The Barbarism of Berlin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 53 pages of information about The Barbarism of Berlin.
contemptible little army.”  The rudeness of the remark an Englishman can afford to pass over; what I am interested in is the mentality, the train of thought that can manage to entangle itself even in so brief a space.  If French’s little Army is contemptible, it would seem clear that all the skill and valour of the German Army had better not be concentrated on it, but on the larger and less contemptible allies.  If all the skill and valour of the German Army are concentrated on it, it is not being treated as contemptible.  But the Prussian rhetorician had two incompatible sentiments in his mind; and he insisted on saying them both at once.  He wanted to think of an English Army as a small thing; but he also wanted to think of an English defeat as a big thing.  He wanted to exult, at the same moment, in the utter weakness of the British in their attack; and the supreme skill and valour of the Germans in repelling such an attack.  Somehow it must be made a common and obvious collapse for England; and yet a daring and unexpected triumph for Germany.  In trying to express these contradictory conceptions simultaneously, he got rather mixed.  Therefore he bade Germania fill all her vales and mountains with the dying agonies of this almost invisible earwig; and let the impure blood of this cockroach redden the Rhine down to the sea.

But it would be unfair to base the criticism on the utterance of any accidental and hereditary prince:  and it is quite equally clear in the case of the philosophers who have been held up to us, even in England, as the very prophets of progress.  And in nothing is it shown more sharply than in the curious confused talk about Race and especially about the Teutonic Race.  Professor Harnack and similar people are reproaching us, I understand, for having broken “the bond of Teutonism”:  a bond which the Prussians have strictly observed both in breach and observance.  We note it in their open annexation of lands wholly inhabited by negroes, such as Denmark.  We note it equally in their instant and joyful recognition of the flaxen hair and light blue eyes of the Turks.  But it is still the abstract principle of Professor Harnack which interests me most; and in following it I have the same complexity of inquiry, but the same simplicity of result.  Comparing the Professor’s concern about “Teutonism” with his unconcern about Belgium, I can only reach the following result:  “A man need not keep a promise he has made.  But a man must keep a promise he has not made.”  There certainly was a treaty binding Britain to Belgium; if it was only a scrap of paper.  If there was any treaty binding Britain to Teutonism it is, to say the least of it, a lost scrap of paper; almost what one would call a scrap of waste-paper.  Here again the pedants under consideration exhibit the illogical perversity that makes the brain reel.  There is obligation and there is no obligation:  sometimes it appears that Germany and England must keep faith with each other; sometimes that Germany need not keep faith with anybody and anything; sometimes that we alone among European peoples are almost entitled to be Germans; sometimes that besides us, Russians and Frenchmen almost rise to a Germanic loveliness of character.  But through all there is, hazy but not hypocritical, this sense of some common Teutonism.

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The Barbarism of Berlin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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