"A Message To Garcia"
This literary trifle, A Message To Garcia, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour. It was on the 22nd of February, 1899, Washington's Birthday: we were just going to press with the March Philistine.
The thing leaped hot from my heart, written after a trying day, when I had been endeavoring to train some rather delinquent villagers to abjure the comatose state and get radioactive.
The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument over the teacups, when my boy Bert suggested that Rowan was the real hero of the Cuban War. Rowan had gone alone and done the thing - carried the message to Garcia.
It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right, the hero is the man who does his work - who carries the message to Garcia. I got up from the table, and wrote A Message To Garcia. I thought so little of it that we ran it in the Magazine without a heading. The edition went out, and soon orders began to come for extra copies of the March Philistine, a dozen, fifty, a hundred, and when the American News Company ordered a thousand, I asked one of my helpers which article it was that stirred up the cosmic dust. "It's the stuff about Garcia," he said.
The next day a telegram came from George H. Daniels, of the New York Central Railroad thus, "Give price on one hundred thousand Rowan article in pamphlet form - Empire State Express advertisement on back - also how soon can ship."
I replied giving price, and stated we could supply the pamphlets in two years. Our facilities were small and a hundred thousand booklets looked like an awful undertaking.
The result was that I gave Mr. Daniels permission to reprint the article in his own way. He issued it in booklet form in editions of half a million. Two or three of these half-million lots were sent out by Mr. Daniels, and in addition the article was reprinted in over two hundred magazines and newspapers. It has been translated into all written languages.
At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing A Message To Garcia, Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railways, was in this country. He was the guest of the New York Central, and made a tour of the country under the personal direction of Mr. Daniels. The Prince saw the little book and was interested in it, more because Mr. Daniels was putting it out in big numbers, probably, than otherwise. In any event, when he got home he had the matter translated into Russian, and a copy of the booklet given to every railroad employee in Russia.
Other countries then took it up, and from Russia it passed into Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China. During the war between Russia and Japan, every Russian soldier who went to the front was given a copy of A Message To Garcia. The Japanese, finding the booklets in possession of the Russian prisoners, concluded it must be a good thing, and accordingly translated it into Japanese.
And on an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to every man in the employ of the Japanese Government, soldier or civilian. Over forty million copies of A Message To Garcia have been printed. This is said to be a larger circulation than any other literary venture has ever attained during the lifetime of an author, in all history - thanks to a series of lucky accidents.
"A Message To Garcia"
by Elbert Hubbard 1899
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.
When war broke out between Spain and the United States it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba - no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do! Some one said to the President, "There's a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia - are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?"
By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing - "Carry a message to Garcia!"
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias. No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man - the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it.
Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office - six clerks are within call. Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio." Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?
On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions: Who was he? Which encyclopedia? Where is the encyclopedia? Was I hired for that? Don't you mean Bismarck? What's the matter with Charlie doing it? Is he dead? Is there any hurry? Sha'n't I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself? What do you want to know for?
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia - and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's, but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift -these are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future.
If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit oftheir effort is for all?
A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night holds many a worker to his place. Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate - and do not think it necessary to. Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?
"You see that bookkeeper," said the foreman to me in a large factory. "Yes, what about him?" "Well he's a fine accountant, but if I'd send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street would forget what he had been sent for." Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?
"We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the downtrodden denizens of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment", "and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power".
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving after "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned.
In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only, if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer - but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best - those who can carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress, him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself!"
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.
Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds - the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner pail and worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous. My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off" nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted. He is wanted in every city, town and village - in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed and needed badly - the man who can "Carry a Message to Garcia."
So who will send a letter to Garcia?
My ennui is at an all time whatever.
Amazing Spiderman Vol. 2 Issue #36
This is one of the best single comics ever. Just reread it after a long time. It was the first issue after Sept. 11. Here is a reprint of the commentary as Spiderman views the devastation and aftermath.....
Follow the sounds of sirens...
Some things are beyond words.
How do you say we didn't know? We couldn't know. We couldn't imagine. Only madmen could contain the thought, execute the act, fly the planes. The sane world will always be vulnerable to madmen, because we cannot go where they go to conceive of such things.
We could not see it coming. We could not be here before it happened. We could not stop it.
But we are here now.
You cannot see us for the dust, but we are here.
You cannot hear us for the cries, but we are here.
