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Grupo Rubymar Marthyns

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If a man wish to perceive to what degraded passes the art of writingmay come and yet retain the qualities of intelligibility and apparentreasonableness, let him peruse the morning papers and die the death.The reek and offence of them smells to heaven. They are a sureindication of the decadence of the English mind and of the cupidityand unscrupulousness of the English journalist. There has been nothinglike them, nothing to compare with them, for cheapness and futility andbanality in the history of the world. They are more to be fearful ofthan the pestilence, inasmuch as they spell intellectual debasement,the corruption of the public taste, and the defilement of the publicspirit. Their very literal innocuousness condemns them. It is theirboast that they may be read in the family without a blush. Theirassumption of morality and puritanical straitlacedness is admirable.Beneath it there lie a licentiousness of purpose, a disregard forwhat is just,[Pg 34] and a contempt for what is decent and of good reportwhich are calculated to make the angels weep. When one inquires intothe personnel of the staffs by which these papers are run, one isconfronted with exactly the kind of man one expects to meet. Firstof all, he is English, and as shallow and flippant and irresponsibleas only an Englishman can be. The saving touch of seriousness doesnot enter into his composition. He neither reads nor thinks. Beer,billiards, and free lunches, free entry to the less edifying places ofamusement, a minimum of work and a maximum of pay, constitute his idealof the journalist's career, and he is always doing his best to liveup to it. Of responsibility to anybody save his immediate chief, who,after all, is only himself at a little higher salary, he has not thesmallest notion. His duty is neither by himself nor by the public. Allthat is expected of him is loyalty to his chief and to his paper, andit is his pride and joy that this loyalty is invariably forthcoming.

For downright childishness the modern English soldier, whether he beofficer or file-man, has perhaps no compeer. When the South African Warbroke out, Tommy and his officers were men of scarlet and pipe-clay andgold lace and magnificent head-dresses. Also all drill was in closeorder; you were to[Pg 68] shove in your infantry first, supported by yourartillery, and deliver your last brilliant stroke with your cavalry.The men should go into the fray with bands playing, flags flying, anddressed as for parade. You commenced operations with move No. 1; theenemy would assuredly reply with move No. 2; you would then rush inwith move No. 3; there would be a famous victory, and the streets ofLondon would be illuminated at great expense. In South Africa mattersdid not quite pan out that way; the enemy declined absolutely to playthe stereotyped war-game, for the very simple reason that they didnot know it, and that South Africa is not quite of the contour of achess-board. And so the English had to change their cherished system,and to learn to ride, and to throw their pretty uniforms into theold-clothes baskets, and to get out of their old drill into a drillwhich was no drill at all, and to give up resting their last hope onthe British square, and to get accustomed to deadly conflict with anenemy whom they[Pg 69] never saw and who never took the trouble to informthem whether they had beaten him or not. It was all very trying and allvery bewildering, and it is to the credit of the English army that inthe course of a year or two it did actually manage to understand theprecise nature of the work cut out for it and made some show of dealingwith it in a workman-like way.

From time immemorial the English have made a point of treating thesaviours of their country meanly and shabbily. In the Crimea theEnglish troops were half-starved and went about in rags, while a lotof broad-shouldered, genial Englishmen made fortunes out of armycontracts. It was the same in the Transvaal, and it will be the samewhenever England is at war. In peace-time she does manage to keep hersoldiers and sailors decently dressed, but it is notorious that shenips them in the paunch, and that the roast beef and plum-pudding andflagons of Octo[Pg 78]ber which are supposed to be the meat and drink of JohnBull are not considered good for his brave defenders. A beef-fed armyand a beef-fed navy are what Englishmen believe they get for theirmoney. The rank and file of the army and navy are better informed. Witha navy that is undersized, undermanned, underfed, and underpaid, theEnglish chances of triumph, when her real strength is put to the test,are problematical. Meanwhile, we may comfort ourselves with Mr. Kiplingand the Daily Telegraph.

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