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I. The Land Impoverished by the Sea

2004/01/13 (Tue)
BOOK SECOND.--THE INTESTINE OF THE LEVIATHAN



CHAPTER I

THE LAND IMPOVERISHED BY THE SEA


Paris casts twenty-five millions yearly into the water. And this
without metaphor. How, and in what manner? Day and night.
With what object? With no object. With what intention?
With no intention. Why? For no reason. By means of what organ?
By means of its intestine. What is its intestine? The sewer.

Twenty-five millions is the most moderate approximative figure
which the valuations of special science have set upon it.

Science, after having long groped about, now knows that the most
fecundating and the most efficacious of fertilizers is human manure.
The Chinese, let us confess it to our shame, knew it before us.
Not a Chinese peasant--it is Eckberg who says this,--goes to town without
bringing back with him, at the two extremities of his bamboo pole,
two full buckets of what we designate as filth. Thanks to human dung,
the earth in China is still as young as in the days of Abraham.
Chinese wheat yields a hundred fold of the seed. There is no
guano comparable in fertility with the detritus of a capital.
A great city is the most mighty of dung-makers. Certain success
would attend the experiment of employing the city to manure
the plain. If our gold is manure, our manure, on the other hand,
is gold.

What is done with this golden manure? It is swept into the abyss.

Fleets of vessels are despatched, at great expense, to collect the
dung of petrels and penguins at the South Pole, and the incalculable
element of opulence which we have on hand, we send to the sea.
All the human and animal manure which the world wastes, restored to
the land instead of being cast into the water, would suffice
to nourish the world.

Those heaps of filth at the gate-posts, those tumbrils of mud
which jolt through the street by night, those terrible casks of
the street department, those fetid drippings of subterranean mire,
which the pavements hide from you,--do you know what they are?
They are the meadow in flower, the green grass, wild thyme,
thyme and sage, they are game, they are cattle, they are the satisfied
bellows of great oxen in the evening, they are perfumed hay, they are
golden wheat, they are the bread on your table, they are the warm
blood in your veins, they are health, they are joy, they are life.
This is the will of that mysterious creation which is transformation
on earth and transfiguration in heaven.

Restore this to the great crucible; your abundance will flow forth
from it. The nutrition of the plains furnishes the nourishment
of men.

You have it in your power to lose this wealth, and to consider me
ridiculous to boot. This will form the master-piece of your ignorance.

Statisticians have calculated that France alone makes a deposit
of half a milliard every year, in the Atlantic, through the mouths
of her rivers. Note this: with five hundred millions we could
pay one quarter of the expenses of our budget. The cleverness
of man is such that he prefers to get rid of these five hundred
millions in the gutter. It is the very substance of the people
that is carried off, here drop by drop, there wave after wave,
the wretched outpour of our sewers into the rivers, and the gigantic
collection of our rivers into the ocean. Every hiccough of our
sewers costs us a thousand francs. From this spring two results,
the land impoverished, and the water tainted. Hunger arising
from the furrow, and disease from the stream.

It is notorious, for example, that at the present hour, the Thames
is poisoning London.

So far as Paris is concerned, it has become indispensable of late,
to transport the mouths of the sewers down stream, below the
last bridge.

A double tubular apparatus, provided with valves and sluices,
sucking up and driving back, a system of elementary drainage,
simple as the lungs of a man, and which is already in full working
order in many communities in England, would suffice to conduct
the pure water of the fields into our cities, and to send back
to the fields the rich water of the cities, and this easy exchange,
the simplest in the world, would retain among us the five hundred
millions now thrown away. People are thinking of other things.

The process actually in use does evil, with the intention of doing good.
The intention is good, the result is melancholy. Thinking to purge
the city, the population is blanched like plants raised in cellars.
A sewer is a mistake. When drainage, everywhere, with its double
function, restoring what it takes, shall have replaced the sewer,
which is a simple impoverishing washing, then, this being combined
with the data of a now social economy, the product of the earth will
be increased tenfold, and the problem of misery will be singularly
lightened. Add the suppression of parasitism, and it will be solved.

In the meanwhile, the public wealth flows away to the river,
and leakage takes place. Leakage is the word. Europe is being
ruined in this manner by exhaustion.

As for France, we have just cited its figures. Now, Paris contains
one twenty-fifth of the total population of France, and Parisian
guano being the richest of all, we understate the truth when we value
the loss on the part of Paris at twenty-five millions in the half
milliard which France annually rejects. These twenty-five millions,
employed in assistance and enjoyment, would double the splendor
of Paris. The city spends them in sewers. So that we may say that
Paris's great prodigality, its wonderful festival, its Beaujon folly,
its orgy, its stream of gold from full hands, its pomp, its luxury,
its magnificence, is its sewer system.

It is in this manner that, in the blindness of a poor
political economy, we drown and allow to float down
stream and to be lost in the gulfs the well-being
of all. There should be nets at Saint-Cloud for the public fortune.

Economically considered, the matter can be summed up thus:
Paris is a spendthrift. Paris, that model city, that patron of
well-arranged capitals, of which every nation strives to possess a copy,
that metropolis of the ideal, that august country of the initiative,
of impulse and of effort, that centre and that dwelling of minds,
that nation-city, that hive of the future, that marvellous combination
of Babylon and Corinth, would make a peasant of the Fo-Kian shrug
his shoulders, from the point of view which we have just indicated.

Imitate Paris and you will ruin yourselves.

Moreover, and particularly in this immemorial and senseless waste,
Paris is itself an imitator.

These surprising exhibitions of stupidity are not novel;
this is no young folly. The ancients did like the moderns.
"The sewers of Rome," says Liebig, "have absorbed all the well-being
of the Roman peasant." When the Campagna of Rome was ruined by
the Roman sewer, Rome exhausted Italy, and when she had put Italy
in her sewer, she poured in Sicily, then Sardinia, then Africa.
The sewer of Rome has engulfed the world. This cess-pool offered
its engulfment to the city and the universe. Urbi et orbi.
Eternal city, unfathomable sewer.

Rome sets the example for these things as well as for others.

Paris follows this example with all the stupidity peculiar
to intelligent towns.

For the requirements of the operation upon the subject of which we
have just explained our views, Paris has beneath it another Paris;
a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its cross-roads, its squares,
its blind-alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is of mire
and minus the human form.

For nothing must be flattered, not even a great people; where there
is everything there is also ignominy by the side of sublimity;
and, if Paris contains Athens, the city of light, Tyre, the city
of might, Sparta, the city of virtue, Nineveh, the city of marvels,
it also contains Lutetia, the city of mud.

However, the stamp of its power is there also, and the Titanic sink
of Paris realizes, among monuments, that strange ideal realized
in humanity by some men like Macchiavelli, Bacon and Mirabeau,
grandiose vileness.

The sub-soil of Paris, if the eye could penetrate its surface,
would present the aspect of a colossal madrepore. A sponge has no
more partitions and ducts than the mound of earth for a circuit of six
leagues round about, on which rests the great and ancient city.
Not to mention its catacombs, which are a separate cellar,
not to mention the inextricable trellis-work of gas pipes,
without reckoning the vast tubular system for the distribution
of fresh water which ends in the pillar fountains, the sewers
alone form a tremendous, shadowy net-work under the two banks;
a labyrinth which has its slope for its guiding thread.

There appears, in the humid mist, the rat which seems the product
to which Paris has given birth.


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