PART II - The Ebbing Tide of White
THE MODERN PELOPONNESIAN WAR
The Peloponnesian War was the suicide of Greek civilization. It is the saddest page of history. In the brief Periclean epoch preceding the catastrophe Hellas had shone forth with unparalleled splendor, and even those wonderful achievements seemed but the prelude to still loftier heights of glory. On the eve of its self-immolation the Greek race, far from being exhausted, was bubbling over with exuberant vitality and creative genius.
But the half-blown rose was nipped by the canker of discord. Jealous rivalries and mad ambitions smouldered till they burst into a consuming flame. For a generation Hellas tore itself to pieces in a delirium of fratricidal strife. And even this was not the worst. The "peace" which closed the Peloponnesian War was no peace. It was a mere truce, dictated by the victors of the moment to sullen and vengeful enemies. Imposed by the sword and infused with no healing or constructive virtue, the Peloponnesian War was but the first of a war cycle which completed Hellas's ruin.
The irreparable disaster had, indeed, occurred: the gulfs of sundering hatred had become fixed, and the sentiment of Greek race-unity was destroyed. Having lost its soul, the Greek race soon lost its body as well.
Drained of its best strains, the diminished remnant bowed to foreign masters and bastardized its blood with the hordes of inferior aliens who swarmed into the land. By the time of the Roman conquest the Greeks were degenerate, and the Roman epithet "Graeculus" was a term of deserved contempt.
Thus perished the Greeks - the fairest slip that ever budded on the tree of life. They perished by their own hands, in the flower of their youth, carrying with them to the grave, unborn, potencies which might have blessed and brightened the world for ages. Nature is inexorable. No living being stands above her law; and protozoön or demigod, if they transgress, alike must die.
The Greek tragedy should be a warning to our own day. Despite many unlikenesses, the nineteenth century was strangely reminiscent of the Periclean age. In creative energy and fecund achievement, surely, its like had not been seen since "the glory that was Greece," and the way seemed opening to yet higher destinies.
But the brilliant sunrise was presently dimmed by gathering clouds. The birth of the twentieth century was attended with disquieting omens. The ills which had afflicted the preceding epoch grew more acute, synchronizing into an all-pervading, militant unrest. The spirit of change was in the air. Ancient ideals and shibboleths withered before the fiery breath of a destructive criticism, while the solid crust of tradition cracked and heaved under the premonitory tremors of volcanic forces working far below. Everywhere were seen bursting forth increasingly acute eruptions of human energy: a triumph of the dynamic over the static elements of life; a growing preference for violent and revolutionary, as contrasted with peaceful and evolutionary, solutions, running the whole politico-social gamut from "Imperialism" to "Syndicalism." Everywhere could be discerned the spirit of unrest setting the stage for the great catastrophe.
Grave disorders were simply inevitable. They might perhaps have been localized. They might even have taken other forms. But the ills of our civilization were too deep-seated to have avoided grave disturbances. The Prussian plotters of "Weltmacht" did, indeed, precipitate the impending crisis in its most virulent and concentrated form, yet after all they were but sublimations of the abnormal trend of the times.
The best proof of this is the white world's acutely pathological condition during the entire decade previous to the Great War. That fierce quest after alliances and mad piling-up of armaments; those paroxysmal "crises" which racked diplomacy's feverish frame; those ferocious struggles which desolated the Balkans: what were all these but symptoms denoting a consuming disease? To-day, by contrast, we think of the Great War as having smitten a world basking in profound peace. What a delusion! Cast back the mind's eye, and recall how hectic was the eve of the Great War, not merely in politics but in most other fields as well. Those opening months of 1914! Why, Europe seethed from end to end! When the Great War began, England was on the verge of civil strife, Russia was in the throes of an acute social revolt, Italy had just passed through a "red week" threatening anarchy, and every European country was suffering from grave internal disorders. It was a strange, nightmarish time, that early summer of 1914, to-day quite overshadowed by subsequent events, but which later generations will assign a proper place in the chain of world-history.
Well, Armageddon began and ran its horrid course. With the grim chronology of those dreary years this book is not concerned. It is with the aftermath that we here deal. And that is a sufficiently gloomy theme. The material losses are prodigious, the vital losses appalling, while the spiritual losses have well-nigh bankrupted the human soul.
