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Against uncertain fates

Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)
Torgny Segerstedt,1940. Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)

"Each lineage has had its burden to bear. Tired and disappointed, they have all, one after the other, sunk into oblivion and night. But ever new springs have blossomed, and new generations come to life." - Torgny Segerstedt

Rarely has the arrival of spring been celebrated under a gloomier outlook than that which now darkens the future. A deafening gloom is spreading over the world, gripping people after people. In fever and frostbite, they work to prepare for the great war they see approaching. No one knows what weapons their neighbours have at their disposal. In the laboratories they experiment with poisonous gases. Ingenious minds devise ways to kill as many living beings as possible in the fastest way possible. The creative imagination, overcoming the inhibitions of distance, works in the service of killing. Wills are made to endure the service of the perishing machines. Coals are stretched for new warships. Cannons are cast. Flying machines are constructed. Bombs are made.

In fear of what is to come, the peoples will let their freedom and self-determination be endangered. Everywhere, people are rising up to proclaim that societies must be organized to withstand the strain that lies ahead. It is not good enough for forces to be squandered in the face of friction between different strata and opposing interests. Every nation must follow the example of the Romans, who, when the very existence of the fatherland was at stake, placed all power in the hands of one man. Only when one man uses all the resources of the nation without resistance can it effectively assert itself.

In the spirit of terror, work is being done on the organisation of this society after the demands of war. Out of such thoughtlessness nothing good and viable grows. And there is no doubt that it is precisely this attitude of society towards war and transformation according to the demands of war supply which has brought about the present imminent danger of war.

The dark clouds of war wreath the entire fortress. No one can say where or how the discharge will come. It may come in the Far East. If lightning strikes over there, the fire will quickly spread across the Pacific and set America ablaze. Over Siberia and Russia it will spread to Europe. What its reverberations will be here, no one knows. Nor can anyone now figure out how this world fire will affect India, Near East Asia and Africa. Here the prospect of world-historical upheavals of a totally incalculable scope is opening up.

Lightning can ignite at closer range. This does not mean that the fire is less hardening. Just as the revolver shot by the little gymnasist in the godforsaken little Bosnian town on 28 June 1914 sparked off a world war, so an attack on Austria or a clash between some of the states carved out of the Habsburg Dual Monarchy will undoubtedly spark off a new world war.

It is with these perspectives in mind that we celebrate this year the day that by age signifies the coming of spring. By age we let the spring winds carry words of hope and confidence in the future. The student youth sings of their bright future. The workers march in close ranks to give visible expression to the demands and dreams of the great masses for a happier state of the world. This year it is no longer just a question of hopes for the future. It is a question of defending and protecting positions already achieved. For the forces which threaten to ignite the conflagration of war are forming themselves into storm columns to conquer and demolish the defences and strongholds of freedom which have been built on the foundations of the Constitution. It is incumbent on all of us to beat back the onslaught.

Each lineage has had its burden to bear. Tired and disappointed, they have all, one after the other, sunk into oblivion and night. But ever new springs have blossomed, and new generations have come to life. Ever anew the song of youth has tinged towards a bright future or echoed its defiance against the threatening dangers.

We all have to make our choice, the choice between looking only at the tangible and trying to adapt to the conditions of life that are offered, or wrapping ourselves around the standards of ideas. It may seem excessive and impractical to join the ranks of those who raise the standards of justice. It thins in hard times. Success may not follow the old torn orifices. And yet the youth who, discouraged, seeks other banners, misses the essence of life. It does not escape the strain, the uproarious struggle, the gradual approach of death. It does not avoid the disappointments and disappointments, nor any of the evil that sometimes threatens to suffocate us. But it does leave all those things that give meaning to life and reconcile its evils. It misses the living spirit, which runs intangibly through events and things, and which flees from every one who does not feed its flame from the innermost parts of his own soul. Only he who, in anguish and distress, allows himself to be consumed by the Holy Spirit, who is the human element in human life, ever senses the peace that surpasses all understanding, ever glimpses the majesty that passes through life.

The world is going dark. It is a life-and-death struggle for or against freedom and justice, for or against all that dreamers and poets have given us of the glitter of ideas, for or against faith in the eternal humanity of men.

Happy the youth whom ideas call and who obey their call. If it goes forth under blue banners or under blood-red, if it works in this or that sphere of life, if it only, believing in the right of spirit, of thought, of good will, defies the crowds that rise from the abysses of the past, let it be praised tenfold happy. Defiance here is the self-exaltation of the human, and it can overcome death. Happy all who fight for the highest, the only thing that gives life substance, the human. The inexhaustible glory of spring, the impenetrable meaningfulness of life, surrounds them, even if they struggle against the smoke of rage.

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