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basis of its existence, because, in its blind faith in authority, it
staked that existence on prosperity and power; and both are gone. Do
you want to stake _our_ existence, on ships, soldiers, mines,
trade-connexions, which we no longer possess, or upon the soil, of
which we have not enough, or upon our broken will to work? Are we to
be the labour-serfs and the serfage stud-farm of the world? Only on
Thoughts and Ideals can our existence be staked. Where is your
thought? Where is the thought of Germany?

We can and must live only by becoming what we were designed to be,
what we were about to be, what we failed to become: a people of the
Spirit, the Spirit among the peoples of mankind. That is the thought
of Germany.

This thought is shaping the New Society - the society of the spirit and
the cultivation of the spirit, the only one which can hold its ground
in the new epoch, and which fulfils it.

This is why we have been endowed with a character whose will is weak
in external things and strong in inward responsibility; why depth and
understanding, practicality and uprightness, many-sidedness and
individuality, power of work and invention, imagination and aspiration
have been bestowed upon us, in order that we may fulfil these things.
For what do these qualities, as a whole, betoken? Not the conqueror,
not the statesman, not the worldling, and not the man of business; it
is a narrow and trivial misuse of all faculty for us to pretend to
represent these types among the nations. They betoken the labourers of
the spirit; and far as we are from being a nation of thinkers and
poets, it is nevertheless our right and our high calling to be a
thinking nation among the nations.

But on what, you may ask with scorn, is this thinking nation to live?
With all its wisdom, will it not be reduced to beggary and starvation?

No - it will live. That people which amid a century of world-revolution
is able to form for itself a stable, well-balanced, ordered and highly
developed form of society will be one that works and produces. All
around there will be quarrelling and conflict, there will be little
work and little production. For the next decade the question will be,
not where is the demand but where is the supply?

The countries are laid waste, as Germany was after the Thirty Years'
War; only we do not as yet recognize it, so long as the fever lasts we
do not notice the decline.

Production, thought-out and penetrated with spirit, on the part of a
highly developed society, and combined with labour-fellowship, is more
than valuable production or cheap production; it is something
exemplary and essential. And this applies not only to production
itself but to the methods of production, to the technique, the
schooling, the organization, the manner of thinking.

It is a petty thing to say that we were destroyed out of envy. Why did
not envy destroy America and England? The world regarded us at once
with admiration and with repulsion; with admiration for our systematic
and laborious ways, with repulsion for our tradesman-like
obtrusiveness, the brusque and dangerous character of our leadership
and the ostentatious servility with which we endured it. If it had
been possible anywhere outside of our naked, mercantile and national
egoism to discover a German idea, it would have been respected.

The German idea of cultivation of the spirit will win something for us
which we have not known for a century, and the scope of which we
cannot yet measure; people will freely appreciate us, they will
further us and follow us on our way. We have no idea what it means for
a people to have these sympathetic forces at its side, as France had
in its creation of forms, England and America in civilization and
democracy, Russia in Slavonic orthodoxy and the neutral States in
their internationalism.

There is no fear: we shall live, and more than live. For the first
time for centuries we shall again be conscious of a mission, and
around all our internal oppositions will be twined a bond which will
be something more than a bond of interest.

The goal of the world-revolution upon which we have now entered means
in its material aspect the melting of all strata of society into one.
In its transcendental aspect it means redemption: redemption of the
lower strata to freedom and to the spirit. No one can redeem himself
but every one can redeem another. Class for class, man for man: thus
is a people redeemed. Yet in each case there must be readiness and in
each there must be good-will.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 34: 1918, when the revolution in Germany broke out at Kiel.]

THE END




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THE NEW SOCIETY. By WALTER RATHENAU. Translated by Arthur Windham.

One of Germany's most influential thinkers and men of action presents
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DECADENCE AND OTHER ESSAYS ON THE CULTURE OF IDEAS. By REMY DE
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Online LibraryWalther RathenauThe New Society → online text (page 9 of 9)