Turning first to the material losses, they are of course in the broadest sense incalculable, but approximate estimates have been made. Perhaps the best of them is the analysis made by Professor Ernest L. Bogert, who places the direct costs of the war at $186,000,000,000 and the indirect costs at $151,000,000,000, thus arriving at the stupendous total of $337,000,000,000. These well-nigh inconceivable estimates still do not adequately represent the total losses, figured even in monetary terms, for, as Professor Bogert remarks:
"The figures presented in this summary are both incomprehensible and appalling, yet even these do not take into account the effect of the war on life, human vitality, economic well-being, ethics, morality, or other phases of human relationships and activities which have been disorganized and injured. It is evident from the present disturbances in Europe that the real costs of the war cannot be measured by the direct money outlays of the belligerents during the five years of its duration, but that the very breakdown of modern economic society might be the price exacted."
Yet prodigious as has been the destruction of wealth, the destruction of life is even more serious. Wealth can sooner or later be replaced, while vital losses are, by their very nature, irreparable. Never before were such masses of men arrayed for mutual slaughter. During the late war nearly 60,000,000 soldiers were mobilized, and the combatants suffered 33,O00,000 casualties, of whom nearly 8,000,000 were killed or died of disease, nearly 19,000,000 were wounded, and 7,000,000 taken prisoners. The greatest sufferer was Russia, which had over 9,000,000 casualties, while next in order came Germany with 6,000,000 and France with 4,500,000 casualties. The British Empire had 3,000,000 casualties. America's losses were relatively slight, our total casualties being a trifle under 300,000.
And this is only the beginning of the story. The figures just quoted refer only to fighting men. They take no account of the civilian population. But the civilian losses were simply incalculable, especially in eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that for every soldier killed, five civilians perished by hunger, exposure, disease, massacre, or heightened infant mortality. The civilian deaths in Poland and Russia are placed at many millions, while other millions died in Turkey and Serbia through massacre and starvation. One item alone will give some idea of the wastage of human life during the war. The deaths beyond the normal mortality due to influenza and pneumonia induced by the war are estimated at 4,000,000. The total loss of life directly attributable to the war is probably fully 40,000,000, while if decreased birth-rates be added the total would rise to nearly 50,000,000. Furthermore, so far as civilian deaths are concerned, the terrible conditions prevailing over a great part of Europe since the close of 1918 have caused additional losses relatively as severe as those during the war years.
The way in which Europe's population has been literally decimated by the late war is shown by the example of France. In 1914 the population of France was 39,700,000. From this relatively moderate population nearly 8,000,000 men were mobilized during the war. Of these, nearly 1,400,000 were killed, 3,000,000 were wounded, and more than 400,000 were made prisoners. Of the wounded, between 800,000 and 900,000 were left permanent physical wrecks. Thus fully 2,000,000 men - mostly drawn from the flower of French manhood - were dead or hopelessly incapacitated.
Meanwhile, the civilian population was also shrinking. Omitting the civilian deaths in the northern departments under German occupation, the excess of deaths over births was more than 50,000 for 1914, and averaged nearly 300,000 for the four succeeding war years. And the most alarming feature was that these losses were mainly due, not to deaths of adults, but to a slump in the birth-rate. French births, which had been 600,000 in 1913, dropped to 315,000 in 1916 and 343,000 in 1917. All told, it seems probable that between 1913 and 1919 the population of France diminished by almost 3,000,000-nearly one-tenth of the entire population.
France's vital losses are only typical of what has to a greater or less extent occurred all over Europe. The disgenic effect of the Great War is simply appalling. The war was nothing short of a headlong plunge into white race-suicide. It was essentially a civil war between closely related white stocks; a war wherein every physical and mental effective was gathered up and hurled into a hell of lethal machinery which killed out unerringly the youngest, the bravest, and the best.
