Happy anniversary, OWS! From the Damned Human Race

Today, October 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrates its one-month anniversary. Congratulations to the protesters who are sacrificing comfort to bring attention to the sad state of the U.S. economy.

To those commentators and critics who claim the movement doesn’t have a clear message or goal, I have to say: wake up and listen. The message is clear: the 1 percent have grown rich off the labor of the 99 percent, and redistribution of the wealth is in order. Why are so many people protesting? Duh, because they don’t have, and they want and need, jobs.

Every time I read my “favorite” section of the Sunday New York Times – “Sunday Styles,” the section I love to hate – I’m reminded of how the 1 percent live in a different universe than we, the 99 percent, do.

Mark Twain wrote about “The Damned Human Race” in his Letters from the Earth: “I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man [sic].  I find the result humiliating to me.  For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.”

Twain used “the scientific method” to study and compare humans with other animals. In the course of his research, he came across “a case where, many years ago, some hunters on our Great Plains organized a buffalo hunt for the entertainment of an English earl…. They killed seventy-two of those great animals; and ate part of one of them and left the seventy-one to rot.  In order to determine the difference between an anaconda and an earl (if any),” he delivered “seven young calves” to a caged anaconda….

“The grateful reptile immediately crushed one of them and swallowed it, then lay back satisfied.  It showed no further interest in the calves, and no disposition to harm them.  I tried this experiment with other anacondas; always with the same result.  The fact stood proven that the difference between an earl and an anaconda is that the earl is cruel and the anaconda isn’t; and that the earl wantonly destroys what he has no use for, but the anaconda doesn’t.  This seemed to suggest that the anaconda was not descended from the earl.  It also seemed to suggest that the earl was descended from the anaconda, and had lost a good deal in the transition.”

He continues: “The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses.  Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War.  He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind.  He is the only animal that for sordid wages will…help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel…. And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor (some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance)…till we have reached the bottom stage of development (namable as the Human Being).  Below us, nothing.”

While the “occupiers” and their supporters are demonstrating that human beings can be caring, compassionate, and communitarian, the 1 percent, alas, are living up to Twain’s expectations.


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