Posterity: The New Superstition

The Sun

June 9, 1907, p. 8

To the Editor of The Sun—Sir: Mr. Goldwin Smith in his letter in a recent Sun asks, “What brute shows any regard for posterity?” and quotes approvingly “E. W.’s” remark that posterity should be an object of our interest and care. Are we not overworking the posterity decoy? The fact that the brutes are not concerned about posterity—may not that account for the fact that they have made successes of their lives, while the human has failed?

The East worships its ancestors; the West worships posterity. The East lies prone on its belly offering its tributes to ghosts; the West bows its head in adoration to the ghosts not yet born. Ancestor worship is the old superstition; posterity worship is the new superstition. The old bottles are filled with new wine, but the labels are the same, and the new wine is of the same vintage as the old wine, the vintage of man’s indestructible illusions.

We are told to live for the sake of posterity, we must breed for posterity, eat for the sake of posterity, be moral for the sake of posterity, dress hygienically for the sake of posterity, and even die when necessary for the sake of posterity.

We legislate for posterity, rear a child with an eye to posterity, tinker with the social system for the sake of posterity, tamper with individual liberty for the sake of posterity, construct utopias for the sake of posterity, vote the Socialist ticket for the sake of posterity, meddle with everything for the sake of posterity.

It is the fetich, the Moloch, the Golden Calf of our civilization. We who are living, palpitating in the flesh and blood present, have no rights; we are only straws to show which way the sociological and evolutionary winds are blowing; we are only the bricks and mortar that shall go to build the marvellous edifice to house that great family Posterity. Bricks and mortar, we are told; nothing but that, and our deeds have no value unless they feed the bulging belly of the future; we are as scraps of bone and meat tossed to that bag eyed glutton the Future.

We are to be systematized, badged, classed, grooved, wired, stuffed; our instincts, our very marrow, are to be inoculated with the virus of altruism, and our faces beatified with posterity light, made to glow with the shine of “right living”—all because the quacks that rule our sociological and political life have dreamed of that wondertime, posterity!

Man is always grovelling before some word. Now it is posterity!

Weak, impotent, helpless before the immovable present, he salves his sore spots with hopes for the future; not being able to regulate his life to-day, he promises himself a virtuous to-morrow; finding his life a failure, he promises himself, with ecstatic eye and lolling, anticipatory tongue, a rapture called posterity—something that no one has ever seen, something that no one can define, something that could not possibly exist.

Benjamin De Casseres.
New York, June 7.



This letter was also printed in the following publications:
  • Madison County Record (Marshall, NC), Oct. 18, 1907, p. 2
  • Reynoldsville Star (Reynoldsville, Pa.), Oct. 23, 1907, p. 2
  • The North State (Lexington, NC), Oct. 23, 1907, p. 6
  • Enemies of Society: An Anthology of Individualist & Egoist Thought, Ardent Press, 2011, pp. 21-24