Even in the first frenzied hours of August, 1914, wise men realized the horror that stood upon the threshold. The crowd might cheer, but the reflective already mourned in prospect the losses which were in store. As the English writer Harold Begbie then said: "Remember this. Among the young conscript soldiers of Europe who will die in thousands, and perhaps millions, are the very flower of civilization; we shall destroy brains which might have discovered for us in ten or twenty years easements for the worst of human pains and solutions for the worst of social dangers. We shall blot those souls out of our common existence. We shall destroy utterly those splendid burning spirits reaching out to enlighten our darkness. Our fathers destroyed those strange and valuable creatures whom they called 'witches.' We are destroying the brightest of our angels." (The Literary Digest, August 29, 1914, p. 346.)
But it is doubtful if any of these seers realized the full price which the race was destined to pay during more than four long, agonizing years. Never before had war shown itself such an unerring gleaner of the best racial values. As early as the summer of 1915 Mr. Will Irwin, an American war correspondent, remarked the growing convictions among all classes, soldiers as well as civilians, that the war was fatally impoverishing the race. "I have talked," he wrote," with British officers and British Tommies, with English ladies of fashion and English housewives, with French deputies and French cabmen, and in all minds alike I find the same idea fixed - what is to become of the French race and the British race, yes, and the German race, if this thing keeps up?"
Mr. Irwin then goes on to describe the cumulative process by which the fittest were selected - for death.
"I take it for granted," he says, "that, in a general way, the bravest are the best, physically and spiritually. Now, in this war of machinery, this meat-mill, it is the bravest who lead the charges and attempt the daring feats, and, correspondingly, the loss is greatest among those bravest.
"So much when the army gets into line. But in the conscript countries, like France and Germany, there is a process of selection in picking the army by which the best - speaking in general terms - go out to die, while the weakest remain. The undersized, the undermuscled, the underbrained, the men twisted by hereditary deformity or devitalized by hereditary disease - they remain at home to propagate the breed. The rest - all the rest - go out to take chances.
"Furthermore, as modern conscript armies are organized, it is the youngest men who sustain the heaviest losses - the men who are not yet fathers. And from the point of view of the race, that is, perhaps, the most melancholy fact of all.
"All the able-bodied men between the ages of nineteen and forty-five are in the ranks. But the older men do not take many chances with death.... These European conscript armies are arranged in classes according to age, and the younger classes are the men who do most of the actual fighting. The men in their late thirties or their forties, the 'territorials,' guard the lines, garrison the towns, generally attend to the business of running up the supplies. When we come to gather the statistics of this war we shall find that an overwhelming majority of the dead were less than thirty years old, and probably that the majority were under twenty-five. Now, the territorial of forty or forty-five has usually given to the state as many children as he is going to give, while the man of twenty-five or under has usually given the state no children at all." (The Literary Digest, August 7, 1915.)
Mr. Irwin was gauging the racial cost by the criterion of youth. A leading English scholar, Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, obtained equally alarming results by applying the test of genius. He analyzed the casualty lists "filled with names which, but for the fatal accidents of war, would certainly have been made illustrious for splendid service to the great cause of life.... A government actuated by a cold calculus of economic efficiency would have made some provision for sheltering from the hazards of war young men on whose exceptional intellectual powers our future progress might be thought to depend. But this has not been done, and it is impossible to estimate the extent to which the world will be impoverished in quality by the disappearance of so much youthful genius and talent.... The spiritual loss to the universe cannot be computed, and probably will exceed the injury inflicted on the world by the wide and protracted prevalence of the celibate orders in the Middle Ages." (Ibid., August 11, 1917.)
The American biologist S. K. Humphrey did not underestimate the extent of the slaughter of genius-bearing strains when he wrote: "It is safe to say that among the millions killed will be a million who are carrying superlatively effective inheritances - the dependence of the race's future. Nothing is more absurd than the notion that these inheritances can be replaced in a few generations by encouraging the fecundity of the survivors. They are gone forever. The survivors are going to reproduce their own less-valuable kind. Words fail to convey the appalling nature of the loss." (S. K. Humphrey, "Mankind: Racial Values and the Racial Prospect," p. 132 (New York, 1917).)
