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estimate, and in so far deal with, realities, has been made even more lamentable by a disproportion which was already existing in peace time, but has, of course, been intensified by war. I am alluding to the disproportion between the material powers recently placed in our hands by what is called (and the adjective is characteristic of our mentality), applied science on the one hand, and on the other, the intellectual and moral notions handed down, without sufficient revision or renewal, from ages either very remote, or at all events very different from our own : a disproportion sometimes as great as between the Big Bertha which bombarded Paris from another province of France and the stones hurled against a fortress by a mediaeval catapult; nay, in some cases the sling and pebbles of David. Such disproportion between our mechanical powers and our spiritual habits is so much the dominant characteristic of our civilization and of ourselves, that we rarely suspect its very existence. Whatever has survived from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago, seems as natural, and a great deal less astonishing than do the labourmultiplying, the time-and-space-overcoming mechanisms which change from moment to moment even while we employ them. The intellectual and moral standards in daily use, for instance our notion of what constitutes evidence and of what constitutes duty, have undergone no such renovation, if only because while new machinery has added power to that already
false, of right and wrong, would as certainly diminish the privileges of our Beafi Possidentes. But in the eyes of Posterity the attempted solution of the world’s national and economic problems by the application of military force; nay, the bare survival of military institutions, let alone the identification of military victory with justice or expediency, will be suflicient proof of the utter lopsidedness of latter-day human development. Of such grotesque and tragic disproportion between our material progress and our intellectual and moral backwardness, there will, however, remain an even grosser, though to us in whom it is embodied an even less obvious, record. That proof consists in the circumstance that, in the days of telephones, of marconigrams and of the miraculous celerity of our printing press, it has been possible for the mutual engagements of a dozen oflicials, living or deceased, for treaties sometimes virtually forgotten (what percentage of educated English people remembered in 1914. the guarantees given to Belgium more than half a century before i ), treaties mostly secret and always undiscussed in public, to be not only claimed, but accepted, as debts of honour payable at the expense of millions of lives and milliards of wealth ; moreover over-riding in their pettifogging protocols, the preferences, the vital needs, of vanquished populations. Such has remained our notion of honour as between peoples : the honour of mediaeval despots sending out serfs to do battle for their family compacts and genealogical claims; the honour of primitive raiders dividing up the flocks and herds and human chattels acquired by successful massacre and ambush.
These, it seems to me, are some of the spiritual aspects of the war, such as could not be perceived by those, whether friends or foes, whose heart has been in it. I have symbolized them in my play: Satan, who defines himself as the W aster of Human Virtue, stages his latest, though perhaps not his last, Dance of Death with the stealthy assistance of his irresponsible bravoes Delusion and Confusion, no less than with the visible and audible co-operation of the loftiest and the vilest of our Passions, all playing away, cheek by jowl, in the orchestra of Patriotism, their strains reinforced, just when beginning to flag, by the timely advent of Pity and Indigna~_ tion; until Ballet Master Death, weary though exultant, refreshes himself with drunken slumber propped upon his faithful adorer, the beautiful blind boy Heroism.
And it is this view of the war, disregarding as it does all the vindictive and self-righteous distinctions made in each conflicting camp; nay, uniting the hostile peoples into a consubstantial mankind identical in nobility and in folly, in readiness to endure and to inflict suffering and ruin ; it is this view of an onlooker who condemns not any of the combatants but only the war itself, which is bound to make my allegory distasteful to the majority of readers in all countries equally.
Like the play itself and the notes to it, this preface would have been mere egoistic irrelevance had it been written in justification of that aloof attitude of mine, which has been of interest, and will soon cease to be so, only to a few puzzled and forgiving friends. The whole thing was, however, worth writing; and is, I naturally think, worth reading, because, inasmuch as displaying and analysing the mental and moral habits resulting from being in, it draws attention to the habits of feeling and thought which are preventing our being out of the war. For they are the self-same. And the failure to recognize that the settlement we have just been celebrating makes peace a mockery in the present and an impossibility in the future, is, no less than the actual terms enforced on the vanquished, a proof of the continuance of war’s passions and delusions, an unheeded sign that the real victory achieved has been of the spirit of war over the spirit of peace.
This is indeed beginning to be admitted, but only as if it were an unlucky accident, by the self-satisfied sentimentalists of the race of Bernard Shaw’s immortal Broadbent, who had sincerely believed that if only a suflicient number of sufliciently good angels stood over Satan and his company, the Ballet of the Nations might be kept within desirable bounds, made into a dance such as takes place in Passion Week on Spanish altar~ steps, terrible no doubt, and tragic, but decent, edifying, nay sacramentally purifying alike to devout performers and spectators. But although these disappointed idealists are already expatiating on the unaccountable miscarriage of their exalted and mystic intentions, it may be as well to recapitulate a few points showing that the world is not yet, and not likely to be, out of the war.
Let alone the suspension of hostilities having been turned into a siege which, though refused the name, exceeded a hundredfold that of the few millions shut up to starve in Paris fifty years ago; there has been the extortion of condi~ tions entirely different from those agreed upon, a trick which can be justified only as a ruse de guerre. This, shall we say ? military surprise, has, moreover, been compassed by the threat of treating disarmed peoples as if they had been hostages of war. Similarly, the forcible annexation of unconsulted border-populations, for instance the German South-Tyrolese, could be, and has been, justified only by strategic convenience. While, to crown these war-like devices, the alliance of the three chief victors would, if carried out, convert the intended League of Nations into an arsenal, a headquarters, for future wars. Even if we make allowance for a certain amount of deliberate hypocrisy in all these proceedings, the celebration of a settlement like this one as the end of a war which was to end war, is surely sufi'icient demonstration to Posterity that the world is still taking part in Satan’s Ballet, which has indeed now reached not only the figure of famine and anarchy, but such a quadrille of victors upon the prostrate vanquished as is quite worthy of the (less diplomatic) pas seul those vanquished of to-day had themselves executed in a previous act of the performance.
Thus half unnoticed, and wholly unchecked, are the passions and delusions of war continuing a sotio wece performance, a rehearsal for new wars in this much promised, long delayed and so heavily paid for, time of peace. In a preceding chapter, as well as in the special studies presented as notes to my play, my chief aim and use, if any, consist in showing how natural, how inevitable are such passions and delusions when a war like this one is going on. They arise under war’s practical pressure and emotional stress, out of the deepest-seated tendencies of our soul; and they prolong their own lease of existence either through spiritual inertia or by the need for self-respect which makes us often more loyal to our mistakes than to our standards and ideals. They are war’s unrecognized offspring, begotten on the most real part of human nature: that real part of ourselves which, nine times out of ten, brings us into collision with the universe’s other realities, including therein the naturalness of just similar passions and delusions in other people.
To have sided with none of the warring nations, but only with peace which they had all, inadvertently, broken; to have felt sorrow, admiration, good-will and horror all round ; to have dreaded victory as the prelude to new wars ; to have held aloof in spirit while most others were in ; this, I am told, was, to say the very least, wrongheaded and unpractical.
Whether such is the case, is a question to be decided neither by those who thus blamed me nor by myself who blamed them in return; the discussion would be a waste of words. But for people to go on seeing things only from the side of their own nation or alliance; to go on feeling only sorrow, admiration and trustfulness for one set of countries, only suspicion, nay execration, for the other; in short to go on having their heart in the war now that the war is supposed to be at an end, is a course which, however natural, will be shown to be wrongheaded and unpractical rather by events than by arguments. This much will, however, be admitted as a general principle of conduct : that there is little to be learnt for one’s guidance from throwing all the blame on others. Moreover, even if one’s future welfare does not depend solely