"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.
Today begins the serialisation of The Perfect Eugenic State by Dr. Halliday Sutherland, published in 1936. For an introduction that explains the context of the story, click here.
In the heart of man is a desire to possess property and freedom; and to enjoy the one he must have the other. Of all philosophies and religions that endanger the soul, the most monstrous is that which advocates as a means to happiness the abolition of property and freedom. To-day, there are thousands of unhappy people who lack these essentials of well-being; and much of our social reform is immoral, not because it interferes with individual liberty, but because it distracts attention from the true roots of those evils against which it is directed.
For example, it is wrong to remove a feeble-minded child to an institution and to leave untouched the ghastly social system that makes children feeble-minded. It were better to leave that child in its home, as there the sight might soften the heart of Dives, or rouse a people to action.
Our present condition is indeed pitiable. On the one hand are Communists and Socialists who would abolish all right of ownership to private property; and, on the other, the servile State, wherein is loud talk of control, of segregation, and of eliminating the unfit. Meanwhile the Praetorian guard maintains order in the streets. And yet, unless the hearts of men are changed and they return to the faith that is Europe, out of this State made servile by atheism there may yet be born a pagan commune, “Dark with the dismal anarchy of dreams, where everything is false, and therefore free.” It is of this thing that I write.
Mr. Smith, better known in State records as H/99 Hampstead—this being also the address of the house in which he lived—entered the breakfast room at 4:00 a.m., punctual to a second. With its white-painted walls, rounded cornices, tiled floor, and windows wide open to the fresh but cold morning breeze, the room was in perfect taste hygienically. It was furnished with a table and four chairs, fashioned out of angle-iron enamelled white, and the only attempt at mural decorative art was a genuine photogravure of Mr. Sidney Webb. On the wall beside the door was a time-recorder, and as Smith pressed the button bearing his number a bell rang and a red light, then a white light, appeared for a second. By these signs Smith knew that the time of his arrival was duly recorded at the Bureau of Industry. His comrade, on festive occasions called Mrs. Smith, and their two children—Henry, age twenty-one, and Jane, aged seventeen—were already standing round the table. Without more ado Smith took his place at the end of the table and in a loud, clear voice read the Act of Parliament for the day.
As it happened to be Chromosome, the 73rd day of the month Electron in the year of the Communist State 142, the appropriate Act had reference to the necessity for, and value of, deep-breathing exercises, in which the whole family afterwards engaged. Refreshed by these gymnastics, they sat down to eat. No meat was on the glass-topped table, but there was a liberal supply of congealed carbohydrate and a large flagon of sterile distilled water. The dress of the household was uniform in type, no distinction being made between the sexes, but the married were to be distinguished from the unmarried by means of a yellow patch stamped with the Government arms full, too broad arrows rampant; and this was worn by Mr. and Mrs. Smith on the left shoulder of their tunics. Glancing round the healthy table, Smith enquired with a smile, “All well?” And to the salutation each in turn replied, “All correct.”
“I know someone who isn’t well,” said Henry.
“Indeed?” asked his father.
“Yes, fifty-eight Pancras—old Jones, you know—was taken off yesterday; his family haven’t had a report yet.”
For a moment there were silence. “Come, come,” said Smith hurriedly, “we must keep cheerful”; and he hastened to open a Government envelope. Having read the contents, he turned to his son in righteous indignation. “Henry, I am pained to learn from this letter, sent by the Ministry of Eugenics, that you have been holding conversations with the girl in the next street without sanction of the Ministry; and, worse than that, there’s a statement from the Secret Search Commission that a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets was found hidden under your bed. You know very well, sir, that all poetry is on the State Index Expurgatorius, and that possession of any love poetry is a felony.”
“Poetry!” exclaimed Mrs. Smith, shuddering.
“The whole thing is a very grave and serious reflection on me,” added his father.
“Well that’s got nothing to do with me as a Unit,” replied Henry.
It has, indeed, sir, as you’ll soon find out. My defence is clear. Only last Rest Day I read aloud the laws and appendices of the Ministry of Eugenics, whereby such actions are prescribed.”
“I am very sorry, Smith,” said his son, “but I wanted to know how they managed in ancient days when a Unit chose his own comrade—sweethearts I think they called them.”
“Great State!” moaned Mrs. Smith.
“Well, well, Mrs. Smith,” said Smith wearily, “boys will be boys.”
“Cease,” shouted Mrs. Smith, “don’t Mrs. Smith me. I’m H/99/a Hampstead, and boys are not boys, nor are girls. The’ye underdeveloped Units with insane delusions—the vestigial taint of Christian times. My poor dear mother at least taught me the Acts of Parliament,” she and she sobbed bitterly.
