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Anticipations

Now, patriotism is not a thing that flourishes in the void,—one needs a foreigner. A national and patriotic party is an anti-foreign party; the altar of the modern god, Democracy, will cry aloud for the stranger men. Simply to keep in power, and out of no love of mischief, the government or the party machine will have to insist upon dangers and national differences, to keep the voter to the poll by alarms, seeking ever to taint the possible nucleus of any competing organization with the scandal of external influence. The party press will play the watch-dog and allay all internal dissensions with its warning bay at some adjacent people, and the adjacent peoples, for reasons to be presently expanded, will be continually more sensitive to such baying. Already one sees country yelping at country all over the modern world, not only in the matter of warlike issues, but with a note of quite furious commercial rivalry—quite furious and, indeed, quite insane, since its ideal of trading enormously with absolutely ruined and tradeless foreigners, exporting everything and importing nothing, is obviously outside reason altogether. The inexorable doom of these governments based on the grey, is to foster enmity between people and people. Even their alliances are but sacrifices to intenser antagonisms. And the phases of the democratic sequence are simple and sure. Forced on by a relentless competition, the tone of the outcries will become fiercer and fiercer; the occasions of excitement, the perilous moments, the ingenuities of annoyance, more and more dramatic,—from the mere emptiness and disorder of the general mind! Jealousies and anti-foreign enactments, tariff manipulations and commercial embitterment, destructive, foolish, exasperating obstructions that benefit no human being, will minister to this craving without completely allaying it. Nearer, and ever nearer, the politicians of the coming times will force one another towards the verge, not because they want to go over it, not because any one wants to go over it, but because they are, by their very nature, compelled to go that way, because to go in any other direction is to break up and lose power. And, consequently, the final development of the democratic system, so far as intrinsic forces go, will be, not the rule of the boss, nor the rule of the trust, nor the rule of the newspaper; no rule, indeed, but international rivalry, international competition, international exasperation and hostility, and at last—irresistible and overwhelming—the definite establishment of the rule of that most stern and educational of all masters—War.

At this point there opens a tempting path, and along it historical precedents, like a forest of notice-boards, urge us to go. At the end of the vista poses the figure of Napoleon with "Cæsarism" written beneath it. Disregarding certain alien considerations for a time, assuming the free working out of democracy to its conclusion, we perceive that, in the case of our generalized state, the party machine, together with the nation entrusted to it, must necessarily be forced into passionate national war. But, having blundered into war, the party machine will have an air of having accomplished its destiny. A party machine or a popular government is surely as likely a thing to cause a big disorder of war and as unlikely a thing to conduct it, as the wit of man, working solely to that end, could ever have devised. I have already pointed out why we can never expect an elected government of the modern sort to be guided by any far-reaching designs, it is constructed to get office and keep office, not to do anything in office, the conditions of its survival are to keep appearances up and taxes down,[36] and the care and management of army and navy is quite outside its possibilities. The military and naval professions in our typical modern State will subsist very largely upon tradition, the ostensible government will interfere with rather than direct them, and there will be no force in the entire scheme to check the corrupting influence of a long peace, to insist upon adequate exercises for the fighting organization or ensure an adequate adaptation to the new and perpetually changing possibilities of untried apparatus. Incapable but confident and energetic persons, having political influence, will have been permitted to tamper with the various arms of the service, the equipment will be largely devised to create an impression of efficiency in times of peace in the minds of the general voting public, and the really efficient soldiers will either have fretted themselves out of the army or have been driven out as political non-effectives, troublesome, innovating persons anxious to spend money upon "fads." So armed, the New Democracy will blunder into war, and the opening stage of the next great war will be the catastrophic breakdown of the formal armies, shame and disasters, and a disorder of conflict between more or less equally matched masses of stupefied, scared, and infuriated people. Just how far the thing may rise from the value of an alarming and edifying incident to a universal catastrophe, depends upon the special nature of the conflict, but it does not alter the fact that any considerable war is bound to be a bitter, appalling, highly educational and constitution-shaking experience for the modern democratic state.

