Writer Believes That Nations Will One Day Fight for Food.
The Real Armageddon Ahead
REVIEW of REVIEWS
Writer Believes That Nations Will One Day Fight for Food.
TO those who harbor the belief that the war is to be the end of all racial trouble and bloodshed on earth, the views of H. G. Hutchinson expressed in the Quarterly Review will come as a shock. He looks a century ahead and sees the Real Armageddon coming —a tremendous struggle between races, not for dominion or dominance or racial ambition, but for food! He outdoes Malthus in his prediction of overpopulation and sees nothing in store for the human race but a stubborn struggle for existence. His opinion is based upon figures as to the growth of the human race which show that in 2100 A.D. the world will become so crowded that it will be impossible to raise enough food to go around. He continues:
Humanity, as it would seem, may expect something like two centuries of respite before congestion becomes world-complete; yet, with every increasing generation, the stress must grow tighter. And. during those centuries, in what manner, we may ask, will man proceed with his evolution? Changes there will be. no doubt, but in one essential matter we may be very sure man will not change. There will be no modification, worthy of entering on the final balance sheet, in that which we commonly term his “human nnture.” Fifty thousand years ago, as we have seen, man was already burying with his dead their viaticum to another world. The period of two centuries is a very inadequate space for the working of any considerable alteration in a being whose development proceeds at the rate of which this most significant fact may give us some idea. Those critics are vastly wrong who deny moral progress to human nature. Despite all the cruelties of the present war, it is unthinkable that white men could now enjoy the spectacle of those gladiatorial shows in which the Romans had delight. The very fact that such a crime as the sinking of the Lusitania horrified the whole world indicates a world-wide advance and quickening of the humane sentiment; but that progress is not set at a pace which will affect a modification of any importance in the brief space that remains.
Very greatly swifter is the pace of scientific invention and the development of every species of infernal machine. It is indeed conceivable, though, whether it is a conception to afford comfort may bt;* more than doubtful, that the next century or two may see the discovery of some death-dealing influence or force such as Bulwer Lytton imagined in his “Vril” that fatal electrical emanation which a child could wield and which could carry death inimitably. It was as it were a wireless telegraphy of deadly voltage. The imagina-
tion shudders at the prospect of such a power in the hands of a being so utterly unfit to be entrusted with it as man even to-day is proving himself; yet it is a prospect of which we shall do well to recognize the possibility. It would be a stultifying conclusion indeed of all man’s conquest of world-forces, if he were finally to employ them in the total destruction of human life upon the planet; and not of human life alone, but of every living creature whose sensibility was sufficiently developed to react to the deadly influence. Terrific and catastrophic as such * conclusion may be, it is not beyond the horizo of sane philosophy. Then, with the stage so swept, the drama of evolution might conceivably recommence from the opening scenes to work itself out anew towards who shall say what similar or what widely different conclusion?
We do not need to travel so far into the region of conjecture so speculative, though still perfectly possible, to foresee a future that will try the steadfastness, the courage, the organization, the self-control and every highest quality of humanity as they have never before been tried. To-day we are filled with wonder at the madness and the wickedness of Germany, which has thrown more than half the world into misery unspeakable in a war wholly unnecessary. War in 1914 was in no sense a necessity for Germany, for the German, if crowded in his native country, had but to cross the sea, and there was ample room for him. In every land he found a footing, and well knew how to maintain it. With the passage of another century and a half that free footing will be his no longer. He and every man going from his own land will need to fight in order to gain a place in another. What is to be the issue? Can we question but that it will be war, bitter war, war not of a nation’s choosing, but thrust almost of necessity upon nations, war to conquer the very leave, the room, to live? Conceivably it is possible that, should the nations perceive the imminence of an invention such as that “Vril” fluid already noticed, they might impose upon themselves a self-denying ordinance, prohibiting its use, breaking up the mechanism of its manufacture even as machines were destroyed as illegal engines by the wisdom of the rulers in “Erewhon.” That is a possibility, though recent experience does not encourage the hope of an adherence to any ordinance of the kind. The proved disposition of warring humanity is, rather, to avail itself of the most diabolical mechanical and chemical agents that science can contrive. It is manifestly vain to build high hopes on any tenderness or mercy in our poor human nature, or to expect any change of heart in so short a time.