“But,” protested Smith, “both our children were at the State Asylum and recently cured. Surely this conversation is treason.”
“Both these children were left out of the asylum too soon, and if they follow H/99 they’ll end up in their Lethal Institute before their time.”
“The State forbid,” murmured Smith.
At that moment the door opened and a keen, hatchet-faced man entered. “Act 43, Section XI. Right of entry at all hours to Inspector of Cheerfulness. All cheerful, I hope?”
“Yes, sir,” said Smith, rising with the others; “all cheerful; Very cheerful indeed, sir.”
As he produced his red notebook the Inspector rapidly scrutinised each member of the family in turn. “No, not all cheerful. You, for one, are not cheerful, H/99 Hampstead; but that’s now beyond my department. What’s the name of this Unit? He’s got a curious expression on his face.”
“That’s Henry, sir.”
“How long has he been looking like that?”
“Looking like what, sir?”
“Looking like that.”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“You don’t know!” Said the Inspector, and he crossed the room to the telephone. “Hello! I want Mental Emergencies…. is that you, Mental…. This is Inspector Weevil. I’m speaking from H/99 Hampstead. There is a case of suppressed complex here…. No, it’s not been notified…. Very good, send out a psycho-analyst at once. Right you are.”
“Now then,” said the Inspector, more cheerfully, turning to the family, “what’s the name and number of this girl?”
“Jane sir,” answered Smith, “born seventeen years ago, vaccinated five times, inoculated thrice, hypnotised once, state asylum… all the papers are in order. H/99/a/½ is her number.”
“She will be in this house at twenty-three o’clock, when the Special Woman Inspector for the young female Units will call.”
“Very good, sir,” said Smith.
“I won’t!” exclaimed Jane, looking at her brother.
“Oh,” sobbed Mrs. Smith, “this is awful!… ‘won’t’.”
“Keep silent,” said the Inspector. “That child is a Christian.”
“No, no, she’s not, sir,” groaned Smith.
“She is. And instead of contradicting, let’s see your dictaphone records. That’ll show how you have been getting along in this happy home.”
Smith dragged out a large cabinet from beneath the table, and this the inspector unlocked with his key. “What’s this here?” he exclaimed. “There’s been a quarrel in this house. That’s what it is. The record shows high voices, and curious expressions, eh? How about it?”
“We all deplore it, sir; we all deplore it,” said Smith earnestly.
“I dare say you do,” replied the Inspector, “and I’ll tell you what it is, H/99. It’s a good thing for you that you didn’t live at a time when what you they called money was used; because, what with fines for one thing and another, you have had nothing left. That’s to say, if we Inspectors were to do our duty… Well, now, I must be getting along.”
Amongst his far-off ancestors were some who had followed the calling of a policeman, and as he left the house a small packet of carbohydrate was pressed into his hand by Smith. But, so preoccupied was the Inspector, he made no outward acknowledgement of the gift.
The hours passed and various officials called. An investigator of the Chimneypiece Ornaments and the Agent for the Society of Hygienic Wallpapers (with powers under the act) were early arrivals. The Special Woman Inspector insisted on cropping Jane’s hair, and Henry had long and painful interview with these Psycho-Analyst. One Searcher found a blanket that was not all wool, whilst another detected a couple of weeds in the little six-feet garden; but as these were minor offences it was not altogether a bad morning for H/99. Moreover, it was nearing noon, when Smith would be free to go to his four hours’ work a day, and during these hours he bred ferrets for the vivisection experiments of professors at the State Pandaemonium.
As Smith was about to leave the house a closed motor car stopped at the gate and a large fat man stepped out. This personage came up the steps and taking Smith’s arm, led him in a friendly fashion into the breakfast-room. The fat man then closed the door and smiled.
“All correct,” said Smith, feeling somewhat uneasy; “perhaps you are the Inspector of—of Inspectors?”
“No, no, not so bad as that. I’m a Commissioner. We don’t leave everything to the Inspectors, you know. Now, Smith, my friend, you’re not happy.”
“Oh, yes, indeed I am, sir, very happy.”
“Well, well; we can have a chat about that on the way. I’m going to take you for a little drive.”
The Commissioner opened the door and led Smith towards the closed car. As they went down the steps Smith’s heart was thumping against his ribs. This physical emotion was utterly unreasonable, because the big man had been quite civil, and was neither pulling nor pushing him. Indeed, it seemed to Smith’s if the Commissioner was merely pawing him gently; and yet in his cerebral cortex, owing doubtless to some vestigial taint from primordial times, the molecules were in a state of senseless panic.
Where is Smith being taken, and why? Find out tomorrow in the in the next episode of The Perfect Eugenic State.
Illustration by Eric Fraser.