things to go on without caring and even without suspecting--in their total lack of instinctive understanding--that sooner or later destiny will take its vengeance unless it will have been appeased in time.
To-day I fervidly thank Providence for having sent me to such a school. There I could not refuse to take an interest in matters that did not please me. This school soon taught me a profound lesson.
In order not to despair completely of the people among whom I then lived I had to set on one side the outward appearances of their lives and on the other the reasons why they had developed in that way. Then I could hear everything without discouragement; for those who emerged from all this misfortune and misery, from this filth and outward degradation, were not human beings as such but rather lamentable results of lamentable laws. In my own life similar hardships prevented me from giving way to a pitying sentimentality at the sight of these degraded products which had finally resulted from the pressure of circumstances. No, the sentimental attitude would be the wrong one to adopt.
Even in those days I already saw that there was a two-fold method by which alone it would be possible to bring about an amelioration of these conditions. This method is: first, to create better fundamental conditions of social development by establishing a profound feeling for social responsibilities among the public; second, to combine this feeling for social responsibilities with a ruthless determination to prune away all excrescences which are incapable of being improved.
Just as Nature concentrates its greatest attention, not to the maintenance of what already exists but on the selective breeding of offspring in order to carry on the species, so in human life also it is less a matter of artificially improving the existing generation--which, owing to human characteristics, is impossible in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred--and more a matter of securing from the very start a better road for future development.
During my struggle for existence in Vienna I perceived very clearly that the aim of all social activity must never be merely charitable relief, which is ridiculous and useless, but it must rather be a means to find a way of eliminating the fundamental deficiencies in our economic and cultural life--deficiencies which necessarily bring about the degradation of the individual or at least lead him towards such degradation. The difficulty of employing every means, even the most drastic, to eradicate the hostility prevailing among the working classes towards the State is largely due to an attitude of uncertainty in deciding upon the inner motives and causes of this contemporary phenomenon. The grounds of this uncertainty are to be found exclusively in the sense of guilt which each individual feels for having permitted this tragedy of degradation. For that feeling paralyses every effort at making a serious and firm decision to act. And thus because the people whom it concerns are vacillating they are timid and half-hearted in putting into effect even the measures which are indispensable for self-preservation. When the individual is no longer burdened with his own consciousness of blame in this regard, then and only then will he have that inner tranquillity and outer force to cut off drastically and ruthlessly all the parasite growth and root out the weeds.
But because the Austrian State had almost no sense of social rights or social legislation its inability to abolish those evil excrescences was manifest.
I do not know what it was that appalled me most at that time: the economic misery of those who were then my companions, their crude customs and morals, or the low level of their intellectual culture.
How often our bourgeoisie rises up in moral indignation on hearing from the mouth of some pitiable tramp that it is all the same to him whether he be a German or not and that he will find himself at home wherever he can get enough to keep body and soul together. They protest sternly against such a lack of 'national pride' and strongly express their horror at such sentiments.
But how many people really ask themselves why it is that their own sentiments are better? How many of them understand that their natural pride in being members of so favoured a nation arises from the innumerable succession of instances