The Barbarism of Berlin
G. K. Chesterton

E-text prepared by Robert Shimmin, Gregory Margo, and the Project
Cutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team




First Published 1914









Unless we are all mad, there is at the back of the most bewildering
business a story: and if we are all mad, there is no such thing as
madness. If I set a house on fire, it is quite true that I may illuminate
many other people's weaknesses as well as my own. It may be that the master
of the house was burned because he was drunk: it may be that the mistress
of the house was burned because she was stingy, and perished arguing about
the expense of a fire-escape. It is, nevertheless, broadly true that they
both were burned because I set fire to their house. That is the story
of the thing. The mere facts of the story about the present European
conflagration are quite as easy to tell.

Before we go on to the deeper things which make this war the most sincere
war of human history, it is as easy to answer the question of why England
came to be in it at all, as it is to ask how a man fell down a coal-hole,
or failed to keep an appointment. Facts are not the whole truth. But
facts are facts, and in this case the facts are few and simple. Prussia,
France, and England had all promised not to invade Belgium. Prussia
proposed to invade Belgium, because it was the safest way of invading
France. But Prussia promised that if she might break in, through her own
broken promise and ours, she would break in and not steal. In other words,
we were offered at the same instant a promise of faith in the future and
a proposal of perjury in the present. Those interested in human origins
may refer to an old Victorian writer of English, who, in the last and most
restrained of his historical essays, wrote of Frederick the Great, the
founder of this unchanging Prussian policy. After describing how Frederick
broke the guarantee he had signed on behalf of Maria Theresa, he then
describes how Frederick sought to put things straight by a promise that
was an insult. "If she would but let him have Silesia, he would, he said,
stand by her against any power which should try to deprive her of her other
dominions, as if he was not already bound to stand by her, or as if his new
promise could be of more value than the old one." That passage was written
by Macaulay, but so far as the mere contemporary facts are concerned it
might have been written by me.

Upon the immediate logical and legal origin of the English interest
there can be no rational debate. There are some things so simple that
one can almost prove them with plans and diagrams, as in Euclid. One
could make a kind of comic calendar of what would have happened to the
English diplomatist, if he had been silenced every time by Prussian
diplomacy. Suppose we arrange it in the form of a kind of diary:

July 24: Germany invades Belgium.

July 25: England declares war.

July 26: Germany promises not to annex Belgium.

July 27: England withdraws from the war.

July 28: Germany annexes Belgium, England declares war.

July 29: Germany promises not to annex France, England withdraws from the

July 30: Germany annexes France, England declares war.

July 31: Germany promises not to annex England.

Aug. 1: England withdraws from the war. Germany invades England.

How long is anybody expected to go on with that sort of game; or keep peace
at that illimitable price? How long must we pursue a road in which promises
are all fetishes in front of us; and all fragments behind us? No; upon the
cold facts of the final negotiations, as told by any of the diplomatists in
any of the documents, there is no doubt about the story. And no doubt about
the villain of the story.

These are the last facts; the facts which involved England. It is equally
easy to state the first facts; the facts which involved Europe. The
prince who practically ruled Austria was shot by certain persons whom the
Austrian Government believed to be conspirators from Servia. The Austrian
Government piled up arms and armies, but said not a word either to Servia
their suspect, or Italy their ally. From the documents it would seem
that Austria kept everybody in the dark, except Prussia. It is probably
nearer the truth to say that Prussia kept everybody in the dark, including
Austria. But all that is what is called opinion, belief, conviction, or
common sense: and we are not dealing with it here. The objective fact is
that Austria told Servia to permit Servian officers to be suspended by the
authority of Austrian officers; and told Servia to submit to this within
forty-eight hours. In other words, the Sovereign of Servia was practically
told to take off not only the laurels of two great campaigns, but his own
lawful and national crown, and to do it in a time in which no respectable
citizen is expected to discharge an hotel bill. Servia asked for time for
arbitration--in short, for peace. But Russia had already begun to mobilise;
and Prussia, presuming that Servia might thus be rescued, declared war.

Between these two ends of fact, the ultimatum to Servia, the ultimatum
to Belgium, anyone so inclined can of course talk as if everything were
relative. If anyone asks why the Czar should rush to the support of
Servia, it is easy to ask why the Kaiser should rush to the support of
Austria. If anyone says that the French would attack the Germans, it
is sufficient to answer that the Germans did attack the French. There
remain, however, two attitudes to consider, even perhaps two arguments to
counter, which can best be considered and countered under this general
head of facts. First of all, there is a curious, cloudy sort of argument,
much affected by the professional rhetoricians of Prussia, who are sent
out to instruct and correct the minds of Americans or Scandinavians. It
consists of going into convulsions of incredulity and scorn at the mention
of Russia's responsibility of Servia, or England's responsibility of
Belgium; and suggesting that, treaty or no treaty, frontier or no frontier,
Russia would be out to slay Teutons or England to steal Colonies. Here, as
elsewhere, I think the professors dotted all over the Baltic plain fail in
lucidity and in the power of distinguishing ideas. Of course it is quite
true that England has material interests to defend, and will probably use
the opportunity to defend them; or, in other words, of course England, like
everybody else, would be more comfortable if Prussia were less predominant.

The fact remains that we did not do what the Germans did. We did not
invade Holland to seize a naval and commercial advantage; and whether
they say that we wished to do it in our greed, or feared to do it in our
cowardice, the fact remains that we did not do it. Unless this commonsense
principle be kept in view, I cannot conceive how any quarrel can possibly
be judged. A contract may be made between two persons solely for material
advantage on each side: but the moral advantage is still generally
supposed to lie with the person who keeps the contract. Surely it cannot
be dishonest to be honest--even if honesty is the best policy. Imagine the
most complex maze of indirect motive; and still the man who keeps faith for
money cannot possibly be worse than the man who breaks faith for money. It
will be noted that this ultimate test applies in the same way to Servia as
to Belgium and Britain. The Servians may not be a very peaceful people,
but on the occasion under discussion it was certainly they who wanted
peace. You may choose to think the Serb a sort of born robber: but on this
occasion it was certainly the Austrian who was trying to rob. Similarly,
you may call England perfidious as a sort of historical summary; and
declare your private belief that Mr. Asquith was vowed from infancy to the
ruin of the German Empire, a Hannibal and hater of the eagles. But, when
all is said, it is nonsense to call a man perfidious because he keeps his
promise. It is absurd to complain of the sudden treachery of a business man
in turning up punctually to his appointment: or the unfair shock given to a
creditor by the debtor paying his debts.

