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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

The Decay of Brain Power. The Dangers of a Scrappy Press. (S576ab: 1900)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: The magazine The Young Man printed an article on this subject in its January 1900 issue, then contacted a number of notables for comment on it. Wallace was one of twelve respondents whose impressions were collected and published under this title in the February 1900 issue. Wallace's remarks appeared on page 42. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S576AB.htm

IV. By Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace.

     The evils pointed out in the article are real, but they are part of a much greater evil--the almost total absence of independent thought in the daily press, which can be, and often is, controlled by rich men in their own interests or in that of their class. The particular evils referred to are very much enhanced by the hurry and stress of modern life, and by the enormous amount of daily travelling by train or tram, when these scrappy papers fill up an idle half-hour. The writer suggests no remedy, and there is no remedy except those fundamental changes in society the very notion of which is scouted as utopian and almost wicked. Even our most advanced rulers seem to contemplate the indefinite growth of London and other great cities, and the continuous increase of that portion of our population which is divorced from healthy contact with nature and its purifying influences. This will lead to a further increase of scrappy literature, and of all the deteriorating influences of city life.

     Our reformers and rulers must, if possible, be influenced to refuse to make any preparations for the further growth of our great cities--a growth which is wholly evil. Notwithstanding their long-continued efforts--perhaps even in consequence of them--overcrowding, with all its social and moral evils, grows ever more huge and intractable; and all local improvements, by attracting more population, only tend to perpetuate the growth and the evil. If all the vast sums thus spent, and contemplated to be spent, were devoted to the establishment of independent centres of population on the plan of Mr. Howard's "Garden Cities," not only might this evil growth be checked, but, ultimately, the whole of the surplus population of the overcrowded areas might be drawn away to live under more healthy conditions. This would be, in its nature and results, a fundamental remedy. What we are now doing, or proposing, is a mere whitening of the sepulchre--a superficial plaster, concealing the outward manifestations of a disease which continues to eat away the vital organs of the body of the nation.

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