hat is this demand for stupefying things? What does
it mean that everywhere, if there is not vodka, wine, and beer, there
you find hashish, mukhomor, and tobacco?
Ask a smoker why he began to smoke tobacco
and still smokes, and he will reply, "Why, to cure low spirits; everyone
smokes." Thus also will probably reply the devotees of opium, hashish,
morphine, agaricum. "Why! To cure low spirits, for gayety's sake,
all do it." But it is just as good as a cure for low spirits or
for gayety's sake, because all do it, to twirl one's
fingers, to whistle, to sing songs, and to play on the dudka.
I remember being struck by the testimony
of a cook who had killed a relative of mine, a lady in whose service
he had been. He told how when he had sent away his mistress, the
chambermaid, and the time had come for him to act, he went with his
knife into her sleeping room, but felt that while he was sober he
could not perpetrate the act which he had planned. This was "the
conscience of a sober man." He went back and drank two glasses of
vodka, and only then did he feel that he was ready, and acted.
But when he went into her bedroom and
cut her throat, and she fell back with the death rattle, and the
blood spurted out in a torrent, a panic seized him. "I could not
finish the job," he said; "I went from the bedroom into the drawing
room, sat down there, and smoked a cigarette."
Only when he had stupefied himself with
the tobacco did he feel sufficiently fortified to return and finish
dispatching the old lady.
Such a definite necessity of stupefying
oneself with tobacco in certain very difficult moments will occur
to every smoker. I remember that in the days when I smoked I used
to feel the special need of tobacco. It was always at moments when
I wanted not to remember what I remembered, wanting to forget, wanted
not to think.
I am sitting alone, I am doing nothing,
I know that I ought to begin my work, and I do not feel like it.
I smoke and continue sitting idle.
I am annoyed, and I say something disagreeable
to a man, and I know I am doing wrong, but I feel an inclination
to my bad temper -- I smoke, and I continue to be angry.
I am playing cards, and I am losing more
than I wanted to hazard -- I smoke.
I have placed myself in an awkward position,
I have done something wrong, and I must recognize my position in
order to escape from it, but I do not want to do so -- I blame others
It is ordinarily taken for granted that a man who, like
the majority of the people in our well-to-do classes, uses alcoholic
stimulants every time he takes food, finds himself the next day, when
he goes to work, in a perfectly normal and sober state. But this is
absolutely false. The man who in the evening drinks a bottle of wine,
a glass of vodka, or two tankards of ale, finds himself in the customary
condition of headachiness or depression which follows exhilaration,
and therefore in a condition of intellectual debasement, which is further
increased my smoking.
Thus the large part of all that is produced
in our world is accomplished in a non-sober condition. now, do not
let this be taken as a jest or as an exaggeration -- the ugliness
and above all the senselessness of our lives proceed, primarily,
from the constant condition of intoxication in which the majority
of men find themselves.
All the European nations have been occupied
for decades in devising the very best means of destroying human life,
and in training all the young men how to committ murder. All know
that there is no danger of a descent of barbarians, that these preparations
for murder are meant by Christian and civilized nations against one
another; all know that this is burdensome, painful, inconvenient,
wasteful, immoral, blasphemous, and senseless -- and yet all prepare
for mutual murder: some inventing political combinations as to who
shall be allied with whom, and who shall be killed; others taking
the command of those prospective murderers; still others submitting
against their will, against the dictates of their conscience, against
reason, to these murderous preparations.
Could sober men do this? Only intoxicated
men could do such things. It is as if some external cause prevented
them from taking a position which is natural to their conscience.
And this cause -- if not the only one, at least the principal one
-- is the physical condition of stupefaction which, by wine or tobacco,
the immense majority of men of our time bring themselves.