Ernest Poole: War cuts off the past from the future
From Blind (1920)
I am blind – but no blinder than is the mind of the world, these days. The long thin splinter of German steel which struck in behind my eyes did no more to me than the war has done to the vision of humanity. In this year of deep confusion – clutching, grabbing, spending, wasting, and in Europe plague and famine, desperation and revolt — mankind is reeling in the dark. And in these long queer crowded nights, half waking and half sleeping, it has seemed to me at times as though the bedlam of it all were pounding, seething, into me. I was once a playwright – and vividly there comes to me a memory of the Broadway crowds on a big rush Saturday night. A sightless beggar stood by the curb, and in a harsh shrill piercing voice he kept repeating, “Help the blind!” The Soul of Man is like him now.
How deeply shocked we would have been had we been told of the great winds which with the roar of a tempest world-wide were to beat upon all churches, homes and courts of law, banks and seats of government, and challenge each to show good reason why it should not be struck down, swept into the raging flood and left to founder in the past. “For richer, for poorer.” In those days there was such wealth on the one hand, such poverty on the other, that the hope of winning the one and of escaping the other crept up to the very altar like a god invisible. But with the children’s children of those unions how will it be? Life is simplified for a man who is blind. For me at least the war overseas, abruptly as a thunderbolt, has cut off the past from the future. I am between, and I am in the dark. I look ahead, and it seems to me that even now there begins to appear in mighty outlines, vague and dim, the world of these children and their sons. Great wealth and poverty are not there. What then? A perfect brotherhood? Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, all in mellow glow? Far from it. Rather the hard clear light of early dawn, and climbers up a mountain side – builders, workers, seekers, dreamers – meeting the old obstacles, Greed, Envy, Sloth and many more – rocks in the path to the perfect day….