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international laws which had been slowly built up in a thousand years. These principles, as codified by the two Hague Conventions, were immediately swept aside in the fierce struggle for existence, and civilized man, with his liquid fire and poison gas and his deliberate attacks upon undefended cities and their women and children, waged war with the unrelenting ferocity of primitive times.
Surely, this fierce war of extermination, which caused the loss of three hundred billion dollars in property and thirty millions of human lives, did mark the “ twilight of civilization.” The
, hands on the dial of time had been put back-temporarily, let us hope and pray-a thousand years.
Nor will many question the accuracy of the second count in Pope Benedict's indictment. The war to end war only ended in unprecedented hatred between nation and nation, class and class, and man and man. Victors and vanquished are involved in a common ruin. And if in this deluge, which has submerged the world there is a Mount Ararat, upon which the ark of a truer and better peace can find refuge, it has not yet appeared above the troubled surface of the waters.
Still less can one question the closely related third and fourth counts in Pope Benedict's indictment, namely, the unprecedented aversion to work, when work is most needed to reconstruct the foundations of prosperity, or the excessive thirst for pleasure which preceded, accompanied, and now has followed the most terrible tragedy in the annals of mankind. The true spirit of work seems to have vanished from millions of men; that spirit of which Shakespeare made his Orlando speak when he said of his true servant, Adam :
“O, good old man! how well in thee appears
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!" The morale of our industrial civilization has been shattered. Work for work's sake, as the most glorious privilege of human faculties, has gone, both as an ideal and as a potent spirit. The conception of work as a degrading servitude, to be done with reluctance and grudging inefficiency, seems to be the ideal of millions of men of all classes and in all countries.
The spirit of work is of more than sentimental importance. It may be said of it, as Hamlet says of death : “ The readiness is all.” All of us are conscious of the fact that, given a love of work, and the capacity for it seems almost illimitable—as witness Napoleon, with his thousand-man power, or Shakespeare, who in twenty years could write more than twenty masterpieces.
On the other hand, given an aversion to work, and the less a man does, the less he wants to do, or is seemingly capable of doing.
The great evil of the world today is this aversion to work. As the mechanical era diminished the element of physical exertion in work, we would have supposed that man would have sought expression for his physical faculties in other ways. On the contrary, the whole history of the mechanical era is a persistent struggle for more pay and less work, and today it has culminated in world-wide ruin; for there is not a nation in civilization which is not now in the throes of economic distress, and many of them are on the verge of ruin. In my judgment, the economic catastrophe of 1921 is far greater than the politico-military catastrophe of 1914.
The results of these two tendencies, measured in the statistics of productive industry, are literally appalling. Thus, in 1920, Italy, according to statistics of her Minister of Labor, lost 55,000,000 days of work because of strikes alone. From July to September, many great factories were in the hands of revolutionary communists. A full third of these strikes had for their end political and not economic purposes. In Germany, the progressive revolt of labor against work is thus measured by competent authority: there were lost in strikes in 1917, 900,000 working days; in 1918, 4,900,000, and, in 1919, 46,600,000. Even in our own favored land, the same phenomena are observable. In the state of New York alone for 1920, there was a loss due to strikes of over 10,000,000 working days. In all countries the losses by such cessations from labor are little as compared with these due to the spirit which in England is called “ca’canney” or the shirking of performance of work, and of sabotage, which means the deliberate destruction of machinery in operation. Everywhere the phenomenon has been observed that, with the highest wages known in the history of modern times, there has been an unmistakable lessening of efficiency, and that with an increase in the number of workers, there has been a decrease in output. Thus, the transportation companies in this country have seriously made a claim against the United States Government for damages to their roads, amounting to $750,000,000, claimed to be due to the inefficiency of labor during the period of governmental operation.
Accompanying this indisposition to work efficiently has been a mad desire for pleasure such as, if it existed in like measure in preceding ages, has not been seen within the memory of living man. Man has danced upon the verge of a social abyss, and even the dancing has, both in form and in accompanying music, lost its former grace and reverted to the primitive forms of uncivilized conditions.
There is no better evidence of this excessive thirst for pleasure than the newspaper press, which is, in our time, the “brief abstract and chronicle of the times," and which shows the body of the age, “its form and pressure." What a transformation of human values the modern newspaper discloses! Once largely the record of man's higher achievements, in its discussion of literature, art and politics, today, its space is largely devoted to the ephemeral and the trivial. Pages and pages are devoted to sport, and even to ignoble forms of sport; while literary, art and musical reviews and scientific discussions are either omitted altogether, or are grudgingly given a little space once a week.
