The Navy as a Fighting Machine eBook

Bradley Fiske
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 308 pages of information about The Navy as a Fighting Machine.

CHAPTER V

NAVAL DEFENSE

There has never been a time since Cain slew Abel when men have not been compelled to devote a considerable part of their energies to self-defense.  In the early ages, before large organizations existed or the mechanic arts had made much progress, defense was mostly defense of life itself.  As time went on, and people amassed goods and chattels, and organized in groups and tribes, it came to include the defense of property—­not only the property of individuals, but also of the tribe and the land it occupied.  Still later, defense carne to include good name or reputation, when it was realized that the reputation, even of an organization, could not be destroyed without doing it an injury.

At the present day, owing to the complexity of nations and other organizations, and to the long time during which many of them have existed, the question of defense has become extremely difficult.  The places in which defense has been brought to its highest excellence are the large cities of the civilized countries; for there we see that defense of the life, property, and reputation of every individual has been carefully provided for.  This has been made possible by the intimate intermingling of the people, the absence of racial rivalries, and the fact that the interests of all are identical in the matter of defense of life, property, and reputation; since, no matter how bad any individual may be, he wishes that others shall be good, in order that he himself may be safe.

The defense of reputation has two aspects:  the practical and the sentimental.  The practical aspect regards the defense of that element of reputation which affects ability to “make a living”; while the sentimental aspect is concerned with the purely personal reputation of the individual, or with the reputation of an organization or a nation.  The sentimental aspect is much more important, especially in enlightened nations, than is realized by some who have not thought much about it; for there is, fortunately, in every decent man a craving for the esteem and even the affection of his fellow men; and a knowledge that, no matter how wealthy or powerful he may be, he cannot be happy if he knows that he is despised.

The fact that individuals organize to acquire the strength of united effort brings about, among organizations, a spirit of competition like that among individuals.  It is more intense, however, because no man alone can get up the enthusiasms that ten men acting together can get up, and ten men cannot get up as much as a thousand.  The longer any organization is maintained, the sharper this spirit of rivalry grows to be, owing to the feeling of clanship that propinquity and material interests evoke.  Its acme is found in those organizations called nations, that have lived together, nourished from the same soil, for generations; where the same loves and jealousies and hates that they now feel were felt by their fathers and their grandfathers and great-grandfathers for centuries back.  Among a people possessing the potentialities of national solidarity and greatness this feeling waxes, into a self-sacrificing devotion to the nation and to the land that bore them.

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The Navy as a Fighting Machine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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