Lastly, there is an attitude, not unknown in the crisis, against which I
should particularly like to protest. I should address my protest especially
to those lovers and pursuers of peace who, very shortsightedly, have
occasionally adopted it. I mean the attitude which is impatient of these
preliminary details about who did this or that, and whether it was right
or wrong. They are satisfied with saying that an enormous calamity, called
war, has been begun by some or all of us and should be ended by some or
all of us. To these people, this preliminary chapter about the precise
happenings must appear not only dry (and it must of necessity be the driest
part of the task) but essentially needless and barren. I wish to tell
these people that they are wrong; that they are wrong upon all principles
of human justice and historic continuity; but that they are specially and
supremely wrong upon their own principles of arbitration and international

These sincere and high-minded peace-lovers are always telling us that
citizens no longer settle their quarrels by private violence; and that
nations should no longer settle theirs by public violence. They are always
telling us that we no longer fight duels; and need not wage wars. In
short, they perpetually base their peace proposals on the fact that an
ordinary citizen no longer avenges himself with an axe. But how is he
prevented from revenging himself with an axe? If he hits his neighbour on
the head with the kitchen chopper, what do we do? Do we all join hands,
like children playing Mulberry Bush, and say, "We are all responsible for
this; but let us hope it will not spread. Let us hope for the happy day
when we shall leave off chopping at the man's head; and when nobody shall
ever chop anything for ever and ever." Do we say, "Let bygones be bygones;
why go back to all the dull details with which the business began; who can
tell with what sinister motives the man was standing there, within reach of
the hatchet?" We do not. We keep the peace in private life by asking for
the facts of provocation, and the proper object of punishment. We do go
into the dull details; we do enquire into the origins; we do emphatically
enquire who it was that hit first. In short, we do what I have done very
briefly in this place.

Given this, it is indeed true that behind these facts there are truths;
truths of a terrible, of a spiritual sort. In mere fact, the Germanic
power has been wrong about Servia, wrong about Russia, wrong about Belgium,
wrong about England, wrong about Italy. But there was a reason for its
being wrong everywhere; and of that root reason, which has moved half the
world against it, I shall speak later in this series. For that is something
too omnipresent to be proved, too indisputable to be helped by detail. It
is nothing less than the locating, after more than a hundred years of
recriminations and wrong explanations, of the modern European evil; the
finding of the fountain from which poison has flowed upon all the nations
of the earth.



It will hardly be denied that there is one lingering doubt in many, who
recognise unavoidable self-defence in the instant parry of the English
sword, and who have no great love for the sweeping sabre of Sadowa and
Sedan. That doubt is the doubt whether Russia, as compared with Prussia,
is sufficiently decent and democratic to be the ally of liberal and
civilised powers. I take first, therefore, this matter of civilisation.

It is vital in a discussion like this that we should make sure we are
going by meanings and not by mere words. It is not necessary in any
argument to settle what a word means or ought to mean. But it is necessary
in every argument to settle what we propose to mean by the word. So long
as our opponent understands what is the _thing_ of which we are talking,
it does not matter to the argument whether the word is or is not the one
he would have chosen. A soldier does not say "We were ordered to go to
Mechlin; but I would rather go to Malines." He may discuss the etymology
and archaeology of the difference on the march: but the point is that he
knows where to go. So long as we know what a given word is to mean in
a given discussion, it does not even matter if it means something else
in some other and quite distinct discussion. We have a perfect right to
say that the width of a window comes to four feet; even if we instantly
and cheerfully change the subject to the larger mammals, and say that an
elephant has four feet. The identity of the words does not matter, because
there is no doubt at all about the meanings; because nobody is likely to
think of an elephant as four feet long, or of a window as having tusks and
a curly trunk.

It is essential to emphasise this consciousness of the _thing_ under
discussion in connection with two or three words that are, as it were, the
key-words of this war. One of them is the word "barbarian." The Prussians
apply it to the Russians: the Russians apply it to the Prussians. Both,
I think, really mean something that really exists, name or no name. Both
mean different things. And if we ask what these different things are, we
shall understand why England and France prefer Russia; and consider Prussia
the really dangerous barbarian of the two. To begin with, it goes so much
deeper even than atrocities; of which, in the past at least, all the three
Empires of Central Europe have partaken pretty equally, as they partook of
Poland. An English writer, seeking to avert the war by warnings against
Russian influence, said that the flogged backs of Polish women stood
between us and the Alliance. But not long before, the flogging of women by
an Austrian general led to that officer being thrashed in the streets of
London by Barclay and Perkins' draymen. And as for the third power, the
Prussians, it seems clear that they have treated Belgian women in a style
compared with which flogging might be called an official formality. But, as
I say, something much deeper than any such recrimination lies behind the
use of the word on either side. When the German Emperor complains of our
allying ourselves with a barbaric and half-oriental power, he is not (I
assure you) shedding tears over the grave of Kosciusko. And when I say (as
I do most heartily) that the German Emperor is a barbarian, I am not merely
expressing any prejudices I may have against the profanation of churches
or of children. My countrymen and I mean a certain and intelligible thing
when we call the Prussians barbarians. It is quite different from the
thing attributed to Russians; and it could not possibly be attributed to
Russians. It is very important that the neutral world should understand
what this thing is.

