Discussing anthropology with Dr. Montagu
BROADCAST: Feb. 2, 1970 | DURATION: 00:56:41
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Studs Terkel I'm seated with one of the seated with the distinguished anthropologist Dr. Ashley Montagu, who perhaps in the best sense of the word could be described as a generalist. He sees anthropology not merely as a science involving man's origins and other species or relation to man, but the world itself today. I thought, Dr. Montagu, some thirty or so books you've authored, back in 1950, some twenty years ago, was a comment you made on being human about the young, in a sense the young and sensing the nature of our society, the inquisitiveness of it, but also the need to, perhaps even the possibility of altering nature on themselves and understanding it, and how prophetic that was. And that was some twenty years ago. That was a long, long pre-Vietnam ago.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, what most people take to be nature, most of us were brought up to believe, and for millennium most of us, all of us, practically, have being taught that nature is something that you're born with. Human nature you are born with. Everyone says, "Well, it's only human nature," meaning that it's something innate, that it's something biologically inherited, whereas we know, beyond any question now, that human nature is not something that you're born with but something you learn. If you don't learn it, if you're not taught it, you won't have a human nature. What you are born with are the potentialities for learning that human nature which no other creature on earth possesses. And you learn your human nature according to the conditioning, the learning process which we call the socialization process in the society or culture with its particular way of life, which is the definition of culture, according to the pattern that prevails in that culture. You are tailored according to the prevailing custom-made, and that also implies man-made, environment.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well--
Studs Terkel Ah.
Dr. Ashley Montagu I would use the word "influence." You see, this is where a great many people, and this doesn't exclude specialists in the subject of heredity, fall into the trap of old words which no longer apply to what we really know. For example, when we say that heredity determines that you will have blue eyes or black eyes, or that you inherit your nose form from your mother or father or grandfather, it's not that the genes or heredity determines anything. The genes, which are the hereditary particles, influence the expression of, and what heredity is is not what you acquire with your genes, but the result of the interaction between those genes and the environment. There is no heredity without an environment. There are no heredities without genes. Your heredity is the result of the interaction between what you are born with by way of potentialities and the environment in which those potentialities have undergone development.
Studs Terkel That
Dr. Ashley Montagu That's it. Or the other word is "reductionism." You reduce it to just this or that. But it's always an interactive process. And this is why it is important to recognize how really significant our words are. We become the captives often of our words, and they then become the caretakers of our ideas and won't allow us to depart from these set meanings. But there is a great deal of value in understanding that what you become is largely the result of the interaction of your potentialities and your environment. And therefore, if the environment is in any way defective, you are going to develop defectively.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Man certainly can alter his nature, and man has altered his nature again and again. If one reads history, some of the funniest things, because they were held to be sort of biologically determined. Some years ago I was reading a book written by a Scotchman who was traveling in Germany in the 18th century, and one of the remarks he made is "what a wonderful people the Germans would be if only they had soldiers who were led by Italian generals."
Studs Terkel [laughter]
Dr. Ashley Montagu [So you see?] how things have changed. The Elizabethans, who were such a hearty, musical people were succeeded by the unmusical, dreary Victorians, who weren't as dreary as they've been painted. But-
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes,
Studs Terkel --destruction
Dr. Ashley Montagu And people would have said, "Well, it it's human nature to be Elizabethan, and it's human nature to be Puritan," and it is, but if you grant and understand that human nature is something that you learn.
Studs Terkel This is by way of coming to one of the thirty or so books that Dr. Montagu has authored. And this is one, a series of essays involving his own lead, and that of his colleagues, on aggression. Now here this leads us to the whole theme today that is the cab driver, the guy you meet, or for that matter the academician, too, in some, unfortunately in too many corridors, who says man basically is a predatory creature. We think of the two books, Ardrey, of course, popularizing the works of Konrad Lorenz, Lorenz in "The Territorial Imperative" and "African Genesis." And here we and you speak of the fashionable theory, the innate, not finality of man, the innate depravity of man.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes. Well, this is a charming phrase used by our Victorian ancestors to describe the nature of man in the period when it was wrong to listen to secular music on a Sunday, or take a walk in the park. Somehow this was regarded as an evidence of innate depravity, or to put it in biblical terms, original sin.
Studs Terkel Mm-hm.
