Where Are They Tending?

The tale ends with a question mark, a much bigger note of interrogation than most Europeans realise. For it is not merely the question of whether Ethiopia and its gallant king will survive. Far more is at stake than that. The course of this war may determine whether or not all Europe is to return to the jungle.

So far the Italians are checked. The Emperor has kept iron control upon his men and serious engagements have been few. It has been left for the deserts and the mountains and the rains to hold up the Italian advance though the Ethiopians have fought with fine courage on occasion.

Meanwhile the question of sanctions is argued in Europe, postponements and evasions playing a large part in that argument. But it is not to the political manoeuvrings that the eyes of most of us must turn but to the desolate regions where two bodies of men are being driven by fate to a death grapple, where the youth of Italy in their mis­guided enthusiasm are marching to horrible death and where the flower of Ethiopia are doomed to perish in defence of their country.

It is for the European to realise what is happening in the hills and to say that it must cease—not for the sake of Ethiopia nor for the sake of Italy, but because the high destiny of humanity is outraged by so blind and so useless and so terrible a struggle.

The conscience of civilisation must say to the attacker “You are making civilisation ridiculous, you are insulting the intelligence of the human race by claiming that the benefits of civilisation can be spread in such a manner....”

But where is the conscience of civilisation? The answer must surely be that it is now in the keeping of the English-speaking peoples. A sure word from them, clear and unequivocal, can rally all the scattered decency of humanity to demand that the war shall stop.

And if this war is stopped surely it will be easier to stop the next war that threatens?

If by allowing Ethiopia to perish civilisation might be saved statesmen might well let events take their course. But it is clear that if Ethiopia goes down fighting and the powers who pledged her integrity make no sincere move to aid her, then not just one scrap of paper is torn in pieces but every agreement between nations becomes in one moment void.

The war has dragged. The papers that hoped for sensations have relegated news from the front to the less important pages. Newspaper readers are bored with the war, we are told. It is a dangerous boredom, for if it permits the League to betray Ethiopia civilisation may suffer its last betrayal.

The armies of two nations march amid the rocks of Abyssinia. But this war is more than that.

See in the rocks of the world
Marches the host of mankind
A feeble wavering line.
Where are they tending...?

Haile Selassie has surely been called to a strange destiny. The ruler of a small, distant, and backward people, he has suddenly become in his desperate struggle a symbol of civilisation with its back to the wall.

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Emperor Haile Sellassie First Theocracy Reign
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July 21, 2021