Even those we thought our enemies are here. Because some things surpass rivalries and borders. Because the story of humanity is written not in towers but in tears. In the common coin of blood and bone. In the voice that speaks within even the worst of us, and says
THIS IS NOT RIGHT.
Because even the worst of us, however scarred, are still human. Still feel. Still mourn the random death of innocents.
We are here.
But with our costumes and our powers we are writ small by the true heroes. Those who face fire without fear or armor. Those who step into the darkness without assurances of ever walking out again, because they know there are others waiting in the dark.
Ordinary men. Ordinary women. Made extraordinary by acts of compassion. And courage. And terrible sacrifice. Ordinary men. Ordinary women. Refusing to surrender. Ordinary men. Ordinary women. Refusing to accept the self-serving proclamations of holy warriors of every stripe, who announce that somehow we had this coming. We reject them both in the knowledge that our tragedy is greater than the sum of our transgressions.
Bodies in free fall on the evening news. Madness in mosques, shouting down fourteen centuries of earnest prayers, forgetting the lessons of crusades past...that the most harmed are the least deserving. There are no words. There are no words. The death of innocents and the death of innocence. Rage compounded upon rage. Rage enough to blot out the Sun. And the air, filled with questions.
They ask the question,
My God, Why?
I have seen other worlds. Other spaces. I have walked with gods and wept with angels. But to my shame I have no answers. He's the only one who could know. because he's been here before. I wish I had not lived to see this once. I can't imagine what it is to see this twice. I just can't imagine. What DO we tell the children? Do we tell them evil is a foreign face? No. The evil is the thought behind the face, and it can look just like yours. Do we tell them evil is tangible, with defined borders and names and geometries and destinies? No. They will have nightmares enough. Perhaps we tell them that we are sorry. Sorry that we were not able to deliver unto them the world we wished them to have. That our eagerness to shout is not the equal of our willingness to listen. That the burdens of distant people are the responsibility of all men and women of conscience, or their burdens will one day become our tragedy. Or perhaps we simply tell them that we love them, and that we will protect them. That we would give our lives for theirs and do it gladly, so great is the burden of our love. In a universe of Gameboys and dvds, it is, perhaps, an insubstantial gift. But it is the only one that will wash away the tears and knit the wounds and make the world a sane place to live in.
We could not see it coming. No one could. We could not stop it. No one could. But we are here. Now.
And the day after.
We live in each blow you strike for infinite justice, but always in the hope of infinite wisdom. Because we live as well in the quiet turning of your considered conscience.
The voice that says
ALL WARS HAVE INNOCENTS.
The voice that says
YOU ARE A KIND AND MERCIFUL PEOPLE.
The voice that says
DO NOT AS THEY DO, OR THE WAR IS LOST BEFORE IT IS EVEN BEGUN.
Do not let that knowledge be washed away in blood. When you move, we will move with you. Where you go, we will go with you. Where you are, we are in you. Because the future belongs to ordinary men and ordinary women, and that future must be built free of such acts as these, must be fought for and renewed like fresh water. Because a message must be sent to those who mistake compassion for weakness. A message sent across six thousand years of recorded blood and struggle. And this message is this: Whatever our history, whatever our the root of our surnames, we remain a good and decent people, and we do not bow down and we do not give up. The fire of the human spirit cannot be quenched by bomb blast or body counts. Cannot be intimidated forever into silence or drowned by tears. We have endured worse before; we will bear this burden and all that comes hereafter, because that's what ordinary men and women do. No matter what. This has not weakened us. It has only made us stronger. In recent years we as a people have been tribalized and factionized by a thousand casual unkindnesses. But in this we are one. Flags sprout in uncommon places. The ground made fertile by tears and shared resolve. We have become one in our grief. We are now one nation in our determination. One as we recover. One as we rebuild.
You wanted to send a message, and in so doing you awakened us from our self-involvement. Message received. Look for your reply in the thunder.
In such days as these are heroes born.
Not heroes such as ourselves. The true heroes of the twenty-first century.
You, the human being singular.
You, who are nobler than you know and stronger than you think.
You, the heroes of this moment chosen out of history.
We stand blinded by the light of your unbroken will. Before that light, no darkness can prevail. They knocked down two tall towers. In their memory, draft a covenant with your conscience, that we will create a world in which such things need not occur. A world which will not require apologies to children, but also a world whose roads are not paved with the husks of their inalienable rights.
They knocked down two tall towers. Graft now their echo onto your spine. Become girders and glass, stone and steel, so that when the world sees YOU, it sees THEM. And stand tall. Stand Tall.