Dr. Ashley Montagu And Desmond Morris, "The Naked Ape," of course, and "The Territorial Imperative," are simply a secular version of the old view of original sin, that man is in the flesh and in the members and in the parts and the body thereof, as Saint Paul put it, evil. And he is born evil. And this of course explains why-
Dr. Ashley Montagu Oh yes, needless, of course. And therefore we have an easy and ready explanation for war, juvenile delinquency, crime, and a good deal of the ordinary behavior of human beings, which we then dismiss by saying, "Well, it's only human nature. Man is sinful and we're always going to have this with us, and what our job is just try to do something about controlling this." Now, the fact is this, that we have been brought up in a mythology about the whole of animated nature. We talk about the ferocious gorilla, wild beasts, the continuous state of warfare with one another. If you go out into the jungle you will find every branch of every tree dripping with boa constrictors and poisonous snakes, and lions concealed behind bushes and rocks, ready to jump out at the first creature. What this is is simply the projection of Western industrial society upon the screen of nature. The only jungles on this Earth are the cities of civilization. There are no jungles in nature, and there are no wild animals in nature. The only wild animal is man. He is the enemy and he is ourselves. The ferocious gorilla, who studied only fifteen years ago, and even today, and as I knew from observations made by other investigators, earlier than fifteen years ago, is the most amiable, the most lovable of creatures. Wouldn't hurt a fly.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly. If you and I were treated as gorillas are, or or any animals, this is why I must say I'm opposed to zoos, unless they are of the enlightened kind which gives the animal the freedom which is like that that it would enjoy.
Studs Terkel Or,
Studs Terkel I want to just extend that to say if you and I were put into a cage, I was thinking of people in the ghetto, people confined in the ghetto, too, what happens to their very lives and being. This, too, would apply in this case.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, this is the point that Desmond Morris makes in his book, "The Human Zoo," that man is actually living under conditions which resemble captive animals living in zoos. Well, that is a very interesting analogy, and it holds in certain parts. But it is not true that human beings live in zoos or really anything resembling zoos, because even those who live in ghettos and under the most overcrowded conditions make their own lives, and/or have more or less opportunities to alter their existence to enjoy freedoms, however limited they may be, that no animal in a zoo is ever.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Ah.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Studs Terkel -in
Dr. Ashley Montagu Right. This is frustration, and the invariable reaction to frustration is hostility, aggression and so forth. But in the case of the animal kingdom, it's a complete myth that animals are aggressive, hostile, ferocious. They don't make war on their own species, nor for the matter of that do they make war on any other species, most part. The fact is that an aggressive act in nature is generally no more than a threat. It does not inflict injury upon anything, it's merely used, I show you my teeth in order that you
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, and they use these teeth at most of the course people used to, and even experts to this day say they have these large eyeteeth, canine teeth, in order to kill other animals. Nonsense. They have these large teeth, very definitely, because as vegetarians they need to strip often the bark, off saplings, etc., crack open nuts and whatnot and so forth. And this is extremely important for their survival. As a matter of fact, a large proportion of them break these teeth, and if you get into the mature ages you find that an enormous number of animals have broken teeth. They don't use them for fighting. And this mythology, and there are books on this subject. For example, great English zoologist Cloudsley-Thompson has written a book on fighting, alleged fighting and violence among animals. But it did not sell as Mr. Ardrey's books sell because in that book, as a scientist writes very beautifully, he states the facts, and the facts are of no interest to most people who want to believe that man is aggressive, that nature is in a state of continuous warfare. Why? Because then this gives them the justification for their own behavior, and it also exonerates them, exculpates them from the sin of being as they are. Because if I am born this way, and the whole is nature is like that, then I cannot be blamed for being what I am.
Dr. Ashley Montagu And wars are inevitable, and murder is something we've got to accept. And I've had people say to me, "Well, okay, so when a population of 2 million people in Manhattan, we had a thousand murders, not to mention the scores of thousands of rapes and violent acts of every kind. This is the price we have to pay for civilization." This is the rationalization, you see, that this is there and we've got to live with it. My view is that it's there, all right, and we don't have to live with it. What is more, we don't even ever have to have it. If we treat human beings the way we are treating them, we will make them into the kind of people they become.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, and that's the point. Our values are all askew, especially in America where we have such riches, such natural wealth, where we enjoy such great freedoms and advantages. A human being can subscribe without ever thinking, and this is the tragedy, to the prevailing values, namely that what is a human being on this Earth for? Every good American knows that it is for being a success. And you've got to become a success in terms of what? External values.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly. Exactly. How else will anyone measure, even how will you measure yourself as a success if you haven't acquired the requisite number of dollars, which will enable you to dress in the way that people recognize, drive the car that General Motors so unfortunately manufacturers without any consideration for the welfare of the driver or the health of the citizen, but boasts of its profits annually, and regards itself as a as one of its presidents said, "What is good for General Motors is good for the country."
