Found Poems from HGWells’ ‘The Outlook for Homo Sapiens’ (R8)


a mental superstrucure

built on the primitive apeman
of the late Tertiary period (says HGWells)
nine-tenths hearsay
put there by society—
a great cerebral accumulation
of directive ideas    prejudices
antagonisms and tolerances
oughts & ought-nots

chuck it all overboard
and start again;
what would be left
but one’s own true self?

::

a few millennia ago

says Wells   at the forefront
of biological advance
was a surplus of young men
full of beans and looking for trouble;
every sort of energetic male
human-being is a potential criminal
if nothing else is found
to occupy & interest him

so a few millennia ago
it was discovered that
the easiest way of keeping young men
out of mischief   disciplined
and keeping the numbers of them down
was war—a definite necessity forced
on the human community
by the biological success
that produced a surplus of young males—
one way of writing history
is to consider how age after age
humanity has met the problem
of What-to-do-with-our-sons?

the answer variously has been
war   conquest & colonisation;
you can rewrite the history of
all great population movements in terms
of the inevitable pressure exerted by
the existence of a young male surplus

people (says HGWells) waste much time
arguing about one -ism or another—
nationalism    patriotism   imperialism
capitalism    terrorism—but the essential fact
is the accumulating tension of
unsatisfied youth    rebels    revolutionaries
and disturbers of all kind—all -isms
are merely formulae for the relief of tension

I think I never moved beyond being 15

::

when the means of destruction

was pretty puny—bows & arrows and boiling oil—
war was just the relief of blood-letting—
before the age of invention & innovation it was no more
than an excretion of a certain inconvenient energy

it became part of the accepted human rhythm;
if it were not for the sudden outbreak of invention & discovery
we might have gone on drumming and trumpeting
our way through long unquestioning ages to come
going to the harmless old priest to bless our pretty flags
and facing the great day of battle bravely regarding it
somehow or other as honourable to die for some ill-defined
cause unfathomably abscure in point or origin
maybe surviving it to fight another day and to raise
yet another generation for the very same experience

a matter of unexamined habit—the prison of vicious process

big weapons and means of delivery turned war
from mere blood-letting into a regular unchallenged
decorated feature of expensive international policy
but still the harmless old priest blesses the flag

::

all the energy

of marching    shooting   stabbing
hacking and running to & fro
at the Battle of Agincourt
was probably less than that
released by one single
high explosive shell on the Somme

::

a world order

cannot come into existence
without the preliminary order of
a mental cosmopolis

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