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The Present Age and the State of Community

The Present Age begins with the First World War, the Great War as it is deservedly still known. No war ever began more jubilantly, among all classes and generations, the last including the young generation that had to fight it. It is said that when Viscount Grey, British Foreign Minister, uttered his epitaph of the war on the evening of August 3, 1914—"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime"—he could scarcely be heard by those sitting in his office because of the loud cheers on the street outside the building. From the beginning it was a cheering and also singing war; only after a year of devastating trench warfare did the cheers begin to subside.

In Europe the war ended, in November 1918, in somber hue. Twelve million European soldiers had been killed, 25 million wounded, and vast areas, along with their churches, halls, and houses, devastated. Every conceivable horror of war was perpetrated by both sides. "When it was all over," wrote Churchill just after the war, "Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific Christian States had been able to deny themselves, and they were of doubtful utility."

An unknown German named Oswald Spengler had spent the war in his hometown writing The Decline of the West. Freshly published copies festooned bookstore windows for the edification of the defeated...

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