If the German calls the Russian barbarous, he presumably means imperfectly
civilised. There is a certain path along which Western nations have
proceeded in recent times, and it is tenable that Russia has not proceeded
so far as the others: that she has less of the special modern system in
science, commerce, machinery, travel, or political constitution. The
Russ ploughs with an old plough; he wears a wild beard; he adores
relics; his life is as rude and hard as that of a subject of Alfred the
Great. Therefore he is, in the German sense, a barbarian. Poor fellows like
Gorky and Dostoieffsky have to form their own reflections on the scenery
without the assistance of large quotations from Schiller on garden seats,
or inscriptions directing them to pause and thank the All-Father for
the finest view in Hesse-Pumpernickel. The Russians, having nothing but
their faith, their fields, their great courage, and their self-governing
communes, are quite cut off from what is called (in the fashionable street
in Frankfort) The True, The Beautiful and The Good. There is a real sense
in which one can call such backwardness barbaric, by comparison with the
Kaiserstrasse; and in that sense it is true of Russia.

Now we, the French and English, do not mean this when we call the Prussians
barbarians. If their cities soared higher than their flying ships, if
their trains travelled faster than their bullets, we should still call
them barbarians. We should know exactly what we meant by it; and we
should know that it is true. For we do not mean anything that is an
imperfect civilisation by accident. We mean something that is the enemy
of civilisation by design. We mean something that is wilfully at war with
the principles by which human society has been made possible hitherto. Of
course it must be partly civilised even to destroy civilisation. Such
ruin could not be wrought by the savages that are merely undeveloped or
inert. You could not have even Huns without horses; or horses without
horsemanship. You could not have even Danish pirates without ships,
or ships without seamanship. This person, whom I may call the Positive
Barbarian, must be rather more superficially up-to-date than what I may
call the Negative Barbarian. Alaric was an officer in the Roman legions:
but for all that he destroyed Rome. Nobody supposes that Eskimos could
have done it at all neatly. But (in our meaning) barbarism is not a matter
of methods, but of aims. We say that these veneered vandals have the
perfectly serious aim of destroying certain ideas, which, as they think,
the world has outgrown; without which, as we think, the world will die.

It is essential that this perilous peculiarity in the Pruss, or Positive
Barbarian, should be seized. He has what he fancies is a new idea; and
he is going to apply it to everybody. As a fact it is simply a false
generalisation; but he is really trying to make it general. This does
not apply to the Negative Barbarian: it does not apply to the Russian
or the Servian, even if they are barbarians. If a Russian peasant does
beat his wife, he does it because his fathers did it before him: he is
likely to beat less rather than more, as the past fades away. He does
not think, as the Prussian would, that he has made a new discovery in
physiology in finding that a woman is weaker than a man. If a Servian
does knife his rival without a word, he does it because other Servians
have done it. He may regard it even as piety, but certainly not as
progress. He does not think, as the Prussian does, that he founds a new
school of horology by starting before the word "Go." He does not think
he is in advance of the world in militarism merely because he is behind
it in morals. No; the danger of the Pruss is that he is prepared to
fight for old errors as if they were new truths. He has somehow heard
of certain shallow simplifications, and imagines that we have never
heard of them. And, as I have said, his limited, but very sincere lunacy
concentrates chiefly in a desire to destroy two ideas, the twin root ideas
of rational society. The first is the idea of record and promise: the
second is the idea of reciprocity.

It is plain that the promise, or extension of responsibility through time,
is what chiefly distinguishes us, I will not say from savages, but from
brutes and reptiles. This was noted by the shrewdness of the Old Testament,
when it summed up the dark irresponsible enormity of Leviathan in the
words, "Will he make a pact with thee?" The promise, like the wheel, is
unknown in Nature: and is the first mark of man. Referring only to human
civilisation, it may be said with seriousness that in the beginning was
the Word. The vow is to the man what the song is to the bird, or the bark
to the dog; his voice, whereby he is known. Just as a man who cannot keep
an appointment is not fit even to fight a duel, so the man who cannot keep
an appointment with himself is not sane enough even for suicide. It is not
easy to mention anything on which the enormous apparatus of human life can
be said to depend. But if it depends on anything, it is on this frail cord,
flung from the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of
to-morrow. On that solitary string hangs everything from Armageddon to an
almanac, from a successful revolution to a return ticket. On that solitary
string the Barbarian is hacking heavily, with a sabre which is fortunately

Anyone can see this well enough, merely by reading the last negotiations
between London and Berlin. The Prussians had made a new discovery in
international politics: that it may often be convenient to make a promise;
and yet curiously inconvenient to keep it. They were charmed, in their
simple way, with this scientific discovery, and desired to communicate it
to the world. They therefore promised England a promise, on condition that
she broke a promise, and on the implied condition that the new promise
might be broken as easily as the old one. To the profound astonishment of
Prussia, this reasonable offer was refused! I believe that the astonishment
of Prussia was quite sincere. That is what I mean when I say that the
Barbarian is trying to cut away that cord of honesty and clear record on
which hangs all that men have made.

The friends of the German cause have complained that Asiatics and Africans
upon the very verge of savagery have been brought against them from
India and Algiers. And in ordinary circumstances, I should sympathise
with such a complaint made by a European people. But the circumstances
are not ordinary. Here, again, the quiet unique barbarism of Prussia
goes deeper than what we call barbarities. About mere barbarities, it
is true, the Turco and the Sikh would have a very good reply to the
superior Teuton. The general and just reason for not using non-European
tribes against Europeans is that given by Chatham against the use of the
Red Indian: that such allies might do very diabolical things. But the
poor Turco might not unreasonably ask, after a week-end in Belgium, what
more diabolical things he _could_ do than the highly cultured Germans
were doing themselves. Nevertheless, as I say, the justification of any
extra-European aid goes deeper than any such details. It rests upon
the fact that even other civilisations, even much lower civilisations,
even remote and repulsive civilisations, depend as much as our own on
this primary principle, on which the super-morality of Potsdam declares
open War. Even savages promise things; and respect those who keep their
promises. Even Orientals write things down: and though they write them
from right to left, they know the importance of a scrap of paper. Many
merchants will tell you that the word of the sinister and almost unhuman
Chinaman is often as good as his bond: and it was amid palm trees and
Syrian pavilions that the great utterance opened the tabernacle to him that
sweareth to his hurt and changeth not. There is doubtless a dense labyrinth
of duplicity in the East, and perhaps more guile in the individual Asiatic
than in the individual German. But we are not talking of the violations
of human morality in various parts of the world. We are talking about a
new and inhuman morality, which denies altogether the day of obligation.
The Prussians have been told by their literary men that everything depends
upon Mood: and by their politicians that all arrangements dissolve before
"necessity." 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."