Studs Terkel So here we are then, a quote-unquote "civilized" country, and I think contrasting man, this is a comment of yours in a re a recent book, "Man Observed," to man you described in in the book, by the way, the book is "Man and Aggression." It's edited by Dr. Montagu, and its the publishers are Oxford paperback. But a good number of your distinguished colleagues writing in it, and they pretty well demolish Mr. Ardrey. They have great respect for Konrad Lorenz, of course.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes. Konrad Lorenz's error is that which was committed by many scientists who, once they step outside their own field, talk just about as much nonsense on the other subject as the man on the street. And one should always remember this. Nevertheless, most people don't remember this, and this is why the advertising confraternity is so successful. It uses a football hero to express an opinion on something which he is not in the least qualified.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly, and hence Konrad Lorenz has made very fundamental contributions to the study of ethology, the behavior of animals and the state of nature, and also under experimental conditions. But you cannot extrapolate from your findings on other animals to man. Man is a unique creature. A totally different kettle of fish.
Studs Terkel I'm going to return to the matter of why you think Ardrey's books and Lorenz's books have become so popular today. I have an idea, and you may have expressed it in a number of your works, but back to the theme of your own discoveries and findings that man, so-called, I put down so-called primitive man. You put the Pygmies of Ituri forest in the Congo are amiable, get along communally very well. There isn't there isn't a dog-eat-dog-ism there at all.
Dr. Ashley Montagu No, and of course there are many other such societies. Outstanding among these are the Eskimo. In his book, "To The North," Admiral Peary wrote of the Eskimo that though they have never heard of the principles of Jeffersonian democracy or the Sermon on the Mount, they somehow managed to live more closely by these than any Christian, he wrote, "I have ever met, or any American I have ever met." That these are the most wonderful human beings that he had ever met. This is all in his book published 50, 60 years ago. And everyone who has ever known the Eskimos has written in the same way about them. Yet no good American in 1970 in Alaska will permit an Eskimo, or in the north, to come to his front door. And we have lobbies in Washington who are trying to defraud the Ameri-
Studs Terkel Eskimos.
Dr. Ashley Montagu --Eskimos, who are now American citizens in this area, of their fishing rights, their ancient rights. And, of course, we are destroying their culture so rapidly that there won't be much of it left very shortly.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, we are doing this all the time. It's a replay of what we're doing in Vietnam. If what we are doing in Vietnam is right, what is there left to call wrong? Nevertheless, there are an enormous number of Americans who are outraged by a question of this kind, because they know that because we're in Vietnam we must be doing something right, simply because we are there, as Miss America said the other day. Well, this is merely, I bring that point up merely-
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes. Miss America declared, in the following words or words to this effect, that what we are doing in Vietnam must be right since we are there, and all those men in Washington must be fine, intelligent people because we put them there. And this young woman apparently went to school, like so many other of her compeers, where one learns by this method of rote engorgement of facts an incapacity to think for the rest of one's life.
Studs Terkel 'Course this connects, again, this matter that we are there, therefore it's right. And they are strangers, those strange alien people, the Vietnamese, come to the matter of cultures. I think in in a recent book that you co-authored, "The Prevalence of Nonsense," you were pointing out that the Australian Aborigine has a culture as rich, in his own way, as that of a Western man.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Of
Dr. Ashley Montagu That's it, that's it. The really only way in which these so-called primitive people, who should never be called primitive people, their languages are very much more refined than English is, and I don't and I can't think one of them that isn't in which you can say so very much more so much more delicately and sensitively than we can in our in any Indo-Germanic language. Their kinship systems are very much more complex than our own, and very much more refined. Their way of life, of course, we would be dead within three days in most of these environments in which these people lived. But they, of course, a six year old child could survive in these, he has learned how. And they are extraordinarily warm, loving people, these people. This is a great tragedy that we have lost this understanding of what it means to be a human being. They know that it means not only the relatedness to one's fellow human beings, but the relatedness to the total environment. They don't make much of a distinction between other animals and rocks and pools and clouds and human beings. Their beautiful creation stories ties everything together, so that you know that you're a part of everything, and everything is a part of you. Not that you are superior, and you are at the top, and you must multiply and increase and subdue the rest. And look what we have done with that viewpoint.
