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Brain tests

Location:
Washington, DC
Year:
1924
Long title
Brain tests; a new system to determine the place of every human being in the scale of civilization

Review

A late work which throws further light on Webster Edgerly's fascistic, megalomaniacal world-view.

Edgerly's introduction to this book states:-

"Brain Tests" should be made a part of every school and college training; for it surpasses in importance the whole fabric of knowledge taught by the greatest universities. As a book of reading it is easily worth more than its price. As a guiding System in life, it cannot be replaced by instruction costing thousands of dollars. Its cost cannot be reckoned by its mechanical value alone; as, in addition to that which is expensive, it represents forty years of labor involving investigation of over one bundled thousand facts and incidents, and a vast amount of auxiliary help from countless sources.

These Tests involve a method of thinking and studying that is wholly new and original. They do not reflect any line of instruction or training that has ever been given to the world in the past, nor are they allied to any work of amy kind that has bitherto been published; although from necessity they are applied to the whole world of human activities that make up the experiences that are called civilization, and this application compels a review of life itself. It is refreshing to find something new, that is at the same time of superlative value.

In fact, it is predominantly an ugly series of rants directed against what Edgerly saw as the evils of the day. His justification for calling them "Brain Tests" is that those who can follow his arguments and presumably agree with them are thereby proved high in the "scale of civilization".

He begins by arguing that because the brain is fallible it is not the best instrument to guide one through life. He proposes instead something he calls the "clear mind". Confusingly, this appears to be simultaneously "an alternative" to the brain and the result of training it through correct diet and exercise. "If your meninges are clear, and the electric mucus that operates thought is clean, clear and normal, you are at the zenith of civilization, at the top rung, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT in the scale of civilization."

Edgerly then turns to one of the central topics of this volume: that of crime. His view is unusual: crime is committed by those who cannot help themselves; they cannot help themselves because they are "insane"; but all the same they are capable of being deterred; to which end he advocates the death penalty for all those he terms "outlaws". For those who might find this a bit strong, he is willing to compromise and allow deportation instead to Australia, Cuba, the Philippines or Africa. Furthermore, deportation is not to be restricted to major criminals but must also be applied to petty thieves, arms traders - legal or otherwise - profiteers, prostitutes, drunkards, loafers and tabloid newspapermen. This is "the only course to be pursued under the direction of a SOUND JUDGEMENT controlling a perfectly sane mind".

Of course, to deport all these people while letting others enter the country would not be a matter of SOUND JUDGEMENT; all immigration should be stopped. He is particularly keen to keep out those he terms "non-racial" - by which he means non-white. Of those "non-racials" already in the country, these he says are "prone to law-breaking"; they contain "ninety percent of the bootleggers, ninety percent of the drug dealers, ninety percent of the white slave dealers". To deal with these and other undesirables (those he has not already hanged or deported) he proposes a remedy he calls "rounding up cities", thus:-

"Make cordons around the pest sections of the cities; move these cordons forward month by month and year by year, closing in on the criminals, narrowing their zone, and eventually ending their worthless careers. Justice tempered with mercy was never shown the sea pirates; the hope of civilisation now is justice tempered by steel and steeped in blood driven home to the last rotten core of the most despicable forms of humanity that can be conceived. In the stone age, during the reign of prehistoric man, with all his savagery and crudeness, there was the virility of manhood; in the pestilential moral slums there is nothing but crouching and cowering cowardice.

"It all comes down to the simple question of preventing crime rather than curing it by punishment."

Without taking a breath, Edgerly then proposes the sterilization of the "weak-minded". Is there not a rather chillingly familiar ring to all this?

As light relief, he turns his attention to the processes of governance of the United States, arguing that RIGHT over reason demands, inter alia, that "the President should be elected for six years, instead of four", that political parties should be abolished, that taxation should be cut drastically, and that juries of lay people should be replaced by ones made up of "lawyers who can be trusted". This last measure is required in order that criminals can be treated with sufficient harshness, of course.

In passing he takes a swipe at women who smoke:

"It is wholly impossible to coax, induce, flatter or shame a woman into smoking cigarettes if her blood is pure and free from syphilis. Even the lowest of women will not take up this habit unless their flesh is syphilitic."

Once all these horrid slum-dwelling, insane, racially doubtful people, with their unclean habits and bad diets have been dealt with, all the RIGHT-thinking people can go to live on little farms in the country, where they'll drink milk and eat vegetables: "canned dried peas, and canned cooked string beans are very nourishing".

Edgerly finishes with a flourish: a "scientific demonstration" of "the Universal Mind", he claims, though it is actually a long-winded exhortation to the reader to put his teachings into practise, the Universal Mind being invoked as the "higher cause" of inspiration to those who do so, those who are "ruled by RIGHT". "BRAIN TESTS", he boasts, "are constantly increasing your ability and calibre as a real thinker to solve any problem".