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 or the Welsh for their violated borders; but Germans
only pity themselves. They might take forcible possession of the Severn or
the Danube, of the Thames or the Tiber, of the Garry or the Garonne--and
they would still be singing sadly about how fast and true stands the watch
on Rhine; and what a shame it would be if anyone took their own little
river away from them. That is what I mean by not being reciprocal: and you
will find it in all that they do: as in all that is done by savages.

Here, again, it is very necessary to avoid confusing this soul of the
savage with mere savagery in the sense of brutality or butchery; in which
the Greeks, the French and all the most civilised nations have indulged in
hours of abnormal panic or revenge. Accusations of cruelty are generally
mutual. But it is the point about the Prussian that with him nothing is
mutual. The definition of the true savage does not concern itself even with
how much more he hurts strangers or captives than do the other tribes of
men. The definition of the true savage is that he laughs when he hurts you;
and howls when you hurt him. This extraordinary inequality in the mind is
in every act and word that comes from Berlin. For instance, no man of the
world believes all he sees in the newspapers; and no journalist believes a
quarter of it. We should, therefore, be quite ready in the ordinary way to
take a great deal off the tales of German atrocities; to doubt this story
or deny that. But there is one thing that we cannot doubt or deny: the seal
and authority of the Emperor. In the Imperial proclamation the fact that
certain "frightful" things have been done is admitted; and justified on
the ground of their frightfulness. It was a military necessity to terrify
the peaceful populations with something that was not civilised, something
that was hardly human. Very well. That is an intelligible policy: and in
that sense an intelligible argument. An army endangered by foreigners
may do the most frightful things. But then we turn the next page of the
Kaiser's public diary, and we find him writing to the President of the
United States, to complain that the English are using dum-dum bullets
and violating various regulations of the Hague Conference. I pass for
the present the question of whether there is a word of truth in these
charges. I am content to gaze rapturously at the blinking eyes of the True,
or Positive, Barbarian. I suppose he would be quite puzzled if we said that
violating the Hague Conference was "a military necessity" to us; or that
the rules of the Conference were only a scrap of paper. He would be quite
pained if we said that dum-dum bullets, "by their very frightfulness,"
would be very useful to keep conquered Germans in order. Do what he will,
he cannot get outside the idea that he, because he is he and not you, is
free to break the law; and also to appeal to the law. It is said that the
Prussian officers play at a game called Kriegsspiel, or the War Game. But
in truth they could not play at any game; for the essence of every game is
that the rules are the same on both sides.

But taking every German institution in turn, the case is the same; and
it is not a case of mere bloodshed or military bravado. The duel, for
example, can legitimately be called a barbaric thing; but the word is
here used in another sense. There are duels in Germany; but so there are
in France, Italy, Belgium and Spain; indeed, there are duels wherever
there are dentists, newspapers, Turkish baths, time-tables, and all the
curses of civilisation; except in England and a corner of America. You
may happen to regard the duel as an historic relic of the more barbaric
States on which these modern States were built. It might equally well be
maintained that the duel is everywhere the sign of high civilisation;
being the sign of its more delicate sense of honour, its more vulnerable
vanity, or its greater dread of social disrepute. But whichever of the two
views you take, you must concede that the essence of the duel is an armed
equality. I should not, therefore, apply the word barbaric, as I am using
it, to the duels of German officers or even to the broadsword combats
that are conventional among the German students. I do not see why a young
Prussian should not have scars all over his face if he likes them; nay,
they are often the redeeming points of interest on an otherwise somewhat
unenlightening countenance. The duel may be defended; the sham duel may be

What cannot be defended is something really peculiar to Prussia, of which
we hear numberless stories, some of them certainly true. It might be called
the one-sided duel. I mean the idea that there is some sort of dignity
in drawing the sword upon a man who has not got a sword; a waiter, or a
shop assistant, or even a schoolboy. One of the officers of the Kaiser
in the affair at Saberne was found industriously hacking at a cripple. In
all these matters I would avoid sentiment. We must not lose our tempers
at the mere cruelty of the thing; but pursue the strict psychological
distinction. Others besides German soldiers have slain the defenceless,
for loot or lust or private malice, like any other murderer. The point is
that nowhere else but in Prussian Germany is any theory of honour mixed
up with such things; any more than with poisoning or picking pockets. No
French, English, Italian or American gentleman would think he had in some
way cleared his own character by sticking his sabre through some ridiculous
greengrocer who had nothing in his hand but a cucumber. It would seem as if
the word which is translated from the German as "honour," must really mean
something quite different in German. It seems to mean something more like
what we should call "prestige."

The fundamental fact, however, is the absence of the reciprocal idea. The
Prussian is not sufficiently civilised for the duel. Even when he crosses
swords with us his thoughts are not as our thoughts; when we both glorify
war, we are glorifying different things. Our medals are wrought like his,
but they do not mean the same thing; our regiments are cheered as his are,
but the thought in the heart is not the same; the Iron Cross is on the
bosom of his king, but it is not the sign of our God. For we, alas, follow
our God with many relapses and self-contradictions, but he follows his very
consistently. Through all the things that we have examined, the view of
national boundaries, the view of military methods, the view of personal
honour and self-defence, there runs in their case something of an atrocious
simplicity; something too simple for us to understand: the idea that glory
consists in holding the steel, and not in facing it.

