H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Anticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought online

. (page 14 of 21)
Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought → online text (page 14 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The fight will never be in practice between equal
sides, never be that theoretical deadlock we have
sketched, but a fight between the more efficient and
the less efficient, between the more inventive and
the more traditional. While the victors, disciplined
and grimly intent, full of the sombre yet glorious
delight of a grave thing well done, will, without
shouting or confusion, be fighting like one great
national body, the losers will be taking that pitiless
exposure of helplessness in such a manner as their

222



WAR

natural culture and character may determine.
War for the losing side will be an unspeakable,
pitiable business. There will be first of all the
coming of the war, the wave of excitement, the
belligerent shouting of the unemployed inefficients,
the flag-waving, the secret doubts, the eagerness
for hopeful news, the impatience of the warning
voice. I seem to see, almost as if he were symbolic,
the gray old general the general who learned his
art of war away in the vanished nineteenth cen-
tury, the altogether too elderly general with his
epaulettes and decorations, his uniform that has
still its historical value, his spurs and his sword
riding along on his obsolete horse, by the side of
his doomed column. Above all things he is a
gentleman. And the column looks at him loving-
ly with its countless boys' faces, and the boys'
eyes are infinitely trustful, for he has won battles
in the old time. They will believe in him to the
end. They have been brought up in their schools
to believe in him and his class, their mothers have
mingled respect for the gentlefolk with the simple
doctrines of their faith, their first lesson on en-
tering the army was the salute. The "smart"
helmets His Majesty, or some such unqualified
person chose for them, lie hotly on their young
brow r s, and over their shoulders slope their obso-
lete, carelessly-sighted guns. Tramp, tramp, they
march, doing what they have been told to do,
incapable of doing anything they have not been

223



ANTICIPATIONS

told to do, trustful and pitiful, marching to wounds
and disease, hunger, hardship, and death. They
know nothing of what they are going to meet,
nothing of what they will have to do; religion
and the ratepa3^er and the rights of the parent
working through the instrumentality of the best
club in the world have kept their souls and minds,
if not untainted, at least only harmlessly veneered
with the thinnest sham of training or knowledge.
Tramp, tramp, they go, boys who will never be
men, rejoicing patriotically in the nation that has
thus sent them forth, badly armed, badly clothed,
badly led, to be killed in some avoidable quarrel by
men unseen. And beside them, an absolute stranger
to them, a stranger even in habits of speech and
thought, and at any rate to be shot with them fairly
and squarely, marches the subaltern the son of
the school-burking, share-holding class a slightly
taller sort of boy, as ill-taught as they are in all
that concerns the realities of life, ignorant of how
to get food, how to get water, how to keep fever
down and strength up, ignorant of his practical
equality with the men beside him, carefully trained
under a clerical headmaster to use a crib, play
cricket rather nicely, look all right whatever hap-
pens, believe in his gentility, and avoid talking
"shop." . . . The major you see is a man of
the world, and very pleasantly meets the gray
general's eye. He is, one may remark by the way,
something of an army reformer, without offence,

224



WAR

of course, to the court people or the government
people. His prospects if only he were not going
to be shot are brilliant enough. He has written
quite cleverly on the question of recruiting, and
advocated as much as twopence more a day and
billiard-rooms under the chaplain's control; he has
invented a military bicycle with a wheel of solid
iron that can be used as a shield; and a war cor-
respondent, and, indeed, any one who writes even
the most casual and irresponsible article on military
questions, is a person worth his cultivating. He
is the very life and soul of army reform, as it is
known to the governments of the gray that is
to say, army reform without a single step towards
a social revolution.

So the gentlemanly old general the polished
drover to the shambles rides, and his doomed
column march by, in this vision that haunts my
mind.