Studs Terkel Mm-hm.
Dr. Ashley Montagu -and bulldozing it out of existence, into slime, and murdering lakes, just think what we've done to Lake Erie, what we're doing to Lake Michigan, what we're doing to our rivers and have done to our streams. And all this by loyal, remember, hundred-percent patriotic Americans who sing "America the Beautiful" and "My Country Tis of Thee," and going to, as boys and girls learn, how hypocritically to place their hands on their spleens or their clavicles and pledge allegiance to the flag under God yet, with liberty and justice toward all, and go out and behave toward blacks the way they have done for three hundred and fifty years. If this is not learning how to say one thing and perfervidly believe it as most Americans do, and then go out and behave in the very contradictory manner. If this is not learning hypocrisy, I don't know what is. That with this combination of learning how not to think, how to use words under the misapprehension that you're engaged in thinking, and how hypocritically to say one thing, that you love, and act in the very opposite manner, and then of course you love your country, but, of course, despoiling it, lacerating and murdering it, is not incompatible with loving it. This
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course. But just this this this kind of experience in America makes it possible for an officer of the United States Army in the year 1969 to say, "We had to destroy this town in Vietnam to save it." Now, how far can you go in inhumanity? And this man probably is a loving father, and a loving citizen, loves his coun, and he thought that what he was saying was making sense.
Dr. Ashley Montagu In my view most people are mad, and by the legal definition of madness, namely an inability to manage one's own affairs, and the most important of one's own affairs is managing oneself as a human being. In other words being a human being, and being a human being is a great privilege and a great responsibility. It's not something that you just sit back and it happens to you. It's something about which you have to do something.
Studs Terkel There's a phrase that you used in the book, or one of your colleagues did, in "Man on Aggression," about a human being, man's brain. Now is it: " A human nature is what man learns it to become. Isn't that it?
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, exactly. And the important point is for us human beings to remember that none of us will ever be perfect, and that some of us are less perfect than others, but that however we have failed as human beings, and whoever caused us to fail as human beings, whoever made us what we have become, that doesn't for a moment relieve us of the responsibility of making ourselves over into what we ought to be. And what we ought to be is the kind of creatures who relate themselves to others in such a manner that one not only enables them to live but to live more fully fulfilled as the kind of human beings who can so creatively relate themselves to others. And this is love.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, of course. This is what they are after, and this is why they have rediscovered the meaning of love, that it's not something that you say but it's something that you do, that the meaning of a word is the action it produces.
Studs Terkel Of course, this whole matter of aggressiveness, too, the anger challenging that, we think of male, John Wayne, Two-Gun Pete, General Patton with two guns. He then, that is verility, whereas some of the young, of course, are challenging, [some of?] the male young, and the female young like them very much.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, well, of course the idea of the warrior virtues has been cultivated in all warlike societies, especially in Germany where children were brought up in the so-called military virtues. Now, I don't consider that anything military has any virtue whatsoever. I think it's anti-human. I think that if you look up any dictionary or any encyclopedia for a definition of the meaning of intelligence you will find it defined in descending order of merit: human intelligence, animal intelligence, and military intelligence. And I think that
Dr. Ashley Montagu Human intelligence, animal intelligence, and military intelligence, in descending order of merit. I can't think of anything that military men have ever said or done that was anything but anti-human. And it is a great tragedy for the world that, in the United States, the Pentagon plays such a dominant role in the government, not only of American affairs, but of world affairs, where 80 percent of our income goes to the support of the military. Well, this again is in evidence of insanity, that where we should be making every endeavor to behave as cooperative, warm, loving human beings, and to show other peoples in the world that we are not in the least interested in aggression, but that we're only interested in cooperation, and that we want to live in a community of nations. And this brings me to the matter of patriotism again. I do not regard patriotism as of any value if it is "my country first," or "my country, right or wrong." I regard the true patriot as the one who puts humanity first, and his country second. If his country is opposed to the interests of humanity, then that country, my country, is wrong, and I'm going to see to it that that is made clear, and that the wrongs that it is committing are stopped, and reparation made for those wrongs.