If further examples were necessary, it would be easy to give hundreds
of them. Let us leave, for the moment, the relation between man and man
in the thing called the duel. Let us take the relation between man and
woman, in that immortal duel which we call a marriage. Here again we shall
find that other Christian civilisations aim at some kind of equality;
even if the balance be irrational or dangerous. Thus, the two extremes
of the treatment of women might be represented by what are called the
respectable classes in America and in France. In America they choose the
risk of comradeship; in France the compensation of courtesy. In America it
is practically possible for any young gentleman to take any young lady for
what he calls (I deeply regret to say) a joyride; but at least the man goes
with the woman as much as the woman with the man. In France the young woman
is protected like a nun while she is unmarried; but when she is a mother
she is really a holy woman; and when she is a grandmother she is a holy
terror. By both extremes the woman gets something back out of life. There
is only one place where she gets little or nothing back; and that is the
north of Germany. France and America aim alike at equality--America by
similarity; France by dissimilarity. But North Germany does definitely
aim at inequality. The woman stands up, with no more irritation than a
butler; the man sits down, with no more embarrassment than a guest. This is
the cool affirmation of inferiority, as in the case of the sabre and the
tradesman. "Thou goest with women; forget not thy whip," said Nietzsche.
It will be observed that he does not say "poker"; which might come more
naturally to the mind of a more common or Christian wife-beater. But then
a poker is a part of domesticity; and might be used by the wife as well as
the husband. In fact, it often, is. The sword and the whip are the weapons
of a privileged caste.

Pass from the closest of all differences, that between husband and wife,
to the most distant of all differences, that of the remote and unrelated
races who have seldom seen each other's faces, and never been tinged
with each other's blood. Here we still find the same unvarying Prussian
principle. Any European might feel a genuine fear of the Yellow Peril; and
many Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Russians have felt and expressed it. Many
might say, and have said, that the Heathen Chinee is very heathen indeed;
that if he ever advances against us he will trample and torture and utterly
destroy, in a way that Eastern people do, but Western people do not. Nor do
I doubt the German Emperor's sincerity when he sought to point out to us
how abnormal and abominable such a nightmare campaign would be, supposing
that it could ever come. But now comes the comic irony; which never fails
to follow on the attempt of the Prussian to be philosophic. For the Kaiser,
after explaining to his troops how important it was to avoid Eastern
Barbarism, instantly commanded them to become Eastern Barbarians. He told
them, in so many words, to be Huns: and leave nothing living or standing
behind them. In fact, he frankly offered a new army corps of aboriginal
Tartars to the Far East, within such time as it may take a bewildered
Hanoverian to turn into a Tartar. Anyone who has the painful habit of
personal thought will perceive here at once the non-reciprocal principle
again. Boiled down to its bones of logic, it means simply this: "I am a
German and you are a Chinaman. Therefore I, being a German, have a right
to be a Chinaman. But you have no right to be a Chinaman; because you
are only a Chinaman." This is probably the highest point to which German
culture has risen.

The principle here neglected, which may be called Mutuality by those who
misunderstand and dislike the word Equality, does not offer so clear a
distinction between the Prussian and the other peoples as did the first
Prussian principle of an infinite and destructive opportunism; or, in
other words, the principle of being unprincipled. Nor upon this second
can one take up so obvious a position touching the other civilisations or
semi-civilisations of the world. Some idea of oath and bond there is in the
rudest tribes, in the darkest continents. But it might be maintained, of
the more delicate and imaginative element of reciprocity, that a cannibal
in Borneo understands it almost as little as a professor in Berlin. A
narrow and one-sided seriousness is the fault of barbarians all over the
world. This may have been the meaning, for aught I know, of the one eye of
the Cyclops: that the Barbarian cannot see round things or look at them
from two points of view; and thus becomes a blind beast and an eater of
men. Certainly there can be no better summary of the savage than this,
which, as we have seen, unfits him for the duel. He is the man who cannot
love--no, nor even hate--his neighbour as himself.

But this quality in Prussia does have one effect which has reference
to the same quest of the lower civilisations. It disposes once and
for all at least of the civilising mission of Germany. Evidently the
Germans are the last people in the world to be trusted with the task. They
are as shortsighted morally as physically. What is their sophism of
"necessity" but an inability to imagine to-morrow morning? What is their
non-reciprocity but an inability to imagine, not a god or devil, but
merely another man? Are these to judge mankind? Men of two tribes in
Africa not only know that they are all men, but can understand that they
are all black men. In this they are quite seriously in advance of the
intellectual Prussian; who cannot be got to see that we are all white
men. The ordinary eye is unable to perceive in the North-East Teuton,
anything that marks him out especially from the more colourless classes of
the rest of Aryan mankind. He is simply a white man, with a tendency to
the grey or the drab. Yet he will explain, in serious official documents,
that the difference between him and us is a difference between "the
master-race and the inferior-race." The collapse of German philosophy
always occurs at the beginning, rather than the end of an argument; and the
difficulty here is that there is no way of testing which is a master-race
except by asking which is your own race. If you cannot find out (as is
usually the case) you fall back on the absurd occupation of writing history
about prehistoric times. But I suggest quite seriously that if the Germans
can give their philosophy to the Hottentots, there is no reason why they
should not give their sense of superiority to the Hottentots. If they can
see such fine shades between the Goth and the Gaul, there is no reason why
similar shades should not lift the savage above other savages; why any
Ojibway should not discover that he is one tint redder than the Dacotahs;
or any nigger in the Cameroons say he is not so black as he is painted. For
this principle of a quite unproved racial supremacy is the last and worst
of the refusals of reciprocity. The Prussian calls all men to admire the
beauty of his large blue eyes. If they do, it is because they have inferior
eyes: if they don't, it is because they have no eyes.

