Australian Tales

by Marcus Clarke

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Our Children

The Future Australian Race

The quality of a race of beings is determined by two things: food and climate. The measure of that quality is the measure of the success in the race's incessant struggle to wrest nature to its own advantage. The history of a nation is the history of the influence of nature modified by man, and of man modified by the influence of nature. The highest practical civilisations have been those in which man came off victor in the contest, and employed the wind to drive his ships, the heat to work his engines, the cataract to turn his mills. The lowest, those in which nature reduced men to the condition of brutes--eating, drinking and feeding. Given the price of the cheapest food in the country, and the average registration of the thermometer, and it is easy to return a fair general estimate of the national characteristics. I say a general estimate, because other causes--the height of mountains, the width of rivers, the vicinity of volcanoes, etc., induce particular results. But the intelligent mind, possessed of information on the two points of food and climate can confidently sum up, first, the bodily vigour; second, the mental vigour; third, the religion; fourth, the political constitution of a nation.

Before speculating on future events, let us apply our test to history. The climate of Egypt is hot and moist, the inundation of the Nile renders the soil wonderfully fertile, and food is extremely cheap and easily obtained. The climate of India is hot, and the inhabitants live for the most part on rice, which is cheap and usually obtained in abundance. The climate of Mexico is hot. Indian corn, which formed the staple of the food of the inhabitants, is astonishingly prolific and consequently cheap. Now, cheap food means in all cases cheap marriage, or in other words rapid reproduction of the species. A hot climate means small expense in house-building, clothing, or furniture. A man sells his labour to meet his requirements, and in a hot country his requirements are few. In a hot country, therefore, wages are low, and the rapid increase of population renders human life of little value. The difference between the labourer and the employer of labour, then, is great, and from this difference comes tyranny on the one side and slavery on the other. The rich grow richer and the poor poorer. Wealth means leisure, and leisure means luxury and learning. Consequently we should expect to find that a nation living under these conditions would present the following characteristics:--A poor and enslaved peasantry, a rich and luxurious aristocracy, who cultivate great learning and some taste for art.

Now, this condition answers precisely to the condition in which Anthony found Egypt, Warren Hastings found India, and Cortez found Mexico. In each place the nobles lived in incredible luxury and the poor in incredible misery. The learning of each nation was the marvel of its successors. The expenditure of human life in each was terrible. Human beings were not only sacrificed in thousands for the building of the gigantic temples common to each country, but absolutely slaughtered like sheep to celebrate the triumphs of a conqueror, or appease the anger of a god. It is remarkable that the religion of each nation was bloodthirsty and full of terror. Siva the destroyer, Tyhon the Betrayer, Kitzpolchi, God of the Smoking Hearts, alike demanded offerings of blood and tears. It is quite easy to account for this. Each nation grew up among scenes of natural grandeur, and a witness to the almost daily performance of the most majestic operations of nature. The hurricane, the storm, the simoom, the flood, the earthquake--all were familiar to their minds, and poets were created by the influence of the scenery which they described. Men having, by the expenditure of their own blood, modified nature with aqueducts, canals and roads, nature modified their struggles for freedom by the imposition of a terrible superstition which darkened all their days.

It is an absolute fact that religion is, in all cases a matter of diet and climate. The Greek, with pure air, light soil, and placid scenery, invented an exquisite anthropomorphism, in which he deified all his own attributes. The Egyptian, the Mexican, and the dweller by the Ganges invented a cruel and monstrous creed of torture and death. The influence of climate was so strong upon the ancient Jews that they were perpetually relapsing from Theism into the congenial cruelities of Moloch and Astarte. Remove them into another country, and history has no record of a people--save, perhaps, the modern Pagans of our Universities--more devotedly attached to the purest form of intelligent adoration of the Almighty. The Christian faith, transported to the Libyan deserts, or the rocks of Spain, became burdened with horrors, and oppressed with saint-worship. The ferocious African's Mumbo Jumbo, the West Indian's Debbel-debbel, are merely the products of climate and the result of a dietary scale. Cabanis says that religious emotion is secreted by the smaller intestines. Men "think they are pious when they are only bilious." Men who habitually eat non-nitrogenous substances and pay little attention to the state of their bowels are always prone to gloomy piety. This is the reason why Scotchmen and women are usually inclined to religion.

Now let us consider what climate and food will do for Australians.

