The Perfectibility of Man! Ah heaven, what a dreary theme! The perfectibility of which man? I’m many men. Which of them are you going to perfect? Politics! Which of the various me’s do you propose to educate, and which do you propose to suppress? Anyhow, I defy you. I defy you, oh society, to educate me or to suppress me, according to your dummy standards. The ideal man! And which is he, if you please? George Washington, Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln? There are other men in me, besides this egghead who’s revealing a truth which he himself doesn’t understand. What am I doing? Who am I talking to? Who are you, at the other end of this patience? Who are you? How many selves have you? And which of these selves do you want to be? The ideal self! Oh, but I’ve a strange and fugitive self shut out and howling like a wolf or a coyote under the ideal windows. See his red eyes in the dark? This is the self who’s coming into his own. The perfectibility of man, dear God! When every man as long as he remains alive is in himself a multitude of conflicting men. Which of these do you choose to perfect, at the expense of every other? Franklin with his moral humorisms will tell you. He’ll rig him up for you, the pattern American. Oh, Franklin was the first downright American. He knew what he was about, the sharp little man. He set up the first dummy American. At the beginning of his career this cunning little Benjamin drew up for himself a creed that should ‘satisfy the professors of every religion, but shock none’. Now wasn’t that a real American thing to do? ‘That there’s One God, who made all things.’ (But Benjamin made Him.) ‘That He governs the world by His Providence.’ (Benjamin knowing all about Providence.) ‘That He ought to be worshipped with adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.’ (Which cost nothing.) ‘But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to men.’ (God having no choice in the matter.) ‘That the soul is immortal. And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here or hereafter.’ The Gods invented by the Arabians or Jews had apparently been overpowered by Benjamin’s indelible trademark. God is the supreme servant of men who want to get on, to produce. Providence. The provider. The heavenly storekeeper. The God and sages had grown one. The American sages vouchsafed by the American Perfectibility. The omniscient and omnipotent George Washington, who’ll remember his Long Island fiasco? And Abraham Lincoln’s halo at the Capitol Hill has outlasted his highest distinction as ‘battle-botcher’. Indeed America is a melting pot, but what can you expect from it? How can the ideological scraps poured by the European origins be melted into an alloy of ‘Freedom, Equality and Fraternity’? If it’s an unjust law the immigrants would abolish, that law was written with their own hand upon their own forehead. And if it’s a despot they would elude, his throne was erected within all plebeians, if they only knew it. Like the caged taking wings they swarmed into America, and immediately lost their ways on such an untrodden prairie. Right time, right place, Benjamin stood out with a signpost----the immortal soul: 1. Temperance Eat not to fullness; drink not to elevation. 2. Silence Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. 3. Order Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. 4. Resolution Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. 5. Frugality Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself----i.e. waste nothing. 6. Industry Lose no time, be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary action. 7. Sincerity Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 8. Justice Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. 9. Moderation Avoid extremes, forbear resenting injuries as much as you think they deserve. 10. Cleanliness Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. 11. Tranquility Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. 12. Chastity Rarely use venery but for health and offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. 13. Humility Imitate Jesus and Socrates. Well, the first of Americans practiced this enticing list with assiduity, setting a national example. His conduct charts carried the indication of converting the melting pot into a molding box, regardless of the individuality. But the thing is, each man has a soul, though you can’t locate it either in his purse or his pocket-book or his heart or his stomach or his head. The wholeness of a man is his soul. Not merely that nice little comfortable bit which Benjamin marks out. It’s a queer thing is a man’s soul. It’s the whole of him. Which means it’s the unknown him, as well as the known. It seems to me just funny, professors and Benjamins fixing the functions of the soul. Why? The soul of man is a vast forest, and all Benjamin intended was a neat back garden. And we’ve all got to fit into his kitchen garden scheme of things. The soul of man is a dark forest. The Hercynian Wood that scared the Romans so, and out of which came the white-skinned hordes of the next civilization. Who knows what will come out of the soul of man? The soul of man is a dark vast forest, with wild life in it. Think of Benjamin fencing it off! Oh, but Benjamin fenced a little tract that he called the soul of man, and proceeded to get it into cultivation. He tried to shove people into a barbed wire paddock and make them grow potatoes or Chicagoes. Benjamin didn’t let people have souls of their own. He said they were nothing but servants of mankind----galley-slaves I called them----and if they didn’t get their wages here below----that is, if the grand United States Government managed to scoop in their bits----why, never mind, they shall get their wages hereafter. Oh Benjamin! You don’t suck me in any longer. And why, oh why should the snuff-colored little trap have wanted to take us all in? Why did he do it? Out of sheer human cussedness, in the first place. We do all like to get things inside a barbed wire enclosure of freedom, and make’em work, ‘Work, you free jewel, work!’ shouts the liberator, cracking his whip. Benjamin, in his sagacity, knew that the breaking of the old world was a long process. In the depths of his own underconsciousness he hated England, he hated Europe, he hated the whole corpus of the European being. He wanted to be American. But you can’t change your nature and mode of consciousness like changing your shoes. It’s a gradual shedding. Years must go by, and centuries must elapse before you’ve finished. Like a son escaping from the domination of his parents. The escape isn’t just one rupture. It’s a long and half-secret process. So he set up an unlovely, snuff-colored little ideal, or automation, of a pattern American, this dry, moral, utilitarian little democrat, which, later on, threw its military muscles around for the sake of oil, and kicked Saddam’s ass simply to stimulate the munitions industry. Benjamin, I won’t work. I don’t choose to be a free democrat. I’m absolutely a servant of my own Holy Grail.