CRISIS AT MID-CENTURY
Those in the mid-century audience who were graduated fifty years ago might well have looked forward with confidence to a lifetime of peace and prosperity A Nineteenth Century of relative peace and advancing prosperity then made plausible the liberal faith in inevitable and rational progress. And the First World War was a decade and a half away. Even the Class of 1925, despite one world war and postwar disillusionment, could hardly have envisaged the economic collapse of 1929, the rise of totalitarianism, and a second world war. But to us of the Class of 1950, the outlook is no longer optimistic. The chronic crisis of fifty years has dissipated the warm illusions of 1900 and the warmed-over illusions of 1925. And it is a crisis which seems to be taking a second wind as it enters the century's second half. . . .
This paradox of the Twentieth Century--the mushrooming of good and evil side by side--is easily illustrated. On the one hand, it has been a century of extraordinary material and scientific progress, of a remarkable lengthening of the human life span, of a widening of access to the world's cultural heritage from the very few to many more. It has been a half century of the emancipation of women, of the growth of democracy, of Wilsonian idealism and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
But it has also been a half century of trench warfare and totalitarianism; of depression and monopoly and waste; of Hitler and war and dive bombers and Dachau and Buchenwald; and of the Bolsheviki and the dictatorship of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It is not surprising that the collision of these contrary forces has been so smashing; nor is it clear that either is giving way. What is apparent is that the form of the struggle must change, though its substance perhaps cannot. One of the reassuring signs of the times is agreement upon what should not be the form of the struggle: war. The awful crescendo of the contest have been two world wars. Some heart may be taken in the certainly that neither East nor West can hopefully look forward to a bacterio-atomic war as the third great round. . . .
A policy of strength, of negotiation, and of promotion of the growth of the United Nations, may succeed in keeping the cold war within the confines of peaceful competition. The Class of 1950 may take hope in that prospect