THE LAST DAYS OF MANKIND ACT I SCENE 22
In front of the War Office.
(The Optimist and the Begrudger in conversation.)
OPTIMIST: You’ve put on blinkers so that you can’t see how the war has illuminated us with an abundance of the spirit of noble-minded self-sacrifice.
BEGRUDGER: No, it’s just that I won’t turn a blind eye to the abundance of iniquitous inhumanity that was required to achieve that end. It’s quite unnecessary to prove the good are good and inexpedient to create an opportunity for the bad to become worse. War is at best an object lesson by means of the most extreme polarities. There is only one polarity that isn’t accentuated by war, and that’s the one between the healthy and the sick.
OPTIMIST: The healthy stay healthy and the sick stay sick?
BEGRUDGER: No, the healthy become sick.
OPTIMIST: But the sick also get well.
BEGRUDGER: A tough regimen puts iron in the soul? Or is it that this war’s shells have shot a million cripples back to health? That hundreds of thousands of consumptives have recovered, as many syphilitics are cured?
OPTIMIST: No, but thanks to the achievements of modern medicine we have succeeded in healing so many of the war’s diseased and wounded –
BEGRUDGER: - so we can send them back to the front to convalesce.
OPTIMIST: Well, there is a war on. But above all our cutting-edge medicine has managed to prevent the spread of typhus, cholera and plague.
BEGRUDGER: Does it speak in favour of war that it provides an opportunity to ameliorate some of its collateral damage? Shame on the science that congratulates itself on making artificial limbs instead of developing the ability to prevent bones being smashed to smithereens in the first place. From an ethical standpoint the science that dresses wounds is no better than the one that concocted the shells. War is a moral imperative compared to a science that is happy to patch up injuries in order to make the victims fit to fight again. Yes, God’s ancient scourges like cholera and plague, terrors of wars long past, were so intimidated that they deserted. But syphilis and tuberculosis are this war’s allies; lie-infested humanitarianism will not conclude a separate peace with diseases that march in step with universal conscription and a technology of tanks and poison gas. We’ll see that every epoch gets the pestilence it deserves. To each age its own plague.
(As they walk on profiteers spill out from the main entrance.)
NEWSPAPER VENDOR: Special edition – News of the World!
REFUGEE 1 (walking with another): Give it here! (rips the paper from the newspaper boy’s hand, and reads out) ‘All goes well! War Press Office 30th August 10.30 a.m. Colossal battle continues today, Sunday. Morale good at headquarters due to all going well. The weather is glorious. Kohlfürst.’
(In front of the War Office, meanwhile, a growing crowd of people, for the most part German-nationalist students and Galician refugees. We see people from both groups arm in arm in many cases and suddenly the Watch on the Rhine rings out: ‘A thunderous sound, the call is roared’ – )
Two aristocrats, the Count and the Baron (I.5), step towards each other. 
BARON: My dear Count, servitore, good health, and how is Prince Montenuovo?  We haven’t seen each other since the time -
COUNT: I can’t complain. His Highness is in capital form – and you Baron? Fundraising must be making very serious demands on you –
BARON: There’s a long line of pushy newcomers, one prefers to leave the field to them. Fundraising is nothing but self-sacrifice anyway, and not even a word of thanks. My God, I don’t avoid these things of course – my chums arrange charity dinners and send me the invitations – yesterday I had one from Pipsi Starhemberg, you know, he’s with Maritschl Wurmbrand –
COUNT: I was sure he was with Mädi Kinsky -
BARON: No, the only possible candidate for her is Bubi Windischgrätz,  you know, he’s a major in the Guards now – I tell you, there’s bombardment from every side, only yesterday Mappl Hohenlohe spoke to me at Mass, his wife’s a Schaffgotsch, he said, why do you make yourself so scarce? I said, my dear Mappl, tempora mutatur, times have changed, the people at the top now, how can one be involved? I like to be where it’s peaceful, where no one notices me. I’ve never been a friend of the limelight. You’re at a Te Deum, in all innocence, next day the papers publish a list of who was there!
COUNT: It’s despicable. But things really have happened so fast, Baron, who would have believed we’d actually end up with a world war after all?
BARON: We certainly have our burdens to bear as a result -
COUNT: Even you Baron?
BARON: Yes, yes, one can scarcely manage on what the shops can deliver now. I’m just on my way over to, er – well, maybe I’ll bump into Tutu Trauttmansdorff – but we have to stick it out, stick it out – the crucial thing is that our lads whip ’em good, the rest will absolutely sort itself out –
(We hear singing: ‘A thunderous sound, the call is roared’.)
 ‘Neuigkeits Weltblatt’, ‘News of the World’ (1874-1943), Viennese daily newspaper; Catholic oriented.
 ‘Cabbage prince’; Kohl is common in Vienna for ‘rubbish’, ‘nonsense’; a pantomimic feel seems appropriate in English: Count Claptrap, Baron Baloney or, more vegetatively, Prince Rhubarb.
 Originally the characters here are: Angelo Eisner von Eisenhof, Baron of Trieste (1857-1938), landowner, also an amateur opera singer, a writer on music and a patron of, among others, Puccini; the second aristocrat is Friedrich von Nepallek (1862-1924), head of protocol at the imperial court.
 Alfred Montenuovo, prince, (1854-1927); supreme head of protocol, Nepallek’s immediate superior.
 Stahremberg, aristocratic family from Upper Austria, elevated to princes in 1765. Ernst Rüdiger Stahremberg (1899-1956) fought on the Italian front; conservative and Catholic, he would lead Austria’s fascist Fatherland Front in the 1930’s and become Vice Chancellor, before fleeing after the Anschluss.
 Wormbane. See I.5.
 Kinsky (Vchynský, Czech), ancient Bohemian aristocratic family; prominent soldiers and diplomats. The head of the dynasty in 1914, Prince Karel Andreas Kinsky, ambassador to Britain and one of Winston Churchill’s mother’s lovers, volunteered to fight on the Russian front because he would not fight Britain.
 Aristocratic family; Alfred de Windischgrätz, prince (1851-1927), Prime Minister (1893-1895), president of Austrian House of Lords (1897-1918). His father put down Vienna, Prague’s 1848 revolutions, established a military dictatorship, and forced Emperor Ferdinand’s abdication in favour of Franz Josef.
 Hohenlohe, mainly German aristocratic family with distinct Catholic and Protestant branches. Chlodwig Carl Viktor, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1819-1900) was Prime Minister of Prussia (1894-1900); his brother Konstantin’s marriage to Marie Antoinette Prinzessin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (1837-1920) brought the family into particularly close contact with Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian nobility.
 Loudmouth. See I.5.
 Trauttmansdorf-Weinsbergs, Austro-Hungarian princes; Trauttmansdorf Castle in the Southern Tyrol, now in Italy, was the winter residence of Franz Josef’s estranged wife Elisabeth (Sissi).