I cannot foresee what such a force will even
attempt to do against modern weapons. Nothing-
can happen but the needless and most wasteful
and pitiful killing of these poor lads, who make
up the infantry battalions, the main mass of all
the European armies of to-day, whenever they
come against a sanely organized army. There is
nowhere they can come in; there is nothing they
can do. The scattered, invisible marksmen with
their supporting guns will shatter their masses,
pick them off individually, cover their line of re-
3 225



ANTICIPATIONS

treat and force them into wholesale surrenders.
It will be more like herding sheep than actual
fighting. Yet the bitterest and cruellest things
will have to happen, thousands and thousands of
poor boys will be smashed in all sorts of dreadful
ways and given over to every conceivable form of
avoidable hardship and painful disease, before the
obvious fact that war is no longer a business for
half-trained lads in uniform, led by parson-bred
sixth-form boys and men of pleasure and old men,
but an exhaustive demand upon very carefully
educated adults for the most strenuous best that
is in them, will get its practical recognition.*



* There comes to hand as I correct these proofs a very typical
illustration of the atmosphere of really almost imbecile patronage
in which the British private soldier lives. It is a circular from
some one at Lydd some one who evidently cannot even write
English but who is nevertheless begging for an iron hut in
which to inflict lessons on our soldiers. " At present," says
this circular, " it is pretty to see in the home a group of gunners
busily occupied in wool-work or learning basket-making, while
one of their number sings or recites, and others are playing
games or letter-writing, but even quite recently the members
of the Bible Reading Union and one of the ladies might have
been seen painfully crowded behind screens, choosing the
' Golden Text ' with lowered voices, and trying to pray ' with-
out distraction,' while at the other end of the room men were
having supper, and half-way down a dozen Irish militia (who
don't care to read, but are keen on a story) were gathered round
another lady, who was telling them an amusing temperance
tale, trying to speak so that the Bible readers should not hear
her and yet that the Leinsters should was a difficulty, but when
the Irishmen begged for a song difficulty became impossibility,
and their friend had to say, ' No.' Yet this is just the double
work required in soldiers' homes, and above all at Lydd, where
there is so little safe amusement to be had in camp, and none

226



WAR

Well, in the ampler prospect even this haunting
tragedy of innumerable avoidable deaths is but an
incidental thing. They die, and their troubles are
over. The larger fact, after all, is the inexorable
tendency in things to make a soldier a skilled and
educated man, and to link him, in sympathy and
organization, with the engineer and the doctor,
and all the continually developing mass of scien-

in the village." These poor youngsters go from this " safe
amusement" under the loving care of" lady workers," this life
of limitation, make-believe and spiritual servitude, that a self-
respecting negro would find intolerable, into a warfare that ex-
acts initiative and a freely acting intelligence from all who
take part in it, under the bitterest penalties of shame and death.
What can you expect of them? And how can you expect any
men of capacity and energy, any men even of mediocre self-
respect to knowingly place themselves under the tutelage of the
sort of people who dominate these organized degradations? I
am amazed the army gets so many capable recruits as it does.
And while the private lives under these conditions the would-
be capable officer stifles amid equally impossible surroundings.
He must associate with the uneducated products of the public
schools and listen to their chatter about the " sports " that delight
them, suffer social indignities from the " army woman," worry
and waste money on needless clothes, and expect to end by being
shamed or killed under some unfairly promoted incapable.
Nothing illustrates the intellectual blankness of the British
army better than its absolute dearth of military literature. No
one would dream of gaining any profit by writing or publishing
a book upon such a subject, for example, as mountain warfare
in England, because not a dozen British officers would have the
sense to buy such a book, and yet the British army is continually
getting into scrapes in mountain districts. A few unselfish men
like Major Peech find time to write an essay or so, and that is
all. On the other hand, I find no fewer than five works in French
on this subject in MM. Chapelet & Cie.'s list alone. On guerilla
warfare, again, and after two years of South Africa, while there
is nothing in English but some scattered papers by Dr. T. Miller
Maguire, there are nearly a dozen good books in French. As a

