But when the world did wake up to the dangers of the air, it woke up with a shudder of horror. No wonder. Frontiers were gone. Security was gone. No man could hope for peace or prosperity under the threat of a violent death. The days of wars were over: massacre had taken their place, wholesale massacre of the community in which children would retch their lives away, women would be blinded, and men powerless to protect or succour. The end of civilization was in sight.
Yet, faced with annihilation, what did the world do? Those far from the immediate focus of danger washed their hands of the problem, or used the preoccupation of their rivals as a good opportunity to grab what they could. Others, nearer at hand, talked piously, earnestly (and interminably) of Collective Security, and used the time so gained to pile up armaments behind their backs. The voice of the people was never heard; the dictators, the press, the armament rings had muzzled all opposition. Greed and Power disposed of the human destiny, while mankind cowered like a rabbit hypnotized by a snake.
In our own country, one of the few where freedom of speech and some civilized instincts remained, governments fought a losing game against others who broke pledges, treaties, or any code of human decency whenever it suited them. Though the days of nationalism and isolationism were manifestly over, we were forced into an armaments race in the vain hope that it might afford us some protection. Vain hope because, in the air, equality of armaments gave no protection. An army could stop an army, a fleet a fleet; but a thousand aeroplanes could not stop a thousand enemy aeroplanes. Wire netting would not keep the flies out. Both would get through to their objectives. The effect of increasing air armaments was simply to multiply the horrors that would be loosed on the civil populations. And they would not even have the satisfaction of seeing their own men avenge the raiders by taking at least the life of the enemy pilot, for there need be no men in those machines, they can be controlled by wireless; their destruction will mean nothing; they will go on coming day and night.
To-day the voice of no man, or no one country, can save Europe (and after the whole civilized world) from imminent destruction. If we cannot collectively rise above our narrow nationalism, the vast credits of wealth, wisdom and art produced by Western civilization will be wiped out. If we really want peace and security, we must pool our resources, disarm, and set up an international air police force, federally controlled. That force must be as incorruptible, free from bias and self-interest, and devoted to law and order as our civil police are to-day. There is no other way.
. . .
It is a fight between intellect and appetite, between the international idea and armaments. The latter will probably win the first two or three rounds; but, if civilization is to survive, the idea must win in the end. Meanwhile, if a few million people have to die violent deaths, that cannot be helped. Nature is exceedingly wasteful.
. . .
Of all this were were daily spectators, creatures of another element, lending ourselves to things beneath us, and the actual physical aspect of this relation educed in me (since the Western Front was my University and I must needs graduate with some self-taught degree) an attitude to life itself.
The fixity with which men pursued immediate trivialities alarmed and disgusted me. The magnitude of the effort spent on daily futilities was too awful to be faced; it was a sort of St Vitus dance, bound to end in exhaustion. The mentality of the post-war years was no different from that of the war itself — an obsession to take the next objective, whether you wanted it or not, whether you were any better off when you got it or not, whether you and any idea of where to go next or not. It gave men the illusion they were getting somewhere, doing something, when, in reality, they were floundering deeper and deeper into chaos. Civilization, I vaguely realized then — and subsequent observation has confirmed the view — could not progress that way. It must have a greater guiding principle to survive. To treat it as a carcase [sic] off which each man tears as much as he can for himself, is to stand convicted as a brute, fit for nothing better than a jungle existence, which is a death-struggle, leading nowhither. I did not believe that was the human destiny, for Man individually was sane and reasonable, only collectively was he a fool.
We needed effort, not greater in quantity, but other in quality; a different point of view, a new perspective, a more constant aim, co-ordinating and co-relating circumstances and conditions for the general good. Men with such faculties existed; but they were scarcely listened to, for the conditions under which they would undertake to pilot us to safety demanded heavy sacrifice and drastic change — both utterly abhorrent to those who could not see the danger they were in.