It is the same melancholy tale when we apply the test of race. Of course the war bore heavily on all the white race-stocks, but it was the Nordics - the best of all human breeds - who suffered far and away the greatest losses. War, as we have seen, was always the Nordic's deadliest scourge, and never was this truer than in the late struggle. From the racial standpoint, indeed, Armageddon was a Nordic civil war, most of the officers and a large proportion of the men on both sides belonging to the Nordic race. Everywhere it was the same story: the Nordic went forth eagerly to battle, while the more stolid Alpine and, above all, the little brunet Mediterranean either stayed at home or even when at the front showed less fighting spirit, took fewer chances, and oftener saved their skins.
The Great War has thus unquestionably left Europe much poorer in Nordic blood, while conversely it has relatively favored the Mediterraneans. Madison Grant well says: "As in all wars since Roman times, from the breeding point of view the little dark man is the final winner." (Grant, p. 74.)
Furthermore, it must be remembered that those disgenic effects which I have been discussing refer solely to losses inflicted upon the actual combatants. But we have already seen that for every soldier killed the war took five civilian lives. In fact, the war's profoundly devitalizing effects upon the general population can hardly be overestimated. Those effects include not merely such obvious matters as privation and disease, but also obscurer yet highly destructive factors like nervous shock and prolonged overstrain. To take merely one instance, consider Havelock Ellis's remarks concerning "the ever-widening circles of anguish and misery and destitution which every fatal bullet imposes on humanity." He concludes: "It is probable that for every 10,000,000 soldiers who fall on the field, 50,000,000 other persons at home are plunged into grief, or poverty, or some form of life-diminishing trouble." (Ellis, p. 32.)
Most serious has been the war's effect upon the children. At home, as at the front, it is the young who have been sacrificed. The heaviest civilian losses have come through increased infant mortality and decreased birth-rates. The "slaughter of the innocents" has thus been twofold: it has slain millions of those already alive, and it has prevented millions more from being born or conceived. The decreased fecundity of women during the war even under good material conditions apparently shows that war's psychological reflexes tend to induce sterility.
An Italian savant, Professor Sergi, has elaborated this hypothesis in considerable detail. He contends that "war continued for a long time is the origin of this phenomenon (relative sterility), not only in the absolute sense of the loss of men in battle, but also through a series of special conditions which arise simultaneously with an unbalancing of vital processes and which create in the latter a complex phenomenon difficult to examine in every one of its elements.
"The biological disturbance does not derive solely from the destruction of young lives, the ones best adapted to fecundity, but also from the unfavorable conditions into which a nation is unexpectedly thrown; from these come disorders of a mental and sentimental nature, nervousness, anxiety, grief, and pain of all kinds, to which the serious economic conditions of wartime also contribute; all these things have a harmful effect on the general organic economy of nations." (New York Times Current History, vol. IX, p. 272; October-December, 1916.)
>From the combination of these losses on the battlefield and in the cradle arises what the biologist Doctor Saleeby terms "the menace of the dearth of youth." The European populations to-day contain an undue proportion of adults and the aged, while "the younger generation is no longer knocking at the door. We senescents may grow old in peace; but the facts bode ill for our national future." (Current Opinion, April, 1919, p. 237.)
Furthermore, this "dearth of youth" will not be easily repaired. The war may be over, but its aftermath is only a degree less unfavorable to human multiplication, especially of the better kinds. Bad industrial conditions and the fearfully high cost of living continue to depress the birth-rate of all save the most reckless and improvident elements, whose increase is a curse rather than a blessing.
To show only one of the many causes that to-day keep down the birth-rate, take the crushing burden of taxation, which hits especially the increase of the upper classes. The London Saturday Review recently explained this very clearly when it wrote: "From a man with Pound2,000 a year the tax-gatherer takes Pound600. The remaining Pound1,400, owing to the decreased value of money, has a purchasing power about equal to Pound700 a year before the war. No young man will therefore think of marrying on less than Pound2,000 a year. We are thinking of the young man in the upper and middle classes. The man who starts with nothing does not, as a rule, arrive at Pound2,000 a year until he is past the marrying age. So the continuance of the species will be carried on almost exclusively by the class of manual workers of a low average caliber of brain. The matter is very serious. Reading the letters and memoirs of a hundred years ago, one is struck by the size of the families of the aristocracy. One smiles at reading of the overflowing nurseries of Edens, and Cokes, and Fitzgeralds. Fourteen or fifteen children were not at all unusual amongst the county families." (Saturday Review, November 1, 1919, p. 407.)
