Men vs the man

In his last letter to La Monte, on the question of Socialism against Individualism, he writes

I am not a religious man, but I cannot think upon my own good fortune in life without a feeling that my thanks should go forth, somewhere and to someone. Wealth and eminence and power are beyond my poor strength and skill but on the side of sheer chance I am favoured beyond all computation. My day’s work is not an affliction but a pleasure; my labour selling in the open market, brings me the comforts that I desire; I am assured against all but a remote danger of starvation in my old age. Outside my window, in the street, a man labours in the rain with pick and shovel, and his reward is merely a roof for to-night and tomorrow’s three meals. Contemplating the difference between his luck and mine, I cannot fail to wonder at the eternal meaninglessness of life. I wonder thus and pity his lot, and then, after a while, perhaps, I begin to reflect that in many ways he is probably luckier than I.

But I wouldn’t change places with him.

The series of letters between La Monte and Mencken are quite interesting and both sides are persuasive. For a brief moment, La Monte almost persuaded me to socialism, but I think at the end, I have to agree with Mencken that socialism attempts to fight the laws of nature.

The charge of racism on Mencken, I think is justified. His view of the Aframerican, the Russian peasant and Jew doesn’t leave any doubts as to his low opinion of them.

In general, it is a good read.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

68 thoughts on “Men vs the man

  1. john zande says:

    It’s inexcusable, but being a product of the high colonial era when western authority and technology swept aside all before it there was perhaps a compulsion even in the minds of learned/thoughtful men to believe (erroneously) that the European stock inhabited some higher rung in evolution. From inside their teak and chestnut libraries Humanism would not have seemed a particularly valid worldview given the experiences (and comforts) flowing in but one direction.


    • makagutu says:

      He was a brilliant fellow and his racism is, well, inexcusable. He got many things right though. His comments on religion for one are to the point


      • john zande says:

        It is interesting to note how the US did produce many brilliant voices who tore Christianity/religion apart, like Mencken, but how those voices failed to penetrate the psyche of the “general” population, allowing evangelical nonsense to thrive. This is in stark contrast to the European/Commonwealth experience where religion morphed into more of a cultural expression (handling births, deaths, marriages and nothing really else) rather than external way of life.


  2. john zande says:

    Here, do you like this?

    Hope, observed Nietzsche in a moment of scandalous clarity, is the greatest of evils for it lengthens the ordeal of man.

    More important, however, than its contribution to quantity, hope is that essential element in refining the quality of suffering—complicating existence in astonishing and oftentimes gorgeous ways. Indeed, above all other things, hope is that stimulative breath that inspires within those organisms capable of being inspired investment in a future sensed but not seen. It is, in simple expression, a contract to complication.


  3. shelldigger says:

    You know, in my moments most dire, in my times of down and out, hope was less available to me than was determination. Hope in my view is waiting, wishing for something to get better. Determination on the other hand is actively working to make things better.

    My hope is restricted to things like, hoping my kids have good lives, with only enough hardship to breed determination. 🙂


  4. Nice post and great comments.


  5. Ruth says:

    I’m grateful every day for various and sundry things that I’ve been afforded in life. Grateful to whom? The Universe? Mother Earth? I have no idea to whom I should feel grateful and am not convinced there is one to be grateful to. Still, it does not diminish my appreciation for life.


  6. William says:

    I had already been thinking about buying this, but your comment persuaded me to buy it.


  7. […] I am talking about Mencken’s letters to La Monte by the same title. I am writing about man as he is in the African setting, or rather in traditional […]


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