In the first place, we must remember that the Australasian nation will have an empire of many climates, for it will range from Singapore and Malacca in the north, to New Zealand in the south. All varieties of temperature will be traversed by the railroad traveller of 1977. The enormous area of Australia, that circle whose circumference is the sea, and whose centre is a desert, is a strong reason against federation. It is more than likely that what should be the Australian Empire will be cut in half by a line drawn through the centre of the continent. All above this line--Queensland and the Malaccas, New Guinea, and the parts adjacent--will evolve a luxurious and stupendous civilisation only removed from that of Egypt and Mexico by the measure of the remembrance of European democracy. All beneath this line will be a Republic, having the mean climate, and, in consequences, the development of Greece. The intellectual capital of this Republic will be Victoria. The fashionable and luxurious capital on the shore of Sydney Harbour. The governing capital in New Zealand.

The inhabitants of this Republic are easily described. The soil is for the most part deficient in lime, hence the bones of the autochthones will be long and soft. The boys will be tall and slender like cornstalks. It will be rare to find girls with white and sound teeth. A small pelvis is the natural result of small bones, and a small pelvis means a sickly mother and stunted children. Bad teeth mean bad digestion, and bad digestion means melancholy. The Australians will be a fretful, clever, perverse, irritable race. The climate breeds a desire for out-of-door exercise. Men will transact their business under verandahs, and make appointments at the corners of streets. The evening stroll will be an institution. Fashion and wealth will seek to display themselves out of doors. Hence domesticity will be put away. The "hearth" of the Northerner, the "fireside" of Burns' Cottar, will be unknown. The boys, brought up outside their homes' four walls, will easily learn to roam, and as they conquer difficulties for themselves will learn to care little for their parents. The Australasians will be selfish, self-reliant, ready in resource, prone to wander, caring little for home ties. Mercenary marriage will be frequent, and the hotel system of America will be much favoured. The Australasians will be large meat-eaters, and meat-eaters require more stimulants than vegetarians. The present custom of drinking alcohol to excess--favoured alike by dietary scale and by carnivorous pratices--will continue. All carnivora are rash, gloomy, given to violences. Vegetarians live at a lower level of health, but are calmer and happier. Red radicals are for the most part meat-eaters. A vegetarian--Shelly exceptio quae probat regulam--is a Conservative. Fish eaters are invariably moderate Whigs. The Australasians will be content with nothing short of a turbulent democracy.

There is plenty of oxygen in Australia air, and our Australasians will have capacious chests also--cateris paribus, large nostrils. The climate is unfavourable to the development of a strumous diathesis; therefore, we cannot expect men of genius unless we beget them by frequent intermarriage. Genius is to the physiologist but another form of scrofula, and to call a man a poet is to physiologically insult the mother who bore him. When Mr. Edmund Yates termed one of his acquaintances a "scrofulous Scotch poet," he intended to be personal. He was merely tautological. It may be accepted as an axiom that there has never existed a man of genius who was not strumous. Take the list from Julius Caesar to Napoleon, or from Job to Keats, and point out one great mind that existed in a non-strumous body. The Australasians will be freed from the highest burden of intellectual development.

For their faces. The sun beating on the face closes the eyes, puckers the cheeks, and contracts the muscles of the orbit. Our children will have deep-set eyes with overhanging brows; the lower eyelid will not melt into the cheek, but will stand out en profile, clear and well-defined. This, though it may add to character, takes away from beauty. There will be necessarily a strong development of the line leading from nostril to mouth. The curve between the centre of the upper lip will be shortened, and the whole mouth made fleshy and sensual. The custom of meat-eating will square the jaw, and render the hair course but plentiful. The Australasian will be a square-headed, masterful man, with full temples, plenty of beard, a keen eye, a stern and yet sensual mouth. His teeth will be bad, and his lungs good. He will suffer from liver disease, and become prematurely bald--average duration of life in the unmarried, fifty-nine; in the married, sixty-five and a decimal.

The conclusion of all this is, therefore, that in another hundred years the average Australasian will be a tall, coarse, strong-jawed, greedy, pushing, talented man, excelling in swimming and horsemanship. His religion will be a form of Presbyterianism; his national policy a democracy tempered by the rate of exchange. His wife will be a thin, narrow woman, very fond of dress and idleness, caring little for her children, but without sufficient brain-power to sin with zest. In five hundred years, unless recruited from foreign nations, the breed will be wholly extinct; but in that five hundred years it will have changed the face of Nature, and swallowed up all our contemporary civilisation. It is, however--perhaps fortunately--impossible that we shall live to see this stupendous climax.

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