It Challenges Our Vitality
By STANLEY B. JAMES
HE rapid advance of the Russian forces has let loose
a number of speculations as to what will happen if and when they drive the enemy from their soil. Some observers go SO far as to say that a defeated Germany may attempt to solve her difficulties by turning Communist_ The ease with which Hitler was able to switch over his propaganda in favour, of the alliance with Germany during 1940 would seem to indicate that such a tolie-face is not unthinkable. It is conceivable that a Nazitied people, deprived of its present leader, would rather turn in its helplessness to the East than to those Western nations associated with Versailles and in whose press to-day appear dire threats us to the vengeance to be taken on them. Communism supported by the tactful diplomacy which Stalin can exercise when he wishes, it is argued, would at least give them a flag around which their broken forces might rally.
The Psychology of Defeat But this overlooks the effect likely to be produced by the swift change from European mastery to military and political impotence. The first reaction, after the high hopes raised by the victories of the past two years, is likely to be one of painful bewilderment. The disillusionment caused by the downfall of a leader reckoned almost divine must sink deep into the soul of a prostrate Germany, making belief in any leadership or system difficult. If Hitler could fail them, Germans may well ask, why not Stalin. If the Nordic myth proved no more than—a inyth, why should not Communism? The aftermath of feutical belief is cynical despair, the sequel to stupendous but unavailing effort, mental and physical exhaustion producing a dull apathy incapable of enthusiasm for anything. The influence exercised by Hitler has not been of the kind that builds solidly. His rise to power was too rapid, his methods too like those inspired by nervous impatience to leave substantial results sufficient to resist overwhelming defeat. The nation has been galvanised rather than converted. And the swing of the pendulum away from that extreme is more likely to carry it into a state of torpor than to participation in a militant movement such 'RS Communism. And with that conclusion agrees what We know of the German nature. Even in the hour of astounding victories it has been haunted by the fear of tragedy. Beneath the surface of exaltation has lain a profound scepticism which feared that its easily-won triumphs were " too good to he true." At any rate, the eventuality is one for which we have to be prepared.
Samson Agonistea And if that forecast should prove correct, it would mean that in the centre of Europe there would exist a body .ot corruption the inks:don from which would be dangerous to all around. As an irritant whose designs against the Continent kept her neighbours more or less alert, the Germany of 1918-1939 was a source of unrest. A Germany sunk into the death-like stupor would be, though in a different way, no less influential. And if the germs of her spiritual disease were carried across her frontiers she would have her revenge in undermining our own vitality. Like Samson in the temple of Dagon she might find compensation for her own disasters in regarding them as the price paid for the disintegration of the Europe she could not conquer.
The supposition is not fanciful. Carlyle sardonically said that the kinship of rich and poor was proved by the fact that they could catch each other's diseases. What is true of classes is true
also of nations. The world is to-day more closely knit together than ever before in its history. What one member suffers, all suffer with it,
Fictitious Idealism These possibilities scarcely correspond with the mood in which we find ourselves or with the generous pleas we are so eagerly making for the future. Those plans, it may be agreed, exhibit a fine idealism and, in several cases, do not lack wisdom. It is questionable, however, whether the optimism displayed goes very deep. There still lurk in the bottom of our soul suspicions engendered by memories of what hap penc-cl between the wars. To us also the question occurs whether the future painted by qur planners and publicists is not " too good to be true," The League of Nations rises from its grave beside the Luke of Geneva to whisper mocking doubts in our car. It is significant that the chief impression made by the happenings of the last few years on the mind of a sensitive observer should be such as to convince him as to the reality of Original Sin. Dr. Joad has himself been a social idealist. It is not from any lack of sympathy with aspirations for a future dedicated to international and social brotherhood that he has been driven to his pesai,mistic view of human nature. At present we are too busy to reflect on these things, and in any case, it appears dangesous to indulge in spiritual defeatism. We are bound to ask ourselves, however, whether we have the moral reserves which would enable us to implement the schemes we are putting forward for the post-war age. The re-ordering of a world so •torn and bleeding as will be the world of to-morrow calls for spiritual and moral qualities in the generatittn undertaking it that only a profound religious experience can give. That we have had any such religious experience on a large scale there is no evidence, but many indications of its absence. If that be true we shall find ourselves in no state oi mind to resist the germs spread by a corrupting Germany.
The Challenge The danger does not mean that Vie must safeguard ourselves by repudiating the schemes of international co-operadon and social betterment to which we have practically committed ourselves, The fact that we have nailed the idealistic flag to the mast may be our salvation. These schemes, in so far as they are truly generous and wise, offer us a challenge. To be inspired with good intentions—let the cynics say what they will—is an indication that the Powei which inspired them will grant us His aid, if we seek it, (or their fulfilment. Without such aid they are likely to prove an intolerable burden. To put their provisions into operation wit] call for an array of bureaucrats, and we shall find that we have become citizens of the Servile State. It is not, however, the existence Of disciplinary regulations which in itself constitutes the Servile State but the lack of vitality capable of transforming an organisation into an organism. What the schoolboy may regard as tyrannous pedantry becomes, if he experiences a mental awakening, a stimulating discipline. The irksome parade-ground drill acquires on the battlefield a significance that makes obedience not only necessary but joyful._ A planned world will be servile or happy according as it does or does not possess vitality corresponding to the call made on it. Its wisdom will lie in its willingness to seek that vitality at its true source. The era that lies before us is full of alarming dangers but also it presents us with a dazzling opportunity. With the flag of international and social brotherhood nailed to the mast we mast either perish ignominiously or, in God's name and lay His might, win glorious victory over the Dowers of evil.