THE NEXT HALF-CENTURY
THE twentieth century so far has not been a credit to the human race. True, a number of emperors have disappeared, which from the point of view of 1793 would be adjudged a gain. But the results have not always been happy. There are those who may doubt whether Stalin is much better for the world than Nicholas II, whether Hitler was a great improvement on Kaiser Wilhelm, and even (greatly daring) whether Hirohito was much worse than MacArthur. In any case, these tranfers were somewhat expensive. Each of them cost many millions of human lives, many billions of dollars, much abasement of the currency of civilization. There were also special horrors, such as the extermination of Jews, the deliberate starvation of Russian peasants, and the invention of the terror of atomic death. These, so far, are the achievements of the twentieth century. There is a risk, a very imminent risk that, glorious as these achievements are, they will sink into insignificance beside those of the next few years. As I write, I do not know--no one knows--whether London and New York will still exist six months hence. I do not knowno one else of my age in Western Europe knows--whether the children and the grandchildren upon whom care has been lavished will survive another twelve months. I do not know, and no one else knows what, if anything, will be left of the structure of Western civilization which has been slowly built up from the time of Homer. All this is in doubt. All this depends upon the degree of hysteria in the United States, on the courage of Truman, the independence of Western Europe, and the good or bad temper of the Politbureau. I will not venture to prophesy; I will consider only what, if the immediate crisis can be successfully passed, can and should be done to make the future less precarious.
The first and most important thing concerning which I shall have much to say is a change of outlook on the part of Western statesmen and the Western public. We have allowed ourselves to be hypnotized by fear. When I say 'fear', I do not mean a rational apprehension of danger. Undoubtedly there is danger; undoubtedly the danger is imminent and terrible. But dangers are not averted by terror; they are averted by calm thought. A captain who finds his ship in danger of sinking is expected to
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Publication information: Book title: The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959. Contributors: Robert E. Egner - Editor, Lester E. Denonn - Editor, Bertrand Russell - Author. Publisher: Simon and Schuster. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1961. Page number: 704.
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