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Volume 2379d
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Doubleday Edition: Frank Frazetta wrap-around dust jacket
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Review Part III-C: Civilization And Its Malcontents
by R.E. Prindle
Continued from Part IIIb

Thuvia, Maid of Mars - eText Edition

     Let us say that for the fifty years or so before the 1920s there was a growing sense of societal malaise.  This malaise was reflected most notably in the creation of  Edgar Rice Burroughs' psychological projection, Tarzan Of The Apes.   One has to account for the immediate acception by society of such an absurdity.  Tarzan, if fact, completely rejected civilization for the life of the  romantic 'unrestrained freedom' of the jungle.  The noble savage in fact.

     Thus in a metaphor Burroughs reflected the malaise of his time so brilliantly that his creation was accepted as virtually a real person.  Writers like Grant and Stoddard put the same theme into more scholarly terms.  As noted, contrary to Richard Slotkin's idea Grant had little or no influence on Burroughs while the slightly later Lothrop Stoddard whose three relevant works appeared only from 1920 to 1922 could have had no influence on Burroughs' formative years.   It seems probable that Burroughs did read Stoddard and was influenced by his work but only after his ideas were fully formed.  Even then, The Revolt Against Civilization appeared after Burroughs had examined some of the same problems in his rejected manuscript, Under The Red Flag of 1919.

     The problem of the malcontents and their war on civilization was examined by a number of writers during the twenties and thirties so why Slotkin singled out Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard isn't as clear as it might be.  Postwar German cinema was intesnely concerned with the matter as why should it not?  Germany was under asault by what Stoddard called the Underman.  Nor need Slotkin think Stoddard was alone.  I'm sure there were dozens of forgotten books prophesying the end of the world by one means or another including the Undermen of Communism.

     The Underman, or the Communist, was not even a term unique to Stoddard.  Gustave Le Bon, the French scholar on whose work Sigmund Freud based his study Group Psychology And The Analysis Of The Ego wrote prolifically on the pschological foundations of the Underman.  Freud based his book on Le Bon's 1895 study  The Psychology Of Crowds.  Unless Iím mistaken he based his 1930 study Civilization And Its Discontents on Le Bon's 1921 book The World In Revolt: A Psychological Study Of Our Times.

     On the cinematic side the problem was examined in the great silent films The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's 1922 film Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler.  Lang would follow that ten years later with the sound film The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.

     Even though Burroughs' Under The Red Flag was rejected in 1919 he persisted, rewriting and extending the text into the 1926 story, The Moon Maid.  This story reflects a possible reading of The Revolt Against Civilization but such a reading was much more evident in 1934's Tarzan And The Lion Man.

     The development of the problem was evident to all these writers which it seems to have escaped Slotkin who attributes the recognition of societal evolution to mere 'racism' in the writers.  One thinks that perhaps Slotkin is too involved in his own agenda.

     Rider Haggard enunciated the problem quite clearly in his 1888 novel Allan Quatermain, in which Quatermain grouses about the 'strict limits' of civilization compared to the 'natural' life of the African Zulus.  It might almost seem that the idea of Tarzan arose in Burroughs' mind from that observation.  In fact science was undermining all the comforting beliefs that mankind had been settled in for a hundred thousand years.  During that long period characterized by the mental mode of what is called mythopoeic thinking man's mind devoid of true knowledge projected a vision of reality that resulted in the notion of God.  Thus reasoning from insufficient knowledge man's mind came up with an erroneous result.  You can't get out of a mind what isn't in it; all education is suggestion.

     As Freud was to say man's settled view of reality received its three great shocks when Galileo disproved the geocentric notion of the universe, Darwin disproved the uniqueness of manís position in the animal kingdom and he, Freud, displaced the conscious mind with his vision of the unconscious mind.  Once again Le Bon was there ahead of him.

     Thus as the nineteenth century opened and progressed the bases of mankind's notions of reality were shattered leaving him emotionally and intellectually bereft of foundations of belief.  Adrift without an anchor.

     As if that were not bad enough the great cataclysm that ushered in the modern era, The French Revolution, was based on the absolute notion that not only were all men created equal but remained equal in all aspects of their existence.  The advance of civilization would toss this certainty into the trash can of history also.

