Friendship, Native Country, Humanity
( Originally Published 1914 )
I. The feeling of friendship makes us grow morally. Love, under all its forms, renders us better. The heart is ennobled in the yearning toward others. It might be said that it grows in proportion as love or friendship brings into it new objects of endearment. The more a heart is elevated, the better it feels the reflex of the services rendered, the affection poured forth outside. Crabbed minds like to diffuse poison into the noble joys of friendship and love. To these feelings of rare essence are op-posed commonplace friendships with their train of treacheries. We speak of feelings being exploited, of feelings being feigned. We even utter the word dupe, so harsh to our self-love. All these recriminations rest upon a false basis. We forget to bring into these calculations the value of the joys experienced. In friendship, as well as in love, the question of real ,importance is the joy we have derived from the feeling. We have been betrayed. What does that matter! No one can deprive us of the emotions we have enjoyed. The past is ours. It cannot be torn from our souls.
Services rendered have never been paid by reciprocity! But we forget the pleasure experienced at the moment when it was possible for us to oblige the sister-soul. That is the supreme reward of the act.
II. The ancients took into account the importance of friendship for the better operation of the government. According to Aristotle, friendship is even superior to justice for, "suppose," he tells us, " that men are united by. friendship, there would be no need of justice; but supposing them to be just, there would still be need of friendship." According to Horace, nothing is comparable, in the judgment of the sage, to an agreeable friend. "Even the shadow of a friend," Menander sang, "renders man happy."
Montaigne, whose friendship for La Boétie was most touching, cries, in speaking of the man who was dearer to him than his glory and his life: "I would certainly have more willingly trusted myself to him than to myself."
Montaigne also relates this pretty anecdote of classical friendship:
Eudamidas, a Corinthian, had two friends, Charixenus and Areteus. On his death-bed, being poor, Eudamidas made his will thus:
"I bequeath to Areteus to feed and support my mother in her old age; to Charixenus to arrange my daughter's marriage and to give her a dowry as large as he can furnish, and in case either of the two should die, I put in his place the survivor."
One of the two men having died, Areteus fulfilled the legacy of his deceased friend.
III. Coarse calculation, having become the basis of our actions, excluded through its establishment the highest joys. The deceptions which followed are all the more painful because we are the principal culprits. We have made a sacrifice of money or of troublesome deeds with a view to another service which was not rendered. It is as if we had purchased a security on the stock exchange with the expectation of a speedy rise. The advance did not take place. The business itself failed. The blundering speculator has only himself to blame. But what connection is there between this unsuccessful operation and the friend-ship or love which seek and find the profit in their own existence? They realise both their capital and the interests of their acts a hundred-fold in the very moment when they perform these.
Such is the situation of the .parents, friends, husbands and wives, children, lovers, with regard to the services rendered to the beings who were or are dear to their hearts.
The disappointments caused by friendship or any other crushed affection are doubtless painful, but we forget the delights experienced during the continuance of the tie.
IV. The admiration which we lavish on our neighbours is also a source of higher pleasures. There is something infinitely sweet in the flight of this feeling, rising toward beings whom we believe to be our superiors. We then live a double existence, above all, we live a higher life, which bears us toward the summits of the ideal. One might almost speak of the delight of admiration. Happy are those who can maintain admiration in all its fulness. Those who thus feel it are often more to be envied than its beneficiaries. Yet a day may come when our admiration vanishes. We have bestowed it upon those who are unworthy. Let us console ourselves. No one can deprive us of the benefit of having admired, as no one can deprive us of the joys stored in the depths of our souls.
V. The native country is only the enlargement of the family. The quality which gives to man a privileged position is precisely this faculty of going out of himself, of passing beyond his own narrow life to project it toward, and to mingle it with, the life of others. Kind nature has surrounded the exercise of this privilege with all her cares. It is sweet to be loved, but it is also necessary to love. Man cannot live isolated. Compelled to lean upon others, he finds in this support the charm and the foundation of his own existence. What the family is to the child, the native country afterward becomes to the man. It is through the love we feel for our native land that we again find the higher pleasures of existence.
We labour for our native country and we benefit by its Intellectual and moral greatness. We profit by its language, its institutions, its laws, its protection, its thought.
"Whoever should believe himself independent of others, in his affections, his thoughts, and his deeds," August Comte tells us, "could not even formulate such a blasphemy, without an instant contradiction, because his very language is not his own. "'
The same thought applies to all the elementary ideas in the science of life. All that man possesses, all that benefits him, comes from others, and he enjoys these privileges, thanks to others' aid.