227



ANTICIPATIONS

tifically educated men that the advance of science
and mechanism is producing. We are dealing
with the inter-play of two world-wide forces, that
work through distinctive and contrasted ten-
dencies to a common end. We have the force of
invention insistent upon a progress of the peace
organization, which tends on the one hand to
throw out great useless masses of people, the

supplement to these facts is the spectacle of the officers of the
Guards telegraphing to Sir Thomas Lipton, on the occasion of
the defeat of his Shamrock II., "Hard luck. Be of good cheer.
Brigade of Guards wish you every success." This is not the
foolish enthusiasm of one or two subalterns ; it is collective.
They followed that yacht race with emotion. It was a really
important thing to them. No doubt the whole mess was in a
state of extreme excitement. How can capable and active men
be expected to live and work within this upper and that nether
millstone? The British army not only does not attract am-
bitious, energetic men it repels them. I must confess that I
see no hope either in the rulers, the traditions, or the manhood
of the British regular army to forecast its escape from the bog
of ignorance and negligence in which it wallows. Far better
than any projected reforms would it be to let the existing
army severely alone, to cease to recruit for it, to retain (at the
expense of its officers, assisted, perhaps, by subscriptions from
ascendant people like Sir Thomas Lipton) its messes, its uniforms,
its games, bands, entertainments, and splendid memories as an
appendage of the court, and to create, in absolute independence
of it, battalions and batteries of efficient professional soldiers,
without social prestige or social distinctions, without bands,
dress uniforms, colors, chaplains, or honorary colonels, and to
embody these as a real marching army perpetually en route
throughout the empire, a reading, thinking, experimenting army
under an absolutely distinct war office, with its own colleges, de-
pots, and training camps perpetually ready for war. I cannot
help but think that if a hint were taken from the Turbinia syn-
dicate a few enterprising persons of means and intelligence
might do much by private experiment to supplement and re-
place the existing state of affairs.

228



WAR

people of the ab}'ss, and on the other hand to
develop a sort of adiposity of functionless wealthy,
a speculative elephantiasis, and to promote the
development of a new social order of efficients,
only very painfully and slowly, amid these grow-
ing and yet disintegrating masses. And on the
other hand we have the warlike drift of such a
social body, the inevitable intensification of inter-
national animosities in such a body, the absolute
determination evident in the scheme of things
to smash such a body, to smash it just as far as
it is such a body, under the hammer of war,
that must finally bring about, rapidly and under
pressure, the same result as that to which the
peaceful evolution slowly tends. While we are as
yet only thinking of a physiological struggle, of
complex reactions and slow absorptions, comes
war with the surgeon's knife. War comes to sim-
plify the issue and line out the thing with knife-
like cuts.

The law that dominates the future is glaringly
plain. A people must develop and consolidate its
educated efficient classes or be beaten in war and
give way upon all points where its interests conflict
with the interests of more capable people. It must
foster and accelerate that natural segregation,
which has been discussed in the third and fourth
chapters of these Anticipations, or perish. The
war of the coming time will really be won in
schools and colleges and universities, wherever

229



ANTICIPATIONS

men write and read and talk together. The nation
that produces in the near future fhe largest pro-
portional development of educated and intelligent
engineers and agriculturists, of doctors, school-
masters, professional soldiers, and intellectually
active people of all sorts; the nation that most
resolutely picks over, educates, sterilizes, exports,
or poisons its people of the abyss; the nation
that succeeds most subtly in checking gambling
and the moral decay of women and homes that
gambling inevitably entails; the nation that by
wise interventions, death duties and the like, con-
trives to expropriate and extinguish incompetent
rich families while leaving individual ambitions
free; the nation, in a word, that turns the greatest
proportion of its irresponsible adiposity into social
muscle, will certainly be the nation that will be
the most powerful in warfare as in peace, will
certainly be the ascendant or dominant nation
before the year 2000. In the long run no heroism
and no accidents can alter that. No flag-waving,
no patriotic leagues, no visiting of essentially
petty imperial personages hither and thither, no
smashing of the windows of outspoken people
nor siezures of papers and books, will arrest the
march of national defeat. And this issue is al-
ready so plain and simple, the alternatives are
becoming so pitilessly clear, that even in the stupid-
est court and the stupidest constituencies, it must
presently begin in some dim way to be felt. A