Europe's convalescence must, at the very best, be a slow and difficult one. Both materially and spiritually the situation is the reverse of blight. To begin with, the political situation is highly unsatisfactory. The diplomatic arrangements made by the Versailles Peace Conference offer neither stability nor permanence. In the next chapter I shall have more to say about the Versailles Conference. For the moment, let me quote the observations of the well-known British publicist J. L. Garvin, who adequately summarizes the situation when he says: "As matters stand, no great war ever was followed by a more disquieting and limited peace. Everywhere the democratic atmosphere is charged with agitation. There is still war or anarchy, or both, between the Baltic and the Pacific across a sixth part of the whole earth. Without a restored Russia no outlook can be confident. Either a Bolshevist or reactionary or even a patriotic junction between Germany and Russia might disrupt civilization as violently as before or to even worse effect." (. L. Garvin, "The Economic Foundations of Peace," page xiv (London, 1919).)
Political uncertainty is a poor basis on which to rebuild Europe's shattered economic life. And this economic reconstruction would, under the most favorable circumstances, be very difficult. We have already seen how, owing to the industrial revolution, Europe became the world's chief workshop, exporting manufactured products in return for foodstuffs to feed its workers and raw materials to feed its machines, these imports being drawn from the four quarters of the globe. In other words, Europe had ceased to be self-sufficing, the very life of its industries and its urban populations being dependent upon foreign importations from the most distant regions. Europe's prosperity before the war was due to the development of a marvellous system of world-trade; intricate, nicely adjusted, functioning with great efficiency, and running at high speed.
Then down upon this delicately organized mechanism crashed the trip-hammer of the Great War, literally smashing it to pieces. To reconstruct so intricate a fabric takes time. Meanwhile, how are the huge urban masses to live, unfitted and unable as they are to draw their sustenance from their native soil? If their sufferings become too great there is a real danger that all Europe may collapse into hopeless chaos. Mr. Frank A. Vanderlip did not overstate the danger when he wrote: "I believe it is possible that there may be let loose in Europe forces that will be more terribly destructive than have been the forces of the Great War." (Frank A. Vanderlip, "Political and Economic Conditions in Europe," The American Review of Reviews, July, 1919, p. 42.)
The best description of Europe's economic situation is undoubtedly that of Mr. Herbert Hoover, who, from his experience as inter-Allied food controller, is peculiarly qualified to pass authoritative judgment. Says Mr. Hoover:
"The economic difficulties of Europe as a whole at the signature of peace may be almost summarized in the phrase 'demoralized productivity.' The production of necessaries for this 450,000,000 population (including Russia) has never been at so low an ebb as at this day.
"A summary of the unemployment bureaus in Europe will show that 15,000,000 families are receiving unemployment allowances in one form or another, and are, in the main, being paid by constant inflation of currency. A rough estimate would indicate that the population of Europe is at least 100,000,000 greater than can be supported without imports, and must live by the production and distribution of exports; and their situation is aggravated not only by lack of raw materials, and imports, but also by low production of European raw materials. Due to the same low production, Europe is to-day importing vast quantities of certain commodities which she formerly produced for herself and can again produce. Generally, in production, she is not only far below even the level of the time of the signing of the armistice, but far below the maintenance of life and health without an unparalleled rate of import....
"From all these causes, accumulated to different intensity in different localities, there is the essential fact that, unless productivity can be rapidly increased, there can be nothing but political, moral, and economic chaos, finally interpreting itself in loss of life on a scale hitherto undreamed of." (Herbert Hoover, "The Economic Situation in Europe," World's Work, November, 1919, pp. 98-99.)
Such are the material and vital losses inflicted by the Great War. They are prodigious, and they will not easily be repaired. Europe starts its reconstruction under heavy handicaps, not the least of these being the drain upon its superior stocks, which has deprived it of much of the creative energy that it so desperately needs. Those 16,000,000 or more dead or incapacitated soldiers represented the flower of Europe's young manhood - the very men who are especially needed to-day. It is young men who normally alone possess both maximum driving power and maximum plasticity of mind. All the European belligerents are dangerously impoverished in their stock of youth. The resultant handicap both to Europe's working ability and Europe's brain-activity is only too plain.
