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The Tide of Affairs
Comment on the Times
By GLENN FRANK
THE LAND OF LOST OASES—THE BLUE BIRD'S FALTERING FLIGHTAUSTRALIA'S FIFTEEN POINTS-SUICIDE AND FREEDOM-TWO IDEAS ABOUT RUSSIA-GIBBON ON THE 1920 CAMPAIGN-BUTT, BUFFER, AND BURDEN-BEARER-OIL FEVER—A VANISHING RACE COMES BACK-THE GHOST OF BISMARCK.
hibition was obliged to run the usual THE LAND OF LOST OASES
long gantlet designed for constitutional
amendments. There is no backstairs E are now, by several weeks,
access to the Constitution. The fathers a dry nation. That is to
deliberately made it difficult, well-nigh W say, we are legally dry, a
impossible in fact, to amend the Concertain amount of seepage stitution, for the express purpose of
aside. Prohibition is still preventing a clever minority or a passthe ultimately unavoidable topic of ing hysteria from tampering with the conversation in club, café, and car. It basic charter of our Government. The is natural that passion and prejudice and prohibition amendment traveled this special interests should run reason a hurdle-infested road. In the House of close race for first position in these con- Representatives it was passed by a vote versations. The subject usually looms of 128 to 28. In the Senate it was distorted through a verbal fog. There passed by a vote of 65 to 20. It was was, there is, a wide divergence of opin- then submitted to the several States, ions respecting the wisdom of prohibiting which were given seven years in which all alcoholic beverages at one fell and to decide for ratification or rejection. comprehensive swoop. The issue by no The necessary 36 States ratified the means lies wholly between the prohibi- amendment in exactly thirteen months, tionists and the anti-prohibitionists. and before the amendment became law Thousands of temperate and high- 45 of the 48 States in the Union had minded persons feel that it would have ratified. It may be said that the been wiser to have saved light wines and celerity and practical unanimity of beer from the ban. But the thing is ratification by States was only a gesture done, and the sooner we recognize cer- of self-preservation by frightened politain elementary facts and adjust our- ticians. There is only one thing that selves to them, the better. At least, we frightens politicians—the majority or its shall save for needier purposes a vast invincible dictator. Prohibition would amount of concern and conversation. never have been written into the Con
For one thing, let us disabuse our stitution save by legislators honestly minds of the idea that prohibition was convinced that a majority of American foisted upon us unawares by a small voters desired it. We sometimes forget group of fanatics. Mr. Chesterton was that prohibition came logically at the uncomfortably near the truth when he end of 112 years of education, agitation, said that this is the age of minorities, and political organization. As far back of groups that rule rather than repre- as 1808 local anti-liquor societies were sent; but the facts do not show prohibi- at work. Back in 1873 women began tion as
case in point. Although their persistent crusade against alcohol, pressed in the strategic hour of war, pro- and 69 years ago the State of Maine
established prohibition. Then in 1907 time to "grouse" about prohibition to Georgia was the first of 33 States to go the effect that the Constitution has been dry. In 21 of these States prohibition amended by a small group of fanatics was established by popular vote, in against the will of the majority. Such the remaining 12 by acts of the state procedure is hardly designed to exalt the legislatures.
Constitution in the eyes of its critics, Now, in all this the fanatics played who are giving us so much concern just their part, as they did in abolition.
