The Hope of Things to Come
THE SMYRNA DISASTER was unquestionably one of the most tragic pages in recorded history up to that time. Families of decent, peace-loving people were violently disrupted. Countless innocents perished miserably. A million and a half humans were brutally uprooted from the homes where their forefathers had dwelled for centuries on centuries, to be thrust usually into circumstances far harsher than any they had ever known before.
And yet, can we not say, looking back through the years, that certain good resulted from that awful calamity? At the time, it is true, the terrible aftermath of the Smyrna Disaster seemed to present insoluble problems. But in the end, the homeless were sheltered, the hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, the bereft were comforted, and the Greek nation was welded into a new-found, proud unity.
Those who helped in Greece in those unhappy days following the Greco-Turkish War—workers of Near East Relief, Near East Foundation, the Red Cross, the Refugee Settlement Commission, the Rockefeller Foundation and other humane organizations witnessed that rebirth.
They saw a people suddenly become aware of their great responsibilities, their vast opportunities for the future as they remembered their honorable and historic heritage. They could hardly foresee that these Greeks were destined to lift themselves, as the saying goes, by their own bootstraps.
We of Near East Foundation, perhaps more clearly and graphically than others, saw a largely unlettered, poverty-stricken peasantry begin to wrest an improved living from the weary soil, to grow better crops, raise better animals, build better homes, and contribute mightily toward a better Greece and a better world.
Much of that hard-won improvement we witnessed has been obliterated, unfortunately, since the Italian invaders marched without provocation from the stolen mountains of Albania. Still more has been lost since the so-called HerrenvolJc finished the dirty job the Italians were not able to do, and began their campaign of systematic looting and starvation. Greece stood its ground manfully as the world so well knows, and for this display of national honor and clear-eyed courage the Greeks were paid off in an unspeakably cruel coin.
But this sad state of affairs shall not endure. Already there is a mighty rumbling in Europe, from France to the Ukraine, from Norway to Macedonia. The clear voice of liberty has sounded a challenge to the foe around the world. Free men and women everywhere are working feverishly, risking their lives and fortunes, to hasten the day when Greece, and all the oppressed nations of the earth, will once more throw off the bonds of slavery and the shackles of tyranny.
Some day, perhaps much sooner than heavy hearts expect, peace will come. A true peace and a just peace, we hope, so that everywhere on this battle-scarred globe men can return to their wives and children and take up the quiet pursuits they love. Yes, from the blood and sweat and tears of this devastating war will come the Great Peace, and men will, we prayerfully hope, recognize at last their brotherhood under God.
To achieve such a peace will be no easy thing. It will call for the clearest and most enlightened thinking and acting which civilization has ever demanded of itself. We shall have to do better, by far, than our ancestors ever did throughout the war-littered pages of history.
That this is the sort of peace which people in all lands desire and are prepared to make great sacrifices to attain is now apparent in the many committees and organizations and government bodies planning to formulate exactly just such a peace.
It is obvious, first of all, that much of the world will have to be rebuilt upon entirely new foundations. Whole nations have been destroyed, some of them perhaps irreplaceably. Thousands upon thousands of homes must needs be reestablished. Millions of disrupted lives must be reoriented.
It is quite clear, therefore, that when the war is finally over, the greatest job of rehabilitation ever undertaken by mankind must be started at once. Necessarily, this will begin with straight relief for the continent of Europe, the extent of which even at this writing staggers the imagination. Furthermore large reaches of Asia and Africa will emerge from the war unclad, famine-swept, and utterly disorganized.
There is no denying that this period of direct relief will be a tremendous drain upon the resources of men and women and nations everywhere. If devastated Europe and war-torn Africa and impoverished, embittered Asia are to be rescued from chaos, it will be the sacred duty of the rest of the world to pinch and save and help unstintingly until catastrophic disintegration has been successfully averted.
But this period of direct relief must be as short as it is humanly possible to make it. We must exercise the utmost care to see to it that philanthropic organizations do not continue their well-meaning charity for any reason, either private or public, a day or an hour longer than is absolutely necessary.
As soon as it is at all feasible, the program of emergency relief should be supplanted by an intelligent, aggressive, and planned schedule of scientific rehabilitation. In fact, with purposeful planning the two ideas should go hand in hand. With the first sea and air shiploads of food, medicine, and clothing should go tested seeds for the new and better crops, semen from high grade animals for large scale artificial insemination of native livestock, iron and steel for the repair and renovation of those simple farm tools that are commonly used in so many parts of the world. And the men and women who are chosen to help distribute these first emergency supplies should be selected, for the most part, on the basis of their qualifications for the more exacting task of sound and permanent reconstruction.
It is heartening indeed to observe that the various governments of the United Nations are, even as these words are being written, launching vast programs of training for the numerous types of leaders who will be necessary for undertaking successfully large-scale reconstruction. Already there is great activity, preparing the hundreds and hundreds of agriculturists, doctors, home welfare workers, hygienists, recreational supervisors, sanitationists, and other competent specialists whom the various unfortunate countries will so desperately need.
