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Rapidly moving Europe, would require half a century ere they could surmount such atavistic attacks of patriotism and soil-attachment, and return once more to reason, that is to say, to “good Europeanism.
” And while digressing on this possibility, I happen to become an ear-witness of a conversation between two old patriots-they were evidently both hard of hearing and consequently spoke all the louder.
“He has as much, and knows as much, philosophy as a peasant or a corps-student,” said the one-“he is still innocent. But what does that matter nowadays!
It is the age of the masses: they lie on their belly before everything that is massive. And so also in politics.
A statesman who rears up for them a new Tower of Babel, some monstrosity of empire and power, they call ‘great’-what does it matter that we more prudent and conservative ones do not meanwhile give up the old belief that it is only the great thought that gives greatness to action or affair.
Supposing a statesman was to bring his people into the position of being obliged henceforth to practice ‘high politics, for which they were by nature badly endowed and prepared,
so that they would have to sacrifice their old and reliable virtues, out of love to a new and doubtful mediocrity:-supposing a statesman was to condemn his people generally to practice politics,
when they have hitherto had something better to do and think about, and when in the depths of their souls they have been unable to free themselves from a prudent loathing of the restlessness, emptiness,
and noisy wranglings of the essentially politics-practicing nations; supposing such a state man were to stimulate the slumbering passions and avidities of his people,
where to make a stigma out of their former diffidence and delight in aloofness, an offense out of their exoticism and hidden permanency.
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