A Message to GarciaElbert Hubbard
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Marsat perihelion.
When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to com-municate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountainfastnesses of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail or telegraph could reach him. The Presidentmust secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garciafor you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow byname 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 thejungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostilecountry on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desirenow to tell in detail. The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to bedelivered 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 andthe statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, norinstruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to beloyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing – “carry a messageto Garcia!”
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias. No man, who has endeavoredto carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalledat times by the imbecility of the average man – the inability or unwillingness to concentrateon a thing and do it.
Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seemthe rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes othermen to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him anAngel of Light for an assistant.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office—six clerks arewithin your call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopediaand make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Corregio.”
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 ofthe 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?Shan’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 explainedhow to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the
other clerks to help him 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 Corregio isindexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” andgo look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, thisinfirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things thatput pure socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they dowhen the benefit of their 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 in his place.
Advertise for a stenographer, and nine times out of ten who apply can neither spell norpunctuate – 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 to town on an errand, he might accom-plish the errand all right, and, on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, andwhen 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 “down-troddendenizen 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 toget frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” thatdoes nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constantweeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that haveshown 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 isscarce, this 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 whocan carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a businessof his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with himconstantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress, him.He can not give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to taketo Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself.”
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through histhreadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand ofdiscontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe ofa thick-soled No. 9 boot.
Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physicalcripple; but in your pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carryon a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hairis fast turning white through the struggle to hold the line in dowdy indifference, slipshodimbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungryand homeless.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gonea-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’snothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner-pail and worked fora day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to besaid on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; andall 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 heis home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, withoutasking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearestsewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on strike forhigher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything sucha man asks will be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. Heis wanted in every city, town, and village – in every office, shop, store and factory. The worldcries out for such; he is needed, and needed badly—the man who can
Carry a message to Garcia.