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THE REGIMENTATION OF THE FREE—WOODS 5
up by the war, as they rise through the hierarchy of neighborhood, city, state, nation. Then comes the response to the wider call of a great brotherhood of nations. In particular do we all find a sense of inescapable fellowship with those who, principally in the name of the Red Cross, have gone from among us to rescue Belgium from starvation, to minister to immortal France, to bring help and confidence to Italy at the moment of her military disaster, and to be integrated into service for the American army abroad as it grows toward its full and decisive power.
The process of the war has meant to nearly all social agencies in common a readjustment as radical as that which any of our business organizations have undergone. A large proportion of the young men of their staffs have gone gladly into the fighting ranks. A host of young women have volunteered for service behind the front, and a greater number is ready on call. Many of our experienced leaders have at a moment's notice left their established posts and carried their special skill and training into fields connected with the re-enforcement or the recuperation of the army. Here, too, many others await only the summons of duty before choosing service having some more immediate bearing upon the urging forward of the war.
From three of our great fields of activity there have been drawn not only a large number of individuals but important fabrics of tradition and going concern. The American Red Cross has naturally wrought into its inherent organization those physicians and nurses who have been most closely associated with the interests of the National Conference. But an even more suggestive fact is that at home and in considerable measure abroad it owes its remarkable balance, its thorough preparedness, and its preliminary record of achievement, to the fact that it has appropriated and pieced together great sections of the system reaching throughout the country for the organization of charity. No more serious test of any voluntary agency has ever been made, and none so quickly and soundly responded to. In a newer department of war service, the administrative forces of the National Playground Association are finding the culmination of their motive in being so largely absorbed into the services of the army. They are undertaking, with the help of representatives of our neighborhood centres, to protect and enhance the morale and buoyant spirit of the soldiers, not merely as men but as fighting units, by seeing to it that the whole vicinage into which the soldiers emerge as they leave the camps is such as to provide for them healthful and ennobling cheer and joy in their times of relaxation—a remarkable application to the prosecution of war of a principle in social construction which the last decade or two has been developing under the lead of our newer agencies of social work. Perhaps, most striking of all is the complete absorption into the uniformed ranks of the greater part of the staff of the national associations for mental hygiene and for social hygiene, undertakings of only a few years' standing, whose very vocabulary could not have had currency a decade ago; with profound emancipating results not only for the virile tone and effective standards of the army and navy, but toward a permanent higher level of stamina and sentiment in our communities and throughout the nation from this time forward.
Within similar close range of the foremost problems of sufficiency at war, lies the service to the government of not a few of those men from business organizations on the one hand, and from the universities on the other, who, as volunteers, are acquitting themselves in a spirit of which thewhole nation is proud. Many of them already in the past have been of our fellowship. It is a fair question whether all of them have not acted in part but definitely under an impulse which the volunteer in social work has largely served to create. In not a few instances, particularly where new and complicated labor problems in munition work and ship-building have to be solved, they are within a field toward which the more recent development of interest in the Conference strongly runs.
To many of us those who make a clean and sharp diversion of their services toward the support of the actual fighting forces are objects of envy. Men and women responsibly bound up with our regular agencies and continuous programs are facing anxious personal problems amid the claims of the war. It sometimes seems that there should be a universal draft, and that we all should be assigned to such duty as the exigent needs of the hour demanded. With regard to doctors and nurses a situation is fast developing in which some balance will have to be set between the call from the front and the necessities of some of our local communities. Possibly a priority board could be created which could establish certain general principles through which convincing decisions could be made between the relative claims of the military and affiliated service on the one hand, and of the maintenance of the vitality and morale of the sustaining home forces on the other. Let it be clearly understood, in any case, that the imperative quality of the challenge to personal purpose grows cumulatively stronger as it comes from points nearer and nearer the front. All the benefit of the doubt goes in that direction. Our regular agencies, and the individuals that constitute them, must be prepared, even above others, on due occasion, gladly to make every last sacrifice for the sake of that final onset and tilt of military action which will bring the victory of honor and right.
"These ought ye to have done, but not to leave the other undone." Answering without stint to the call of the most aggressive military preparation and movement but drawing on those still vast reserves of personal and material resources that are being devoted to things not indispensable to the normal life, our regular agencies hold an indisputable claim for the steady continuance of nearly all of their accustomed work of community protection and upbuilding. During the stretch of time through which the war must continue in order to save the country, the country must be maintained. It must place close after the claims of the war itself, the demands which the very tragedy of the war makes upon us of preparedness for the period of reconstruction. But there is a more THE REGIMENTATION OF THE FREE WOODS 7
imminent right than these by which many of our agencies have won an inwrought place in the system of the war itself.
Herbert Spencer says: "The process of militant organization is a process of regimentation which primarily taking place in the army, secondarily affects the whole community." The first somewhat sporadic challenge to community regimentation came from the social workers who from within the army system sought to secure wholesome recreational standards for the soldiers, and began from that point of view to test and challenge the civilian order of things. The whole mood and front of the army in these respects has begun to register the result impressively; and through the quick and sure response of many of our community agencies, it has been the occasion of a new and better order of things affecting the restraint of the liquor trade and of prostitution, and the promotion in the interest of the soldier and sailor of many old and new forms of healthgiving community recreation. There has been remarkable depth and subtlety to that response as its scope has widened. In no previous decade, certainly in no previous generation, would it have been possible that every nook and corner of our cities, would have been under the close, responsible, friendly surveillance of men and women representing much that is best in our national life—that in this way the dangers to a nation at war coming from nests of dissipation, of contagious disease, of crime, of disloyalty, of espionage, of actual resistance to the government, could be everywhere effectively minimized.