Patriotism, aware of its duties and of its purposes, is of recent birth. But from its very inception, it has developed. Its essence is modified in conformity with the changes that are coming over modern life. Spiteful and exclusive, dreaming only of quarrelling, patriotism is growing more and more peaceful and anxious for human dignity. The patriotism of men of intellect and of heart invites fraternally the patriotism of their neighbours, all patriotisms, to rival one another in the domain of the conquests of labour and of opinion. After murderous wars, the peoples are understanding better and better the horrors of war, and the cruelties of conquests. The respect which labour inspires, as well as the increasing importance of labourers, will only strengthen international harmony. The leaders of the nations, and the nations themselves, publicly render homage to peace and demand her reign. Her decisive triumph is approaching, but is not yet a reality. There will doubtless be more wars, which are lying in wait for us, like the last flames of a dying fire. As those who provoke them will be barbarians, in comparison with those who will be obliged to endure them and to defend themselves, it is important to be strong, in order not to be sub-merged by this new invasion of the anti-humane elements.
General disarmament is an ideal which we shall not reach without still remaining for a long time armed.
The moral progress which is everywhere asserting itself also proceeds from the overturning of the ancient international practices, based upon lies, spoliation, and acts of brigandage. A rupture occurred between backward diplomacy and the peoples moving forward. This scission manifested itself chiefly during the last war of the Balkans. It is the honesty of the nations which, having profited by the immoral inclinations of diplomacy, saved us a European war. But, since diplomacy is no longer a career of caste, but is fully opened to all the social classes, it will, in its turn, be elevated. Renovated by the new moral currents which are appearing in every domain, it will understand better the advantages of virtue, and will end by realising the idea so eloquently expressed by Theodore Roosevelt' that mankind possesses worth only through love. It is inadmissible that a nation could treat other nations differently from the manner in which an honest man treats other men.
The more we love, the higher we rise in the human scale; faith and the ideal still remain the most powerful levers of progress and of happiness.
I. If patriotism should vanish from the earth, it would need to be reborn.
Religions are weakening, we are told—another reason for not diminishing the patrimony of the ideal, in which grow and flower the forces of life. Patriotism adorns our existence. It has procured and still procures for us the highest motives of living and acting. But there is patriotism and patriotism.
The patriotism of former times consisted chiefly in hatred of neighbouring nations, in the desire to humiliate, to conquer, or to destroy them. Human solidarity has suppressed these antiquated ideas. Modern patriotism leads us to love our own country fervently, without hating the country of our neighbours. We understand better and better that our own safety depends, not only on ourselves, but also on the people by whom we are surrounded.
Abstract thought and economical interests find themselves brought nearer, in spite of frontiers. For the genius of the foreigner gives us indescribable joys, as his material wealth secures us numberless delights and pleasures. We cannot imagine a man living happily in the midst of unfortunates who are starving to death. Neither can a people prosper among nations reduced to poverty and slavery.
In contributing to the moral and material greatness of the native country, we are working at the same time for mankind. For the happiness of all fatherlands is formed of the happiness of all their constituent elements.
Patriotism thus conceived finds its sanction in the necessity of ensuring its triumph and its duration. When any country whatever strives to destroy international harmony, it is the duty and the right of the others to defend the nation that is threatened. International peace, the essential condition of happiness, can be founded only upon the mutual respect of the peoples and of their rights. Pacific evolution, with obligatory arbitration and other institutions of the same nature, has no other object, tacitly pursued, or loudly acknowledged.
The march to the star often renders us giddy. Those who have attained it should not forget that the point in question is not to destroy fatherlands, but to bring them nearer to one another. So long as the law of justice does not reign between nation and nation as it is supposed to reign between man and man, the fatherland will remain the sole source whence flow the possibilities of our existence.
Yet the fatherland is not always equally gentle and, especially, equally just toward all its children.
Nothing under the sun is perfect!
But it would be as senseless to set fire to a city because our house was not satisfactory in all respects, as to wish to destroy a fatherland, on the pretext that some of its citizens possessed greater privileges than others. To develop, we must live. In the present state of affairs, patriot-ism continues the essential food upon which the peoples live. From this arises the necessity for the army and armies, and the duty of each citizen, however humanitarian he may be, to contribute, not only to the moral and intellectual grandeur, but also to the material defence of his native land.
