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The Damned Human Race by Mark Twain

One is obliged to concede that in true loftiness of character, Man cannot claim to approach even the meanest of the Higher Animals. It is plain that he is constitutionally incapable of approaching that altitude; that he is constitutionally afflicted with a Defect which must make such approach forever impossible, for it is manifest that this defect is permanent in him, indestructible, ineradicable. I find this Defect to be the Moral Sense. He is the only animal that has it. It is the secret of his degradation. It is the quality which enables him to do wrong. It has no other office. It is in capable of performing any other function. It could never hate been intended to perform any other. Without it, man could do no wrong. He would rise at once to the level of the Higher Animals.

“Since the Moral Sense has but the one office, the one capacity (to enable man to do wrong) it is plainly without value to him. It is as valueless to him as is disease. In fact, it manifestly is a disease. Rabies is bad, but it is not so bad as this disease. Rabies enables a man to do a thing, which he could not do when in a healthy state: kill his neighbor with a poisonous bite. NC) one is the better man for having rabies: The Moral Sense enables a man to do wrong. It enables him to do wrong in a thousand ways. Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense. No one, then, can be the better man for having the Moral Sense. What now, do we find the Primal Curse to have been? Plainly what it was in the beginning: the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to do evil; for there can be no evil act without the presence of consciousness of it in the doer of it.

“And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor (some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance) insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirch less innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development (namable as the Human Being). Below us, nothing.” — Mark Twain

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  • Casey Klahn October 2, 2017, 10:07 AM

    First observations, and the Mark Twain quote is a good one. Some deep evil is among us. Resist the urge to jump to conclusions.
    Brief points:
    concert goers were country music fans. What is their typical political stripe?
    “hunters” don’t use machine guns to hunt with.
    automatic weapons are already banned. Of course, you can get them.

    I’ll add that Jason Aldean is a guy I admire – a great talent. Sad to see this event and heartsick at it.

  • Casey Klahn October 2, 2017, 10:21 AM

    More observations:
    -that lost feeling when you haven’t got a news source that you trust for straight information.
    -revulsion that I know shit will start to be made up @ false flags or multiple shooters, which is already beginning.
    -instincts point to past sets of understandings, and when it’s fight or flight in your brain, you go to those.
    -want to vomit.

  • Ten October 2, 2017, 10:26 AM

    Twain’s observation should be etched into each of the thousands of meaningless monuments we erect to ourselves, among them all of our appeals to how much more acute our reason is than the next guy’s because we’ve been gifted with knowing just what he’s made of.

    The right and the left. Since our evil is so invariably politicized it bears repeating that neither have the sum of it and neither have even the nub of it. When it’s all left smoldering we’ll long past have had the chance to meet the enemy who was always us and we’ll have rejected even that.

  • jwm October 2, 2017, 10:58 AM

    Well said, Casey.


  • A. Foster-Grant October 2, 2017, 12:11 PM

    I think Twain also said “Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.”

  • Donald Sensing October 2, 2017, 12:13 PM

    See also Genesis chapters 1-2.

  • David October 2, 2017, 12:23 PM

    “Who art man that Thou art mindful of him?”

    The Supreme Being sent His own Son, begotten of the Father, to begin a New Covenant with Man. It would be in His blood. God knew it before our sun burnt hot in the sky.
    It is a broken place, and we are a broken people. We all have the Mark of Cain on us.
    But thou mayest triumph over sin.

  • Vanderleun October 2, 2017, 2:14 PM

  • Gordon October 2, 2017, 4:45 PM

    I’m about 1/10 tempted to spin out some conspiracy/false flag tale about how this was to cover up events at Area 51, and one of the ways you can tell is that none of the Bin Laden extended family were in Las Vegas, and John Kasich announcing he might leave the GOP was the signal for the attack to proceed.

    But this just sucks too much.

  • Howard Nelson October 2, 2017, 5:59 PM

    What obfuscating and baneful bullshit! MT, shame and blame on you.
    The Moral Sense is our conscience, always presenting us with choices among good and evil possible actions and their intended consequences.
    MT errs in applying his argument to humanity as a uniform whole, rather than as individuals with varying characteristics.
    Who will equate our Medal of Honor recipients, First Responders with mutilators exemplified by jihadists?
    When we choose harm or evil we devolve, degrade ourselves. When we choose mutually beneficial actions we evolve, ascend as a species.
    MT emphasizes the selfish side neglecting the selfless side of the Moral Sense, implying never the Twain exist.
    On a per capita basis, Americans choose to be the most giving to nonAmericans. Imperfect as we are, we are the MEDs (Morality, Ethics, Decency) needed for world health.
    Up your attitude Mark and choose your Clemens–ee; it will make your parents proud.

