| 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 and the United States, it was
very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.
Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba--no one
knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President
must secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Some one said to the President, "There is 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 oilskin 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 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?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don't you mean Bismarch?
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
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 is
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 out for."
Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?
We have already recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed
for "the downtrodden denizens of the sweatshop" 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 senting 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 can not 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 to 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."