What better illustration of this extraordinary revaluation of personalities and incidents than the recent fistic duel between two combatants in Jersey City--a duel which was in marked contrast to another fateful encounter on the heights of Weehawken more than a century ago ? Nearly one hundred thousand men and women of all classes and conditions and from all parts of the world assembled in Jersey City on July 2 last, many of them only to gratify their jaded appetites for a new thrill; and for months and months before and for weeks thereafter the press devoted, not merely columns, but many pages, to this trial of strength.
I recall, with amusement, that when I had the privilege, in the summer of 1920, to have an audience with His Majesty, King Albert—"every inch a king” and one of the greatest in the golden annals of heroism-he humorously said to me in speaking of current values that, so far as he could see, the greatest personalities in the world were Mary Pickford and Charley Chaplin. But, at that time, these great exponents of a pantomimic art, which gives the maximum of emotional expression with the minimum of mental effort, had not been eclipsed by the rising splendor of a Dempsey or a Carpentier.
Of the last count in Pope Benedict's indictment, I shall say but little. It is more appropriate for the members of that great and noble profession which is more intimately concerned with the spiritual advance of mankind. It is enough to say that, while the church as an institution continues to exist, the belief in the supernatural and even in the spiritual has been supplanted by a gross and wide-spread materialism.
If you agree with me in my premises then we are not likely to disagree in the conclusion that the causes of these grave symptoms are not ephemeral or superficial; but must have their origin in some deep-seated and world-wide change in human society. If there is to be a remedy, we must diagnose this malady of the human soul.
For example, let us not “lay the Aattering unction to our souls” that this spirit is but the reaction of the great war.
The present weariness and lassitude of human spirit and the disappointment and disillusion as to the aftermath of the harvest of blood, may have aggravated, but they could not cause the symptoms of which I speak; for the very obvious reason that all these symptoms were in existence and apparent to a few discerning men for decades before the war. Indeed, it is possible that the World War, far from causing the malaise of the age, was, in itself, but one of its many symptoms.
Undoubtedly, there are many contributing causes which have swollen the turbid tide of this world-wide revolution against the spirit of authority.
Thus, the multiplicity of laws does not tend to develop a lawabiding spirit. This fact has often been noted. Thus Napoleon, on the eve of the 18th Brumaire, complained that France, with a thousand folios of law, was a lawless nation. Unquestionably, the political state suffers in authority by the abuse of legislation, and especially by the appeal to law to curb evils that are best left to individual conscience.
In this age of democracy, the average individual is too apt to recognize two constitutions, one, the constitution of the State, and the second, an unwritten constitution, to him of higher authority, under which he believes that no law is obligatory which he regards as in excess of the true powers of government. Of this latter spirit, the widespread violation of the prohibition law is a familiar illustration.
A race of individualists obey reluctantly, when they obey at all, any laws which they regard as unreasonable or vexatious. It has always flourished, and the so-called “best people” have not been innocent. Thus nearly all women are involuntary smugglers. They deny the authority of the state to impose a tax upon a Paquin gown. Again, our profession must sorrowfully confess that the law's delays and laxity in administration breed a spirit of contempt, and too often invite men to take the law into their own hands. These causes are so familiar that their statement is a commonplace.
Proceeding to deeper and less recognized causes, some would attribute this spirit of lawlessness to the rampant individualism which began in the Eighteenth Century, and which has steadily and naturally grown with the advance of democratic institutions. Undoubtedly, the excessive emphasis upon the rights of man, which marked the political upheaval of the close of the Eighteenth and the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, has contributed to this malady of the age. Men talked, and still talk, loudly of their rights, but too rarely of their duties. And yet if we were to attribute the malady merely to excessive individualism, we would again err in mistaking a symptom for a cause.
To diagnose truly this malady we must look to some cause that is coterminous in time with the disease itself and which has been operative throughout civilization. We must look for some widespread change in social conditions, for man's essential nature has changed but little, and the change must, therefore, be of environment.
I know of but one change in environment that is sufficiently widespread and deep-seated to account adequately for this malady of our time.
Beginning with the close of the Eighteenth Century, and continuing throughout the Nineteenth, a prodigious transformation