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Adler, Philip A. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVI, Number 8 (May 1917)

Otto, M. C.
War and moral progress,   pp. 233-235

Page 233

MNay, 1917
ing to sink Lusitanias and intimidate enemies by a policy
of devastation of conquered territories unparalleled in
modern times. It is the nation that seventeen years ago
through the mouth of her anointed sovereign instructed
her expeditionary force in China to make its memory
felt for frightfulness for a hundred years, just as the
duns had in their own time made their memory felt.
The reference to the Huns is the Kaiser's own refer-
ence. The chickens have come home to roost. The in-
structions to the German contingent during the Boxer
Rebellion have been carried out by the German armies
in the present European war; and the memory of them
for frightfulness will be long in dying out. It is this
frightfulness, it is this autocratic imperiousness in the
face of all opposed interests, that makes Americans see
their national safety only in German defeat. The Ger-
many of 1914 has been able to defy all Europe, to
wrest conquests from an unprecedented coalition of
powers, and now to hold her enemies at bay. If this
Germany wins this war, and thus is enabled to organize
a central empire from the North Sea to the southern
boundaries of Turkey, she will be a nation stronger
than all the rest of the world combined. If she wins
the war, her autocracy will come out of the conflict
confirmed by the victory and more insolent than ever.
The world has never faced a more dangerous foe. We
are fighting the German government because, with this
government victorious, the world will not be "safe for
And now that the war is on, we are a united people.
Our fears were ungrounded. Our former German-
Americans are now pure Americans, for our war is not
against the German people but against the German
government. The German people in Germany have not
yet acknowledged the distinction, therefore it cannot yet
become effective in our national preparations. But our
own people of German descent acknowledge this dis-
tinction. And if-no, and when we win, the distinction
will be made by all.
War and Moral Progress.
AT least three attitudes towards a fight or fighting
tl.    are theoretically possible, of whatever sort the
quarrel may be: to pass by on the other side; to support
one of the contestants against his opponent; to labor for
an adjustment calculated to preserve the greatest total
of the interests involved. And each attitude is indica-
tive of a certain range of sympathies; each is an ex-
pression of a type of self, the measure of a personality.
Those whose field of imaginative vision is limited to
what more immediately concerns themselves, naturally
are not moved to risk the goods they appreciate in a
struggle for interests that lie beyond their horizons.
Such men will allow the contestants to fight it out alone,
and if necessary, will discover reasons to show that this
is best. It is a different man who either spontaneously
or deliberately throws himself into the conflict and
helps to decide the issue. To make common cause with
another in his effort to protect or secure valued ends,
involves the ability to forget or the willingness to jeop-
ardize habitual, more or less restricted interests for in-
terests lying beyond and now at stake. It thus implies a
scope of imagination and a breadth of sympathy to
which the former type of mind is stranger. Yet ob-
viously even here the outlook is circumscribed, for
there is no attempt to envisage the threatened interests
as a whole, and the feelings remain cold to all but a se-
lection of particular values. Consequently it seems ir-
rational to consider any interest outside the selected cir-
cle, and reasons are discovered, if necessary to show
that such interests must be disregarded for the sake of
the greatest good. Once more it is a different type of
person whose imaginative sweep includes what is ex-
cluded by the others, and whose emotional nature de-
mands that all discoverable interests be taken into ac-
count. And as naturally as the program of the first
two is determined by the values they espouse, so is his.
Seeing no justification for disregarding or forgetting
any of the interests concerned, the objective for him be-
comes the achievement of a concept of things in which
the richest total of the values represented shall be real-
ized, and the creation of conditions through which this
ideal shall become actual.
Now the evolution of human relationships is the
record of just such an expansion of outlook and appreci-
ation as is illustrated in passing from the first type of
person to the last. The earliest morality is group mor-
ality. Individuals within the group acquire rights sole-
ly by virtue of this membership, and all persons outside
the group, singly and collectively, are destitute of rights
altogether. Nor is this disregard of other than group
rights merely negative.  It is a positive and aggressive
denial of such rights and their correlative duties. To
Le moved by a desire to enlarge the area of interests to
Le considered so as to include the interests of the indi-
vidual as individual or interests extraneous to the group
as a group, would, if it were conceivable in primitive
society, be to sound the deeps of moral depravity.
Moral progress has thus been a series of achievements
in the transcendence of this elemental bias. Whether
the explanation be found witi Marx in the "economic
interpretation" of social changes, with Bancroft in a
"higher power" which gives direction to human history,

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