The Firebrand (1895-1904)

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A New Island Story.

Once there-were a number of people living on a sunny island in the sea. The island was their world, for the great rolling ocean was like mere space to them, seldom bringing them anything but waves and seaweed and balmy breezes. A storm or a ship sometimes happened, but at very long intervals. So these people lived their own lives, uninfluenced by the conditions and characteristics of other races. They could read and write, and a country newspaper was actually published somewhere on the little spot of ground in a primitive way very satisfactory to all parties concerned; they cherished a sort of traditional religion which time had mellowed into a practical mixture of idealistic Christianity, Pagan mysticism and natural ethics, and they never disagreed as to points of faith or the orthodoxy of doctrines. They knew nothing of politics. They must have been taught it some time in the past, but they had become fearfully benighted in this regard as time went by. They had no elections; they had forgotten that a governor was necessary, that they were in the depths of chaos and confusion without a secretary of war, secretary of state, treasurer and lord high executioner. An old flag, of-a nation important among other important nations but of little moment here, floated from a flagstaff down by the unused landing. A legend of a regularly appointed ruler prevailed and a few coins with a foreign stamp upon them lay in the museum or office of the traditional governor. But this was all these people knew of government. When they wanted a thing done they came together and agreed upon the best plan of doing it. Otherwise they tended their gardens and goats assiduously, traded produce with each other without interference of any outside power, and never thought of quarreling. Few could remember when anything had been stolen; but the last story was of a man who purloined his neighbor’s garden rake and did not bring it back. Before noon the use of twenty rakes had been tendered him with apologies that his lack had been- overlooked. There was little need of money; but pieces of paper promising the bearer a bushel of wheat or whatever else he might want, on demand, circulated among the simple Islanders. Often mere verbal promises answered every purpose; for when things needed for consumption were plentiful no one cared enough about accumulating them to withhold from any who might need, and in time of scarcity none could be happy when some of their neighbors might be needing the necessities of life. When a genuine scarcity of productions occurred the custom was to hold a convention, determine just what the supply was, just what the actual demand would be, and apportion it out with equal favor to all.

No one was wonderfully rich, though some possessed silks and jewels so old as almost to have lost the story of their origin; but these were looked upon as articles of curiosity, which every inhabitant was privileged to look upon sooner or later, and which afforded about as much pride and pleasure to one as to another. Goatskins and goathair furnished the raw materials for their clothing; their houses were made of bamboo and. palm-leaves; their food was the fruits, vegetables and grains easily grown on the island.

And so these people lived, loved and were happy and peaceful. Their social life. was free and peaceful—poetry and romance entered into their lives as naturally as the breezes, the beautiful, boundless ocean, the radiant
dawns and lovely sunsets. There was no tax gather, assessor or rent taker to come and make them afraid.

But one day a great armed ship, floating a flag similar to the one at their harbor, swept into view and bore down upon the quiet little island. It sent a boat load of uniformed officers off to land at the simple wharf, where only a few-curious men lounged about to receive them. A grand looking man addressed them in a sonorous voice:

“Where is your governor? Where are your officers? Why is not some one in authority here to meet-us? Surely you must have sighted our ship long enough ago?”

Some one in authority! Who was? What ought to be done with these magnificent creatures? Now they saw the lack of properly organized government, if never before. The few men on the beach consulted with one another and remembered that one of their number had a long time ago received an appointment as governor of the island, but that he had laid the papers away and kept on at work with the rest of them, not finding anything in his official capacity. to do. He was hunted up now and brought with the soil of the earth still clinging to his coarse garments to do the honors of the island to the visitors. There was no display; no officers to parade, no public offices to show, no treasuries, no red tape, no militia, no jails to bring out for investigation; nothing but a few simple people, living quietly and contentedly among themselves, without laws or lawmakers. Naturally the visitors were shocked. What barbarism! What confusion! What anarchy!

But they would soon change all this; indeed that is what they had come for. They would organize a government, establish the authority of the mother country, open up a new market and make the island a source of revenue. All this as soon as possible the great men proceeded to bring about.

A governor who appreciated the advantages of a privileged position, one from among themselves, was appointed at a high salary. Other officers were chosen, some by the people themselves; different departments were established; a financial system set up, taxes levied, arrangements for strict order and obedience were made. As it would require a class would be required to execute these plans on the others, the class was naturally a privileged one, and the land principally was given over to them to rent out or sell. Everything being thus thoroughly organized, ships began to arrive with foreign goods, and the island was flooded with stylish new spring materials, bibles, whiskey and opium. Nothing was now needed to complete their onward march toward civilization, but a war and a spirit of patriotism and these would come in good time.

. . . . . .

Ten years later, the promise of civilization was fulfilled.

A great bustling, monstrous growth of a city stood on the site of the simple wharf. Palaces gleamed down one street and hovels groveled in their shadow on another. Corruption, greed, power rioted in the city halls; want, hunger, petty thievery ran riot among the people. pomp, splendor, piety, gilded vice and ostentatious charity reigned in the palaces; poverty, ignorance, degradation, bitterness, despair, rebellion reigned in the its and throughout the despoiled lands. Pestilence and drunkenness were now well known and the newly built jails were never empty. Officialism found plenty to do, and the workers when they saw their productions taken for rent and taxes constantly planned how they could escape the terrible specter—poverty. All were fearful; none were secure. But this was civilization, fostered under a strong government.

. . . . . .

This is not an allegory reader. It has happened several times in the history of the world.

[Lizzie M. Holmes]

Cause of Sex Slavery

Still, I hold now, as I have ever held, that the economic is the first issue to be solved; that it is woman’s economical dependence which makes her enslavement to man possible. The case you cite of the bride being raped by her husband, only strengthens me in my position. Let us examine the case (I believe you will agree with me, that that was, if it ever happened, an extreme case). I consider the man a saint compared with the girls unnatural parents, who refused to rescue her, from such a monster! What was she to do? was asked, after her appeal to her parents fell on deaf ears. Perhaps the answer the same that might be given nine times in ten: Why, not having, any means of making a living, she remained and prostituted her body according to law! Monstrous thought, but nevertheless true.

How many women do you think would submit to mariage slavery if it were not for wage slavery? I have too much faith in he purity of my sex, to believe there are any considerable number of them, who would submit to men’s domination, if it were possible for them to make an independent living, without having to submit to the debasing factory rules of today? I, personally, know a half dozen women now living with their husbands, have no love for them; they can find no avenues open to them, whereby they can enter and make an independent existence; henct, having to choose between two slaveries, i. e. wage-slavery or marriage-slavery they choose the later as least objectionable.

These are in brief my views upon the sex-question, and it is for this reason I have never advocated it as a distinct question.

Lucy E. Parsons.

  • Lizzie M. Holmes, “A New Island Story,” The Firebrand 1 no. 1 (January 27, 1895): 2-3.
  • Lucy Parsons, “Cause of Sex Slavery,” The Firebrand 1 no. 1 (January 27, 1895): 3.

 

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2417 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.