230



WAR

time will come when so many people will see this
issue clearly that it will gravely affect political and
social life. The patriotic party the particular
gang, that is, of lawyers, brewers, landlords, and
railway directors that wishes to be dominant
will be forced to become an efficient party in pro-
fession at least, will be forced to stimulate and
organize that educational and social development
that may at last even bring patriotism under con-
trol. The rulers of the gray, the democratic poli-
tician and the democratic monarch, will be obliged
year by year by the very nature of things to promote
the segregation of colors within the gray, to foster
the power that will finally supersede democracy and
monarchy altogether, the power of the scientifically
educated, disciplined specialist, and that finally is
the power of sanity, the power of the thing that is
provably right. It may be delayed, but it cannot
be defeated; in the end it must arrive; if not to-day
and among our people, then to-morrow and among
another people who will triumph in our overthrow.
This is the lesson that must be learned, that some
tongue and kindred of the coming time must in-
evitably learn. But what tongue it will be, and
what kindred that will first attain this new develop-
ment, opens far more complex and far less certain
issues than any we have hitherto considered.

231



THE CONFLICT OF LANGUAGES



THE CONFLICT OF LANGUAGES



WE have brought together thus far in these
Anticipations the material for the picture of
a human community somewhere towards the year
2000. We have imagined its roads, the t3 7 pe and
appearance of its homes, its social developments,
its internal struggle for organization; we have
speculated upon its moral and aesthetic condition,
read its newspaper, made an advanced criticism
upon the lack of universality in its literature, and
attempted to imagine it at war. We have decided
in particular that, unlike the civilized community
of the immediate past, which lived either in sharply-
defined towns or agriculturally over a wide coun-
try, this population will be distributed in a quite
different way a little more thickly over vast urban
regions, and a little less thickly over less attractive
or less convenient or less industrial parts of the
world. And, implicit in all that has been written,
there has appeared an unavoidable assumption
that the coming community will be vast, something
geographically more extensive than most, and
geographically different from almost all existing

235



ANTICIPATIONS

communities; that the outline its creative forces
will draw not only does not coincide with existing
political centres and boundaries, but will be more
often than not in direct conflict with them, uniting
areas that are separated and separating areas that
are united, grouping here half a dozen tongues and
peoples together, and there tearing apart homo-
geneous bodies and distributing the fragments
among separate groups. And it will now be well
to inquire a little into the general causes of these
existing divisions, the political boundaries of to-
day, and the still older contours of language and
race.

It is first to be remarked that each of these sets
of boundarievS is superposed, as it were, on the
older sets. The race areas, for example, which
are now not traceable in Europe at all, must have
represented old regions of separation; the lan-
guage areas, which have little or no essential re-
lation to racial distribution, have also given way
long since to the newer forces that have united
and consolidated nations. And the still newer
forces that have united and separated the nine-
teenth-century states have been, and in many
cases are still, in manifest conflict with " national "
ideas.

Now, in the original separation of human races,
in the subsequent differentiation and spread of
languages, in the separation of men into nation-
alities, and in the union and splitting of states

236



THE CONFLICT OF LANGUAGES

and empires, we have to deal essentially with the
fluctuating manifestations of the same fundamental
shaping factor which will determine the distribu-
tion of urban districts in the coming years. Every
boundary of the ethnographical, linguistic, politi-
cal, and commercial map as a little consideration
will show has, indeed, been traced in the first
place by the means of transit, under the compul-
sion of geographical contours.