Now, foreseeing this possibility, it is easy to step into the trap of the Napoleonic precedent. One hastens to foretell that either with the pressure of coming war, or in the hour of defeat, there will arise the Man. He will be strong in action, epigrammatic in manner, personally handsome and continually victorious. He will sweep aside parliaments and demagogues, carry the nation to glory, reconstruct it as an empire, and hold it together by circulating his profile and organizing further successes. He will—I gather this from chance lights upon contemporary anticipations—codify everything, rejuvenate the papacy, or, at any rate, galvanize Christianity, organize learning in meek intriguing academies of little men, and prescribe a wonderful educational system. The grateful nations will once more deify a lucky and aggressive egotism.... And there the vision loses breath.

Nothing of the sort is going to happen, or, at any rate, if it happens, it will happen as an interlude, as no necessary part in the general progress of the human drama. The world is no more to be recast by chance individuals than a city is to be lit by sky rockets. The purpose of things emerges upon spacious issues, and the day of individual leaders is past. The analogies and precedents that lead one to forecast the coming of military one-man-dominions, the coming of such other parodies of Cæsar's career as that misapplied, and speedily futile chess champion, Napoleon I. contrived, are false. They are false because they ignore two correlated things; first, the steady development of a new and quite unprecedented educated class as a necessary aspect of the expansion of science and mechanism, and secondly, the absolute revolution in the art of war that science and mechanism are bringing about. This latter consideration the next chapter will expand, but here, in the interests of this discussion, we may in general terms anticipate its gist. War in the past has been a thing entirely different in its nature from what war, with the apparatus of the future, will be—it has been showy, dramatic, emotional, and restricted; war in the future will be none of these things. War in the past was a thing of days and heroisms; battles and campaigns rested in the hand of the great commander, he stood out against the sky, picturesquely on horseback, visibly controlling it all. War in the future will be a question of preparation, of long years of foresight and disciplined imagination, there will be no decisive victory, but a vast diffusion of conflict—it will depend less and less on controlling personalities and driving emotions, and more and more upon the intelligence and personal quality of a great number of skilled men. All this the next chapter will expand. And either before or after, but, at any rate, in the shadow of war, it will become apparent, perhaps even suddenly, that the whole apparatus of power in the country is in the hands of a new class of intelligent and scientifically-educated men. They will probably, under the development of warlike stresses, be discovered—they will discover themselves—almost surprisingly with roads and railways, carts and cities, drains, food supply, electrical supply, and water supply, and with guns and such implements of destruction and intimidation as men scarcely dream of yet, gathered in their hands. And they will be discovered, too, with a growing common consciousness of themselves as distinguished from the grey confusion, a common purpose and implication that the fearless analysis of science is already bringing to light. They will find themselves with bloodshed and horrible disasters ahead, and the material apparatus of control entirely within their power. "Suppose, after all," they will say, "we ignore these very eloquent and showy governing persons above, and this very confused and ineffectual multitude below. Suppose now we put on the brakes and try something a little more stable and orderly. These people in possession have, of course, all sorts of established rights and prescriptions; they have squared the law to their purpose, and the constitution does not know us; they can get at the judges, they can get at the newspapers, they can do all sorts of things except avoid a smash—but, for our part, we have these really most ingenious and subtle guns. Suppose instead of our turning them and our valuable selves in a fool's quarrel against the ingenious and subtle guns of other men akin to ourselves, we use them in the cause of the higher sanity, and clear that jabbering war tumult out of the streets."... There may be no dramatic moment for the expression of this idea, no moment when the new Cromwellism and the new Ironsides will come visibly face to face with talk and baubles, flags and patriotic dinner bells; but, with or without dramatic moments, the idea will be expressed and acted upon. It will be made quite evident then, what is now indeed only a pious opinion, namely, that wealth is, after all, no ultimate Power at all, but only an influence among aimless, police-guarded men. So long as there is peace the class of capable men may be mitigated and gagged and controlled, and the ostensible present order may flourish still in the hands of that other class of men which deals with the appearances of things. But as some supersaturated solution will crystallize out with the mere shaking of its beaker, so must the new order of men come into visibly organized existence through the concussions of war. The charlatans can escape everything except war, but to the cant and violence of nationality, to the sustaining force of international hostility, they are ruthlessly compelled to cling, and what is now their chief support must become at last their destruction. And so it is I infer that, whether violently as a revolution or quietly and slowly, this grey confusion that is Democracy must pass away inevitably by its own inherent conditions, as the twilight passes, as the embryonic confusion of the cocoon creature passes, into the higher stage, into the higher organism, the world-state of the coming years.

