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MRS ANNIE BESANT ON THE WAR, Issue 15693, 6 January 1915
MRS ANNIE BESANT ON THE WAR
(From the ‘ Theosophist.’) All the ■world over is the tumuli of wav; he lurid light of devastated homes blazes nit from the burning towns of Belgium ; Tie relics of past ages in Louvain ami Rhcims and Dimmt liave been hammered .nto pieces by the new hammer of 1 hor ; hundreds of thousands of men. killed or wounded, strew the Helds that should have been yellowing for the sickle - all the fair, peaceful industries of common life are whelmed in one red ruin. it rid for what is all this pain, this agony af wrenched muscles and shattered limns, this blasting of bright young lives, this destruction of glowing hopes? In the pictures of the killed that appear in _ the illustrated papers there arc so many tacos glad with the sunshine of life, bright faces of young manhood, dawning into virility, faces that mothers must have hived dear ly, must have kissed so passionate j as they cent them forth. As one looks at. them one sees them trampled into crimson mud, shattered by bursting shell, rrven .y cut of sabre, and is glad that the earth should bide lire horror of what, was once so fair, (~'lear eyes, looking out so brightly upon joyous life, that have gazed nnhineliingly into the eyes of dentin Lips. s t'd showing lire gracious curves of youth, that hardened in the battle crash, to relax agam only in the peace of death. And all for- what? For what the broken hearts in all the Ironies in which these gallant lads were light and joy.' I'or "bat, the anguish of the widows of these other men, beyond the first flush of youth, who left behind them their life's treasure, with the children who shall watch for their father’s corning—useless watching. for homeward he will never come again? For what the myriads of darkened homes, whose breadwinners, husbands and sols, fathers ami lovers, find no record in the pictured pages, though dear to tire heart* tlrai love them as are the noble and lire wealthy "ho I hereon have their place.' For what the world’s great .monish, mourning over' her slaughtered sons.' For what? There have been wars begun for ti'ansiciu objects, for the conquest "I a piece of land, for tire weakening of a rival, for the gaining of added power, begun because ot ambition, of greed, of jealousy, of insuL. In such wars lives are flung away for trifles, thoirvh the men who suifer in them or who dio’win out of their own anguish added strength and beauty of character, full reward for the pain endured ; for tbov return with the spoils of victory into nen avenues of ascending life, and with them it i« very well. Such wars are evil in their origin, however much the divine alchemy may transmute the base into fine. gold. But. this war is none oi rVicßo. In VVna. war mighty principles are battling for the niastcrv. ideas are locked in deadly combat. The direction of the march of our present civilisation, upwards and downwards. depends on the issue of the si niggle. Two ideals of world-empire are balanced on the scales of the future. That is. what raises this wav above all others knovn in the brief history of the cm, ; it is the latest of the pivots on whieh, in successive aces, the immediate future of the world Iras turned. To die battling tor the right ’ is the gladdest late that eai. befall the vouth in the joy of ins dawning manhood, 'the man in the pride of h;s strength, rhe. loader in the wisdom ot his maturity., aye. and the aged in tli« neb splendor' of' bis whitened bead. To be wounded in this war is to be enrolled m the ranks of humanity's warriors. tip have felt the stroke of the sacrificial knife, to bear in the mortal body the glorious scars of an immortal struggle. Of the t'O possible woild-empires, that of that (Treat Britain arid that, of tiermaiiv. one is already far advanced in the making and shuns "its quality, with Dominioiis and colonies, with India at its side. The other Is but in embryo, but can be judged hy its theories, witii the small examples available as to the fashion of iheir outworking in the new colonies that it is founding, the outlining of the unborn embryo.