There are evident in Europe four or five or more
very distinct racial types, and since the methods
and rewards of barbaric warfare and the nature
of the chief chattels of barbaric trade have always
been diametrically opposed to racial purity, their
original separation could only have gone on through
such an entire lack of communication as prevented
either trade or warfare between the bulk of the
differentiating bodies. These original racial types
are now inextricably mingled. Unobservant, over-
scholarly people talk or write in the profoundest
manner about a Teutonic race and a Keltic race,
and institute all sorts of curious contrasts between
these phantoms; but these are not races at all, if
physical characteristics have anything to do with
race. The Dane, the Bavarian, the Prussian, the
Frieslander, the Wessex peasant, the Kentish man,
the Virginian, the man from New Jersey, the Nor-
wegian, the Swede, and the Transvaal Boer, are
generalized about, for example, as Teutonic, while
the short, dark, cunning sort of Welshman, the tall

237



ANTICIPATIONS

and generous Highlander, the miscellaneous Irish,
the square-headed Breton, and any-sort of Cornwall
peasant are Kelts within the meaning of this oil-
lamp anthropology.* People who believe in this
sort of thing are not the sort of people that one
attempts to convert by a set argument. One need
only say the thing is not so; there is no Teutonic
race, and there never has been; there is no Keltic
race, and there never has been. No one has ever
proved or attempted to prove the existence of such
races, the thing has always been assumed ; they are
dogmas with nothing but questionable authority
behind them, and the onus of proof rests on the
believer. This nonsense about Keltic and Teu-
tonic is no more science than Lombroso's extraor-
dinary assertions about criminals, or palmistry,
or the development of religion from a solar myth.
Indisputably there are several races intermingled
in the European populations I am inclined to
suspect the primitive European races may be
found to be so distinct as to resist confusion and
pamnyxia through hybridization but there is no

* Under the intoxication of the Keltic Renascence the most
diverse sorts of human beings have foregathered and met face
to face, and been photographed Pan-Keltically, and have no
doubt gloated over these collective photographs, without any
of them realizing, it seems, what a miscellaneous thing the
Keltic race must be. There is nothing that may or may not
be a Kelt, and I know, for example, professional Kelts who are,
so far as face, manners, accents, morals, and ideals go, indis-
tinguishable from other people who are, I am told, indisputably
Assyroid Jews.

238



THE CONFLICT OF LANGUAGES

inkling of a satisfactory analysis yet that will
discriminate what these races were and define them
in terms of physical and moral character. The
fact remains there is no such thing as a racial-
ly pure and homogeneous community in Europe
distinct from other communities. Even among
the Jews, according to Erckert and Chantre and
J. Jacobs, there are markedly divergent types;
there may have been two original elements and
there have been extensive local intermixtures.

Long before the beginnings of history, while
even language was in its first beginnings in-
deed, as another aspect of the same process as the
beginning of language the first complete isola-
tions that established race were breaking down
again, the little pools of race were running to-
gether into less homogeneous lagoons and marshes
of humanity, the first paths were being worn
war-paths, for the most part. Still differentiation
would be largely at work. Without frequent
intercourse, frequent interchange of women as
the great factor in that intercourse, the tribes and
bands of mankind would still go on separating,
would develop dialectic and customary, if not
physical and moral differences. It was no longer
a case of pools, perhaps, but they were still in lakes.
There were as yet no open seas of mankind. With
advancing civilization, with iron weapons and
war discipline, with established paths and a social
rule, and presently with the coming of the horse,

239



ANTICIPATIONS

what one might call the areas of assimilation
would increase in size. A stage would be reached
when the only checks to transit of a sufficiently con-
venient sort to keep language uniform would be
the sea or mountains or a broad river or pure dis-
tance. And presently the rules of the game, so to
speak, would be further altered and the unifications
and isolations that were establishing themselves
upset altogether and brought into novel conflict
by the beginnings of navigation, whereby an
impassable barrier became a highway.

The commencement of actual European history
coincides with the closing phases of what was
probably a very long period of a foot and (oc-
casional) horseback state of communications;
the adjustments so arrived at being already in
an early state of rearrangement through the ad-
vent of the ship. The communities of Europe
were still, for the larger part, small, isolated tribes
and kingdoms, such kingdoms as a mainly pedes-
trian militia, or at any rate a militia without trans-
port, and drawn from (and soon drawn home again
by) agricultural work might hold together. The
increase of transit facilities between such com-
munities, by the development of shipping and
the invention of the wheel and the made road,
spelled increased trade perhaps for a time, but very


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought → online text (page 14 of 21)