now. There can easily develop a polite The professional hypocrisy of a certain anarchy of the club that will play untype of reformer figured in the move- wittingly into the hands of the redder ment. There is a goodly streak of the anarchy of the mob. We are constantly “reformer" in the average American. reminded that we should overlook no We are always standing for general chance at this time to dramatize to all reforms that we do not at all care about concerned the ultimate sanity and validfor ourselves. But to the aid of the ity of political action as the civilized fanatics ultimately came science which, technic of progress. A sportsmanlike speaking in the large, gave its verdict attitude toward prohibition by those against alcohol as a beverage; life
who dislike it may be one good chance insurance statistics played into their to do that. hands; and the great industries threw Few can be found to lament the passtheir weight into the scales against ing of the saloon. As a public institualcohol as a reducer of human efficiency. tion, it had not a leg to stand on. Its In fact, tremendous forces from quarters elimination, however, need not have where the idea of a moral crusade did implied total prohibition. We may, not exist joined against alcohol. It is therefore, congratulate ourselves upon probably true to say that the forces that the passing of the saloon, and those who really made prohibition possible were are temperate rather than teetotal may scientific and economic forces, guided by rest assured that in the long run the men who themselves drank when they policy that proves best will prevail chose and who amply stocked their respecting the individual right to drink. cellars against the day they helped to usher in. Prohibition is now law, part and parcel
THE BLUE BIRD'S FALTERING FLIGHT of our Constitution, and regardless of our personal opinions it is the part of MAURICE MAETERLINCK'S American good Americans to support the law visit was unhappily marred by manauntil it is changed by the same regular gerial bickerings and an inexpert atand ordained course by which it was tempt upon Maeterlinck's part to adpassed. If we dislike prohibition, we dress his audiences in a hastily acquired have one thoroughly American way out phonetic English. When he decided to of our discomfort, and that is simply to forego his adventurings in English and persuade as many legislators to vote for to speak in French, cancelations of his the repeal as voted for the passage of lecture engagements came thick and the amendment. It took only about a fast. The American lecture audience century, after all, to marshal the votes is not polylingual, and the words of the for the amendment. Of course, if repeal masters somehow lose their bloom when requires as long an effort as ratification, they must pass through the mind of an many throats will be parched with interpreter. Americans wanted to see patience; but the sportsmanship implied the Blue Bird fly with unhindered grace. by a republic of laws leaves open no When they found that it must merely
hop from branch to branch, while an Just when we are refusing legislative intermediary described each segment of seats to men whose ideal of government its flight, they lost interest. The middiffers from the Constitution, just when dleman, it seems, is always a disturbing we are deporting men because they refuse problem, whether in economics or in art. to bow to the tedious method of political Maeterlinck came to America priaction for changing things, is hardly the marily to witness the premier perform
ance of his "Blue Bird”in Wolff's musical been made synonymous with the exversion. His plays have before intrigued ceptional, the abnormal, the violent. the interest of composers. Debussy's To this theory of dramatic theme Maeversion of "Pelléas et Mélisande," terlinck brings stout objections. He Dukas's version of “Ariane et Barbe would rather find his dramatic material Bleu," Fevrier's version of "Monna in the quieter tenor of life, not in its Vanna,” and Loeffler's version of "La extreme moments of mental or physical Mort de Tintagiles” will be remem- conflict. His reason he states as follows: bered by musicians.
The true tragic element of life only begins It is a matter of regret that Maeter
when so-called adventures, sorrows, and danlinck's first venturing forth to America from the monastic seclusion in which
gers have disappeared. ... Is it while I
flee before a naked sword that my existence most American readers pictured him should have succeeded only in destroy
touches its most interesting point? Is life
always its sublimest in a kiss? ... Does the ing the picture of spiritual aloofness which had been half his charm and had
soul flower only on nights of storm? Hitherto
doubtless this belief has prevailed. It is only helped greatly to sustain his vogue. Hereafter, when we follow him as he fin
the life of violence, the life of by-gone days
that is perceived by nearly all our tragic gers the stars and holds high converse
writers. ... Whereas it is far away from with the mystic world, we shall be dis
bloodshed, battle-cry, and sword-thrust that turbed by a too "earthly" picture of
the lives of most of us flow on. Maeterlinck as a bone of contention between Henry Russell and Major
Second, as to action. The convenPond. But, after all, we can well af
tional drama lays great emphasis upon ford to lose his lectures, and even to forego his essays, for we have his plays,
action as the supreme means of vitalizing
the theme of the play. Maeterlinck and it is there that Maeterlinck makes his distinctive contribution. As a phi
contends that the vigorous theatricalism
of the conventional drama is of less losopher, he is little more than an attrac
importance than psychic suggestion and tive paraphrase of Plotinus, Sweden
the quiet conflicts of the soul. With borg, Novalis, Emerson, and others.
him, there are affairs of silence no less As a dramatist, however, he struck a
than affairs of action. Sentences here new note. Even at this late date, it
and there throughout Maeterlinck's may not be without interest to summa
writings betray his valuation of action. rize the points in Maeterlinck's dramatic creed.