Wherever the most miserable remnant of our race, astray and dried up in
deserts, or buried for ever under the fall of bad civilisations, has some
feeble memory that men are men, that bargains are bargains, that there are
two sides to a question, or even that it takes two to make a quarrel--that
remnant has the right to resist the New Culture, to the knife and club
and the splintered stone. For the Prussian begins all his culture by that
act which is the destruction of all creative thought and constructive
action. He breaks that mirror in the mind, in which a man can see the face
of his friend and foe.



The German Emperor has reproached this country with allying itself with
"barbaric and semi-oriental power." We have already considered in what
sense we use the word barbaric: it is in the sense of one who is hostile
to civilisation, not one who is insufficient in it. But when we pass from
the idea of the barbaric to the idea of the oriental, the case is even
more curious. There is nothing particularly Tartar in Russian affairs,
except the fact that Russia expelled the Tartars. The eastern invader
occupied and crushed the country for many years; but that is equally true
of Greece, of Spain, and even of Austria. If Russia has suffered from the
East she has suffered in order to resist it: and it is rather hard that
the very miracle of her escape should make a mystery about her origin.
Jonah may or may not have been three days inside a fish, but that does
not make him a merman. And in all the other cases of European nations who
escaped the monstrous captivity, we do admit the purity and continuity
of the European type. We consider the old Eastern rule as a wound, but
not as a stain. Copper-coloured men out of Africa overruled for centuries
the religion and patriotism of Spaniards. Yet I have never heard that
Don Quixote was an African fable on the lines of Uncle Remus. I have
never heard that the heavy black in the pictures of Velasquez was due
to a negro ancestry. In the case of Spain, which is close to us, we can
recognise the resurrection of a Christian and cultured nation after its
age of bondage. But Russia is rather remote; and those to whom nations are
but names in newspapers can really fancy, like Mr. Baring's friend, that
all Russian churches are "mosques." Yet the land of Turgeniev is not a
wilderness of fakirs; and even the fanatical Russian is as proud of being
different from the Mongol, as the fanatical Spaniard was proud of being
different from the Moor.

The town of Reading, as it exists, offers few opportunities for piracy
on the high seas: yet it was the camp of the pirates in Alfred's day. I
should think it hard to call the people of Berkshire half-Danish, merely
because they drove out the Danes. In short, some temporary submergence
under the savage flood was the fate of many of the most civilised states
of Christendom; and it is quite ridiculous to argue that Russia, which
wrestled hardest, must have recovered least. Everywhere, doubtless, the
East spread a sort of enamel over the conquered countries, but everywhere
the enamel cracked. Actual history, in fact, is exactly opposite to
the cheap proverb invented against the Muscovite. It is not true to
say "Scratch a Russian and you find a Tartar." In the darkest hour of
the barbaric dominion it was truer to say, "Scratch a Tartar and you
find a Russian." It was the civilisation that survived under all the
barbarism. This vital romance of Russia, this revolution against Asia, can
be proved in pure fact; not only from the almost superhuman activity of
Russia during the struggle, but also (which is much rarer as human history
goes) by her quite consistent conduct since. She is the only great nation
which has really expelled the Mongol from her country, and continued to
protest against the presence of the Mongol in her continent. Knowing
what he had been in Russia, she knew what he would be in Europe. In
this she pursued a logical line of thought, which was, if anything, too
unsympathetic with the energies and religions of the East. Every other
country, one may say, has been an ally of the Turk; that is, of the Mongol
and the Moslem. The French played them as pieces against Austria; the
English warmly supported them under the Palmerston regime; even the young
Italians sent troops to the Crimea; and of Prussia and her Austrian vassal
it is nowadays needless to speak. For good or evil, it is the fact of
history that Russia is the only Power in Europe that has never supported
the Crescent against the Cross.

That, doubtless, will appear an unimportant matter; but it may become
important under certain peculiar conditions. Suppose, for the sake
of argument, that there were a powerful prince in Europe who had gone
ostentatiously out of his way to pay reverence to the remains of the
Tartar, Mongol and Moslem, which are left as outposts in Europe. Suppose
there were a Christian Emperor who could not even go to the tomb of
the Crucified, without pausing to congratulate the last and living
crucifier. If there were an Emperor who gave guns and guides and maps and
drill instructors to defend the remains of the Mongol in Christendom, what
should we say to him? I think at least we might ask him what he meant by
his impudence, when he talked about supporting a semi-oriental power. That
we support a semi-oriental power we deny. That he has supported an entirely
oriental power cannot be denied--no, not even by the man who did it.

But here is to be noted the essential difference between Russia and
Prussia; especially by those who use the ordinary Liberal arguments
against the latter. Russia has a policy which she pursues, if you will,
through evil and good; but at least so as to produce good as well as
evil. Let it be granted that the policy has made her oppressive to the
Finns and the Poles--though the Russian Poles feel far less oppressed than
do the Prussian Poles. But it is a mere historic fact, that if Russia
has been a despot to some small nations, she has been a deliverer to
others. She did, so far as in her lay, emancipate the Servians and the
Montenegrins. But whom did Prussia ever emancipate--even by accident? It
is indeed somewhat extraordinary that in the perpetual permutations of
international politics, the Hohenzollerns have never gone astray into the
path of enlightenment. They have been in alliance with almost everybody
off and on: with France, with England, with Austria, with Russia. Can
anyone candidly say that they have left on any one of these people the
faintest impress of progress or liberation? Prussia was the enemy of the
French Monarchy; but a worse enemy of the French Revolution. Prussia had
been an enemy of the Czar; but she was a worse enemy of the Duma. Prussia
totally disregarded Austrian rights: but she is to-day quite ready to
inflict Austrian wrongs. This is the strong particular difference between
the one empire and the other. Russia is pursuing certain intelligible and
sincere ends, which to her at least are ideals, and for which, therefore,
she will make sacrifices and will protect the weak. But the North German
soldier is a sort of abstract tyrant, everywhere and always on the side of
materialistic tyranny. This Teuton in uniform has been found in strange
places; shooting farmers before Saratoga and flogging soldiers in Surrey,
hanging niggers in Africa and raping girls in Wicklow; but never, by some
mysterious fatality, lending a hand to the freeing of a single city or the
independence of one solitary flag. Wherever scorn and prosperous oppression
are, there is the Prussian; unconsciously consistent, instinctively
restrictive, innocently evil; "following darkness like a dream."

