The Great Challenge Facing the West

Today more or less everywhere -- in the Far East, India, South America, South Africa -- industrial regions are in being, or coming into being, which, owing to their low scales of wages, confront us with a deadly competition. The unassailable privileges of the white nations have been thrown away, squandered, betrayed. The others have caught up with their instructors. Possibly -- with the cunning of the colored races and the over-ripe intelligence of their ancient civilizations -- they have surpassed them.

Where there is coal, petroleum or water-power, there a new weapon can be forged against the heart of Faustian [Western] civilization. The exploited world is beginning to take its revenge on its masters. The countless hands of the colored races -- at least as clever, and far less demanding -- will shatter the economic organization of the whites at its foundation. The accustomed luxury of the white worker, in contrast to that of the coolie, will be his doom. The labor of the white is itself becoming superfluous. The huge masses of men centered in the Northern coal areas, the great industrial works, the capital invested in them, whole cities and districts, threaten to succumb to the competition. The center of gravity of production is steadily shifting away from them, especially given that even the colored races' respect for the whites came to an end with the [First] World War. This is the real and final basis of the unemployment that prevails in the white countries. It is no mere crisis, but the beginning of a catastrophe ...

Faced as we are with this destiny, there is only one world-outlook that is worthy of us, that which has already been mentioned as the Choice of Achilles -- better a short life, full of deeds and glory, than a long life without content. Already the danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every nation, that to cherish any illusion whatever is deplorable. The march of time cannot be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or clever renunciation. Only dreamers believe there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice.

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died at his post during the eruption of Vesuvius because someone forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one that can not be taken from a man.

-- Oswald Spengler, Der Mensch und die Technik (Munich: C.H. Beck: 1931), pages 86-89.