War and peace

The point I wished to put to the admirable peace propagandist is this — that since these conflicts arise from real desires, good or bad, there are only two ways in which they can be permanently overcome. One is to say that people shall not have these particular attachments to an island or a valley, to a costume or a creed. The other is to say that they shall have them, but shall also have some other very vivid and almost concrete attachment that can cover and control them all, as the worship of a particular god, or the crusade against a common enemy, or the admission of a common code of conscience. I say to the peace propagandist, “Either an Irishman must love Ireland, or you must invent something that he can love more than Ireland. I shall be interested to see you try.” But certainly it is utterly useless to talk about peace and the mere absence of hatred. It is useless to introduce German editors to English editors and ask them not to hate each other. They don’t hate each other. The life of an editor leaves little place for such powerful emotions. But in some foggy way the English editor does love England; and in his own blinking style the German editor does love Germany. Neither of them knows at what moment all that they like most may be menaced by something that they don’t in the least understand. The one remedy is to remove the affections; let the Englishman no longer like heavy breakfasts, rambling roads, irregular villages, personal liberty. Let the German no longer like long serious meals, long glasses of light beer, elaborate birthday formalities, and the habit of sitting quite still with a radiant face. The other method is that they should hold some other definite thing more sacred even than these. I can see no third method.

I have written this article by way of reply to numberless correspondents who seem to imagine that I revel in human carnage and drink hot blood. I wish to point out that, so far from being opposed to peace, I have taken the pains to think out the only two possible ways in which it could be achieved. One is by the Buddhist experiment of the elimination of all desires. The other, I think, is by the Christian expedient of a common religion.

The Illustrated London News, 28 January 1911.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 6:32 am  Comments (1)  

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