MESSAGE

 

1899
A MESSAGE TO GARCIA
by Elbert Hubbard

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 & 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, & 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 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. Slip-shod assistance, foolish
inattention, dowdy indifference, & 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, & 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?
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 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 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, 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 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 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 denizen of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer
searching for honest employment," & 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 with "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 fire-brand of discontent. He is
impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the
toe of a thick-soled No. 9 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, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless
ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry &
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 & 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; & 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 take 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; his kind is so rare that no employer
can afford to let him go. 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, & needed badly- the man who can carry a
message to Garcia.
-THE END-

 

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