“Don’t you sometimes despair?” he asked. Dr. MacPhail shook his head. “We don’t despair,” he said, “because we know that things don’t necessarily have to be as bad as in fact they’ve always been.”

“We know that they can be a great deal better,” Susila added. “We know it because they already are a great deal better, here and now, on this absurd little island.”

“But whether we shall be able to persuade you people to follow our example, or whether we shall even be able to preserve our tiny oasis of humanity in the midst of your worldwide wilderness of monkeys- that, alas,” said Dr. MacPhail, “is another question. One’s justified in feeling extremely pessimistic about the current situation. But, despair, radical despair- no, I cant see any justification for that.”

“Not even when you read history?”

“Not even when I read history.”

“I envy you. How do you manage to do it?”

“By remembering what history is- the record of what human beings have been impelled to do by their ignorance and the enormous bumptiousness that makes them canonize their ignorance as a political or religious dogma.”


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