Studs Terkel So we come back again, don't we, as an anthropologist, as a humanist, of course, they're both related. You have to be, you and, say, Dr. Franz Boas, of another generation, that the anthro- quote-unquote "anthropological" theories of Ardrey, in a sense, lends itself to
Dr. Ashley Montagu Oh, of course, yes. All these people, Lorenz and Desmond Morris, and Anthony Storr is an English psychiatrist, and a New Zealand zoologist, Bigelow, and a good many others all are saying that man is innately aggressive, therefore, of course, the military staffs can teach their young trainees and officers that, of course, these are powerful drives that everyone possesses, and that we have to utilize these, and the way to bring these out in our soldiers is to behave as drill sergeants behave toward them, and make them hostile so that they accumulate these large reservoirs of hostility, which will enable them to fall upon the enemy with the vigor that a good soldier should. And these people come back, bring guns back with them, their children take them off the mantel pieces and shoot their brothers or sisters or themselves with them, and it's perfectly alright to have arms around because, as The American Rifle Association, in in an issue published last year, had an article, you may find this difficult to believe, but it's in cold print and can be checked, an article entitled, "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." And, you know, the violence that is bred by the kind of engagements that we are involved in in Vietnam, and that we see on television, that children pick up from the media in general breeds violence. And then we have the kind of people who say, "Oh, but of course it doesn't." And in the same breath they say that the media, television in particular, is the greatest educational media ever developed, and in the other breath they say, "Oh no, children don't learn violence from this." I mean, all this gun-shooting and these great heroes, John Wayne, etc., who makes these literally pornographic, obscene films, if there is any meaning to the word.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Where
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu And then take, and then going around like John Wayne. I have not seen this film and I wouldn't, but I've heard a great deal about it, patting this little child on the head whose parents have been murdered by the people he represents, patting the child on the head and saying, "This is what this war is all about. You are what this war is all about." If there can be anything more obscene or pornographic than that. As a matter of fact, I read an account of a film, a review of it in the English journal.
Studs Terkel Yeah. I think, Dr. Montagu, we're talking rather something rather interesting here. I for a long time we think of something obscene or pornographic as concerning a man, a woman, and a bed.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes. And I, in this connection, would like to recall a statement made by Jonathan Swift, Dean Swift, several hundred years ago, in which he said, "When we go about to kill a man, we carry the instruments of destruction on our shoulders for all the world to see. But when we go about to create a man, we snuff the candle and pull the sheet."
Studs Terkel Hmm.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, exactly. And we have made, and here Christianity has a heavy burden to bear, a dirty thing out of sex. A beautiful experience, an experience which is an enriching one, and an enlivening one, and a healthy one. And Saint Paul saying that, "Well, if you have to, it is better to marry than to burn." It's a choice between evils. Marriage isn't evil, but a really good soul, like a good churchman, remains a celibate or a nun. And this is the pathology which has developed in the Western tradition, originating in the Middle East, of course, and affecting all our human relationships, and anything that is a public display of a sexual interest was considered to be obscene, even punishable, both by the church and the secular authorities. But we are now, of course, in a revolution, in spite of the fact that a number of sociologists deny that there is such a revolution. But the truth is that younger people are revaluing the values of their elders, and they no longer think that sex is a dirty thing. And, as in every revolution, there are extremes to which people go and will continue to go. Nevertheless, there is a very much healthier view of sex developing the young among the young people than we've ever experienced in the last 2,000 years of Christianity.
Studs Terkel And I suppose we we have to think along, with this particular revolution, there is also that thought about country and the world, isn't there? To go back to maybe they're anthropologists without realizing it. In in your book you were you were speaking of man being about two million years old and only about ten thousand years has when did aggressiveness come to into play? You speak of nation states-
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Studs Terkel -coming
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, well that's a very important point for everyone to understand, that man has been on this Earth for two million or more years, and during the whole of that period, with the exception of the last ten to twelve thousand years, he has lived as a food-gathering hunter, which means that for his continued existence he was dependent upon just picking the plants, nuts, fruits, and gathering in these and hunting animals. And such communities can only support a very small population in the order of twenty to forty, about, people. In such a small community, everyone is dependent upon everyone else, everyone knows everyone else, everyone is involved in everyone else, because whatever you do will affect the wealth of everyone. And so you are a interconnected series of relationships, as I said earlier, not only with your fellow man but with the whole of your environment. So you don't destroy too many plants, you don't destroy too many animals, you even have rituals and celebrations in which you apologize to these plants and animals for utilizing in this way, and you have ceremonies which will increase them tenfold as compensation for your present conduct. And this is where people have lived in love and amity with one another, as the Pygmies of the Ituri forest, and the Eskimos, the Australian Aborigines, and a fair number of other food-gathering hunting peoples.