     As civilization placed greater and greater demands on the intelligence and self-discipline of men and women the incontestable gap between those less intelligent and those more intelligent became more and more obvious.  Thus as the century progressed the notion of the Overman and the Underman began to become clear.

     At the same time the first tentative efforts at measuring the intellectual potential of the individual began to become possible.  Of course the basic inequality of men and women in its physical aspect had always been apparent.  Some men were naturally stronger and better muscled than others.  But, even that was changing. The science of physical culture was making it possible for the 98 lb. weakling to develop himself into a man mountain.  Thus artifically developed strongmen like the Great Sandow ushered in the golden age of the strong man topped off by Charles Atlas, who guaranteed he could turn you into a man mountain if you followed his program.

     There was the promise that you could dethrone that bully and kick sand back in his face.  On the other side Francis Galton was originating the first primitive tests to measure intelligence potential.  Burroughs would have seen both proponents during his miraculous summer of 1893 at the Chicago Columbian Exposition.  I mean to say that both facts entered his mind where they could be digested and emerge later.  Nothing can come out of your mind that didnít go in it.

     And then after the turn of the century Binet devised he first actual IQ test.  Thus, just as Sandow and Atlas could measure the size of muscles, the psychologists became able to measure the intelligence potential.  Those with high IQs were set up; those with low IQs were cooked.  The upshot was that all men were not created equal, nor could they ever attain intellectual equality.

     To a very large extent what became the Communist Party recognized the inequality while demanding equality against reason.  Recognizing subconsciously, perhaps, that men could never be intellectual equals rather than try the futile task of raising the less fortunate, they sought to destroy education, which brings out the inequality but doesn't create it.   No matter what happens there are always going to be the more intelligent just as there will always be the physical stronger.  As Le Bon points out, if you needed to hear it, nature don't know from equality.

     Thus the Communist Party devised the well-sounding slogan -- From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.  Good plan for the needy, slavery for the able.  The needy were organized, beginning their struggle to achieve superiority by collective action.  This was accomplished in Russia in 1917.  The battle was joined.

     Just as individuals are created with different capabilities so are peoples and races.  Some can achieve and some can't.  Slotkin who must be a Communist thus takes offence at what he perceives to be, and is, an attitude of White Supremacy in Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard.  While I am aware there are those who will disagree with White superiority it is nevertheless not an attitude but an evolutionary fact.  That is the reason Communists have Darwin under attack.  While Darwin doesnít say it it is the inevitable result of his studies.  Just as it was necessary for the Undermen to destroy education in the hopes of creating intellectual equality so it became necessary to destroy White achievement of the last five hundred years.  The whites must be demonized and made to feel evil and inferior morally.  That is the import of Slotkin's Gunfighter Nation.

     At that level all three writers are guilty.  As has been stated in Canadian courts -- Truth is not a defense.  So there's nothing to discuss.  Might is right and whoever has the might will prevail.

     It is a fact that all three writers were anti-Communists so it may be assumed that whatever Communists believe, they didn't.  And why should they?  Might may be right, but it can still be nonsense.  Communism is a flawed ideology based on a false premise.  It always fails wherever it is introduced.  Failure is not evidence of a bad plan in Communist eyes.  One just continues to shovel sand against the tide and pray.  So succeed or fail, they always think they can succeed by the same flawed ideology.  The fault for failure lies elsewhere.

     In that sense Burroughs was wasting his time assailing this religion of failure with his Under The Red Flag and its successor The Moon Maid.  The only people who would applaud his effort would be we non-Communists, but he could never convince anyone with Communist leanings.  Of course that wasn't well understood at the time.

     If Burroughs were accused of not believing in equality that would be true.  Not only are John Carter and Tarzan superior to any contemporaries on two worlds, but Burroughs has a whole hierarchy of value.  John Carter is the Warlord of Mars ruling from the top city of Mars, Helium.  The races of Mars pretty much reflect those of  Earth and their relative stations.  The main exception is the ruling Red race.  As Whites do and have existed on Mars while at one time being the dominant race perhaps the Red race is some sort of amalgam of the various Eropean immigrants of the United States.  I believe the Green Men represent the American Indian.  Both roam the great plains while being essentially savages.