  • Ten October 2, 2017, 7:06 PM

    Right on cue, Nelson gets it wrong. Next up, taking on the writer of Ecclesiastes for his obfuscating and baneful bullshit.

  • Hale Adams October 2, 2017, 7:14 PM


    Please bear in mind that Twain often wrote things with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, or at least with some sort of inverted logic. The piece that Gerard quotes can be read in that light.

    Also, I can’t help thinking of a quote from “Prince Caspian” (one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia), by C. S. Lewis:

    “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

    As always, my two cents’ worth.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • Howard Nelson October 2, 2017, 8:08 PM

    Ten, if you choose to wax biblic, I’ll offer Song of Songs, Job, and for best balance, Proverbs vs. Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes, it seems to me, promotes helplessness and victimhood. In the face of this world’s man-made sorrows I’d offer Meditations–Marcus Aurelius.

    Hale, you are probably correct regarding Twain’s intent. I was miffed that he emphasized ‘humanity’ as it sounded too much like condemning all for the sins of the relatively few. Too much like today’s SJWs.
    I prefer Mencken as he’s usually more specific, blunt, and accurate. In other words, I am numb to nuance.
    Thank you for your tuppence of sense.
    My apologies to MT.,,

  • ck October 2, 2017, 9:56 PM

    Just started rereading Life on the Mississippi. Not quite the same as it was to me 50 years ago.

  • Ten October 3, 2017, 2:02 AM

    I’ll accept that apparently you claim a redemptive power lying outside of the usual biblical references, Nelson, although to be fair I can’t claim much familiarity with the Proverbs vs. Ecclesiastes, salvation-by-works edition thereof. The one also omitting Romans, as it turns out, and probably John and the rest of the Gospels with it.

    By the way, in this context Adams reads Twain mistakenly – one expects that a piece about the relative guilelessness of the rest of the animal kingdom to be fairly self-evident. And surely there’s another way to interpret the site host than with the presumption that he randomly cites Twain entirely out of his own context as well as that of the events in Vegas. Mass shootings and hats on the ground are probably not entirely commonplace there.

  • Ten October 3, 2017, 2:06 AM

    Oh, re: condemning all for the sins of the relatively few, allow me to wax biblic, as I recall the term, and introduce you to the quaint hoary old mythology of Adam and God…

  • Jayne October 3, 2017, 5:17 AM

    To Casey Klahn

    “that lost feeling when you haven’t got a news source that you trust for straight information”
    Agreed. A steady reporting of facts as they become known would be great, nowhere to be found.

    I sometimes hear rumbles that the underlying goal of the media is to divide us and keep us at each others’ throats.

    Of course we have no sense of this morally bankrupt man’s motives, however, my thoughts go towards the media MSM every day and night stoking hatred against conservatives. Hour after hour reporting, commenting upon, and news analysis of outrages brought about by people on the right. If someone did snap, think it’d be a short jump for that person to find a source of all that is evil in the conservatives. Of course not sure just my thoughts because I do so loathe the media.

  • Casey Klahn October 3, 2017, 6:31 AM

    Hi, Jayne. Thanks for what you said. Here it is, the following morning after this news broke, and I still don’t know anymore about Paddock than I did yesterday morning! A few suspect twitter posts, none that sound credible, and some vitriol against country music fans. Anti-gun stuff that is obtuse and unconnected.

    The videos sound like a machine gun not a “bump stock.” Your arm will not sustain that kind of movement at that rate for that long. He had a full auto, high cal. (not a .22). Wait! There I go with making conclusions based on observation! At this point, we ought to know exactly what he used, his facebook profile (they say he had none), his sleeve length, etc.

    When there is no reporting, you feel strung out and vulnerable. You go to instincts. Someone yesterday may or may not have upgraded his own personal protection.

  • Howard Nelson October 3, 2017, 6:46 AM

    Casey and Jayne — For a wide range of viewpoints in the authors’ own words realclearpolitics.com is useful. Reading opinions and first hand accounts from different positions of the supposed same occurrence shows who’s emphasizing/deemphasizing what — keeps you on guard and alert to discrepancies in reporting.
    Among the clearest and most honest analysts I’d put Victor Davis Hanson.

  • Casey Klahn October 3, 2017, 8:03 AM

    Cannot get to that URL right now. Google or server won’t allow it. Found another website unavailable yesterday, too.

    I was suspect of their polling numbers last November and quit looking there. Will try again.