ALDOUS HUXLEY

 
        
 








CONTENTS
The blocked road
The nature of war
Some causes of war
The experiment that failed
An international police force?
Peaceful settlements that last?
Nonviolence

    

See also:
About Huxley
The Case for constructive peace

Also available
Pacifism and philosophy

 


Ends and Means



An international police force?
A misleading term, says Huxley. 'The police act with precision; they go out and arrest the guilty person. But nations and groups of nations act through their armed forces, which can only act with the maximum of imprecision, killing, maiming, starving and ruining millions of human beings, of whom the overwhelming majority have committed no crime of any sort.' He, perhaps not consciously, foresees the time when people refer to 'collateral damage' instead of 'civilian deaths', or use such contradictions in terms as 'peace-keeping troops': 'We shall never learn to think correctly unless we call things by their proper names. The international police force would not be a police force. It would be a force for perpetrating indiscriminate massacres.'

In any case: 'How is such a force to be recruited? How organised? How armed? Where located? Who is to decide when it is to be used and against whom? To whom will it owe allegiance and how is its loyalty to be guaranteed? How can nations be persuaded to contribute men and materials to it? Should their contributions be equal? If not, and a few great powers supply the major part, what is to prevent those powers from establishing a military tyranny over the whole world?' The idea of such a force, says Huxley with scorn, 'combines all the moral and political vices of militarism with all the hopeless impracticability of a Utopian dream'.

(But despite Huxley's warnings, the world's states have chosen to place their faith in international forces, deployed all over the world and in some places for decades. We have also seen the development of poorly-controlled local militias moving in to carry out policing functions with violence. appalling brutality and little respect for human rights. And 'military tyranny'? - for all the talk of good versus evil, and of 'humanitarian' aims, that tyranny is there.)




Peaceful settlements that last?
Huxley has no doubt: 'War cannot be stopped by more war. All that more war can do is widen the area of destruction and place new obstacles in the way of reaching a just and humane settlement of international disputes.'

In Huxley's day, just as in ours, procedures and skills for negotiation, co-operation and reconciliation existed. But, as he says, 'a machine may be exquisitely ingenious and of admirable workmanship, but if people refuse to use it, or use it badly, it will be almost or completely useless. This is the case with the machinery of peaceful change and international co-operation. Wherever "national honour" and "vital interests" were concerned, governments have preferred to threaten or actually make use of violence. Even in cases where they have consented to employ the machinery of peaceful settlement, they have sometimes displayed such bad will that the machine has been unable to function.'

'Wherever we turn we find that the real obstacles to peace are human will and feeling, human convictions, prejudices, opinions. If we want to get rid of war we must get rid first of all of its psychological causes. Only when this has been done will the rulers of the nations even desire to get rid of the economic and political causes.'



Nonviolence
The chapter of 'Ends and Means' called 'War' ends with a description of how nationalism, communism, religion and other 'idolatries' can give people a misleading sensation of meaning and purpose. People have been ready, as a result, mistakenly 'to make sacrifices, accept hardships, display courage and fortitude - and indeed all the virtues except the primary ones: love and awareness'. Without these crucial qualities - genuine humaneness and caring - we are doomed to stay on the wrong road, the road that leads to violence and war.

In his next chapter, 'Individual Work for Reform', Huxley makes it clear that a peaceful future depends on what private individuals - you, me, us - do on our own, or, better still, in groups. He begins with a reminder: 'the only effective methods for carrying out large-scale social reforms are nonviolent methods. Violence produces the results of violence. The attempt to impose reforms by violent methods is doomed to failure'.

In fact, 'society cannot become better unless peace can be firmly established and the prevailing obsession with money and power profoundly modified.' Huxley knows that's a tall order. 'Governments are not willing to undertake these tasks', for a start. Nor are many private individuals prepared to tackle them on their own. 'If the work is to be done, it must be done by associations of individuals' with the vision and energy 'to break the new ground that nobody else will break'.

To give us some encouragement Huxley goes on to give some examples of what has already been achieved by nonviolent action - you can find examples of these and many more on this website. 'Nonviolence is so often regarded as impractical, or at best a method which only exceptional men and women can use. It is essential to show that - even when used sporadically and unsystematically - the method actually works.' Huxley adds (with some characteristic bite) that nonviolence 'can be used by quite ordinary people and even, on occasion, by those morally sub-human beings, kings, politicians, diplomats and the other representatives of national groups, considered in their professional capacity.... Out of business hours these beings may live up to the most exacting ethical standards.'

Huxley was well aware that technology was here to stay. 'The question is whether it is to stay as an instrument of slavery or as a way to freedom.' 'Curing the world of obsession with money and power' needs to be done in the modern world; but even a modern hi-tech world can be humane.

So: Huxley's ideal 'associations of individuals' should set about making experiments to solve a number of problems. How can the working population be effectively self-governing? How can they bring a sense of responsibility and commitment to what they do? How can the temperaments and talents of each individual be best used? How can the wealth created in a technological society be best distributed? What is the best kind of communal government? What are the best kinds of local communities? What are the best ways of using leisure? What is the best education for children and self-education for adults, and how may both be got? And how can natural gifts of leadership be used without 'the temptation of ambition or the lust for power'?

Another tall order. And other, new, problems have arisen in western society since the 1930s. But the aim - the 'end' - is sincere and true: start with individual people and build a life, a community, a world, in which we want not only peace but also the things which make peace possible. The belief that underpins all that Aldous Huxley has to say is simple: 'It is enormously difficult to change; but the enormously difficult is not the impossible.'

Look round this website - there are plenty of ideas and stories to show that achieving a world without war is, without doubt, possible. Difficult, yes; but we're working on it.

 
               
         
 

 

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