FOOTNOTES:

[33] The fulcrum, which is generally treated as being absolutely immovable, being the general belief in the theory of democracy.

[34] In the United States, a vast rapidly developing country, with relatively much kinetic wealth, this central influence is the financial support of the Boss, consisting for the most part of active-minded, capable business organizers; in England, the land where irresponsible realized wealth is at a maximum, a public-spirited section of the irresponsible, inspired by the tradition of an aristocratic functional past, qualifies the financial influence with an amateurish, indolent, and publicly unprofitable integrity. In Germany an aggressively functional Court occupies the place and plays the part of a permanently dominant party machine.

[35] The nature of these modifications is an interesting side issue. There is every possibility of papers becoming at last papers of world-wide circulation, so far as the language in which they are printed permits, with editions that will follow the sun and change into to-morrow's issue as they go, picking up literary criticism here, financial intelligence there, here to-morrow's story, and there to-morrow's scandal, and, like some vast intellectual garden-roller, rolling out local provincialism at every revolution. This, for papers in English, at any rate, is merely a question of how long it will be before the price of the best writing (for journalistic purposes) rises actually or relatively above the falling cost of long distance electrical type setting. Each of the local editions of these world travelling papers, in addition to the identical matter that will appear almost simultaneously everywhere, will no doubt have its special matter and its special advertisements. Illustrations will be telegraphed just as well as matter, and probably a much greater use will be made of sketch and diagram than at present. If the theory advanced in this book that democracy is a transitory confusion be sound, there will not be one world paper of this sort only—like Moses' serpent after its miraculous struggle—but several, and as the non-provincial segregation of society goes on, these various great papers will take on more and more decided specific characteristics, and lose more and more their local references. They will come to have not only a distinctive type of matter, a distinctive method of thought and manner of expression, but distinctive fundamental implications, and a distinctive class of writer. This difference in character and tone renders the advent of any Napoleonic master of the newspaper world vastly more improbable than it would otherwise be. These specializing newspapers will, as they find their class, throw out many features that do not belong to that class. It is highly probable that many will restrict the space devoted to news and sham news; that forged and inflated stuff made in offices, that bulks out the foreign intelligence of so many English papers, for example. At present every paper contains a little of everything, inadequate sporting stuff, inadequate financial stuff, vague literary matter, voluminous reports of political vapourings, because no newspaper is quite sure of the sort of readers it has—probably no daily newspaper has yet a distinctive sort of reader.

Many people, with their minds inspired by the number of editions which evening papers pretend to publish and do not, incline to believe that daily papers may presently give place to hourly papers, each with the last news of the last sixty minutes photographically displayed. As a matter of fact no human being wants that, and very few are so foolish as to think they do; the only kind of news that any sort of people clamours for hot and hot is financial and betting fluctuations, lottery lists and examination results; and the elaborated and cheapened telegraphic and telephonic system of the coming days, with tapes (or phonograph to replace them) in every post-office and nearly every private house, so far from expanding this department, will probably sweep it out of the papers altogether. One will subscribe to a news agency which will wire all the stuff one cares to have so violently fresh, into a phonographic recorder perhaps, in some convenient corner. There the thing will be in every house, beside the barometer, to hear or ignore. With the separation of that function what is left of the newspaper will revert to one daily edition—daily, I think, because of the power of habit to make the newspaper the specific business of some definite moments in the day; the breakfast hour, I suppose, or the "up-to-town" journey with most Englishmen now. Quite possibly some one will discover some day that there is now machinery for folding and fastening a paper into a form that will not inevitably get into the butter, or lead to bitterness in a railway carriage. This pitch of development reached, I incline to anticipate daily papers much more like the Spectator in form than these present mainsails of our public life. They will probably not contain fiction at all, and poetry only rarely, because no one but a partial imbecile wants these things in punctual daily doses, and we are anticipating an escape from a period of partial imbecility. My own culture and turn of mind, which is probably akin to that of a respectable mechanic of the year 2000, inclines me towards a daily paper that will have in addition to its concentrated and absolutely trustworthy daily news, full and luminous accounts of new inventions, new theories, and new departures of all sorts (usually illustrated), witty and penetrating comments upon public affairs, criticisms of all sorts of things, representations of newly produced works of art, and an ample amount of ably written controversy upon everything under the sun. The correspondence columns, instead of being an exercising place for bores and conspicuous people who are not mercenary, will be the most ample, the most carefully collected, and the most highly paid of all departments in this paper. Personal paragraphs will be relegated to some obscure and costly corner next to the births, deaths, and marriages. This paper will have, of course, many pages of business advertisements, and these will usually be well worth looking through, for the more intelligent editors of the days to come will edit this department just like any other, and classify their advertisements in a descending scale of freshness and interest that will also be an ascending scale of price. The advertiser who wants to be an indecent bore, and vociferate for the ten millionth time some flatulent falsehood about a pill, for instance, will pay at nuisance rates. Probably many papers will refuse to print nasty and distressful advertisements about people's insides at all. The entire paper will be as free from either greyness or offensive stupidity in its advertisement columns as the shop windows in Bond Street to-day, and for much the same reason,—because the people who go that way do not want that sort of thing.

