« PreviousContinue »
some place as the basis, not the whole, of life. The poor are fewer, and not so poor. They are protected by compulsory insurance. Commercialism is sane; cities are beautiful, unmarred by plague spots of slums. The idea is not tolerated that the increased sale of some article, or the erection of buildings to unlimited heights for the sake of greater rent, may override the city's claims to orderliness and beauty. Forests and fields are wisely used, not plundered and gutted. It is universally admitted and acted upon that an individual's business is of minute consequence as compared with the welfare of the public.
Thus it would seem that Germany's more normal attitude to material wealth is due to a wise foresight, a realization that submission to centralized authority for the general good is the wholesome and true view to take. By contrast, it seems that the American rapacity is due, not to innate depravity, but rather to a fierce spirit of individualism, and an unwillingness to submit to the public welfare. It is evident that we must learn how to put our economic house in order, subordinating individual greed to the general good, if we are not to degenerate in a particularly offensive way. Moreover, in this matter Germany is the world's best teacher.
There are, however, aspects of German thought even more repulsive than our greed; and if they are necessary to success, most Americans will prefer not to succeed. All these ideas, which centre around another materialistic doctrine- the worship of force, accompanied by its offspring, worship of self as the embodiment of force—are as hateful to idealism and as dangerous to permanence, as our love of money-getting.
It is interesting to sketch the growth of this quality into its present character of an obsession among the Germans. Bitter partisans have attempted to show that brutality and a tendency to domineer are qualities inherently German. But when one considers how these very qualities have marred the history of all great nations at one time or another, and then recalls German music, literature, and philosophy before 1870, such an argument dissolves in nothingness.
A more plausible theory is that this love of force had its origin in Prussia, where for centuries a ceaseless struggle with the Slav,
and with the bleak, inhospitable aspect of nature, caused it to develop naturally, since life depended to a peculiar degree on the exercise of force. This tendency, incarnated in the Hohenzollern dynasty, is then supposed to have been aggravated by the long struggle of Prussia, against great odds, to assume the leading rôle in Germany. The remainder of Germany is represented as being won over to force-worship by the demonstration of its success, and what that success meant to a united Germany, long harried and retarded in development by being the prey of conquering armies.
The theory, and it seems convincing, goes on to point out that the very docility of the South German temperament (said to be proved by the centuries of unquestioning fidelity to petty rulers at a time when the desire for freedom which has made them democracies to-day was slowly gathering force in France and England) made it easy for Prussia, with its highly centralized government, to impress its ideals on the lesser states as they were absorbed.
It is a commonplace that pressure from above has been constantly exerted on educators, from the lowest grades to the universities, on the press, on public speakers; in short, on all the forces which mould public opinion. This pressure has been concentrated on the promulgation of a certain set of ideas as to the function of the State: the duty of unquestioning obedience on the part of citizens; the infallible nature of the authorities; the conspiracy of these foreigners to defraud Germany of what should be hers by virtue of natural worth- and force; the justice of Germany's use of force to promote her ambitions.
The government gave the masses the best rule, if we overlook the feature of liberty and responsibility in their own destinies, that the world has ever seen. The government has been honest, efficient, and inspired by a great ambition to improve the country and increase the prosperity and contentment of its sons. No wonder the people succumbed to such steady pressure, and thought as they were desired to think by their leaders, with a remarkable unanimity.
The result is the assault on Belgium, "frightfulness" in war, the Chant of Hate, the insane mouthings of the German professors,
the Lusitania episode-finally a world aghast and revengeful Needless to say, at such a price, success is too costly, and even commercial America, while much muddled up over the situation, and playing an ignominious part because of her pitiful weakness and lack of coherent spirit and forceful leadership, yet execrates German motive and act. Unwilling or unable to fight for the kind of civilization which we believe in and hope to enjoy, we are nevertheless greatly shaken, and ask ourselves what it all means, where it leads. More than ever is the need of liberty— of speech, of the press, of the ballot-realized, when the lack of such freedom is seen to bring such a catastrophe on the world, and to turn the peaceful, kindly Germans into the murderers of Belgian and American civilians, enthusiastic supporters of utter savagery such as rolls back the world's development for centuries. Yet hand in hand with the determination to retain liberty, goes a realization of the need of effective organization. It is the latter that we lack-organization. And we must develop it before we can hope for a true national spirit and the ability to act as a unit. Moreover, there is a keen realization of our fatal military weakness, in spite of our potential strength, and of the hopelessness of preparing in a short time to withstand a first class military power. Our military needs are being thoroughly aired, and the preponderance of expert opinion is that conscription is a necessity, if we are to support against all eventualities our non-aggressive but independent foreign policy. The root problem is the creation of a keener, more patriotic national spirit. The present situation in Germany and Great Britain presents an illuminating contrast bearing directly on this question.