Suppose we heard of a person (gifted with some longevity) who had helped
Alva to persecute Dutch Protestants, then helped Cromwell to persecute
Irish Catholics, and then helped Claverhouse to persecute Scotch Puritans,
we should find it rather easier to call him a persecutor than to call
him a Protestant or a Catholic. Curiously enough this is actually the
position in which the Prussian stands in Europe. No argument can alter
the fact that in three converging and conclusive cases, he has been on
the side of three distinct rulers of different religions, who had nothing
whatever in common except that they were ruling oppressively. In these
three Governments, taken separately, one can see something excusable or at
least human. When the Kaiser encouraged the Russian rulers to crush the
Revolution, the Russian rulers undoubtedly believed they were wrestling
with an inferno of atheism and anarchy. A Socialist of the ordinary English
kind cried out upon me when I spoke of Stolypin, and said he was chiefly
known by the halter called "Stolypin's Necktie." As a fact, there were many
other things interesting about Stolypin besides his necktie: his policy of
peasant proprietorship, his extraordinary personal courage, and certainly
none more interesting than that movement in his death agony, when he made
the sign of the cross towards the Czar, as the crown and captain of his
Christianity. But the Kaiser does not regard the Czar as the captain of
Christianity. Far from it. What he supported in Stolypin was the necktie
and nothing but the necktie: the gallows and not the cross. The Russian
ruler did believe that the Orthodox Church was orthodox. The Austrian
Archduke did really desire to make the Catholic Church catholic. He did
really believe that he was being Pro-Catholic in being Pro-Austrian. But
the Kaiser cannot be Pro-Catholic, and therefore cannot have been really
Pro-Austrian, he was simply and solely Anti-Servian. Nay, even in the cruel
and sterile strength of Turkey, anyone with imagination can see something
of the tragedy and therefore of the tenderness of true belief. The worst
that can be said of the Moslems is, as the poet put it, they offered to
man the choice of the Koran or the sword. The best that can be said for
the German is that he does not care about the Koran, but is satisfied if
he can have the sword. And for me, I confess, even the sins of these three
other striving empires take on, in comparison, something that is sorrowful
and dignified: and I feel they do not deserve that this little Lutheran
lounger should patronise all that is evil in them, while ignoring all that
is good. He is not Catholic, he is not Orthodox, he is not Mahomedan. He
is merely an old gentleman who wishes to share the crime though he cannot
share the creed. He desires to be a persecutor by the pang without the
palm. So strongly do all the instincts of the Prussian drive against
liberty, that he would rather oppress other people's subjects than think
of anybody going without the benefits of oppression. He is a sort of
disinterested despot. He is as disinterested as the devil who is ready to
do anyone's dirty work.

This would seem obviously fantastic were it not supported by solid facts
which cannot be explained otherwise. Indeed it would be inconceivable
if we were thinking of a whole people, consisting of free and varied
individuals. But in Prussia the governing class is really a governing
class: and a very few people are needed to think along these lines to make
all the other people act along them. And the paradox of Prussia is this:
that while its princes and nobles have no other aim on this earth but to
destroy democracy wherever it shows itself, they have contrived to get
themselves trusted, not as wardens of the past but as forerunners of the
future. Even they cannot believe that their theory is popular, but they
do believe that it is progressive. Here again we find the spiritual chasm
between the two monarchies in question. The Russian institutions are, in
many cases, really left in the rear of the Russian people, and many of the
Russian people know it. But the Prussian institutions are supposed to be
in advance of the Prussian people, and most of the Prussian people believe
it. It is thus much easier for the war-lords to go everywhere and impose
a hopeless slavery upon everyone, for they have already imposed a sort of
hopeful slavery on their own simple race.

And when men shall speak to us of the hoary iniquities of Russia and of
how antiquated is the Russian system, we shall answer "Yes; that is the
superiority of Russia." Their institutions are part of their history,
whether as relics or fossils. Their abuses have really been uses: that
is to say, they have been used up. If they have old engines of terror
or torment, they may fall to pieces from mere rust, like an old coat of
armour. But in the case of the Prussian tyranny, if it be tyranny at all,
it is the whole point of its claim that it is not antiquated, but just
going to begin, like the showman. Prussia has a whole thriving factory of
thumbscrews, a whole humming workshop of wheels and racks, of the newest
and neatest pattern, with which to win back Europe to the Reaction ...
_infandum renovare dolorem_ And if we wish to test the truth of this, it
can be done by the same method which showed us that Russia, if her race or
religion could sometimes make her an invader and an oppressor, could also
be made an emancipator and a knight errant. In the same way, if the Russian
institutions are old-fashioned, they honestly exhibit the good as well as
the bad that can be found in old-fashioned things.

In their police system they have an inequality which is against our ideas
of law. But in their commune system they have an equality that is older
than law itself. Even when they flogged each other like barbarians, they
called upon each other by their Christian names like children. At their
worst they retained all the best of a rude society. At their best, they
are simply good, like good children or good nuns. But in Prussia, all that
is best in the civilised machinery is put at the service of all that is
worst in the barbaric mind. Here again the Prussian has no accidental
merits, none of those lucky survivals, none of those late repentances,
which make the patchwork glory of Russia. Here all is sharpened to a point
and pointed to a purpose, and that purpose, if words and acts have any
meaning at all, is the destruction of liberty throughout the world.



