In Romain Rolland’s Clerambault, our main character Clerambault is reflecting about
the first world war a tribal war that engulfed Europe spreading to the rest of the world and how sentiment on both sides of the conflict changed. He talks of how what was loved from Germany by the French can no longer be appreciated or how to the French, nothing good would come from Germany.
He talks of the complicity of the intellectual community in adding flames to the war and not doing anything to prevent loss of lives, innocent lives.
He says for example
“Perrotin, I have often thought that we, men of thought, artists, all of us, we do not live up to our obligations. Not only now, but for a long time, perhaps always. We are custodians of the portion of Truth that is in us, a little light, which we have prudently kept for ourselves. More than once this has troubled me, but I shut my eyes to it then; now they have been unsealed by suffering. We are the privileged ones, and that lays duties upon us which we have not fulfilled; we are afraid of compromising ourselves. There is an aristocracy of the mind, which claims to succeed to that of blood; but it forgets that the privileges of the old order were first purchased with blood. For ages mankind has listened to words of wisdom, but it is rare to see the wise men offer themselves as a sacrifice, though it would do no harm if the world should see some of them stake their lives on their doctrines, as in the heroic days. Sacrifice is the condition of fecundity. To make others believe, you must believe first yourself, and prove it. Men do not see a truth simply because it exists, it must have the breath of life; and this spirit which is ours, we can and ought to give. If not, our thoughts are only amusements of dilettanti—a play, which deserves only a little applause. Men who advance the history of the world make stepping-stones of their own lives. How much higher than all our great men was the Son of the carpenter of Galilee. Humanity knows the difference between them and the Saviour.”
it is this next monologue that I like
I have no illusions, and in this world of prey I do not attribute an exaggerated importance to my own conscience, but however small we may be or little we may do, we must exist. We are all liable to err, but
deceived or not, a man should be sincere; an honest mistake is not a lie, but a stage on the road to truth. The real lie is to fear the truth and try to stifle it. Even if you were a thousand times right, if you resort to force to crush a sincere mistake, you commit the most odious crime against reason itself. If reason is persecutor, and error persecuted, I am for the victim, for error has rights as well as truth…. Truth—the real truth, is to be always seeking what is true, and to respect the efforts of those who suffer in the pursuit. If you insult a man who is striving to hew out his path, if you persecute him who wishes, and perhaps fails, to find less inhuman roads for human progress, you make a martyr of him. Your way is the best, the only one, you say? Follow it then, and let me follow mine. I do not oblige you to come with me, so why are you angry? Are you afraid lest I should prove to be in the right?
and which I find is still relevant in our days.