Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander
Chapter LXXXV. -
The Restlessness of the Present Age
ARE the white rulers of the
world losing staying and holding power when so many of them have taken, like children of Cain, to move to and fro on the face of the earth? Never within the historical period has such aimless gadding about been witnessed before. Wars of conquest and defence; the barbarian invasion and overthrowing of the Roman Empire when luxury and wealth had destroyed its manliness, and filled all departments of its administration with corruption and inefficiency;
the further-back overthrow of Darius and his purple and gold-clad Persians
by Alexander the Great and his shaggy Macedonians; the religiously -inspired
Crusaders; and to come by a long jump to recent times, the Napoleonic wars,
had all definite aims and meanings. The present-day gadding about has for its openly-avowed object love of pleasure and a crave for new sensations. Though a little elusive, its hidden meanings are not difficult to get at, and when unearthed they are found to augur badly for the continuance of white-race leadership and stability.
We do not know how in
prehistoric times the human race was parcelled out in all lands. Clearly the earth was then going through a series of cataclysmal changes, which ended in severing lauds formerly connected, and which also caused backward and forward alterations of climates, and relative positions of land and water. What we do know is that from the era of the cave-dwellers downwards, there could have been no very rapid movements of people on the surface of this planet until steamers and railways, followed by motor-cars and bicycles, provided the means for rapid locomotion on land and sea. To some extent the locomotive facilities diminish the evil significance of the to-and-fro ramblings of all who can afford it, and of many who cannot but trust to their wits either as parasites or thieves and impostors. When full deduction is made for facilities of locomotion to Cassandra-like alarmists, whose prophecies are not believed, the significance of the roving fever will lose very little of its seriousness. The gloomy prophets will still continue to regard it as positive proof of decay of morality and manhood, and point to accessories of it which confirm their pessimistic views.
America, the historically
young and boastingly freest and wealthiest country in the world, is, in respect to evil signs, the farthest gone in decay. It is certainly the leader in the roving line. And President Roosevelt bears witness that its wealth is associated with a stupendous amount of fraud and corruption, fraud that ingeniously circumvents good laws, and corruption in municipal and political affairs which serves monopolistic, trusts and syndicates, and makes it possible for those who get control of other people's money to use it improperly for their own speculations. In the United States the farming classes on the whole are just as honest, religious, and moral as they are in this country. It is through them that purgation and redemption will come if they are ever to come. With free representative institutions, many lightly say "Reform is easy." But how can it be easy when the anti- reformers have by clever devices, as well as unblushing corruption, got hold of the electoral machinery?
The gambling crave for
money-making and money-catching by fair means or foul, and the selfish love of roving from one pleasure haunt to another, place marriage at a heavy discount, widen the gates of divorce, and fatally affect the family life, and prevent the raising and training of adequately numerous crops of children. In this and other European countries the evils which threaten to brand the young and great go-ahead Republic of the United States with marks of premature decrepitude and decay are in operation, although far as yet from having reached the excess of New York and Chicago.
Churches and creeds are
troubled by inward shakings and outside assaults. Literature, whether in the guise of science, critical philosophy, or popular fiction, is drifting away upon unknown seas without a compass or the guidance of familiar stars. Un- settling notions, of a most unwholesome nature, are as numerous and well -winged for dispersion by breeze and gale as are our dandelion seeds at Inverness worst pest of our gardens. The vital statistics of the United Kingdom, although very much better than those of France and of the native-born and Anglo-Saxon sections of the United States population, are far from satisfactory. The crop of children has fallen below its former level. Infant mortality has increased. Women are in more or less revolt against marriage and motherhood by God's decree their highest functions. As for the women who, having the rating qualifications or property of their own, claim a voting equality with men, their claim is right enough, although their methods are not to be always commended or excused. In self protection they are fully entitled to have votes on the same qualifications on which men have it. I remember, when Mi- Disraeli's Bill, giving household suffrage to borough constituencies, was under discussion, arguing with a Radical in favour of giving qualified women votes like men, and of his emphatically condemning the idea of doing so. Looking at it from what was then the Radical party point of view, he was, I daresay, quite right. Women householders, or owners of separate property, are sure to be more Conservative than loafers who possess the franchise even when they receive, as unemployed, public aid like paupers. Wonderful scientific discoveries and admirable mechanical inventions have, like the head of Janus, two faces one beneficent and the other maleficent. Terrorists quickly learned how to make powerful bombs and how to make atrocious use of them. All the discoveries and inventions of the white nations pass on to the yellow and brown races, and will in time pass on to the African races. Even now many Zulus, Basutos, and Kaffirs possess good firearms and suitable ammunition. Jewish
and other traders of the unscrupulous kind smuggle old firearms and ammunition up the country and from the west and east coasts to the tribes of the interior, and against that smuggling strict regulations and frontier and port watching are by no means perfect protection.
The roving spirit, or love
for adventures and experiences by land and sea, comes with us into the world, and we would be poor creatures without it. It sent forth the knight-errant to fight monsters and redress wrongs, and hardy voyagers and travellers to sail upon unknown seas, and to plunge, taking their lives in their hands, among savages and the pathless forests and deserts of unknown lands. Except the ice-circles about the poles there is nothing of the lands and waters of the earth now left to be explored. The days of new discoveries and romantic adventures belong to the past. The old, old spirit, however, still survives, and seeks such outlets as it can find in sport on Highland moors and rivers, and shooting elephants and lions in Africa, or other animals in the
Rocky Mountains. All these hunting "outs" make considerable demands on hardihood, and are healthy exercises. So much cannot be said of the "outings" of the crowds who carry their luxurious habits with them in grand steamers, and pass on land along beaten tracks over-abundantly furnished with magnificent hotels and all the attractions for capturing vanity and moral instability. Yet the moving about is in its worst form a protest against the burden of over-civilisation, and a ludicrously weak attempt to escape for a while from that burden. Health, wealth, pleasure, and leisure are not the highest ideals for men and women to keep before their eyes, but there is a good deal to be said for each of them, while taken as a whole they are incompatible with one another.
Cricket, football, tennis,
golf, curling, and, in short, all athletic exercises, help to break the wearisome monotony of present-day life, and to give some increase of health and contentment of mind and body to the workers in towns and centres of industries. But as regards all the able-bodied young men of the United Kingdom, it would be good for themselves and for their country if they went into the Territorial Army, and while learning to be disciplined soldiers, at the same time inhaled vigorous health from pure air, and hardened their muscles by military drills and campings
and marching. What the clubmen of London, and the jaded business men, and the nobility and gentry get from shootings and fishing, working-class young men can get by joining the Territorial Army, and qualifying themselves for the patriotic defence of their native land should the call for defence come, as come it may at an unexpected moment. In a bit of a poem on Scotland, which some time ago I saw in the "Scotsman," the secular side of the old way of training of the young of our country appeared to me to be happily summarised in the lines
"Let virtue crown the
And valour mould the man."
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