Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 60 of 70


War Indispensable.—It is nothing but fanaticism and beautiful soulism to expect very much (or even, much only) from humanity when it has forgotten how to wage war. For the present we know of no other means whereby the rough energy of the camp, the deep impersonal hatred, the cold-bloodedness of murder with a good conscience, the general ardour of the system in the destruction of the enemy, the proud indifference to great losses, to one's own existence and that of one's friends, the hollow, earthquake-like convulsion of the soul, can be as forcibly and certainly communicated to enervated nations as is done by every great war: owing to the brooks and streams that here break forth, which, certainly, sweep stones and rubbish of all sorts along with them and destroy the meadows of delicate cultures, the mechanism in the workshops of the mind is afterwards, in favourable circumstances, rotated by new power. Culture can by no means dispense with passions, vices, and malignities. When the Romans, after having become Imperial, had grown rather tired of war, they attempted to gain new strength by beast-baitings, gladiatoral combats,[Pg 350] and Christian persecutions. The English of to-day, who appear on the whole to have also renounced war, adopt other means in order to generate anew those vanishing forces; namely, the dangerous exploring expeditions, sea voyages and mountaineerings, nominally undertaken for scientific purposes, but in reality to bring home surplus strength from adventures and dangers of all kinds. Many other such substitutes for war will be discovered, but perhaps precisely thereby it will become more and more obvious that such a highly cultivated and therefore necessarily enfeebled humanity as that of modern Europe not only needs wars, but the greatest and most terrible wars,—consequently occasional relapses into barbarism,—lest, by the means of culture, it should lose its culture and its very existence.


Industry in the South and the North.—Industry arises in two entirely different ways. The artisans of the South are not industrious because of acquisitiveness but because of the constant needs of others. The smith is industrious because some one is always coming who wants a horse shod or a carriage mended. If nobody came he would loiter about in the market-place. In a fruitful land he has little trouble in supporting himself, for that purpose he requires only a very small amount of work, certainly no industry; eventually he would beg and be contented. The industry of English[Pg 351] workmen, on the contrary, has acquisitiveness behind it; it is conscious of itself and its aims; with property it wants power, and with power the greatest possible liberty and individual distinction.


Wealth As the Origin of a Nobility of Race.—Wealth necessarily creates an aristocracy of race, for it permits the choice of the most beautiful women and the engagement of the best teachers; it allows a man cleanliness, time for physical exercises, and, above all, immunity from dulling physical labour. So far it provides all the conditions for making man, after a few generations, move and even act nobly and handsomely: greater freedom of character and absence of niggardliness, of wretchedly petty matters, and of abasement before bread-givers. It is precisely these negative qualities which are the most profitable birthday gift, that of happiness, for the young man; a person who is quite poor usually comes to grief through nobility of disposition, he does not get on, and acquires nothing, his race is not capable of living. In this connection, however, it must be remembered that wealth produces almost the same effects whether one have three hundred or thirty thousand thalers a year; there is no further essential progression of the favourable conditions afterwards. But to have less, to beg in boyhood and to abase one's self is terrible, although it may be the proper starting-point for such as seek their happiness[Pg 352] in the splendour of courts, in subordination to the mighty, and influential, or for such as wish to be heads of the Church. (It teaches how to slink crouching into the underground passages to favour.)


Envy and Inertia in Different Courses.—The two opposing parties, the socialist and the national,—or whatever they may be called in the different countries of Europe,—are worthy of each other; envy and laziness are the motive powers in each of them. In the one camp they desire to work as little as possible with their hands, in the other as little as possible with their heads; in the latter they hate and envy prominent, self-evolving individuals, who do not willingly allow themselves to be drawn up in rank and file for the purpose of a collective effect; in the former they hate and envy the better social caste, which is more favourably circumstanced outwardly, whose peculiar mission, the production of the highest blessings of culture, makes life inwardly all the harder and more painful. Certainly, if it be possible to make the spirit of the collective effect the spirit of the higher classes of society, the socialist crowds are quite right, when they also seek outward equalisation between themselves and these classes, since they are certainly internally equalised with one another already in head and heart. Live as higher men, and always do the deeds of higher culture,—thus everything that lives will acknowledge your right, and the[Pg 353] order of society, whose summit ye are, will be safe from every evil glance and attack!


High Politics and Their Detriments.—Just as a nation does not suffer the greatest losses that war and readiness for war involve through the expenses of the war, or the stoppage of trade and traffic, or through the maintenance of a standing army,—however great these losses may now be, when eight European States expend yearly the sum of five milliards of marks thereon,—but owing to the fact that year after year its ablest, strongest, and most industrious men are withdrawn in extraordinary numbers from their proper occupations and callings to be turned into soldiers: in the same way, a nation that sets about practising high politics and securing a decisive voice among the great Powers does not suffer its greatest losses where they are usually supposed to be. In fact, from this time onward it constantly sacrifices a number of its most conspicuous talents upon the "Altar of the Fatherland" or of national ambition, whilst formerly other spheres of activity were open to those talents which are now swallowed up by politics. But apart from these public hecatombs, and in reality much more horrible, there is a drama which is constantly being performed simultaneously in a hundred thousand acts; every able, industrious, intellectually striving man of a nation that thus covets political laurels, is[Pg 354] swayed by this covetousness, and no longer belongs entirely to himself alone as he did formerly; the new daily questions and cares of the public welfare devour a daily tribute of the intellectual and emotional capital of every citizen; the sum of all these sacrifices and losses of, individual energy and labour is so enormous, that the political growth of a nation almost necessarily entails an intellectual impoverishment and lassitude, a diminished capacity for the performance of works that require great concentration and specialisation. The question may finally be asked: "Does it then pay, all this bloom and magnificence of the total (which indeed only manifests itself as the fear of the new Colossus in other nations, and as the compulsory favouring by them of national trade and commerce) when all the nobler, finer, and more intellectual plants and products, in which its soil was hitherto so rich, must be sacrificed to this coarse and opalescent flower of the nation?"[2]

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