It has been supposed that, since the real income of the newspaper is derived from advertisements, large advertisers will combine in the future to own papers confined to the advertisements of their specific wares. Some such monopoly is already attempted; several publishing firms own or partially own a number of provincial papers, which they adorn with strange "Book Chat" columns conspicuously deficient in their information; and a well-known cycle tyre firm supplies "Cycling" columns that are mere pedestals for the Head-of-King-Charles make of tyre. Many quack firms publish and give away annual almanacks replete with economical illustrations, offensive details, and bad jokes. But I venture to think, in spite of such phenomena, that these suggestions and attempts are made with a certain disregard of the essential conditions of sound advertisement. Sound advertisement consists in perpetual alertness and newness, in appearance in new places and in new aspects, in the constant access to fresh minds. The devotion of a newspaper to the interest of one particular make of a commodity or group of commodities will inevitably rob its advertisement department of most of its interest for the habitual readers of the paper. That is to say, the newspaper will fail in what is one of the chief attractions of a good newspaper. Moreover, such a devotion will react upon all the other matter in the paper, because the editor will need to be constantly alert to exclude seditious reflections upon the Health-Extract-of-Horse-Flesh or Saved-by-Boiling-Jam. His sense of this relation will taint his self-respect and make him a less capable editor than a man whose sole affair is to keep his paper interesting. To these more interesting rival papers the excluded competitor will be driven, and the reader will follow in his wake. There is little more wisdom in the proprietor of an article in popular demand buying or creating a newspaper to contain all his advertisements than in his buying a coal pit for the same purpose. Such a privacy of advertisement will never work, I think, on a large scale; it is probably at or near its maximum development now, and this anticipation of the advertiser-owned paper, like that of hourly papers, and that wonderfully powerful cosmic newspaper syndicate, is simply another instance of prophesying based only on a present trend, an expansion of the obvious, instead of an analysis of determining forces.

[36] One striking illustration of the distinctive possibilities of democratic government came to light during the last term of office of the present patriotic British Government. As a demonstration of patriotism large sums of money were voted annually for the purpose of building warships, and the patriotic common man paid the taxes gladly with a dream of irresistible naval predominance to sweeten the payment. But the money was not spent on warships; only a portion of it was spent, and the rest remained to make a surplus and warm the heart of the common man in his tax-paying capacity. This artful dodge was repeated for several years; the artful dodger is now a peer, no doubt abjectly respected, and nobody in the most patriotic party so far evolved is a bit the worse for it. In the organizing expedients of all popular governments, as in the prospectuses of unsound companies, the disposition is to exaggerate the nominal capital at the expense of the working efficiency. Democratic armies and navies are always short, and probably will always be short, of ammunition, paint, training and reserve stores; battalions and ships, since they count as units, are over-numerous and go short-handed, and democratic army reform almost invariably works out to some device for multiplying units by fission, and counting men three times instead of twice in some ingenious and plausible way. And this must be so, because the sort of men who come inevitably to power under democratic conditions are men trained by all the conditions of their lives to so set appearances before realities as at last to become utterly incapable of realities.



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