We know what the State is; but what is the fatherland?
The fatherland is the community of moral and material interests which unite the inhabitants of a country, based, moreover, upon the desire to belong to the same native land. Lack of this desire makes a native of Alsace-Lorraine or a Pole of Posen not a patriotic German, just as an inhabitant of Trentino is an Italian though an Austrian citizen. Often it is enough to be aware that we belong to a certain country and to collaborate in its greatness, to be a genuine patriot. Under these conditions, a black or a yellow man, a Christian, a Jew, or a Pagan, but imbued with French ideas, becomes a French patriot, or penetrated with American feelings, an American patriot.
A long tradition undoubtedly gives great cohesion to the unity of aspirations and of feelings. But an enlightened conscience supplies the lack of time. And the conscience or, if the word is preferable, knowledge, is of greater value, in many cases, than the irrational voice of the vanished generations.
It is the lack of comprehension that frequently facilitates and provokes the abandonment of the native land for a misty humanity or the class interest, no less vague, which we christen by the name of the fatherland of the toilers. Without an enlightened conscience, there can be no elevated patriotism. Conscience alone can lead us to the international fraternity founded upon the peaceful rivalry of human aspirations which will probably always remain differentiated by the conditions of the surrounding environment.
Contestable and discussed elsewhere, the duty of being a patriot is manifesting itself especially in France and is becoming evident to every French-man:
This arises from the fact that, in all the ages, the greatness of France has mingled with the progress of humanity. The genius of her history always made her wage war for the benefit of other peoples. Even the conception of mankind as the prolongation of the fatherland is, pre-eminently, the work of the great Revolution.
After the misfortunes of the Terrible Year, the beautiful humanitarian dreams underwent a visible decline. A second war disastrous to France would deal for ages a mortal blow to human solidarity.
"If we sought to heap up," Michelet has said somewhere, "what each nation has from disinterested motives expended in gold, in blood, and in efforts of every description for objects which could serve only the world at large, the pyramid of France would rise to the heavens."
That is why all the nations, great or small, aside from the mean calculations of diplomacy, desire a France that is strong within and without. Instinctively, they all share in the evolution of her life. The weaker and, perhaps for that very reason, the more sympathetic ones, loudly admit that they have two fatherlands, their own and France. The same thing occurs frequently, in Russia or in the South American republics, that have only love for France, with so much ardour that it becomes touching. Patriotism, in its noble modern meaning, having nothing in common with hatred of the foreigner, or prejudice of race or religion, is assured of a long continuance.
This is particularly true of French patriotism, the necessary refuge of all the humanitarians. It will perhaps survive all the others, provided France remains faithful to her historic genius, which has made her the first, because the best beloved, of the nations.
II. Mankind is on a higher elevation than our native land. To attain its heights a very lofty soul is required, but, in the present condition of society, that elevation can be reached only through love for our native land. When we love our country intelligently and humanely, we also love the human family. Then we understand that human happiness depends on the great solidarity of human beings and tends toward the closer and closer unification of peoples, races, and creeds. Before reaching this Paradise, there is a long and toilsome road to traverse. "Let everything go!" cry those who are impulsive and impatient, "and move toward those heavenly regions." This haste entails numerous perils. We must not act as if the goal in view were already attained.
In this march forward, the peoples resemble a gang of workmen engaged in felling a giant tree. If the ropes are loosed before the favourable moment, the tree falls back with all its weight and inflicts fatal injuries. A balloon is permitted to rise toward the heights only when it is sufficiently inflated and has power enough to maintain itself in the air. By acting otherwise, we should provoke an inevitable catastrophe, entailing, with the destruction of the aerostat, that of the passengers.
It is the same with countries as with private property. Their destruction may figure in a dream of future humanity. But beware of those who would desire to destroy henceforth their beneficent forces, which are necessary to the progress of mankind.
III. Happiness thus finds numberless benefits in the vast domain of the affections. Its frontiers, accessible to all, extend very far, offering a delightful and hospitable shelter to all who desire to seek its refuge. All visitors receive the same welcome. Rich or poor, sovereign or slave, can draw the same amount of joys from family tenderness, friendship, or love. Doubtless special favours are reserved for refined sensibilities. But, by dint of exercising affectionate feelings, we all arrive at the same .degree of perfection. The simple heart of a field-labourer can rise to heights of loving which are inaccessible to a prince of the intellect. For we improve while loving, and the sources of love are found within us all.