Moreover, material and even vital losses do not tell the whole story. The moral and spiritual losses, though not easily measured, are perhaps even more appalling. In fact, the darkest cloud on the horizon is possibly the danger that reconstruction will be primarily material at the expense of moral and spiritual values, thus leading to a warped development even more pronounced than that of the nineteenth century and leading inevitably to yet more disastrous consequences.
The danger of purely material reconstruction is of course the peril which lurks behind every great war, and which in the past has wrought such tragic havoc. At the beginning of the late war we heard much talk of its morally "regenerative" effects, but as the grim holocaust went on year after year, far-sighted moralists warned against a fatal drain of Europe's idealistic forces which might break the thin crust of European civilization so painfully wrought since the Dark Ages.
That these warning voices were not without reason is proved by the chaos of spiritual, moral, and even intellectual values which exists in Europe to-day, giving play to such monstrous insanities as Bolshevism. The danger is that this chaos may be prolonged and deepened by the complex of two concurrent factors: spiritual drain during the war, and spiritual neglect in the immediate future due to overconcentration upon material reconstruction.
Many of the world's best minds are seriously concerned at the outlook. For example, Doctor Gore, the Bishop of Oxford, writes: "There is the usual depression and lowering of moral aims which always follows times of war. For the real terror of the time of war is not during the war; then war has certain very ennobling powers. It is after-war periods which are the curse of the world, and it looks as if the same severe going to prove true of this war. I own that I never felt anxiety such as I do now. I think the aspect of things has never been so dark as at this moment. I think the temper of the nations has degraded since the declaration of the armistice to a degree that is almost terrifying." (The Literary Digest, May 3, 1919, pp. 39-40.)
The intellectual impoverishment wrought by the war is well summarized by Professor C. G. Shawl " We did more before the war than we shall do after it," he writes. "War will have so exhausted man's powers of action and thought that he will have little wit or will left for the promotion of anything over and above necessary repair." (Current Opinion, April, 1919, p. 248.)
Europe's general impoverishment in all respects was vividly portrayed by a leading article of the London Saturday Review entitled "The True Destructiveness of War." Pointing to the devastated areas of northern France as merely symptomatic of the devastation wrought in spiritual as well as material fields, it said:
"Reflection only adds to the effect upon us of these miles of wasted country and ruined towns. All this represents not a thousandth part of the desolation which the war has brought upon our civilization. These devastated areas scarring the face of Europe are but a symbol of the desolation which will shadow the life of the world for at least a generation. The coming years will be bleak, in respect of all the generous and gracious things which are the products of leisure and of minds not wholly taken up by the necessity to live by bread alone. For a generation the world will have to concentrate upon material problems.
"The tragedy of the Great War - a tragedy which enhances the desolation of Rheims - is that it should have killed almost everything which the best of our soldiers died to preserve, and that it should have raised more problems than it has solved.
"We would sacrifice a dozen cathedrals to preserve what the war has destroyed in England .... We would readily surrender our ten best cathedrals to be battered by the artillery of Hindenburg as a ransom. Surely it would be better to lose Westminster Abbey than never again to have anybody worthy to be buried there." (Quoted from The Living Age, June 21, 1919, pp. 722-4.)
Europe is, indeed, passing through the most critical spiritual phase of the war's aftertnath - what I may term the zero hour of the spirit. When the trenches used to fill with infantry waiting in the first cold flicker of the dawn for the signal to go "over the top," they called it the "zero hour." Well, Europe now faces the zero hour of peace. It is neither a pleasant nor a stimulating moment. The "tumult and the shouting" have died. The captains, kings - and presidents - have departed. War's hectic urge wanes, losses are counted, the heroic pose is dropped. Such is the moment when the peoples are bidden to go "over the top" once more, this time toward peace objectives no less difficult than those of the battle-field. Weakened,, tired Europe knows this, feels this - and dreads the plunge into the unknown. Hence the malaise of the zero hour.
The extraordinary turmoil of the European soul is strikingly set forth by the French thinker Paul Valery.