     Tarzan though always spoken of as being White, is described as a bronze giant.  Bronze is a fairly dark metal so that Tarzan and the Red men of Mars may be more or less identical in color.

     Tarzan is the man-god so there are none superior or even equal to him.  Below him come the English who are the cream of mankind.  Perhaps slightly below the English are the French and then the rest of the Whites.  Tarzan himself is psychologically an animal having been raised by the Apes.  Not your ordinary gorilla or chimp but a species intermediate between gorilla and the Negro.  Slotkin hasn't read enough Burroughs to make an intelligent comment but the undeniable attitude of Burroughs is enough for Slotkin to condemn him as an unregenerate bigot.  The reader may believe as he likes.  I have stated my opinion elsewhere and that is enough. Whether any of these opinions of Burroughs influenced American soldiers at My Lai is open to question.  The burden of proof is on Slotkin and he hasnít lifted it.

     Along with the Undermen however, speaking through Tarzan, Burroughs is heartily discontented with civilization.

      The spectacle of Chicago of the 1890s as a dirty unpleasant place haunts Burroughs.  In contrast to the great White City of the Columbian Expo was what was after known as the Black City of everyday Chicago.  The contrast was so strong and so offensive to the Undermen that within a year of the Expo's closing the entire White City was burned to the ground with the exception of one building.  Hence perhaps the decayed crimson and gold ruins of Opar and the crimson and gold twin cities of Helium.  One wonders what effect the sight of the ruin of the White City had on Burroughs when he revisited the site sometime after his miraculous summer of '93.  The mind creates nothing from nothing so there must have been models of the great cities of ERB's imagination.

     There are points at which Burroughs and Communism have quite similar views.  It will be remembered that Burroughs only reluctantly married and throughout his life expressed discontent with the institution.  To some extent or other ERB must have been an advocate of free love.  Communists would have heartily approved of ERB's women who went nude except for certain 'adornments.'  Communists of course, want women to be accesible to any man who wants them at any time, while they have always advocated bare breasts.

     In many ways when the Communists appropriated Tarzan for the MGM movies it took but slight changes to make Tarzan conform to their ideals.   The MGM Tarzan and Jane were not married.  While Burroughs' Tarzan was a highly educated on-again off-again sophisticate the MGM Tarzan was a stupid illiterate oaf, but one who rejected the attributes of civilization high up there in the Cloud CuckooLand of the Mutia Plateau.

     On the essentials though Burroughs rejected the demands of the Underman as The Moon Maid clearly shows.  There was very little in Stoddard's The Revolt Against Civilization that Burroughs would have disagreed with.  At the same time there was probably very little he didn't already believe although he had never codified his information as Stoddard had.  Slotkin's contention that Burroughs was influenced by either Grant or Stoddard is surely wrong.  ERB had already taken hs positions before either men had begun to write.

     Each writer was, in his own way, an advocate of White Supremacy.  It now become clear that White Supremacy has nothing to do with a fringe element in Liberal ideology.  All Whites are White Supremacists in that ideology unless they reject ĎWhite skin privilegeí  whatever that is.   Ayers and Dorhn explain in their recent Race Course In White Supremacy.  Interestingly constructed title.  Nor as Slotkin would have it is the attitude based on mere racial pride and bigotry, but on a solid record of achievement unattained by any other people.  The question is not was it right for some people to rule or be supreme, because in the nature of things some people will rule and be supreme, but which of the peoples are most qualified to be supreme.

     All people have had equal opportunity so that one can only conclude that the race has gone to the most qualified participant.  In the contest the Whites  unified the other peoples against them as must inevitably be the consequence of being the top people.  As they say, getting there is the easy part; staying there is the hard part.

     Slotkin merely represents the envious losers, the Undermen.  who clutch at any firebrand to burn the White House down.  Who is most to be admired and emulated?  Builders or destroyers?

Finis of Thuvia, Maid Of Mars Review


 
 
THUVIA REVIEW CONTENTS
Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5


WEB REFS

Richard Slotkin
Madison Grant
Lothrop Stoddard
The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man by Lothrop Stoddard
The Passing Of The Great Race by Madison Grant
Conquest of a Continent: A Review by R.E. Prindle
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