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Henry Ford’s Own Story

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Henry Ford’s Own Story
Chapter XXIX
THE EUROPEAN WAR

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Return to Henry Ford’s Own Story - Chapter XXVIII - A GREAT EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION

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Chapter XXIX - THE EUROPEAN WAR

WAR! The news caught at the heart of the world, and stopped it.

For a time the whole business structure of every nation on earth trembled, threatened to crumble into ruin, under this weight, to which it had been building from the beginning.

Greed, grasping selfishness, a policy of "each man for himself, against other men," these are the foundations on which nations have built up their commercial, social, industrial success. These are the things which always have led, and always will lead, to war, to the destruction of those struc tures they have built.

Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, England, Japan, Turkey, Italy one by one they crashed down into the general wreck. Every thing good that the centuries had made was buried in the debris. The world rocked under the shock.

Here in America we read the reports in dazed incredulity. It could not be possible, it could not be possible, we said to each other with white lips in this age, now, to-day

For, living as most of us do, on the surface of things, among our friends, in an atmosphere of kindliness and helpfulness, we had been cheer fully unconcerned about the foundations of our economic and industrial life.

In the winter there are thousands of unemployed men We are like an architect who, seeing threaten ing cracks in the walls of the building, would hurriedly fill them with putty and add another story.

Henry Ford read the news from Europe. He saw there a purposeless, useless and waste of everything valuable. He saw a machine, wrongly built for centuries so that each part would work against all the other parts, suddenly set in mo tion and wrecking itself.

It was a repetition, on a larger scale, of a catastrophe with which he had been familiar in the business world. How many companies in his own field had been organized in the early days of the industry, had gone into business with the one purpose of getting all they could from every one, workers, stockholders, buyers and had gone down in ruin ! Only those companies which had been built on some basis of fair service had succeeded, and these had done so in proportion to their real value to others. Whether or not this principle is recognized by those who profit from it, it is the fundamental principle on which business success is built.

"The trouble is that people do not see that," said Ford. "A man goes into business from purely selfish motives; he works for himself, and against every one else, as far as he can. But only so far as his grasping selfishness really works out in benefit to other people he succeeds. If he knew that, if he went to work deliberately to help other people, he would do more good, and at the same time he would make a bigger success for himself.

"But instead of that, he gets more and more selfish. When he has got a lot of money, and be comes a real power, he uses his power selfishly. He thinks it is his grasping policy that has made him successful. Why, everything I ever did selfishly in my life has come back like a boom erang and hurt me more than it hurt any one else, and the same way with everything I have done to help others. It helps me in the end every time. It is bound to. As long as a machine runs, anything that is really good for one part is good for the whole machine.

"Look at those fighting nations. Every one of them is hurting itself as much as it hurts the enemy. Their success was founded on the fact that they have helped each other. England got her dyes and her tools and her toys from Ger many; Germany got her wheat from Russia, and her fruits and olives from Italy ; Turkey got her ships from England. They were all helping each other. Their real interests the comfort and happiness of their people were all one interest.

"Left to themselves, the real German people would never fight the French people, never in the world. No more than Iowa would fight Michigan. Race differences? They do not exist in sufficient degree to make men fight, and they are disappearing every day. See how the races mix in America! I have fifty-three nationalities, speaking more than one hundred different lan guages and dialects, in my shops, and they never have any trouble. They realize that their in terests are all the same.

"What is the root of the whole question? The real interests of all men are the same work, food and shelter, and happiness. When they all work together for those, every one will have plenty.

"What do people fight for? Does fighting make more jobs, better homes, more to eat? No. People fight because they are taught that the only way to get these things is to take them from some one else. The common people, the people who lose most by fighting, don t know what they are fighting for. They fight because they are told to. What do they get out of it? Disgust, shame, grief, wounds, death, ruin, starvation. War is the most hideous waste in the world."

In the first terrible months of the war the American people, in horror, echoed that opinion. With the spectacle of half the world in bloody ruins before our eyes, we recoiled. We thanked God that our country remained sane. We saw a vision of America, after the madness had passed, helping to bind up the wounds of Europe, help ing to make a permanent peace which should bring the people of the earth together in one fra ternity.

By degrees that feeling began to change. We want peace. Are there a hundred men among our hundred million who will say they want war for war's sake? We want peace but We have begun to ask that old question, "Is it practical?" That vision of the people of the world working together, increasing their own happiness and comfort by helping to make happiness and comfort for each other it is a beautiful theory, but is it not a bit sentimental? a bit visionary? just a little too good to be true?

"Here is a world where war happens," we say. "If a war should happen to us what would we do? Let us begin to prepare for war. Let us take war into our calculations. Let us be practical."

And Henry Ford, reading the papers, listen ing to the talk of the men in the streets, saw the object lesson of his great organization disregarded. He heard again the objection which had met every step of his life. "It is a good idea, but it is theoretical. It is not practical. It will not work. Things never have done that way." He saw this country, already wasting incalculable human energy, destroying innumerable lives daily, because of a "practical" system of organi zation, preparing to drain off still more energy, still greater wealth, in preparation for a still more terrible waste.

The dearest principle of his life, the principle whose truth he had proven through a life of hard work, was in danger of being swept away and forgotten.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Source:  Wikisource


Go to Henry Ford’s Own Story - Chapter XXX - THE BEST PREPAREDNESS


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