For instance we find him saying, “I ad
mire Othello but he does not appear to Maeterlinck is frankly heretic, in
me to live the august daily life of Hamlet, theory at least, to the conventional
who has time to live inasmuch as he does canons of dramatic art. Any criticism
not act." Gerhart Hauptmann aptly of a theory of the drama must begin
stated the Maeterlinck idea of action in with the triple query, what does the
the drama when he said: theory propose respecting theme, respecting action, and respecting dia- Action upon the stage will, I think, give logue? Fortunately, Maeterlinck has way to the analysis of character and to spoken his mind plainly on these three the exhaustive consideration of the motives dramatic elements. We can, therefore, which prompt men to act. Passion does not draw together and summarize his scat- move at such headlong speed as in Shakes. tered statements on his theory of the peare's day, so that we present not actions drama.
themselves, but the psychological states First, as to theme. The conventional which cause them. drama sets great store by the unusual experiences of life. Nearly all tragic .
Out of this conception arises Maeterwriters look for their themes in a thrill- linck's dream of a "static" theater, which ing adventure, a leaping joy, a bitter has been described as “a theater of sorrow, an acid jealousy, cringing cow- mood, not of movement, where nothing ardice, or the strut of the victor. The material happens, and where everything tragical has, with exceptions of course, immaterial is felt.” It is a little diffi
cult to visualize the "static" theater position in modern life is, as Chesterton playing the one-night stands.
phrased it, the glorification of the inside Third, as to dialogue. The conven- of things at the expense of the outside. tional drama considers the lines of the play invaluable in the furthering of action, the awakening of emotions or
AUSTRALIA'S FIFTEEN POINTS thought, and the revealing of character. It requires a certain facility in mental ORDINARILY the retailing of platitudes acrobatics to think otherwise. At any in political and economic discussion rate, here is the valuation Maeterlinck serves no highly valuable purpose other places upon dialogue in the drama:
than to reveal the uncreative mind of It is not in the action but in the words
the speaker or writer. In stimulating that are found the beauty and greatness of
times like these, however, when every tragedies that are truly beautiful and good;
man is playing the statesman and proand this is not solely in the words that ac
ducing his private panacea for the ills company and explain the action, for there of a distempered world, popular thought must perforce be another dialogue beside
falls into an unhealthy confusion in its the one which is superficially necessary.
attempt to thread its way through the And, indeed, the only words that count in
medley of vagaries and values. In such the play are those that at first seemed useless,
times a simple statement of threadbare for it is therein that the essence lies. Side by fundamentals may perform a needed side with the necessary dialogue will you ministry of clarification and help to almost always find another dialogue that
restore lost perspective. Both the cap
italistic and proletarian philosophies seems superfluous; but examine it carefully, and it will be brought home to you that
to-day stand in need of such clarification. this is the only one that the soul can listen
If the mind of the man in the street were to profoundly, for here alone is it the soul
less confused about the actual meaning
of the capitalistic and proletarian phithat is being addressed.
losophies, the path to policy in this It would certainly be a diverting country would be less devious. experience to hear Maeterlinck discuss
Following Mr. Wilson's technic in the this subtle and elusive theory of dia- formulation of his “Fourteen Points," logue with a Broadway producer of bed- Mr. W. Brooks, in his presidential room farces. With these three points address to the Employers' Federain mind, Maeterlinck's dramatic creed
tion, formulated for Australia “Fifteen has been interpreted as follows: "a theme Points" which he considers vital to from the simplest daily life, an action
sound social economy. He makes an where nothing happens, a dialogue where unusually clear and simple statement of the only words of value are the meaning- principles for those who are convinced less ones.” This has the sound of bur- that the capitalistic organization of lesque, but it describes the Maeterlinck society is fundamentally sound, worktheory of drama about as accurately as able, and just, save when perverted. plain English can catch it.
