|“Let us now consider the times in which we live. How does society fare, how the individual? The population of the civilised countries is extremely dense as compared with former times; Europe today contains about three times as many people as it did a hundred years ago. But the number of great men has decreased out of all proportion. Only a few individuals are known to the masses as personalities, through their creative achievements.
Organisation has to some extent taken the place of the great man, particularly in the technical sphere, but also to a very perceptible extent in the scientific.
The lack of outstanding figures is particularly striking in the domain of art. Painting and music have definitely degenerated and largely lost their popular appeal. In politics not only are leaders lacking, but the independence of spent and the sense of justice of the citizen have to a great extent declined. The democratic, parliamentarian regime, which is based on such independence, has in many places been shaken, dictatorships have sprung up and are tolerated, because men’s sense of the dignity and the rights of the individual is no longer strong enough.
|The world as I see it|
|In two weeks the sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill and be billed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties. Compulsory military service seems to me the most disgraceful symptom of that deficiency in personal dignity from which civilised mankind is suffering today.||The world as I see it|
|No wonder there is no lack of prophets who prophesy the early eclipse of our civilisation. I am not one of these pessimists; I believe that better times are coming. Let me shortly state my reasons for such confidence.
In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the free development of the individual. But the development of machinery means that less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the community’s needs. A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development. In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilisation was advancing.”
|The world as I see it|