The battle, then, the inevitable battle, can hardly fail to be to the strong. It looks as though that nation or that race which is most populous, most prepared, most ruthless, is the nation that will win and will possess the earth. The preliminary skirmishes, it is to be presumed, will be not so much in the nature of any battles of giants as of the piti-
fui destruction of the lower races and of the less effective peoples. There will no longer be space to allow to the Red Indian his “Reserves.” More and more will the white man thrust the man of color—no matter what the hue—out of his rights ns fellow-man. Gradually he will be shifted altogether from the scene, to make way for the more serious drama in which the best equipped and strongest nations will compete for final dominance.
Some years ago Mr. Pearson startled the West with his theory of the “yellow peril,” as enunciated in a book entitled “National Life and Character.” It was written before the Russo-Japanese war had revealed the surprising power of the island yellow race. Its point was the menace to the peace and the civilization of the West which the writer conceived would become urgent when China, with her vast population, awoke out of her stagnation, availed herself of the discoveries of Western science, and ranged herself for battle according to Western models. It was a forecast which hud some vogue in its day. Its essential error was that it took no account of the element of time in its conclusions. It debated terrestrial problems as if conditions were to remain unchanged almost indefinitely. It forgot that the moment was fast approaching when the world would be full, when the increasing nations must fight for the very right to live, when it would be too late for China to stir from her long sleep, when all that those
newly awakened almond eyes could perceive would be the conqueror entering into possession and thrusting her people out of very existence by the power of his better equipment. It is now scarcely conceivable that she can wake so quickly and so effectively from that long sleep as to be a dangerous element in the wars for the world’s final settlement.
It is increasingly likely, as locomotion and communication become ever easier, that the lordship of a world thus virtually reduced in its dimensions will fall into the hands of one sole authority. The extent of the Roman Empire. held all under one hand in the days when the Emperor’s edict ran no faster than a horse can gallop, is a fact far more surprising— viewed in its right perspective, a fact far bigger — than world-domination by a single power would be even to-day. And still less will such world-domination be matter of exceeding difficulty or wonder with the scientific improvements likely to be available for man’s use two centuries hence. It seems almost certain that we have to foresee the strongest nation dominating, decimating, finally exterminating all those that are weaker, until that nation itself shall eventually replenish the whole habitable surface of the globe.
Once again, thus arriving at the end of yet another chapter of the story, we have to ask ourselves: What then? What are we to find when we once more turn the page? That the struggle which has so far been for national predominance and possession has to take on itself a fratricidal character—brother fighting brother for a living space upon the earth? It is difficult to see how it can be otherwise. Out of the welter what is to issue forth? What jnodus vivendi in the form of a strict regulation of the birth-rate to match the death-rate will the world-masters then contrive so that conditions may be not altogether intolerable? These are questions to be asked; it is for them, not for us, to find the answer. More than enough for us to realize that, before such an extreme of congestion can be reached, life, as we to-day envisage and enjoy it, will long have ceased to be worth the living. The “open space,” “the lungs of the cities,” will have been claimed for the inexorable necessity of building a dwelling upon them years before. Either that, or man must become again a race of troglodytes, living beneath the earth, in a manner more or less prefigured by the life in the great prepared trenches separating the battle lines to-day. Dwelling beneath the earth and growing his food-stuffs upon its surface, man for a time may cheat the fate with which the world-congestion threatens him. It can but delay for a brief while the supreme hour. Save for a cataclysm which shall destroy terrestrial life as fatally as any development of the “Vril” or some such power of human device, a new man will be able to find place on the earth only on condition of thrusting another off it. That, BO far as his life on earth can take him, is the destiny towards which man manifestly is moving.
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