Studs Terkel Mm,
Ashley Montagu With the discovery of agriculture you can enlarge your population, and you can then also enlarge to such an extent that you acquire certain amounts of power which, as Lord Bacon pointed out in the last century, is likely to be corrupting. When you have the power you tend to go on to acquire more power. And this really, on a superficial basis, explains some of the warlike activities of these New Guinea tribes, who raid often each other, and are cannibalistic.
Dr. Ashley Montagu That's it, that's it. As soon as you as soon as you discover agriculture, in other words that you plant seeds and then you can control the reproduction of plants, and then you can multiply that reproduction any extent you like, we stay put now for the first time in one place, where you plant your seeds, and you can support a much larger population, you develop villages instead of moving around, as these other peoples do all over the territory which they occupy, and you grow from villages into towns, into cities, where now instead of 20, 40, 50, 100 people you have thousands and thousands, most of whom you don't know, and you now have a stratification of occupations, workers, that are foremen, overseers, masters, exploiters, chieftains, priests. And for the first time in the history of man you get the condition of disengagement, of alienation, that you are no longer related to lots of people. You don't even care about them, because the pressures of life now have become such that the struggle for existence is so great that just managing to survive under these conditions is time-consuming.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly, exactly. And in the competitive situations which arise in such societies, I the desire to continue to survive leads people to behave in all sorts of anti-human ways, and this is particularly true of the Chieftains, or the powerful people who, having acquired so much property, now wish to acquire more property. They are jealous of the greater properties of their neighbours. So the war appears for the first time. First it appears in the form of raids. You raid for the animals of the other group. You don't worry or even the plants which, in the form of seeds, were kept in great big holes in the ground at first. Take that away, too. Then, of course, when you become a city, a city-state, you have a great many valuable things like precious metals, which are being worked into objects of art, a great deal of gold in the form of coins or bars or whatnot, and other valuables of this kind which, by war, you can acquire unto yourself. And that's how it comes into existence. And then of course you have the human condition of people envying those who have more than themselves, and wishing to be as those more successful people are. And you have nineteen hundred and seventy in the greater part of the western world.
Studs Terkel And now we have, isn't it remarkable that you're telling, in a sense, the story of mankind and property, and aggressiveness because of property, rather than because of his innate nature. We also come to the young and to technology, which things are now making things, and therefore the thing need not be that important anymore.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, we are ripe for the kind of nature which says, "Well, instead of landing on the moon, why don't we land on Earth?" And instead of, as a Columbia University scientist suggested the other day, making nuclear explosions on the moon, why don't we make a sort explosion of self understanding and knowledge, which for the first time will enable us to land on Earth, and not to indulge in these evasive tactics which many governments indulge in in order to divert the attention of the people from internal affairs which need remedying. Focus their attention on external affairs. Yes, for example, in the Middle East, the best thing that ever happened in the Middle East was the creation of the state of Israel. Why? Because the Israelis, being people of bane accomplishments, could bring [coughing] to the Middle East the kind of knowledge and understanding which the Middle Eastern peoples are so much in need of. But the Chieftains, the Nasirs, the Hussains and others of this area, would not find this to their advantage. Therefore they have focused the attention of their ignorant peoples, their illiterate peoples, on the Israelis as the scapegoats and the enemy. And here you have this sorry spectacle again repeated of power-drunk men creating conditions among their own people which are to their worst disadvantage. Whereas the Israelis, given the freedom to do so, would help these people immeasurably.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Exactly.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes.
