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Peace Matters
 

 

 

 

 

   

THE CASE FOR CONSTRUCTIVE PEACE

 
 

     aldous huxley




CASES
  one to four
  five
  six to eight
  nine to eleven


about Huxley

 



Feeling, willing, thinking - these are the three modes of ordinary human activity. To be complete, life must be lived simultaneously on all three planes. To concentrate on only one mode at the expense of the rest, or on two at the expense of the third, is to court immediate or postponed disaster. In any important vital situation it is never enough to feel, never enough to will, never enough merely to think. We must do all at once.

Many naturally sensitive and gentle people have an intense feeling that there should be no more war. In some of these, feeling is accompanied by a determination that there shall be no more war, a will-to-peace that is ready to translate itself into action. But feeling without will or thought is impotent and tends to degenerate into mere self-indulgence. Feeling accompanied by will may result in action; but if there is no guiding thought, it is likely that the action will be ineffective because blind and misdirected. In this pamphlet an attempt is made to provide all those who feel that war is an abomination, all who will that it shall cease, with an intellectual justification for their attitude; to show that their feeling and willing are essentially reasonable, that what is called the utopian dream of pacifism is in fact a practical policy - indeed, the only practical, the only realistic policy that there is.

Pacifists are people who have broken with an old-established convention of thought and, like all innovators, find themselves constantly subjected, off the platform as well as on it, to a process of more or less intelligent heckling. This being so, it has seemed best to state the pacifist case in terms of a series of answers to common antipacifist objections. It is proposed to deal with these objections in order, beginning with the most general, based on considerations of biology, and proceeding to the most specific, based on a consideration of contemporary politics.





ONE
The first objection raised by our imaginary heckler is that 'war is a law of nature'. Therefore, it is argued, we cannot get ride of it. What are the facts? They are these: conflict is certainly common in the animal kingdom. But, with very rare exceptions, conflict is between isolated individuals. 'War' in the sense of conflict between armies exists among certain species of social insects. But it is significant that these insects do not make war on members of their own species, only on those of other species. Man is probably unique in making war on his own species.

Tennyson wrote of 'Nature red in tooth ad claw'. But an animal can be bloodthirsty without being warlike. The activities of such creatures as tigers, sharks and weasels, are no more war-like than those of butchers and sportsmen. The carnivores kill members of other species either for food or else, like fox-hunters and pheasant-shooters, to amuse themselves. Conflicts between individual animals of the same species are common enough. But again they are no more war-like than duels or pothouse brawls among human beings. Like human beings, animals fight mainly for love, sometimes (as with the birds that defend their 'territory') for property, sometimes for social position. But they do not make war. War is quite definitely not a 'law of nature'.



TWO
Generals who inspect the OTC's of public schools are fond of telling their youthful audiences that 'man is a fighting animal'. Now, in the sense that, like stags, men quarrel for love, like white-throats, for property and, like barndoor fowls, for position in society, this statement may be regarded as true. Like even the mildest animals - and it is probable that our pre-human ancestors were gentle creatures something like the tarsias of today - men have always done a good deal of 'scrapping'. In some places and at some epochs of history this 'scrapping' was a violent and savage affair; at others, relatively harmless: it has been entirely a matter of convention. Thus, in Europe 300 years ago, 'the best people' were expected to fight a duel on the slightest provocation; now they are not expected to do so. Within the lifetime of men still with us, games of rugby football ended, and were meant to end, in broken legs. On the modern football field broken legs are no longer in fashion. The rules for casual individual 'scrapping' and for those organised group-contests which we call sport, have been changed, on the whole for the better. The rules of war, on the contrary, have changed in every way for the worse. In the 18th century Marlborough gave a day's notice before beginning the bombardment of a town. Today even a formal declaration of war is coming to be regarded as unnecessary. (Italy, for example, dispensed with it completely when attacking Abyssinia.) 'A declaration of war', writes General Ludendorff, 'is a waste of time and also it sometimes unfortunately brands the nation who makes it.' Therefore, if we want to win and at the same time to avoid being stigmatised as aggressors, we should attack without warning.
  To sum up, man is a fighting animal in the sense that he is a 'scrapping animal'. It is for man and man alone to decide whether he shall do his 'scrapping' murderously or according to rules which limit the amount of violence used or even, as in the case of non-violent resistance, abolish it altogether. Mass murder is no more a necessity than individual murder. In 1600 duelling must have seemed to many intelligent people a law of nature. But the fact remains that we have abolished duelling. There is no reason why we should not abolish war.



THREE
At this point the objector appeals to Darwin. 'The struggle for existence', he insists, 'goes on in the human as well as in the sub-human world. War is the method by which nature selects the fittest human beings.'
   But whom or what does war select for survival? The answer is that, so far as individuals are concerned, it selects women, children and such men as are too old or infirm to bear arms. The young and the strong, who do the fighting, are eliminated; and the larger the army and the more efficient the weapons, the greater the number of young, strong men who will be killed. War selects dysgenically.
   The objector now falls back on a second line of defence. War may be a clumsy way of selecting individuals; but its real value lies in its power to select the best stocks, governments and cultures. But if we look at the records of history we see that war has done its selection in a very erratic way. Sometimes, it is true, victory in war does unquestionably lead to replacement of the defeated by the victorious stock. But this can happen only when the victors exterminate their enemies or else drive them out of the territories previously occupied by them. This was the case, for example, in North America - a very thinly inhabited country. More often, however, the conquerors do not exterminate the conquered, but settle down among them as a ruling minority. Miscegenation takes place and the victors soon lose whatever racial purity they may have possessed and become ethnically assimilated to the vanquished. A stock may lose the military, but win the biological battle.
   What is true of race is true of cultures and governments. Sometimes conquerors impose their cultures and governmental methods on the vanquished. Sometimes they fail to do so. Of the cultures by which the modern world has been most profoundly influenced, two - the Hebrew and the Greek - were cultures of peoples who suffered final and complete military defeat at the hands of their enemies. War, we may agree, selects races, cultures and governments. But with a fine impartiality it selects those of the vanquished at least as often as it selects those of the victors.



FOUR
So much for the third objection; now for the fourth. 'We may dislike war', says the heckler. 'But war has always been used as an instrument of policy and we must presume that it always will be so used. Consider the lessons of history and be resigned to the inevitable evil.'
    Now, until recent years, the lessons of history lent a certain support to the militarists. Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians - all used war as an instrument of policy. The written records and archaeological documents seemed to show that wars had been invariably correlated with civilisation. Primitive peoples, like the Eskimos, might be ignorant of war and find the very idea of it inconceivable. But the civilised had always used it - and presumably would always continue to use it. Recent archaeological research has shown that this correlation between war and civilisation has not been invariable. The civilisation of the Indus Valley was as rich and elaborate as those of Sumer and Egypt. But it was a civilisation that knew nothing of war. No weapons have been found in its buried cities, nor any trace of fortification. This fact is of the highest significance. It proves that it is possible for men to enjoy the advantages of a complex urban civilisation without having to pay for them by periodical mass-murders. What men have done, they can do again. History teaches us that war is not inevitable. Once again, it is for us to choose whether we use war or some other method of settling the ordinary and unavoidable conflicts between groups of men. Where there's a will - and, along with will, felling and intelligence - there's a way. The nature of that way will be discussed later.

 
 

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