THIS DESPERATE CONFLICT
Tke Ultimate Issues
Count" Hermann keyserLING, meditating on the confusions of the years since 1918, is conscious chiefly of the complete draining away of any significant, meaning from the established forms of life. It was not that the world had changed,, though, of course, it had changed greatly. But it had constantly been changing before, and man was soon able to adjust himself to new factors and continue practically the old life under the new conditions. itself had meaning and purpose; below all the surface and the show mighty tides moved • irresistibly forward to ends we might not,; fully understand, bul which we accepted as inevitable and good. So there was a amity in the depths which linked humanity together, in spite of all its superficial differences..' Life was worth something, and something of supremo value. That was the guiding line through all/,man's perplexities. But Keyserling saw the old unity 'disrupted.'The new age had undergone some vital psychic transformation. The old values suddenly ceased to exist "The conscious," he says, "has for tin l time being dost its contacts with the living deeps; and since life is rooted in meaning' it has become meaningless to the modern mind." And when life has. lost its meaning human effort, directs itself to destruction aud particularly self-destruction. He notes that throughout Europe youth had 110 longer any power even to understand ihe°things that had meant everything to its fathers. The Empty Heart That tremendous psychic change, the fundamental alteration of the attitude to life itself, the emptying of life, as the past had known it, of purpose and significance,' -must ultimately create new values and a new culture. Nature abhors a vacuum. But a new culture comes into existence very slowly. Men of genius anticipate it in their towering personalities, but the vast majority have to take it from them at second-hand. In the long interval before the rank and" file catch up they are necessarily imitative, shouters of slogans they have been taught. \ oung German airmen captured in Britain last" week repeated to their amused captors familiar lesson:, "But of . course Britain is decadent." Tliey have to reel off the old parrot cries because in their stage of development the slogan is the substitute for thought. Serge Chakotin, another Continental thinker, sees Germany at the point where it.abandoned all the hard-won and carefully garnered wisdom of the past and stood appalled before the desolating emptiness of its strange new world, caught in the sweep of a skilled propaganda which at least gave definiteness of aim and meaning. By incessant iteration, by linking the new ideas with a vast mass of symbolic ritual very potent in its influence upon an exceptionally impressionable and suggestible people, it filled the wide empty. spaces in the clean-swept German soul with seven devils* for the one that had been exorcized. Chakotin finds the point of attack for the German propaganda in the combative instinct. This is the universal quality in the German soul that has been so skilfully played / uppn with such dire results. Combative Instinct One might suggest that equally with the instinct for combat _ the German propaganda machine utilised the vanity of a proud people that had for long been engulfed in the bitter waters of national humiliation. Granted tl\pt the chief appeal was to the desire to strike back, and that from the beginning, however jve might have deceived ourselves, the final aim of the new Germany. was world-domination, it was necessary to raise German self-esteem above the disasters of its recent history. Hence the legend of the noble Nordic race, invincible in war and destined for \vorld conquest, stabbed in * the back bv traitors of alien blood at home\ Honce the incessant drumming into German minds of their OWII superiority and of British decadence. So the German soul, says Chakotin, has suffered- a psychical violation. It has been so cudgelled into acquiescence , by violent propaganda, that it is ready to believe anything. We have beheld in our day the amazing spectacle of a keenly 1 intellectual . people, with in normal times at least its share of decent instincts, accepting ready-made theory contrary to all truth and reason, and committing itself to national policies in which honour and justice and righteouSness count for less than nothing. So complete is this overthrow of all reason that the Germans can shout to heaven their detestation of the vileness of decadent Britain in daring to defend herself. The British Way If it is correct that throughout modern Europe life has lost its meaning, and that empty minds and hearts aro everywhere an easy prey to whatever devilish monsters can be, by cunning or force, herded into the vacant spaces, all the greater responsibility rests upon ' Britain and the United States, where alone the winnowed wisdom of the centuries is still in certain possession of the national life. Against the atavistic doctrine that the State 'is everything and the individual nothing, except as a pawn in the State's- purposes, British liberty 'must stand as it has always stood, for the supreme value and the inalienable rights of the individual. The ultimate issue in this desperate conflict'is whether the slave mentality shall prevail and become universal. Is the hope of the world in a disciplined, regimented, goose-stepping humanity whose highest function is to think and act as it is told? For the unsullied transmission to the waiting generations ■ of the . highest way of life the world has' so far beaten out in its long struggle upward our nation has been raised to its high eminence. The slave State, can be efficient, appallingly so through its tyrannical command of all its forces. But we - are showing the world that the champions of liberty can be no less resolutely efficient than the slave State, and wo have infinitely better human material to work tfith. "It is liberty, Lords and Commons," wrote Milton three hundred years ago, "which your own valorous and happy counsels have purchased us, liberty which is the nurse of all great wits; this it' is which hath ratified and enlightened our spirits like the influence of/Heaven; this it is which hath enfranchised, enlarged, and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above themsel vcs."
Where the love of liberty fills the heart and the opportunity of liberty is increasingly the aim of all the functioning of the State, there are no empty spaces in men's lives for the seven specious devils of totalitarianism. For as Bertrand Ru,ss«ll finely puts it ''lt is the individual: in whom all that is good must be realised, and the free growth of the individual must bo the supreme end of a political system which is to re-fashion the world." •
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THIS DESPERATE CONFLICT, New Zealand Herald, Volume LXXVII, Issue 23749, 31 August 1940, Supplement
THIS DESPERATE CONFLICT New Zealand Herald, Volume LXXVII, Issue 23749, 31 August 1940, Supplement
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