More hopeful still is the fact that, in addition to all of this, leaders are being trained in governmental procedure and for the humane post-war occupation of enemy lands, so that, as soon as practicable, people living in those lands may absorb the democratic processes and be accepted as members of a growing family of peaceful nations to the end that differences may be adjusted amicably through international laws which recognize justice and morality and the needs of humanity.
It is only thus that we shall finally bring to a close the crippling cycles of wars, and be able to devote ourselves and our energies toward making this a better world in which all men can live freely and fully and happily.
As for Macedonia—well, we must not permit ourselves to dwell over-long on the recent past. It is better that we meditate chiefly on the hope of things to come. And yet, as we try optimistically to think of a brighter future we are entitled, I am sure, to a fleeting backward glance. The achievements in Macedonia were solid and real. The results were measurable and abundant and seemingly permanent. The processes of integration had been completed; certain sections of the program were well on the way to full assimilation in the case of other parts of the work. A people had been uplifted. Inspired leadership had arisen to carry on into what promised to be a bright, happy future.
Much of that progress, we know to our sorrow, has been swept into the limbo in the dreadful years of war and famine and Nazi occupation. A dark curtain has developed the whole country. No longer can we communicate directly with those efficient rural leaders of whom we were so tremendously proud. We do not even know for certain that they are still alive. If they have managed somehow to survive, we can no longer be sure that they have been able to remain steadfast. Perhaps the lash in the mailed fist of the heartless conqueror dealt more powerful punishment than their brave hearts could withstand. Maybe economic pressures were such as to force them to accede to terms and conditions which would have been scornfully refused in the days when we knew them so well. If this perchance should be the hellish fate of some of those Greek friends we loved, may we be understanding in that day of judgment yet to come; much more to the point, perhaps, is the prayer that the long-suffering Greeks themselves may be truly forgiving of one another when the dark days of occupation are finally ended.
Let us hold to the firm conviction that all has not been lost. We believe that in the quickening future, when a free Macedonian farmer stands once more in his own ancient fields, his mattock in his hand, he will recall some little trick that Economou or Harlamides may have taught him, some little improvement that one of Martha Parrott's intelligent girls introduced into his home, a fountain of full-flowing water that he himself helped Koskinides to build, a bare school yard transformed by the playground equipment of Theodore Pays.
We feel certain that when plodding oxen once more pull their ancient plows slowly but firmly through the historic soil of a freed Greece, hundreds of men will remember that this was the field where vetch grew so well, over there was the plot most suitable for hemp, yonder stood the bumper crops of improved cotton. Someone will recall, we are sure, that the strain of sesame seed best suited to his earth came from such and such a village, and that this breed of swine and that type of poultry throve in the happy days before the war.
We believe also that the leadership we helped to develop among our Greek associates was of such imperishable stuff that even war, pestilence, and the hard heel of the oppressor have not sufficed to snuff it out, but rather, given a new opportunity, it will bloom all the faster and better because of its repression, like a fruit tree that makes heavy growth after vigorous pruning.
In short, let us hope now, as we hoped then, that the improved farm and home practices we introduced were so thoroughly assimilated that they had become parts of the hands and hearts and minds of the Macedonian farmers, and thus could never utterly vanish; that the delicate processes of integration were far enough along so that sound methods of rural education will be immediately instituted by competent agencies of the government when Greece is again free to act; that virile seeds of intelligent, consecrated leadership may have been sown broadcast throughout the ancient hills and valleys of Paul's Macedonia to rejuvenate the whole country in the happier days to come.
Let us hope, too, that when the devastated parts of Europe and the rest of the world are ready for rehabilitation, those who engage in the great work need not waste time in discovering for themselves anew "the wisdom of the untutored peasant." For, if nothing else, the Macedonian program proved for all who care to learn that a people will lift themselves out of the slough of poverty and ignorance and low living standards if they understand and trust and believe and are given the simple means of improvement.
It is to help in that direction that this book has been written. The ten-year development in rural reconstruction which we have presented here was thoroughly tested and tried. It passed through various phases until those who were a part of it could see that their approach was sound, their methods practical and the results truly better than they had hoped to attain.
We reiterate in these final paragraphs the same simple statement we made in the first—that the techniques evolved and elaborated in rural Macedonia should be widely applicable in the post-war world. When human suffering is to be alleviated, speed and efficiency and common sympathy require that there be as little experimentation as possible.
Ahead of us lies the greatest challenge which mankind has ever faced. Every man, woman and child in the world, in villages and cities, on farms, in factories, in homes, in every clime, under every flag — Moslem, Jew. Brahmin, Taoist, Christian or whatever — will have a chance to help meet that need. And with God’s help, we will accept the challenge.
This is our hope of the things that must come.
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