“BIRLING: (...) And we're in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.
GERALD: I believe you're right, sir.
ERIC: What about war?
BIRLING: Glad you mentioned it, Eric. I'm coming to that. Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two, or a few German officers have too much to drink and begin taIking nonsense, you'll hear some people say that war's inevitable. And to that I say - fiddlesticks ! The Germans don't want war. Nobody wants war, except some half-civilized foIks in the BaIkans. And why? There's too much at stake these days. Everything to lose and nothing to gain by war.
ERIC: Yes, I know - but still-
BIRLING: Just let me finish, Eric. You've a lot to learn yet. And I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war. The world's developing so fast that it'll make war impossible. Look at the progress we're making. In a year or two we'll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere. And look at the way the automobile's making headway - bigger and faster all the time. And then ships. Why, a friend of mine went over this new liner last week - the Titanic- she sails next week - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. That's what you've got to keep your eye on, facts like that, progress like that - and not a few German officers talking nonsense and a few scaremongers here making a fuss about nothing. Now you three young people, just listen to this - and remember what I'm telling you now. In twenty or thirty years' time - let's say, in 1940 - you may be giving a little party like this - your son or daughter might be getting engaged - and I tell you by that time you'll be living in a world that'll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares. There'll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere - except of course in
, which will always be
behindhand, naturally. Russia
MRS BIRLING: Arthur!
[As MRS BIRLING shows signs of interrupting]
BIRLING: Yes, my dear, I know- I'm talking too mucho But you youngsters just remember what I said. We can't let these Bernard Shaws and H. G. Wellses do all the talking. We hard-headed practical business men must say something sometime. And we don't guess - we've had experience - and we know.”
Aunque escrita en 1946, la acción de la obra de teatro se sitúa en 1912, y este discurso nos muestra cómo el ambiente general en Europa, a pesar de las señales que hubiera o dejase de haber, era, en general, de que en ningún caso se llegaría a la guerra, de que, avalados por el progreso de la técnica, siempre se encontraría una salida suficientemente pacífica a tiempo.
Hasta que llegó el verano de 1914, y los que sabían, se encontraron de golpe, de estar en paz a estar en guerra.
Extracto del primer acto de An Inspector Calls, obra de teatro de J. B. Priestley, tomado de la edición realizada por Penguin, en su colección Modern Classics, de la biblioteca del autor.