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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936

Two Devils

page 48

Two Devils

The above title resulted from a contemplation of the proverb—"The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know." In this case I doubt it. They are equi-abhorrent.

Will you please solve this problem? There are, let us say, seventy million people in Japan, which is about the size of New Zealand. They are crammed together like tinned spaghetti. A little distance from their coasts is a continent named Australia in which about seven million people rattle around like a handful of dried peas in a barrel. Suppose Japan should cast her eyes around and notice Australia?

This is not an attempt to preach "Yellow Peril." But the Japanese, and for that matter, all philoprogenitive peoples, are candidates for new lands; and even if their desire does not lie eastward, we have no need to sigh our relief, and claim that the problem is non-existent. It does exist, and must sooner or later be faced—birth control or war.

We don't like birth control, and we don't like war, but which are we going to choose? Listen to the Japanese side of the argument:

"The world is able to support 2,500,000,000 under the Japanese standard of living, and only 1,000,000,000 under the American standard. Therefore let those nations who are living up to the American Standard make room for extra millions of Japanese."

To which valid argument we validly reply: "The world is able to support 2,500,000,000 under the Japanese standard, and 3,500,000,000 under the Chinese or Indian standard. Therefore, by your own logic, throw your lands open to the Indians and Chinese, that they may be populated up to their limit."

Such logic can be refuted only by war.

Japan cries for lands. Italy needed lands and helped herself. But these are powerful nations. India and China have population problems more acute, but, being militarily ineffective, they do not voice their needs. When China becomes over-populated—and it is always over-populated—people have to settle on the barely-productive land, or on land subject to floods, and then there is a flood or a famine, and the population problem is temporarily stayed. Some day the whole world will be like that if the nations who will not restrain their procreative fancies gain their will.

Extend the reasoning to its limit. The predictions of Malthus failed when applied to England, which, after the industrial revolution, more than doubled beyond the figures he had allowed. But there were undeveloped countries in the world which readily took her industrial manufactures, and enabled her to support her vastly increased population. But when the world is united with one standard—the lowest standard under which life can be sustained—the iron law of Malthus cannot fail. When we have honeycombed the rocks, when we have populated the centre of the earth, when we have our villas-under-the-sea, and when every ounce of earth is coaxed into production, the limit will have been reached, the iron law will swing into operation, and starvation will be the regulator of the world's population. Starvation is birth-control—a very cruel and wasteful form. There is no method of birth-control which is ethically so criminal and pitiless as this, yet it is the very form manufactured by the nations themselves as a rod for their own backs. If birth-control is not practised in some more gentle way it will eventually and inevitably be self-inflicted. Birthcontrol in itself is bad, but starvation is the worst form it takes.

But it is not likely that the nations who hold a comfortable margin of unused land, and who profit substantially thereby, are going to relinquish those lands by arbitration. Neither reasoning nor pity will lead them to do so. Reasoning advises them to suggest birth control to the over-populated nations, pity also leads them to exhort them to "do the obvious thing." But it is not the obvious thing to the coloured nations. It is an abhorent thing, equivalent to them to an abdication from life. And so their only remedy is to take the lands by force. Therefore we have our option—birth control or war.

The action of the western nations is obvious. They will hold to the last from those nations who can breed faster and live lower than they the lands they have gained. But the western nations have a strange method of fighting fire with fire. Because population problems are on the point of driving the Eastern nations in war against us, to hold off any such onslaught, let page 49 us populate, they cry, that we may have the power entailed. That is to say, population is required only for cannon fodder, and that very increase in population is a potential cause of war, and may turn a happy country into a miserable, land-hungry one. Hence it is to be regretted that many "deplore" the drop in the population level of their various nations. It would seem that to such, Mr. Savage is of less value than a relief worker with eighteen children, or, to translate the analogy, a small, cultured, industrious, and happy community is of less value than a fetid mass of jammed humanity whose numbers are regulated by starvation.

Now suppose the land in the world, were, by special agreement, divided up equally among the peoples of the world, each person having a piece of land equal in production, if not in size, to another. In one generation some sections would be sustaining one family each, others, ten. What then—a reshuffle? And then we are faced with another pertinent question—are the white races worthy of being consigned to extinction? For, as soon as the begettal of children becomes the prime factor in racial survival, the white races are doomed. They have such able competitors.

The coloured races will make prompt reply, "All very well for the white races, after taking for themselves most of the world, to sit back on their conquests, and cry 'enough,' and advise all to hold just what they have. There is no fairness there." Yet the Japanese and Chinese were civilised when Europe was in barbarism, and they made no effective attempt to reclaim or lift the coloured races. Without the achievements of the whites, the coloured races would have been just as they are now—land-hungry, but non-colonising. To the white races there seems to be a fascination in empty spaces, to the yellow, a love and a longing for home.

And there the problem rests. It is not pleasant to advise those nations who are fond of abundant offspring that no assistance can be rendered to them, and no suggestion but birth control, but the only alternative is war.

Possibly the next war will solve the population problem for a long, long time.