Judge Neil, writing in the “Daily News,” has been telling us how to improve the race. The suggestion of the Judge is mainly maternity benefits. Now that is not a novel notion; it has been demanded for years by Socialists and other people who are now being punished for refusing to help in the war—a war, by the way, that includes the starving of German mothers. We should like to comment, however, less upon the proposal itself than upon the time it was made.
At a time like this there is something rather startling in the solemn lunacy of such a suggestion for improving the race. It reminds us rather of a pathetic story of a poor French woman who, while awaiting the guillotine, went on making clothes for her expected child. The important difference between the two being that whereas the poor French lady was recognised as being demented by her fellow-sufferers, the present generation of suicides goes on listening to these people who object to underfed children and at the same time support a war that promises to kill off children and parents as well. What can be done with people who talk about the health of the next generation one day in the week and manufacture T.N.T. the other six? If we thought it was ever any use to lock anybody up, we should like to lock them up. But we don’t; it would only make them worse. Besides, we can’t, because these are the people who are at present locking us up. Such people are now in the vast majority. They govern us, write our newspapers, and dispose of our .lives and bodies, and this is a pity, because they are dangerous lunatics whose speedy cure or extinction is necessary if the human race is to survive the twentieth century. And they are dangerous simply because they are driving faster and faster in a certain direction, and are blind to where it leads. They are blundering on with the war without any thought as to where the human race will be if the slaughter does not soon cease.
There is one serious mental complaint which enables mankind to go on digging its own grave, and that is its insane optimism. This alone allows reformers to think they can improve the race without stopping the war. For they are so unreasonably confident that thewar will end soon, and that it will be the last. They adopt the easy theory that “things are too bad to last long,” and all the time continue to perpetuate the bad things. They forget that although we are daily nearer to complete destruction, we are no nearer to any practical methods of preventing it. They talk of the end of war, but show no sign or intention of abolishing those elements in modern life which make wars.
And enlightened society goes doggedly on, fast making for the crowning triumph of science—the extinction of the race. If this sounds exaggerated, we have only to note how much easier it is to kill people than it was in 1914. We are now only at the beginning, for instance, of aerial warfare, and already no London business man can with certainty say that he will be home to tea. On both sides all brains and science are busily inventing better ways of slaughter. They have progressed so well that it is now tacitly understood that the way to win a war is to attack the civil population. From henceforth civilians will approach nearer and nearer in experience to the soldiers, because scientific progress is producing weapons too effective to be confined to battlefields; nothing but whole nations will suffice them. Germans are trying to subdue England by either frightening or exploding the civilians. The Allies are trying to win by starving those of the people whom they cannot bomb. And a nursery in London, Karlsruhe, or Ghent will soon be as dangerous as a trench in France. Some day, perhaps, someone will invent a way of dealing with air raids, and for a time the civil patriots who object to living lives as risky as the young men they have sent to the front will breathe again, and the optimists will say, “Now it’s all right,” and go on talking about a fight to a finish.
But is science going to rest there on its laurels? Perish the thought! The next progressive invention will be, say, a disease-cloud, capable of killing off every living creature within, a thousand mile radius. This will be used immediately by both sides, and lo ! Man, which to-day is, to-morrow is not. And the day before that happens some thoughtful reformer will write an article about the need for maternity benefits as a means of improving the race.
And when all the people of Europe (whose mothers will have had doles of £5 when they were born) have thus died for freedom and the rights of small nations, what will such details as the origin of the war matter? Who will then care a hang which side began it, or which Government is the wickedest, or whether the inventor was a disciple of Christ or Nietzsche?
Of course, if the war was really undertaken to prevent something worse than extinction, then there is nothing to be done but get extinguished, but we believe that if people could only realise the obvious fact that there is positively no end to war, they would find it an easy matter to invent some other way of defending themselves and improving the race- than by blowing each other into the atmosphere.