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VERA BRITTAIN - WOMEN AND PEACE

 
 

Introduction

- vera and the ppu
- vera on women and peace
- ppu women's campaign
- vera at war for peace
- references


vera brittain selected text

- to mothers especially
- letters to peace lovers
- women must awake to
  save humanity

- women and pacifism
- methods of barbarism


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methods of barbarism

From the story of our bombing during the past eighteen months, only a mental or moral lunatic could fail to draw the conclusion that modern war and modern civilisation are utterly incompatible, and that one or the other must go. But the refusal to do anything at all until we can achieve the millenium is too often an attempt to justify doing nothing. In 1625, when Hugo Grotius reacting against the cruelties of the Thirty Years' War, wrote the book 'De Jure Belli ac Pacis', which laid the foundations of international law, he thereby showed himself one of the first to realise that 'humanising war' is not an alternative to abolishing it. It is a step nearer to the creation of that state of mind in which the abolition of war will become possible.

In a recent article entitled 'The Invocation of Anarchy', Professor L W Grensted, Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion in the University of Oxford, writes of 'that self-contradictory humanising of war which is one of the channels by which its energies are ultimately transmuted, and through which alone it can be associated with creative values'. Every advance along the road to civilisation is a compromise between those who desire to go the whole way, and those who do not wish to move at all.

As a nurse in France during the last War, I myself had to care for ten of the first mustard gas cases that came down from the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. Remembering the sufferings of those gassed men and the small percentage of recoveries in the hospital, I for one am thankful for the development of public opinion which has caused the belligerent nations to observe up to date the Poison Gas Convention of 1925, and to deny themselves the dreadful fruit of their scientific researches in this field, even though war itself continues.

But we have no reason to be complacent for refraining, like the Nazis, from this type of chemical warfare. The tortures to which we have subjected citizens, including children, in our 'saturation raids' far exceed the sufferings caused by poison gas between 1914 and 1918. I venture to prophesy with complete confidence that the callous cruelty which has caused us to destroy innocent human life in Europe's most crowded cities, and the vandalism which has obliterated historic treasures in some of her loveliest, WILL APPEAR TO FUTURE CIVILISATION AS AN EXTREME FORM OF CRIMINAL LUNACY WITH WHICH OUR POLITICAL AND MILITARY LEADERS DELIBERATELY ALLOWED THEMSELVES TO BECOME AFFLICTED.

We can do no less than seek an answer to each new excursion into the dark abyss of inhuman barbarity, for as we become more sensitive and intelligent creatures, our capacity for good and evil alike increases with our knowledge.

It may take centuries yet to abolish war altogether, but within those centuries the terrible refinement of scientific inventions may first abolish man unless he deliberately restrains himself from employing them. One fact, at any rate, emerges from the story of our own mass bombing, by which our leaders have surpassed even the savageries of the Thirty Years' War, and have brought about a still more disastrous setback to the influence of Christianity and of chivalry. If the nations of the world cannot agree, when peace returns, to refrain from the use of the bombing aeroplane as they have refrained from using poison gas, then mankind itself deserves to perish from the epidemic of moral insanity which today afflicts our civilisation.

But there is no need to wait for the end of the War before we consider exactly what we are doing, and decide whether we desire the Government which we elected to continue a policy of murder and massacre in the name of the British people. It is now too late to save many of Europe's finest cities, to restore historic treasures reduced to rubble, or to bring back to life more than a million German and ex-allied civilians. But even though we knew that the rest of the Continent must fall victim to the vandalism of our politicians, the obligation would still lie upon us who repudiate their criminal policy to assert, loudly and clearly, that their deeds are not done by our will or with our consent.

Eight years after the South African War ended, General Botha told Emily Hobhouse that three words, 'Methods of Barbarism' - applied by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to the British use of concentration camps - had made peace and union in South Africa. Today England is less fortunate in the quality of her statesmen; we have no Campbell-Bannerman to raise his powerful voice against evil committed by ourselves. The duty of protest remains none the less; and may still carry its word of hope and healing to an age beyond our night.


LAMENT FOR COLOGNE
You stood so proudly on the flowing Rhine,
Your history mankind's, your climbing spires
Crowned with the living light that man desires
To gild his path from bestial to divine.
To-day, consumed by war's unpitying fires,
You lie in ruins, weeping for your dead,
Your shattered monuments the funeral pyres
Of humble men whose days and dreams are fled.
Perhaps, when passions die and slaughters cease,
The mothers on whose homes destruction fell,
Who wailing sought their children through the hell
Of London, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Belgrade,
Will seek Cologne's sad women, unafraid,
And cry: 'God's cause is ours. Let there be peace!'

 
      

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