The Australasian News Office of “The It seems an impossible theory of Christian Science Monitor" despatched actable drama, but Maeterlinck's "L'in
the following summary of the fifteen trus" testifies to its feasibility and pecu- points: liar effectiveness, although it must be admitted that Maeterlinck has not often
1. Under any economic or industrial sysas fully and as actually applied his
tem, men and women must inevitably condramatic creed to dramatic construc
tinue to work for wages. tion.
2. Some workers must always be paid Maeterlinck is one of a group of mod- more wages than other workers, either owing ern writers representing a healthy reac
to special ability or the class of work pertion from nineteenth-century material
formed. ism. His work throughout savors of 3. No worker can continuously be paid reaction from realism to mysticism, from wages that he does not earn. naturalism to supernaturalism. His 4. The value of the work must be con
trolled by the salable value of the articles duction, as the result of strikes. Here produced.
and there his statement cries aloud for 5. In order to promote industrial develop- critical examination, but such criticism ment and provide work, the nation must is not the purpose of this editorial. These continue to depend upon its intellectual fifteen points are simply recorded as a citizens.
faithful and fairly accurate statement of 6. The community or nation that develops one point of view. It will be int resting most brain power and inventive genius will in some later issue to present an equally be the most prosperous, and brain must sincere and succinct statement of the inevitably command more reward than mere proletarian creed. If each of the major manual labor.
schools of political and economic thought 7. The cost of living is governed by the would honestly state their contentions cost of production, both in primary products categorically, as Mr. Brooks has done, and secondary manufactures.
the average citizen could follow political 8. Shorter hours of work must increase and economic discussion with greater the cost of all articles, including food and satisfaction and could, perhaps, more clothing.
easily judge between will-o'-the-wisp 9. The maximum output in the hours fancies and sound social principles. worked will result in cheapening the article produced, as the cost of production inevitably governs the selling price.
SUICIDE AND FREEDOM 10. Capitalism (or the accumulation of wealth) can never be abolished, for some By coincidence there came to the writer's men will always earn and save more money desk in the same mail two documents than other men.
dealing with the gruesome problem of 11. Private enterprise involves not only
suicide. One was a report from the the control of established businesses, but Save-a-Life League, an organization for also the risking of capital and personal effort the prevention of suicide; the other, an in the promotion and establishment of new article on “Freedom's Reality and Deluindustrial enterprises.
sions” by Father Nicholas Velimirović, 12. The community cannot expect cheap bishop of the most ancient diocese of the bread, meat, and other foods at the expense
Orthodox Church in Serbia. The first of the farmer and grazier.
was a report of results, the second a 13. The only possible way for workers to comment upon causes. The fact that secure a substantial increase in wages, with- deaths from suicide have increased by out a corresponding increase in cost of living, leaps and bounds since the end of the is by increased output.
war raises the question whether there 14. Men and women in a free country are deeper social reasons behind the incannot be prevented from saving money crease than merely individual aberraand acquiring property.
tions. 15. Without hope of profit there would be The report of the Save-a-Life League less industrial development, less employ- reveals certain interesting facts regardment, lower wages, and higher cost of living. ing the increase in suicide. During last
year there were 5121 deaths from suicide Mr. Brooks is, of course, as dogmatic in the United States. 3212 men took in his statements as a Middle Ages their lives, as against 1909 women. It theologian, but he cannot be accused of is estimated that unreported cases of beating about the bush. He was driven suicide might bring the total to 20,000. to this frank confession of faith by his Suicide among women is on the increase. survey of the great losses involved in the The ratio of a few years ago, of one strikes and other labor difficulties, in- woman in four suicides, has increased to spired, to no slight degree, by the pro- one woman in three suicides. This is letarian philosophy which he attempts doubtless due to the increasing particito counter with his statement of prin- pation of women in the rough-andciples. Roughly estimated, Australia tumble life of business and politics. has lost during the last six years $25,000,- Over 100 returned soldiers committed 000 in wages and $50,000,000 in pro- suicide. Among professional men sui