|I don't particularly know why I am posting this other than I read it when I was young and it has never left me. I don't even agree with all of it but I do agree with some of it.
It exists nowhere else on the net that I can find (I have just spent 30 minutes transcribing it) and it is a passage from 'Notes from Underground' (1864) by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The reason the title of this post is podpolie is that is the is the original Russian word in the title meaning 'under the floorboards'. There is no literal english translation for that so they used 'underground' to keep the title reasonably snappy.I would say enjoy it but I don't think that is the right word
In fact, this has already happened to him . Have you noticed that it is the most civilized gentlemen who have been the subtlest slaughterers? To whom the attillas could not hold a candle and if they are not so conspicuous as the attillas it is simply because they are so often met with or are so ordinary and have become so familiar to us. In any case, civilization has made mankind, if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever. Which is worse? Decide that for yourselves. They say that Cleopatra, excuse an instance from Roman history, was fond of sticking gold pins into her slave girls breasts and derived gratification from their screams and writhings. You will say that that was in the comparatively barbarous times. But these are barbarous times too, because also, comparatively speaking, pins are stuck in even now. That though now man has learned to see more clearly than in barbarous ages he is still far from learned how to act as reason and science would dictate. But yet you are fully convinced that he will be certain to learn when he gets rid of certain old bad habits and when common sense and science have completely reeducated human nature and turned it in a normal direction. You are confident that then man will cease from intentional error and will, so to say, be compelled not to want to set his will against his normal interests. That is not all. Then, you say, science itself will teach man, though to my mind it's a superfluous luxury, that he never has really had any will or caprice of his own and that he himself is something of the nature of a piano key or the stop of an organ and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature…so that everything he does is not done by his willing it but is done of itself – by the laws of nature. Consequently, we have only to discover these laws of nature and man will no longer have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him. All human actions will then of course be tabulated according to these laws mathematically like tables of logarithms up to 108,000 and entered in an index. Or, better still there would be published certain edifying works of the nature of encyclopaedic lexicons in which everything would be so clearly calculated and explained that there would be no more incidence or adventures in the world. Then -this is all what you say-new economic relations would be established - all ready made and worked out with mathematical exactitude so that every possible question will vanish in the twinkling of an eye simply because every possible answer to it will be provided then the…palace of crystal will be built. Then, in fact...those will be halcyon days. Of course there is no guarantee...this is my comment, that it will not be, for instance, frightfully dull then. For what will one have to do when everything will be calculated and tabulated? But on the other hand everything will be extraordinarily rational. Of course boredom may lead you to anything. It is boredom sets one sticking golden pins into people. But all that would not matter, what is bad, this is my comment again, is that I dare say people will be thankful for the gold pins then. Man is stupid you know, phenomenally stupid. Or rather he is not stupid but he is so ungraceful that you could not find another like him in all creation. I for instance, would not be in the least surprised if all of a sudden, apropos of nothing, in the midst of general prosperity, a gentleman of ignoble or rather a reactionary and ironical countenance were to arise and putting his arms akimbo say to us all
"And what is it, that civilization softens in us? The only gain of civilization for mankind is the greater capacity for variety of sensations and absolutely nothing more, and through the development of this many-sidedness man may come to finding enjoyment in bloodshed.
'I say gentlemen hadn't we better kick over the whole show and scatter rationalism to the winds simply to send these logarithms to the devil and to enable us to live once more at out own sweet foolish will?' That again would not matter, but what is annoying, is that he would be sure to find followers. Such is the nature of man. And all that for the most foolish reason, which one would think is hardly worth mentioning…that is that man everywhere, at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and his advantage dictated".