Suggestive of a true national collectivism has been the universal reply of our varied agencies in every city and town where deliberate social work exists, to the all-inclusive nation-wide appeals and demands that the war has made. There can be but few of the thousands of organizations and institutions represented in the Conference which have not been more or less deeply and inevitably involved in the interpretation of the American purpose to our immigrant groups, in the adjustment of the heavy, endless problems that came with the draft, in local service more or less closely connected with the Red Cross, in the house-to-house campaign of education in food conservation, and in the organization of the local supply and delivery of coal. The first canvass in connection with the food conservation campaign, in which the task was to enlist every housewife in the country as a member of the national food administration, made the most remarkable educational round-up which the United States has ever seen. Mr. Hoover has said that the results of this and the later phases of his program indicate an altogether gratifying capacity of our people for a practically unanimous response to a universal summons. It is needless to say that so great an enterprise was directed and led after the manner and spirit of social work, not only in its large bearings but in the minute detail of individual interpretation and stimulus. It was the preparedness of that national army of the constructive humanities of which this Conference is the exponent that largely not only made possible a national community formation for the more obvious needs and purposes of war, but served to precipitate a new and special sentiment of solidarity, a new consciousness of vast associated power for human ends in relation to the war, in the minds of the American people. This result has been confirmed in the recognition on the part of national and state councils of defense that an important source of the collective energies which they are so successfully drawing out and harnessing, lies in the agencies of social work. This has been especially true of the services of women in these branches of the national war-time administration. Largely taken from the ranks of organizations already practiced in community betterment, they have followed out the standards set for the simpler undertakings of the women of the United States Sanitary Commission in the Civil War, who promised that supplies "should be sent forward abundantly, persistently and methodically," and performed what they promised.
With a measure of combined gratification and wonder we look at much that has been brought about through the downright application of democratic intelligence to our several war-time industrial issues. On the whole the contention of the social workers—in the light of English experience—that lowered standards for the protection of working conditions meant the decrease of national power in the national crisis, has been satisfactorily supported and acted upon. While a proper balance betwen wages and prices on the average has not been reached, we have seen the general recognition of the necessity of scaling wages up and of preventing the rise in living costs, which represents a principle that from now on can never fade out of our national life. The generous, unfailing provision for the men of the army and navy and their families, the scheme of government-aided insurance which has so appealed to their self-respect and gives so much promise of protecting the nation from the evils of a pension system—represent the working out of those elements of economic justice with economic responsibility which are the maxims of enlightened social work.
It is a quite thrilling aspect of the situation that just when in many different ways—including a cumulative tax on incomes—the principle is being established in terms of general sentiment and conviction that those who have much must reduce their scale of living, it is at the same time considered axiomatic that those whose standard is below normal must rise in the scale for the general good. We are like those that dream as we see the valleys begin to be exalted, the hills begin to be brought low— not by the action of bitter and venomous cross-purposes but under the united challenge of a nation unselfishly pledged to the triumph of worlddemocracy.
The war is our absorbing interest and pursuit. But we also have a nation soon to be guided through the vast uncertainties of an era of elemental world reconstruction. In the very midst of our immediate pressing concerns the question keeps rising: if all these things are now so possible, so well-nigh achieved—the regularization of employment, the THE REGIMENTATION OF THE FREE WOODS 9
establishment of a minimum status of well-being, the reduction of the favored classes to simplicity of life, the exorcism of industrial conflict and the allaying of the hatreds of class, race and sect, the concentration of all minds and all interests upon the increase of the national product, the elimination of leisure except as a respite from labor—why should it not always be so? Why not continue on into the years of peace this close, vast, wholesome organism of service, of fellowship, of creative power?
As the essential accompaniment of such progress, and as a result of the cleansing influence of the war, are we not fully ready for a large national program for a truly human administration of our courts, our reformatories, our prisons; for the wide extension of probation and parole in a system logical within and thoroughly integrated with all the preventive and recuperative forces of the open community; for the liberal development of hospital service, with that community follow-up work which is one of the combined triumphs of medical and social science; for the re-enforcement of those who are confronting one of the most disturbing aspects of the time as with ever-increasing intelligence they minister to the mind diseased; for the care in a great pity of the last unclassified residium of society in our pauper institutions. Coming at the chief immediate sources of degeneracy, the completion of the great anti-alcohol crusade has for us an irresistible compulsion; and the elimination of the feeble-minded strain from out of our national stock must soon take its place as one of the foremost articles of discerning statesmanship.
It is in a growing sense of predestined urgency that we are already bringing the new-found human alignment, nation-wide, to bear upon the problem and possibility of carrying little children more safe and sound through the first scene of a life-time whose coming burdens and opportunities must be immeasureable. Universal physical education and universal vocational training also force themselves upon us as policies to be urged forward under a momentum caught from the experiences of the war. Emphasis on projects of democratic utility must not, however, detract from increasing emphasis upon the education of children and of our whole people in the deeper appreciation of all that is pure and lovely and of good report, in that idealism in which our civilization has its roots and through which alone—as the deeper lessons of present history prove— it can hope to endure. Here must be found those springs of spiritual power which can bring all our cosmopolitan population into a true national fellowship, into a common devotion to the America that is to be —a consummation brought nearer as this great republic has now so completely laid aside its belated isolation and begun to play its full part under its highest and best motives among the nations of the earth.
To carry over into the future for its high ends the associated power which the war at once evolves and compels is a duty so profound that it stands indistinguishable from the objects of the war itself. That a country at war is overwhelmed by its own returning armies, whatever