'I he first- embodies—though as yet but partially realised —the ideal of freedom, ot over-increasing self-government. ot peoples rising into power and .self-development
along their own lines, of a supremo government "broad based upon the people's will," of fair and just treatment of undeveloped races, aiding not enslaving them. H embodies the embryo of the splendid democracy of the future: of the inv civil: sat: on. c<Vo|>crative, peaceful, pi ogressive, artistic, just. and. free; a brotherhood of nations, whether the nations he inside or iiitside the world-emnire. 'this is tin? i, it;. 1 ; and that Great Britain had set her fee:., ir. the oath who 1; leads to it is proved not only bv her past ini "i ior history, with in, stir.gglvs towards liberty, but. also by her granting of autonomy lo her colonies, her formation of the beginnings of selfgovernment. in India, her constantly in: picriug attitude towards the undeveloped lines —as in using ihe Salvation Army to i ivilite the i riniinal tribes in India—all promising advances towards the ideal. Moreover, she lias ever sheltered the. opp'essed exiles flying to her shores for refuge against their tyrants -the names of Kossuth, Ma/./ini. Kropotkin shine out gloi ioiitdy as. v itness in her favor; sheilas fought against- the slave trade and well nigh abolished it. And al ihe present moment she is lighting in defence of keeping faith with those too small to exact it; in defence of treaty obligations am! the sanctity of a nation'- pledged word; in defence, of national honor, of justice to the weak, of itiat law obedience to whh-li by the strong Mates is the only guarantee of future peace, the only safeguard of soeietv against the tyranny of brute suviigth. For a. 11 ill is England is lighting, when she might have stood aside, selfish a.nd at ease, watching her neighbors tearing each other in pieces, waiting till their exhaustion made it possible for her lo impose her wdl. Instead oi thus remaining, she lias sprung forward, knight-errant of liberty, servant of duty. AVitli possible- danger of civil war behind her. with possible revolt in South Africa and India-, with shamciul bribes offered for her standing aside, she spurned a.ll lower reasoning;., and. springing to her feel, sent out a, lion's roar of defiance to the breakers of treaties, uttered a ringing shout for help to her people-, flung her little army to the front—a. veritable David against Goliath -to gain time --Cline, that the hosts might gather to hold the enemy hack at all cost-, lot die who might of her children : called for men to her standard--men from the noble-, from the professions, from the trades, men from the plough, from the forge, from the mine, from the furnace : mid this not for gain —she has naught to gain from the war- hut because she loved Liberty, Donor. Justice, Lav; better than life or treasure ; that she counted glorious death a thou-sand-fold more desirable than shameful existence bought by cowardly ease. For this the nations bless her; for this her dying sons adore her; for this history shall applaud her; for this shall tie* world-empire ho hers with the cnosent of all free peoples, and she shall he the. protector. not the tvraut, of humanity.
The second claimant of world-empire embodies the ideal of autocracy founded on force. The candidate proclaims him-?-elf the War Lord, and in Ids realm no master save himself. He declares to his army, as he flings his sword into the scales of war :
Remember that- the German people are tho chosen of God. On me. on me as German Emperor, the Spirit of God has descended. 1 am His weapon. Hi.-, sword, and His Vicegerent. Woe to the disobedient, Death to coward- and unbelievers.
The thinkers, the teachers of his people, have formulated the theory of the worldempire ; it lecogni-os no law in dealing with States save that of strength, no arbitrament save war. Its own self-interest is declared to he its only motive ; its morality is based on the. increase nt the power of its empire; the. weak have no rights; the conquered nations must be “ left only eyes to weep with.” AA T oe to the conquered 1 AA’oe to the weak ! AA'oe to the helpless! All religions save tho religion of force arc superstitious; their morality is outgrown. Murder, robbery, arson -all are permissible, nay. praiseworthy. in invading hosts. Mercy is con temptible. Chivalry is an anachronism. Compassion is feebleness. Art and literature have no sanctity. The women, tho children, the aged—they are all weak;
I why should not strong men use them as j they will? All undeveloped races are the prey of the “civilised.” And we are not left without signs of the application of the theory. Herr Schlettwoin instincts the German Reichstag on the “principles of colonisation ” :
The Hercros must be compelled to work, and to work without compensation and in return for their food only. Forced labor for years is only a just punishment, and at the, same time it is the best method of training them. The feelings of Christianity and philanthropy with which the missionaries work must for the present be repudiated with all
energy. General Von Trotha. tired even of enslaving them, proclaims ; The Hcrei'o people must now leave ther land. If they refuse, I shall compel them with the gun. Within the German fron- r tier every Horero. with or without weapon, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall take charge of no more I women and children, but shall drive (
them back to their people or let them ba shot at.
The proclamation was carried out; thousands were shot; thousands were, “driven into a waterless desert. where they yierished of hunger and thirst.” On this sample we refuse the goods offered. Moreover, we have seen the Empire at work, carrying out in Belgium its theories of murder, rape, and loot. Ihe “chosen people of the (German) God stink in the nostrils of Europe. This embryo-empire of the bottomless pit. conceived of hatred and shaped in the womb ambition, must never come to birth. It is the. Now Barbarism : it is the antithesis of all that is noble, compassionate, and humane. Humanity knows the ways of Goths, \ andals, and Huns, the Berserker rage of the Vikings ; it refuses to how down before the idol of force, the negation of law. of freedom, of justice, and of peace. They that make the sword the arbitrament shall perish by the sword. The war Germany has provoked as her road to empire shall crush her militarism, free her people, and usher in the reign of peace.
MRS ANNIE BESANT ON THE WAR, Issue 15693, 6 January 1915
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