Studs Terkel Knighthood. Oxford is the publisher of "Man on Aggression." It's it's a powerful work, I think a terribly important one because of the fact that, for some reason or other, the innate venality of man has become fashionable again. For a time it was unfashionable, social Darwinism-
Dr. Ashley Montagu I ascribe the this popularity to what I said, really, before: that most people consider it a very helpful idea to believe that they are innately aggressive, because this then relieves them of the burden of guilt which they may be carrying around for being as guilty, ornery, and as aggressive as they consider themselves to be. This also explains a great deal and relieves them the necessity of any further labor.
Studs Terkel You know, Dr. Montagu, I think before you have other engagements, I know, it would be I'd be remiss, since a great portion of my audience consists of women, being a morning program, although many I call "independent contractors" are men listening. One of your books is "The Natural Superiority of Women." And today, of course, with the militancy here, too, and women's awareness of self, too, becoming more and more evident, your book becomes contemporary, and always was, but even more so.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course, I think that women are being the, in quotes, "inferior race" of the masculine world for millennia, and that they are still denied the freedoms which men enjoy, the equalities which are their right, or should be their right by the birthright of being human beings, and as women they have a very important contribution to make because they are the products of an evolutionary process which begins with the earliest mammals, in which there is a differentiation between the sexes in such a manner that the mother becomes the critical person in the growth and development of the young. Women are the mothers of humanity, whether they become actual mothers or not, because they have been selected in the evolutionary process for their ability to love and sustain and maintain. And this is something that a good mother should teach her children simply by her behavior, her loving behavior toward the children. And she should also teach this to her technical husband, who is often a child in need of retraining in this respect. And if men would only recognize that the greater the freedom as the female of the species enjoys, the greater would be their own freedoms. That if you keep one half of the human race down, you're going to keep yourself down by the very process of indulging in that act, because you have to get down to that level that you are keeping your so-called inferiors. And so, I think these protest movements on the part of women are very good, even though in some cases they may take extreme forms. For example, some months ago one of these women, when I stood up when she entered the room, put me down immediately-
Studs Terkel [laughter]
Dr. Ashley Montagu That's right, that's right. She she didn't want me to give up a seat or stand and so forth. Well, that's alright. One understands this. It's a rather unnecessary kind of comment to make, but if she felt it was necessary perhaps the point is well taken.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, in there have never been any matriarchal societies. It is often said that there have been, but there never have been. The matriarchal society is a society in which women conduct the government of a society. There never has
Dr. Ashley Montagu People are always bringing up the Amazons and so forth, and there never were any Amazons in Greece, nor were there, some people think, in South America apropos of the Amazon River. There have been matrilineal societies, many matrilineal societies, and many of them exist at the present time. But this means that descent, names, property goes down in the female line, but not that the government is conducted by the people, by the females. The females, as among the Iroquois, for example, would appoint the members of the council and would even disappoint them, too, by seeing if they were inefficient or whatnot, seeing that they were removed. But they themselves did not, in fact, participate in the government. But of course, the hand that rocks the cradle really is the hand that rules the world, or should be. And women have greatly erred in the past in permitting men to impose their views as to the nature of what a human being should be, or their particular place, namely women, as well as men in the world should be.
Studs Terkel Of course, there you're talking also about women who sometimes, in many instances, I could turn the tape over another five minutes or so. So I think in some instances women, as far as family is concerned, need not be encumbered might not be the word, but need not have any family if they don't want to, either. That's their right, too.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, of course. I think the ultimate right of having, bearing children should always be that of the bearer of the children. It is not something that anyone should ever enforce upon any woman, and a woman of course should be the ultimate and final arbiter as to how many children she is to have and how they are to be spaced.