"We civilizations," he writes, "now know that we are mortal. We had heard tell of whole worlds vanished, of empires gone to the bottom with all their engines; sunk to the inexplorable bottom of the centuries with their gods and their laws, their academies, their science, pure and applied; their grammars, their dictionaries, their classics, their romantics and their symbolists, their critics and their critics' critics. We knew well that all the apparent earth is made of ashes, and that ashes have a meaning. We perceived, through the mists of history, phantoms and huge ships laden with riches and spiritual things. We could not count them. But these wrecks, after all, were no concern of ours.
"Elam, Nineveh, Babylon were vague and lovely names, and the total ruin of these worlds meant as little to us as their very existence. But France, England, Russia - these would also be lovely names. Lusitania also is a lovely name. And now we see that the abyss of history is large enough for every one. We feel that a civilization is as fragile as a life. Circumstances which would send the works of Baudelaire and Keats to rejoin the works of Menander are no longer in the least inconceivable; they are in all the newspapers...
"Thus the spiritual Persepolis is ravaged equally with the material Susa. All is not lost, but everything has felt itself perish.
"An extraordinary tremor has run through the spinal marrow of Europe. It has felt, in all its thinking substance, that it recognized itself no longer, that it no longer resembled itself, that it was about to lose consciousness - a consciousness acquired by centuries of tolerable disasters, by thousands of men of the first rank, by geographical, racial, historical chances innumerable. . .
"The military crisis is perhaps at an end; the economic crisis is visibly at its zenith; but the intellectual crisis - it is with difficulty that we can seize its true centre, its exact phase. The facts, however, are clear and pitiless: there are thousands of young writers and young artists who are dead. There is the lost illusion of a European culture, and the demonstration of the impotence of knowledge to save anything whatever; there is science, mortally wounded in its moral ambitions, and, as it were, dishonored by its applications; there is idealism, victor with difficulty, grievously mutilated, responsible for its dreams; realism, deceived, beaten, with crimes and misdeeds heaped upon it; covetousness and renunciation equally put out; religions confused among the armies, cross against cross, crescent against crescent; there are the sceptics themselves, disconcerted by events so sudden, so violent, and so moving, which play with our thoughts as a cat with a mouse - the sceptics lose their doubts, rediscover them, lose them again, and can no longer make use of the movements of their minds.
"The rolling of the ship has been so heavy that at the last the best-hung lamps have been upset.
"From an immense terrace of Elsinore which extends from Basle to Cologne, and touches the sands of Nieuport, the marshes of the Somme, the chalk of Champagne, and the granite of Alsace, the Hamlet of Europe now looks upon millions of ghosts." (Quoted from The Living Age, May 10, 1919, pp. 365-368.)
Such is Europe's deplorable condition as she staggers forth from the hideous ordeal of the Great War; her fluid capital dissipated, her fixed capital impaired, her industrial fabric rent and tattered, her finances threatened with bankruptcy, the flower of her manhood dead on the battle-field, her populations devitalized and discouraged, her children stunted by malnutrition. A sombre picture.
And Europe is the white homeland, the heart of the white world. It is Europe that has suffered practically all the losses of Armageddon, which may be considered the white civil war. The colored world remains virtually unscathed.
Here is the truth of the matter: The white world to-day stands at the crossroads of life and death. It stands where the Greek world stood at the close of the Peloponnesian War. A fever has racked the white frame and undermined its constitution. The unsound therapeutics of its diplomatic practitioners retard convalescence and endanger real recovery. Worst of all, the instinct of race-solidarity has partially atrophied.
Grave as is the situation, it is not yet irreparable, any more than Greece's condition was hopeless after Aegospotami. It was not the Peloponnesian War which sealed Hellas's doom, but the cycle of political anarchy and moral chaos of which the Peloponnesian War was merely the opening phase. Our world is too vigorous for even the Great War, of itself, to prove a mortal wound.
The white world thus still has its choice. But it must be a positive choice. Decisions - firm decisions - must be made. Constructive measures - drastic measures - must be taken. Above all: time presses, and drift is fatal. The tide ebbs. The swimmer must put forth strong strokes to reach the shore. Else - swift oblivion in the dark ocean.