In considering the Prussian point of view, we have been considering what
seems to be mainly a mental limitation: a kind of knot in the brain.
Towards the problem of Slav population, of English colonisation, of French
armies and reinforcements, it shows the same strange philosophic sulks.
So far as I can follow it, it seems to amount to saying "It is very wrong
that you should be superior to me, because I am superior to you." The
spokesmen of this system seem to have a curious capacity for concentrating
this entanglement or contradiction, sometimes into a single paragraph, or
even a single sentence. I have already referred to the German Emperor's
celebrated suggestion that in order to avert the peril of Hunnishness we
should all become Huns. A much stronger instance is his more recent order
to his troops touching the war in Northern France. As most people know,
his words ran "It is my Royal and Imperial command that you concentrate
your energies, for the immediate present, upon one single purpose, and that
is that you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers to
exterminate first the treacherous English and to walk over General French's
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.

Professor Haeckel, another of the witnesses raised up against us, attained
to some celebrity at one time through proving the remarkable resemblance
between two different things by printing duplicate pictures of the same
thing. Professor Haeckel's contribution to biology, in this case, was
exactly like Professor Harnack's contribution to ethnology. Professor
Harnack knows what a German is like. When he wants to imagine what an
Englishman is like, he simply photographs the same German over again. In
both cases there is probably sincerity as well as simplicity. Haeckel
was so certain that the species illustrated in embryo really are closely
related and linked up, that it seemed to him a small thing to simplify it
by mere repetition. Harnack is so certain that the German and Englishman
are almost alike, that he really risks the generalisation that they are
exactly alike. He photographs, so to speak, the same fair and foolish face
twice over; and calls it a remarkable resemblance between cousins. Thus, he
can prove the existence of Teutonism just about as conclusively as Haeckel
has proved the more tenable proposition of the non-existence of God.

Now the German and the Englishman are not in the least alike--except
in the sense that neither of them are negroes. They are, in everything
good and evil, more unlike than any other two men we can take at random
from the great European family. They are opposite from the roots of
their history, nay of their geography. It is an understatement to call
Britain insular. Britain is not only an island, but an island slashed by
the sea till it nearly splits into three islands; and even the Midlands
can almost smell the salt. Germany is a powerful, beautiful and fertile
inland country, which can only find the sea by one or two twisted and
narrow paths, as people find a subterranean lake. Thus the British Navy
is really national because it is natural; it has cohered out of hundreds
of accidental adventures of ships and shipmen before Chaucer's time and
after it. But the German Navy is an artificial thing; as artificial as a
constructed Alp would be in England. William II. has simply copied the
British Navy as Frederick II. copied the French Army: and this Japanese
or ant-like assiduity in imitation is one of the hundred qualities which
the Germans have and the English markedly have not. There are other German
superiorities which are very much superior.

The one or two really jolly things that the Germans have got are precisely
the things which the English haven't got: notably a real habit of popular
music and of the ancient songs of the people, not merely spreading from
the towns or caught from the professionals. In this the Germans rather
resemble the Welsh; though heaven knows what becomes of Teutonism if
they do. But the difference between the Germans and the English goes
deeper than all these signs of it; they differ more than any other two
Europeans in the normal posture of the mind. Above all, they differ in
what is the most English of all English traits; that shame which the
French may be right in calling "the bad shame"; for it is certainly mixed
up with pride and suspicion, the upshot of which we called shyness. Even
an Englishman's rudeness is often rooted in his being embarrassed. But
a German's rudeness is rooted in his never being embarrassed. He eats
and makes love noisily. He never feels a speech or a song or a sermon or
a large meal to be what the English call "out of place" in particular
circumstances. When Germans are patriotic and religious, they have no
reaction against patriotism and religion as have the English and the

Nay, the mistake of Germany in the modern disaster largely arose from the
facts that she thought England was simple, when England is very subtle.
She thought that because our politics have become largely financial that
they had become wholly financial; that because our aristocrats had become
pretty cynical that they had become entirely corrupt. They could not seize
the subtlety by which a rather used-up English gentleman might sell a
coronet when he would not sell a fortress; might lower the public standards
and yet refuse to lower the flag.

In short, the Germans are quite sure that they understand us entirely,
because they do not understand us at all. Possibly if they began to
understand us they might hate us even more: but I would rather be hated for
some small but real reason, than pursued with love on account of all kinds
of qualities which I do not possess and which I do not desire. And when the
Germans get their first genuine glimpse of what modern England is like,
they will discover that England has a very broken, belated and inadequate
sense of having an obligation to Europe, but no sort of sense whatever of
having any obligation to Teutonism.

This is the last and strongest of the Prussian qualities we have here
considered. There is in stupidity of this sort a strange slippery
strength: because it can be not only outside rules but outside reason. The
man who really cannot see that he is contradicting himself has a great
advantage in controversy; though the advantage breaks down when he tries
to reduce it to simple addition, to chess, or to the game called war. It
is the same about the stupidity of the one-sided kinship. The drunkard who
is quite certain that a total stranger is his long-lost brother, has a
greater advantage until it comes to matters of detail. "We must have chaos
within," said Nietzsche, "that we may give birth to a dancing star."

In these slight notes I have suggested the principal strong points of
the Prussian character. A failure in honour which almost amounts to a
failure in memory: an egomania that is honestly blind to the fact that
the other party is an ego; and, above all, an actual itch for tyranny
and interference, the devil which everywhere torments the idle and the
proud. To these must be added a certain mental shapelessness which can
expand or contract without reference to reason or record; a potential
infinity of excuses. If the English had been on the German side, the
German professors would have noted what irresistible energies had evolved
the Teutons. As the English are on the other side, the German professors
will say that these Teutons were not sufficiently evolved. Or they will
say that they were just sufficiently evolved to show that they were not
Teutons. Probably they will say both. But the truth is that all that they
call evolution should rather be called evasion. They tell us they are
opening windows of enlightenment and doors of progress. The truth is that
they are breaking up the whole house of the human intellect, that they
may abscond in any direction. There is an ominous and almost monstrous
parallel between the position of their over-rated philosophers and of their
comparatively under-rated soldiers. For what their professors call roads of
progress are really routes of escape.


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