Studs Terkel And the theme, the last theme we're touching on is, oh, the independence of women and the right to the right to control her body, right? To bear children or not bear children. We're talking about the battle these days for the abolition of abortion laws.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes, and abortion of course should be legalized, if only because abortion is something that is carried out, and it is estimated between one and a half or two million or more women a year in the United States alone, and in many cases these abortions are carried out by people who are not qualified, and lead to serious illness and frequently very tragic deaths. If we legalized abortion we could at least eliminate these tragedies, and furthermore give a sanction to the right that every woman should enjoy who has conceived a baby which she does not want, which no one wants. There should be no unwanted children ever born. It is little known to most Americans that the average cost of a child born out of wedlock to the community is 600,000 dollars, and I mention this figure because Americans will listen when it hits their pocketbook, when they will listen to no other appeal to reason. And the awful tragedy is that I, as a professor of anatomy in medical school have seen, I wish most people could see, and then they would have no doubt as to the immediate necessity of the legalization of abortion. I have seen lying on the autopsy table girl after girl, 18 years of age, dead because of an illegal abortion. If anyone can justify this kind of thing I would like to hear from them.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Yes. That I'm glad you mention because that is the number one problem we have to solve. And I say it's the number one problem because, unless we solve the problem of overpopulation, we will not be able to solve any other problem. We are now faced in this country, and of course in the rest of the world, but to speak about America, people are often saying, "Well, we have plenty of room." I was sitting in the Chicago airport some months ago and the enormous number of crowds, a tremendous congregation of planes which couldn't get out, and planes flying around, circling above, etc. And so I said to a young man sitting next me, "What do you think would be the solution to this problem?" He said, "I don't know, I this is the first time I've flown." So a man, well-heeled, obviously gone to college, standing nearby said, "Oh, I think we need more planes." So I said to him, "Don't you think that birth control would help?" He looked at me as if I were crazy. He said, "Oh, that's not our problem. They have that problem in India." And that's what a good education had taught him. We have over a hundred million more people already in America than we can take care of. We are suffering from the pollutions, not only that these people produce, but we are suffering from people pollution. And what has to be made clear is that if we go on reproducing at the rate we are doing at the present time, we will have, in the next 30 years, a hundred million more Americans. This means that starting at this moment we would have to build, every month, a city which would hold a quarter of a million more Americans right up to the year 2000. We won't do that. Those hundred million people are going to aggregate in the already overcrowded cities. Two-thirds of the population of the United States lives on two percent of the land mass. It's a frightful overcrowding, with results that really everybody should understand. And these results are not that there won't be enough room, or that there won't be enough food, but the debasement of humanity, the disinheritance of an enormous number of babies that are born of their birthright, which is the right to develop as human fulfilled beings. This will not be possible. We will ghettoize the human spirit, and debase and dehumanise these babies, so that our crime rates which exist at the present time, which are enormous, will go skyrocketing up. Disease, disorder, disorganization, until we reach the point from which we are not very far removed of not only not being able to govern the society, but certainly not being able even to manage it. We can just barely manage it now.
Studs Terkel It returns again. Dr. Montagu, by the way, is here in Chicago this moment in the auspices of the Planned Parenthood Association. And return to the theme, the recurring theme, the credo of Dr. Ashley Montagu throughout the writings of all his books and his conversation this morning, man's responsibility. We come back to that again.
Dr. Ashley Montagu That
Studs Terkel That is his to face. And you point out in one recent book, "Man Observed," writes Dr. Montagu, "our past ignorance of man's nature and needs has already lead civilized man into so many self destructive errors, has endangered not only his own world but also the whole of animate nature. Civilized Man in large numbers lost a sense of responsibility to his fellow man and especially to children. He multiplies their responsibility." And as you were saying, and it goes on in this very eloquent and powerful vein, that we could return to that theme again.
Dr. Ashley Montagu Well, that is what most people have not been taught to understand, namely, that being a human being is not something that just happens to you. It's a responsibility. It's like patriotism. It's like democracy. Most Americans have the form of government, exactly the form of democracy that they deserve, and will continue to have it unless they do something about improving it. In other words democracy is the finest form of government ever devised by the mind of man, but it is a form of government that will not work unless people, the citizens, work at maintaining it. Not saying in this empty, immoral, obscene phrase, "My country, right or wrong." If your country murders, your country murders, and there is no two questions about it. Not even-
Dr. Ashley Montagu It's your responsibility to see that that is not continued. Whatever is wrong, it is your obligation to put right and redress. That being a human being is a high privilege, and with privileges go responsibilities. You can't dismiss this by saying, "I am an American, and the Constitution of the United States guarantees me the right to do what I like." I've heard this again and again. No constitution guarantees anyone the right to do what he likes. What a constitution guarantees you is the right to do what you ought, and what you ought to do is to love your fellow human beings, and your fellow animal relatives to the very least of them, and your animated and inanimate environment.
Studs Terkel Dr. Ashley Montagu, thank you very much. Your thoughts, of course, not only are a warning but they also involve possibilities, too, toward horizons not yet seen. Dr. Montagu's books, of course, thirty of them or so, many paperback are available. Quite rewarding, indeed. Thank you very much.