The Barbarism of Berlin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 45 pages of information about The Barbarism of Berlin.
That is the importance of the German Chancellor’s phrase.  He did not allege some special excuse in the case of Belgium, which might make it seem an exception that proved the rule.  He distinctly argued, as on a principle applicable to other cases, that victory was a necessity and honour was a scrap of paper.  And it is evident that the half-educated Prussian imagination really cannot get any farther than this.  It cannot see that if everybody’s action were entirely incalculable from hour to hour, it would not only be the end of all promises, but the end of all projects.  In not being able to see that, the Berlin philosopher is really on a lower mental level than the Arab who respects the salt, or the Brahmin who preserves the caste.  And in this quarrel we have a right to come with scimitars as well as sabres, with bows as well as rifles, with assegai and tomahawk and boomerang, because there is in all these at least a seed of civilisation that these intellectual anarchists would kill.  And if they should find us in our last stand girt with such strange swords and following unfamiliar ensigns, and ask us for what we fight in so singular a company, we shall know what to reply:  “We fight for the trust and for the tryst; for fixed memories and the possible meeting of men; for all that makes life anything but an uncontrollable nightmare.  We fight for the long arm of honour and remembrance; for all that can lift a man above the quicksands of his moods, and give him the mastery of time.”

II

THE REFUSAL OF RECIPROCITY

In the last summary I suggested that Barbarism, as we mean it, is not mere ignorance or even mere cruelty.  It has a more precise sense, and means militant hostility to certain necessary human ideas.  I took the case of the vow or the contract, which Prussian intellectualism would destroy.  I urged that the Prussian is a spiritual Barbarian, because he is not bound by his own past, any more than a man in a dream.  He avows that when he promised to respect a frontier on Monday, he did not foresee what he calls “the necessity” of not respecting it on Tuesday.  In short, he is like a child, who at the end of all reasonable explanations and reminders of admitted arrangements has no answer except “But I want to.”

There is another idea in human arrangements so fundamental as to be forgotten; but now for the first time denied.  It may be called the idea of reciprocity; or, in better English, of give and take.  The Prussian appears to be quite intellectually incapable of this thought.  He cannot, I think, conceive the idea that is the foundation of all comedy; that, in the eyes of the other man, he is only the other man.  And if we carry this clue through the institutions of Prussianised Germany, we shall find how curiously his mind has been limited in the matter.  The German differs from other patriots in the inability to understand patriotism.  Other European peoples pity the Poles

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The Barbarism of Berlin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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