National Geographic : 1918 Oct
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for self-glorification. It is as hard for an Englishman to discern anything quite right in England as for a German to de scry anything at all wrong in Germany. The German plumed himself on his ability year by year to increase his sales in England; but it never occurred to the Englishman to congratulate himself on the fact that, year by year, he somehow had more money with which to buy them. If a group of amiable spirits sat over their beer in a Berlin cafe till after midnight and their converse took on a slightly alcoholic fervor, the German capital was forthwith described as de veloping a "night life," becoming tre mendously gay, and threatening to out shine Paris in the attributes of true cos mopolitanism. But if the like happened in London, Britain shook its solemn head, decided that the national morals were going hope lessly bad, and regretfully realized that the social fabric was on the point of dis integration. The rest of the world fell into the easy habit of accepting the self imposed verdict in each case, and ulti mately indulged a good deal of unwar ranted admiration for the amazing prog ress of Germany and unjustified worry about the confessed degeneracy of Eng land. AN AGE-OLD CONTEST In a thousand other ways the two countries were as unlike as in this lack of capacity for accurate self-appraisement. There was plenty of room in the sun for both. The world needed all of the best that both could give. They ought never even to have imagined that they were sufficiently alike to be capable of intense rivalry. And they never would have developed such an obsession but for the political institutions which made it possible for Germany to be brought under the control of a wicked, selfish, designing, criminal dynastic policy of world conquest. The contest between autocracy and democracy has been going on through all the ages. Because England and Germany were on the whole the foremost European repre sentatives of the antagonistic systems, clash between them was inevitable. Two short centuries had seen European civilization spread its sway over most of the world. Everywhere this outreaching carried the conflict. The world could not exist half slave and half free. Under the spell of German egomania it was falling into a disposition to over estimate certain undeniable advantages of close-knit, strong organization, and to exaggerate the equally obvious disadvan tages of that laxity and carelessness which tend to propagate when democracy rules and times are good. At the price of those sops which auto cratic Germany tossed to the proletarian Cerberus, the world might have been bribed to exchange freedom for a mess of welfare pottage. It is good that the contest came as early as it did. BRITAIN SPIRITUALIZED BY THE WAR Discussing war and after-war problems in a London club one day, an American observed: "This war will be followed by a revo lution." An Englishman in the party quietly retorted: "This war is a revolution. Just look around you." He was right. It is trite, but it is true, that Britain has been spiritualized by the war. The British democracy is no longer merely a political and institutional de mocracy. It is a human democracy. The social caste system and the pound sterling have been overthrown as rulers. Truth to tell, England was never so caste-bound or money-ridden as popular belief, there and elsewhere, pictured it. But it loved its traditions, and this was among the most sacred. The ordeal of war has made Britain know that humanity is the most precious thing in the world. No man could give more than his life; no man could give anything comparable to his life; and when all men willingly offered that last sacrifice, they could only offer it for a common ideal which must be the highest possible ideal-for humanity. The rich man discovered that his wealth was dross, the titled person that his title was tinsel; the great common denominator among them all became hu man life and human souls. Neither Magna Charta nor the old English revolution meant any such stir- 281.