On war

Bear with me a little more. We are still on Tolstoi and we will be talking about his ideas or what he quotes for the next 2 weeks at least.

First he quotes Maupassant, and I will extract a part of the passage. He, Maupassant, writes

“War!… The fighting!… The murdering!… The slaughter of men!… And to-day, with all our wisdom, civilization, with the advancement of science, the degree of philosophy to which the human spirit has attained, we have schools where the art of murder, of aiming with deadly accuracy and killing large numbers of men at a distance, is actually taught, killing poor, harmless devils who have families to support, killing them without even the pretext of the law.

It is stupefying that the people do not rise up in arms against the governments. What difference is there between monarchies and republics? It is stupefying that society does not revolt as a unit at the very sound of the word war.

“Alas! we shall never be free from oppression of the hateful, hideous customs, the criminal prejudices, and the ferocious impulses of our barbarous ancestors, for we are beasts; and beasts we shall remain, moved by our instincts and susceptible of no improvement.

and then the views of Emile Zola on war

“I look upon war as a fatal necessity which seems to us indispensable because of its close connection with human nature and all creation. Would that it might be postponed as long as possible! Nevertheless a time will come when we shall be forced to fight. At this moment I am regarding the subject from the universal standpoint, and am not hinting at our unfriendly relations with Germany, which are but a trifling incident in the world’s history. I affirm that war is useful and necessary, since it is one of the conditions of human existence. The fighting instinct is to be found not only among the different tribes and peoples, but in domestic and private life as well. It is one of the chief elements of progress, and every advancing step taken by mankind up to the present time has been accompanied by bloodshed.

“Men have talked, and still do talk, of disarmament; and yet disarmament is utterly impossible, for even though it were possible, we should be compelled to renounce it. It is only an armed nation that can be powerful and great. I believe that a general disarmament would be followed by a moral degradation, assuming the form of a widespread effeminacy which would impede the progress of humanity. Warlike nations have always been vigorous. The military art has contributed to the development of other arts. History shows us this. In Athens and Rome, for instance, commerce, industry, and literature reached their highest development when these cities ruled the world by the force of arms. And nearer to our own time we found an example in the reign of Louis XIV. The wars of the great king, so far from impeding the advance of arts and sciences, seemed rather to promote and to favor their progress.”

Is the cause of peace so lost? Should those advocates of pacifism shut it and get something worthwhile, like selling ammunition, to do?

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