Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/312

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
308
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE MAD WAR

An obscure French war of the fifteenth century is known to historians as the guerre folle, but no carnage so well deserves to be called the "mad war" as the international slaughter now raging in Europe. There existed an inevitable conflict of inherited memories between Germany and France, an inevitable commercial conflict between Germany and Great Britain, an inevitable racial conflict between Teutons and Slavs. But these conflicts might have been carried forward to the benefit of civilization instead of for its subversion. The decrease in the death rate, the maintenance of the birth rate, the care and education of children, the improvement of the condition of the laboring classes, the lessening of pauperism, waste, vice and crime, the decrease of debts and the accumulation of wealth, the progress of science and its applications to manufactures and commerce—these are the conditions of national greatness, and each nation as it advances adds to the welfare of its rivals even while it may outstrip them.

Warfare results in the reverse of all these, scarcely less for the nations which win than for those which lose. It is terribly obvious that the death rate is increased both by violence and by disease. The birth rate must decline for a time and afterwards venereal disease is spread broadcast. A recent test in England showed that only one man in a hundred of those apparently in good health gave the reaction for syphilis, while 19 per cent,.if those who had been in the army showed the signs of infection. In time of war children are neglected and their interests perverted. In the Franco-German war a hundred and fifty thousand men died, leaving a corresponding host of widows and orphans.

Lass sie betteln geh'n,
Wenn sie hungrig sind.

"Let them beg if they are hungry." Women are in time of war thrust back from their slow advance to equality with men. The laboring classes have the bonds of their industrial slavery more closely drawn. The rich also suffer, though there are always vultures who glut themselves. In the Franco-German war England supplied to half a million French soldiers shoes with paper soles. In the present war the international commerce of Germany, amounting to over three billion dollars a year, will be annihilated. Great Britain. Germany and France have each voted already credits of a billion dollars for the taxing of future generations and a paper wealth by which the well-to-do exploit the poor. Each day of the war more money will be wasted than is needed to endow a university such as Berlin. Everywhere the energies of men are diverted from scientific and social progress to destruction.

Even a, pan-European war does not mean the bankruptcy or suicide of civilization. The hundred and fifty thousand men of France who died in their war are after all a lesser sacrifice than the three million children who each year die needlessly in Russia. Alcohol costs more in wealth and health and lives than any war. Warfare is only a vast dramatic exhibition of our savage origin and semi-barbaric condition. In spite of their bureaucratic military organizations, the great nations of Europe had postponed war for more than forty years. Even now both the governments and the peoples of Great Britain, Russia, Italy and Belgium were dis-