Tuesday, 11 February 2014

PEACE OR WAR ?

QUITE recently a handful of citizens at a Sunday evening gathering of the Society of Friends decided to inaugurate what they termed a "Peace Society," and judging from the published remarks of some of the speakers at that meeting, the main object of the proposed society is to disabuse the minds of Australians that there is any danger to their country by its being kept in an unprepared and defenceless condition. These people are, no doubt, actuated by noble and humane sentiments, but will their arguments bear even the weakest criticism? Miss Rose Scott, one of the speakers at that meeting, spoke of "defence against imaginary enemies." This lady would advocate total disarmament in Australia, because, as she says, "for 15 centuries, war had been a standing libel on Christianity, a cruel and stupendous burden on the people." Any person who would stand up as a champion of Christianity and at the same time advocate disarmament, should remember that the Christianising of the heathen races— raising them to the higher levels of civilisation— has been brought about, not by the more preaching of the gospel, but by the Sword and the Bible — the emblem of England's greatness.  
During the past few days the news comes to us by cable that "Dr. C. Gore, Bishop of Birmingham, has declared that he is profoundly convinced that the way to avoid the dangers of militarism is to strengthen the civic army." The peace-at-any-price individuals in our midst seem to forget that after all the maintaining of naval and military forces is but a system of national insurance, and would they advocate the abolishment of that insurance, because there is no "guarantee" that Australia will be attacked by some aggressive Power ? If people in commercial and private life suddenly came to a determination on these lines, then the insurance companies would have to put up the shutters. People insure their property not because they know there will be a fire, but because of the possibility of a fire.
All will agree, no doubt, that "the courage children should be taught is the courage to do right." Can a child be taught anything better than love of home and country, loyalty to King and Empire? Such teaching must necessarily embrace the inculcation of the military spirit, for under present conditions universally existing patriotism and loyalty must go hand in hand with militarism. If our young Australians are taught to regard defence preparations as superfluous, and to follow the principle of trust and be trusted, without any regard for what is being taught to the children of other nations, then there will grow up in Australia an army of milksops and fools, unprepared and unfit to defend their country in the hour of peril, and who, when that time comes, will have to bow their heads in shame, suffer national disgrace, and submit to absorption by the enemy whom they "trusted."          
Those Peace Society people must be regarded as enemies within the gates. They are as dangerous to their country's security as the few whose rebellious utterances a few years ago, during the progress of the Boer War, made their names to be abhorred by every right-thinking British subject. It is contended that the spirit of war is a return to the ideals of barbarism. If this be so, then we are not living in such an enlightened and progressive age as is supposed, for the spirit of war is as strong to-day as at any time in the history of nations. It has been left to a member of the Sydney "Peace Society" to convey to the world the startling information that none are civilised, but all are barbarians.
Universal peace is a dream of the future, and a present-day impossibility, and taking past history as a criterion so long as commercial rivalry between the nations continues to exist, and unclaimed territory and hidden wealth remain to be won, then so long will there be a desire for war, and consequently the necessity for maintaining armaments.
It seems a feasible argument that so long as the nations of the world remain divided in their religious, social, and political beliefs, and until they combine practically as one great nation, speaking the one language, and with interests and aspirations in common, there will continue to be racial quarrels, international disputes, and wars and rumors of wars. Some people speak confidently of international friendships; but, judging from the results of the Hague Conference that friendship is a false one. There can be no question in the world that the attitude of Germany to-day is one of aggression, the plain and admitted reason of this being that owing to her failures of the past in the direction of colonisation, she is being forced into the position of seeking an outlet for her vast population. In other words, Germany is arming not particularly to defend herself against a possible enemy, but with the hope one day of, if possible, dealing a death-blow to some other nation (do we need to ask which nation ?) with the object of opening up the way for an expansion of her territory. Of course, if the denunciations of our Peace Society "friends" in Sydney should reach the ears of the German Emperor, he may at once issue an order for the complete disarmament of the German nation, but it is very doubtful. Need we for one moment question the attitude of Germany, in regard to defence preparations when by cable there has just come to us the news that Dr. Karl Liebknecht, a German Socialist, has been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in a fortress for high treason in fomenting anti-militarism opinion. We may not be able to accuse our Peace Society "friends" of high treason, but were they in Germany their society would go into compulsory liquidation, and they would go to a fortress, where there would be a good opportunity for each of them to allow his or her bump of self-preservation to more largely develop.
Have our peace-at-any-price "friends" yet turned their eyes to the north-east ? If they have, what do they sea ? They see millions of Japanese and Chinese be coming skilled in the arts and science of war, and with these races, it is not a case of their going back to barbarism, but they are merging from a state, of barbarism into a high state of enlightenment and civilisation. We may well ask, Where, and how, is it all going to end ? One may venture the opinion that this feverish competition in the building of battleships and the manufacture of implements of war can never be stopped by agreement or treaty. International treaties are not worth the paper they are written on, and are merely instruments for temporary diplomatic use. Authorities who have made a life study of this subject appear to be convinced that international rivalry, hatred, and jealousy are destined to be stamped out, as far as it is possible to do so, only in one way — by force of arms, a war probably between two great military combinations. And when the great struggle is over, and the spoil divided, what then ? Who will be the masters of this great continent ?
Despite the sense of security which is felt and expressed by some people, and despite the careless indifference of a few wooden-headed legislators, it is gratifying to note that the Press organs of this country are now paying a good-deal of attention to the question of Australian defence. On this point the words of Lord Charles Beresford in his preface to "Nelson and His Times" (1905), are applicable:—
"The Press and the people have awakened to the importance of the question, and none too soon. In Europe, and, indeed, in the world, we have no friends, but many bitter enemies. Other people are naturally jealous of our vast possessions. It may be that our Empire will have once more to face the troubles, difficulties, and dangers which have accompanied the beginning of each century."  
We have been asked to forget, and to teach our children to forget, the name of Nelson. Surely such a request from a British subject could be made only out of the deepest ignorance of the glorious work achieved by the greatest of British heroes. It was Nelson's great victories that placed England in the position of a first-rate Power. For the freedom that we enjoy and the accomplishment of the national greatness of which we are so proud, Nelson fought and died. It was Nelson's great achievements that placed England in the position or wielding a mighty influence in the interests of peace, civilisation, and progress in the councils of the world.
Are we Australians, by neglect of our own beloved island continent — a part of the Great British Empire — going to be guilty of helping to undo the great work so well and nobly begun by one whose name should be deeply engraven in the heart of every true British subject. The words of Shakespeare are as true to-day as when they were written centuries ago:—      
"It is most meet we arm us 'gainst the foe,    
For peace itself should not so dull a kingdom
Though war nor no known quarrel were in question,
but that defences, musters, preparations,
Should be maintained, assembled, and collected,   
As were a war in expectation."
—WALTER H. CLUTTON. 

Sunday Times 20 October 1907, 

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