people living in them know they've been cheated.
The great advantage of nudity is that the animal or human skin is self-repairing - and arranged to encourage the wearer to avoid carelessness in the matter of rips and burns - reasonably self-cleaning, and self-adjusting to the changes in the wearer's size and/or shape.
The advantage of free forest living is that trees - although they do constitute a somewhat leaky roof - are self-replacing, self-repairing, and if one falls down, there are always others you can move under. There's no work involved.
These completely unselfish poor people, however, are not really interested in forest living, because of the lack of adequate TV entertainment, and the unsatisfactory food supply.
It is not a matter of poor education, either. Let's get that nonsense out of the way. Abraham Lincoln had a darned sight less in the way of economic, social, or educational opportunities than the poor people of Appalachia have. And, moreover, millionaire scions graduating from Harvard turn out to be just as totally unselfish - they won't do a thing for themselves - as the worst of Appalachia's people.
The best way to express the problem, I think, is to recognize that no matter how you heat-treat or work a piece of cast iron, you're not going to make a usable spring out of it. There are, however, a wide variety of steel alloys which, given different, but appropriate heat and work treatments, will yield springs. And there are alloys which make highly effective springs in a straight as-cast condition. In analogy, you can't educate a piece of cast iron - and there are some alloys that don't need to be educated; they have the wanted characteristics built in. Plenty of individuals have proven resoundingly that a man who has that education-absorption characteristic gets his education even if it's clearly impossible. The Negroes who complain so bitterly about poor educational opportunities, for instance, should consider George Washington Carver's life a bit more carefully; he, like Abraham Lincoln, saw to it he got an education, despite the near-impossibility of the conditions he faced. These were selfish men indeed; they worked hard doing something for themselves, instead of whimpering to have others do it for them.
Michael Faraday did it in science. How about "Joseph Conrad" an essentially uneducated Polish seaman who decided to write in a language - English - other than his native tongue because his works would have a wider market.
Certainly there will always be a great majority of individuals who don't have that tremendous level of built-in drive and determination - people who can, with adequate educational opportunity become useful, self-supporting and self-respecting citizens who, without that external help, would gravitate to the "unselfish" category of those who don't do things for themselves. The alloys that make powerful and highly elastic springs in the as-cast condition are few, highly expensive, and seldom used, too; practically all springs are the result of starting with a good, workable alloy, and applying heat and work treatments - educating an educable alloy.
But to hold that all alloys are educable to the same degree is absolute nonsense. What school was it that turned out Einstein? Did they operate that school only once, for one individual, for some reason?
Now one of the most important aspects of education for the low-grade student is convincing him that he damned well better learn as much as he himself is able to - because if he doesn't work at it, he's going to pay for his laziness in future misery and discomfort.
The hyperinfracaniphiliac however, is busy assuring the inferior human alloy individuals that they should, indeed, be unselfish - and let other people support them. They are repeatedly assured that they don't have to exert any extra effort, because they will be assured equal rewards in our society, even if they don't work.
Why shouldn't the "drop-out" drop out? Go ahead, sucker - work and get all that education, and get a job. So what does it get you, huh? The drop-out gets welfare, relief, unemployment payments, et cetera, and antipoverty supplies, and has three hundred sixty-five holidays a year, and a lot more orators defending him, discussing his good, unselfish attitude than you have defending yours!
What pressure is there to make the lower end of the ability scale even try to develop himself? He could, with some real effort, achieve considerable development of his limited potentials, and achieve self-respect - by being selfish, and doing something for himself. Instead, encouraged by all those hyperinfracaniphiliacs, he relaxes, stops making even minimal efforts, and achieves self-respect by listening to the TV orators explaining how he's just as good as anyone else because he's human, and he has just as much rights because he's a citizen - he got born here, which, fortunately, takes no effort whatever on his part.
Why should this individual of low inherent ability try to make the most of his limited potentials?
You, poor sucker, were born not only with potentials, but with a drive to use them (or you wouldn't have achieved an educational level that makes this magazine interesting to you). You're stuck with being selfish, and working for your own development. He isn't - so why should he, since he will be honored, respected, and fed without working?
The hyperinfracaniphiliacs are establishing a situation with the interesting characteristic that those individuals born with relatively low potentials are strongly encouraged to not develop what talents they have! If he doesn't try at all, he can't fail - and he will retain self-respect because he is assured that he is Human and a Citizen and An Underprivileged Man to whom The Society Owes Something.
He doesn't try, therefore doesn't fail; if he did make a real effort, and fully recognized that his abilities were limited, he wouldn't have the comforting self-respect of accepting that he is, really, Just As Good As Any Other Man. He couldn't feel so wholeheartedly that he was an Oppressed Victim of Society and that his poverty was not his own fault.
Poverty doesn't make poor people; poor people make poverty. The test is quite simple; consider what has happened when a different type, or group of people has been put in a precisely similar circumstance.
It isn't slums that make slum-dwellers; slum-dwellers are a type of people who, when they move into an area, make slums.
You can not solve that problem by giving poor people goods and money; they'll make poverty of it. You can't end slums by moving the slum-dwellers into new, clean, well-built housing - but you can end the slum by moving non-slum-dwellers into the dirty, rat-and-louse infested, run-down buildings of the slum. Rat traps are cheap; DDT is readily available, soap, water, scrub brushes, paint and paint brushes are readily come by. Most slum areas have heavy unemployment; how come all those unemployed people can see nothing to do in their dirty, dilapidated and unpainted slum homes? How come they keep complaining about it so loudly, and demanding that somebody should fix it for them?
Because they're so unselfish, of course.