OUR LACK OF NATIONAL SPIRIT
Perhaps the greatest single factor of Germany's strength in the present war, underlying and making possible her marvelous military preparation, is the realization on the part of the working class that the government has been an instrument for the furtherance of their economic welfare. Even the socialists realized that the government had made an honest and able effort to meet modern industrial conditions from the standpoint of the public
good. All classes realized that the government, while autocratic, was beneficent, devoted, and efficient. The wonderful patriotic response of the people to the call to aid the empire in her hour of peril is the best possible testimonial to the success of the policy of even limited state socialism.
England, on the contrary, has had trouble from the start with large numbers of the working class, not merely in the matter of getting recruits quickly, but especially in the campaign for increased production of munitions. It is not to be wondered at, when we consider that in peace times the government, until very recently, neglected to a large extent the unequal struggle of the masses against combinations of capital to meet the increased cost of living and maintain a decent standard. The British aristocracy were just as devoted as the upper classes of Germany, if less efficient organizers, and they have sacrificed their lives most gallantly, as the long lists of officers' casualities show. But then they had something to fight for-power, prestige, the good things of life -in which happy possessions the government staunchly upheld them. Yet is it so much to be wondered at that many of the workers expressed indifference as to whether or not the Kaiser ruled them? They felt that their government meant nothing to them, and so they did not respond in her hour of need with anything like the unanimity and ardor of the German proletariat.
It may be argued that France, an individualistic country, entered the war with unity and fervor equal to that of Germany. The undoubted truth that she did so seems, however, to rest on a somewhat different basis. In the first place, there has not been the same economic congestion in France as in England and Germany. With a population 65% agricultural, 35% urban, and many of the urban population so classified being small independent manufacturers in the provincial cities, it is apparent that the same problems did not exist. Moreover, the excellent national and departmental roads and canals, state forests, railway and rural credits system, municipal markets, abattoirs and public utilities, national school system, and compulsory military service, all show that such problems as existed were capably met, by an efficient, honest, and democratic government. These things make for national spirit.
When the average American thinks of the Pork Barrel; the money wasted on our present army and navy; the inefficiency and graft which lost unnecessarily many a life in the Spanish war; to say nothing of the serious economic problems untouched by the government; and the myriad local grafts, state and municipal; he does not feel very patriotic. Windbag oratory does not make up for gross inefficiency and lack of real ideals of public service on the part of office-holders. The day of thoughtless partiotism is on the wane. Men want to believe in what they sacrifice themselves for, and they base belief and faith on works, not words. A modern government must meet modern problems and meet them efficiently, in a spirit of high devotion to the general welfare, if it is to be solidly supported when the acid tests comes. Let us consider some steps of a nature to give the average citizen more confidence in the State and its worthiness to endure, to make him feel that in case of war he gives his life, if need be, not for the benefit of a few privileged individuals, but for a great ideal and organization which means something to him and all his fellows.
That there is a real need of increasing American national spirit is sufficiently revealed by the economic unrest, and the example of England's struggle to awaken patriotism in the face of similar social conditions. If more evidence is needed, the presence of huge masses of unassimilated foreigners in our midst, whose recent attitude has shown where their allegiance lies, together with the general apathy of our people in the face of the German insolence following the Lusitania incident, should prove convincing. As a final consideration, the presence of large numbers of peace-at-any-price advocates among our citizens, and the reflection that in all our past wars we have been slow to develop a general resolve to back the government at any cost, so that conscripton was necessary even in the Civil War, should make it clear that in event of war we should be unprepared not only in a material way, but in spirit.
SOCIALISTIC REFORMS NECESSARY TO INCREASE PATRIOTISM
Thus it is evident that economic reforms in the interest of the public welfare are essential to giving the government vitality and