The following is a reproduction of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius' reply to a question submitted by a reader, as published in Questions & Answers, 2nd series, 1935, pp. 76-77. While much of the material in EHJ's reply has been covered in other works, it's nonetheless a tidy and succient summary of some important autobiographic and historic information.
No shooting now, but how about a brief biographical sketch of yourself in the Q's and A's? I'm sure that I don't stand alone among your readers on that point. Let's see what makes you tick. You wouldn't want anyone to picture you as a senile old duffer who never broke 120 in golf. Would you? Now you're a Socrates; now a Schopenhauer; now a combination of Oscar Wilde, Gene Morgan, a battery of 75's, and a college editor pounding out a story slaming [sic] an issue that'll toss him out on his ear. Only you don't toss. You don't have to appease same commercial account. Now: do we get it?
I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint this reader. I don't believe I'll ever let myself get into the autobiographical jitters. About all I can tell you (and perhaps all you ought to know) is that I was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 30, 1889, where I spent the first 17 years of my life. I went to public school in that city, but alas, I never finished the eighth year. having found it necessary to go to work. My father was a bookbinder of the old school - a splendid craftsman, who did fine work, but never made any money. And besides, there were other children - a brother and four sisters. Abraham Lincoln and I belong together in one sense - we were both self-educated. But there's a difference. He went into politics, where education is often a handicap. While I went into writing and publishing, where lack of education is a handicap. But I tried to make up for that condition by reading the kind of books I thought would help me develop my mind. As a result, my mind is crammed with a hundred subjects, upon none of which I am an expert. I have preferred to generalize, rather than to specialize, and it's been lots of fun. My own struggle to get what I might call an "education" led me to figure out the program of a library of little books and my work in this field has attracted international attention. I believe, modesty aside, that I could not have edited the books for millions of persons seeking self-education if I hadn't gone through the mill myself. And that struggle explains mu endless patience in dealing with men and women who are groping for knowledge. I try never to be snobbish, uppish or intellectually overbearing. Instead of getting mad when I meet some new (or old) manifestation of bunk or superstition, I decide to write a piece myself or hire someone else to do a pamphlet for me, which I issue in the hope of settling that problem fur all time, though later I am compelled to admit the problem isn't solved that easily. I long ago made up my mind that I would make my work tell the story of my life, which, of course, would make it unnecessary for me to write an autobiography. I believe I have lived up to that idea pretty well so far. Instead of bothering about me - the man - I put before the world the work that I think is important. I hope to keep at this work as long as there is fighting to be done, because I do not look on the printing press as a pretty toy but as a weapon - something with which to fight social injustice, religious obscurantism, superstition, bunk, bigotry, persecution, racial hatred, militarism, class exploitation, parasitism and intellectual dishonesty in general. I'm not important personally - just a small town printer who happens to think that ideas are important. I'm willing to fight for what I consider to be the Truth. I prefer to make my presses work for the masses, not the "aristocrats." I believe in the gospel of popularized knowledge, even though that gospel can be shot through with faults. It's better than nothing. And if this world is ever to become a better place for all humanity, it will come because hundreds of thousands of men and women - sons of the farm, the factory, the mine and the mill - thought it worth while to capture some of the glories of thought, philosophy, science, history, culture, literature and the other movements of creative man. I have a horror of any kind of a social revolution based on fear, hate and ignorance. The social revolution the world is waiting for must rest on a solid foundation of Truth, free inquiry, honest thinking and, again, Truth. Ignorance usually is in command, because it is easier to be ignorant than to be intelligent; easier to believe than to know; easier to accept notions than to dig for ideas. That's why the priests, preachers and rabbis have had such an easy time keeping the masses in mental bondage. It's the line of least resistance - for the masses - to take ideas ready-made and adopt them as gospel truth. On the other hand, self-education is an endless fight. It is hard, trying, at times discouraging. The powers that thrive on ignorance know how to fight back, and always there is the danger that they will gain control and bring civilization back to the Dark Ages, with freedom dead, education crushed, speech, press and inquiry denied. I don't mean to give the impression that I am something superior because I fight for the cause I think worth struggling for. The fact is I wouldn't know how to do anything else. I have never sold out to any of my intellectual enemies. At the same time, I must honestly add that no one has ever offered to buy me out. I have been left alone, to say my little say. You see, when you ask me to speak about myself I immediately pour myself into a discussion of my work. It couldn't be otherwise. It's the work that's important, not the individual. If, when I'm ready to quit, I can point to a mountain of knowledge that I made available to the people everywhere, that'll be my autobiography.
The material above has been republished with the understanding that the Haldeman-Julius Company's associated copyright is no longer being enforced. All official petitions to the contrary will be acknowledged and adhered to at the request of any surviving copyright owner; just contact us.
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