Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

VI

even

MILITARISTS AND PACIFISTS We doubt whether there are any honest militarists now left in Europe. Militarists grow in peace time, especially when the peace is long. They are like that couple near the end of their honeymoon, one of whom said, “How delightful it would be to meet some friend now;" and the other replied, Yes, or some enemy." The militarist finds peace dull, because he is himself dull; and he believes that the excitement of war would cure his dullness. But he will not put it thus plainly to himself, like the honeymoon couple. He must find a high moral justification for his own desire to be less dull; and so he says that war has been ordained by God as a means of purifying and uplifting the human race; or else, that it is necessary to eliminate the unfit, altho as a matter of fact, it eliminates the fit. War, he says, encourages heroism and self-sacrifice; but so does pestilence. It is true that in health, happiness and prosperity we have not the same opportunity to practise certain virtues as when we are sick or sad or unfortunate; but, except in this one matter of war, no one suggests that we should invite calamities so that we may become more virtuous. Rather we know that if prosperity demoralizes us we shall cease to prosper; and then, because of our vices, we shall get the opportunity to recover from them. Our proper aim therefore is not to be demoralized by prosperity, not to sow the seeds of war

But to the militarist this very aim is demoralizing. Peace is something dangerous in itself that we can not be trusted with; therefore, at intervals not precisely ascertained, wisdom rather than folly will lead us to will war. A moment's thought would show the militarist that 1 From the Literary Supplement of the London Times, August 19, 1915.

in peace.

there is no logical reason why he should thus distinguish war from any other calamity; but he does not wish to think. His desire is for excitement, and he believes that war will be more exciting than any other calamity. Now, however, after a year of it he has discovered that war has its dullness no less than peace.

It is the dullness of the war, more perhaps than all its horrors, that is converting the militarists; for horror, when it becomes monotonous, is duller than any monotony of well-being, just as a continuous loud discord is duller than silence. Even the pro

. fessors in Berlin must have discovered this by now. They have not escaped from the dullness of their own natures. because the streets are filled with mangled men, or because the newspapers publish lists of dead and wounded instead of stocks and shares. No; it is peace that makes militarists rather than war; if they are to survive a war at all it must be one very short and victorious, the war of 1870, not the war of 1915.

So it is war, rather than peace, that makes pacifists; and perhaps the extreme pacifist would not exist but for the militarist. For as the militarist singles out war among all other evils to glorify it, so the pacifist singles it out to condemn it. He is not so perverse as the militarist; he does. not call that good in itself which is evil in itself. But he is, illogically, more impatient of the evils of war than of the evils of peace; and he does not see that the evils of war are a result of the evils of peace, that one should not isolate one evil and condemn it without condemning equally all the other evils with which it is connected. The militarist says that men must go to war because of their finer qualities. He does not believe that any general increase in virtue would put an end to wars or make them less frequent; on one particular point he cries, “Evil, be thou my good.” The extreme pacifist, failing perhaps to see that war is only one result of sin, insists that it is always itself a sin, no matter who wages it or for what reason. His attitude to war is that of the Tolstoyan to punishment. The Tolstoyan says that you must not punish men, because in punishing them you do evil to them. So the pacifist says that you must not kill men, because in killing them you do evil to them.

But men are punished by the state for their crimes so that private vengeance may not be taken for those crimes. The criminal law exists to prevent the blood feud, not because punishment is a thing good in itself. If criminals were a perfectly distinct class of men, unlike all others, they might be pitied and not punished at all. It is because all men have something of the criminal in them that the state must take revenge out of private hands.

So war is justified when, and only when, it is the punishment of a criminal nation, when it is waged to end a wrong which, if it persisted, would produce a state of hatred and wretchedness and sin worse than war itself. The pacifist contends that, if one nation would submit to the criminal oppression of another, there would be an end of war and even of oppression. That may be true; but we know that no nation will submit to such oppression. The government of a people must consider the nature of that people as it is, not what it would do if their nature were otherwise. A government might resolve not to resist invasion, but it knows that the people would resist it, just as it knows that a wronged individual would seek revenge for his wrong if there were no criminal law. And it is better for the people that their resistance should be organized with a chance of success than that it should be futile and desperate, and, in its futility and desperation, should leave them full of misery and hatred and unrest. The history of Poland warns us what happens to a nation that suffers a great wrong; how it will never submit to that wrong, but remains a trouble to itself, to the wrong-doers and to the whole world. So, if the government of a nation is right to resist oppression, still more right is the government of another nation to help it. Even the most extreme Tolstoyan would hardly say that no man ought to help another when he is being robbed or beaten or murdered; but the extreme pacifists seem to contend that no

nation ought to help another against oppression, because, they say, war is always an evil, since it means the killing

of men.

But, in the present war, they argue also about the facts of the particular case; and their main proposition, that war is always wrong, leads them into arguments almost as perverse as those of the militarists. They insist, for instance, that we have not been always sinless in our past history or in our relations with Germany. That is true enough; it is true of all nations and all men. But even if a man has not always been perfectly virtuous in his conduct to his neighbor, even if he has not loved him as himself, he still has a right to protect himself, or some one else, from the violence of that neighbor. It may even be true that, if we and all the other nations of Europe had always been utterly sinless in our conduct towards each other and Germany, this war would never have happened. War, as we have said, is always the result of a general state of sin; and yet a war may be provoked by the crime of one particular nation, as we believe this war has been provoked. by the crime of Germany. A nation may have some reason for disliking other nations, without having, therefore, a right to make war upon them; and, if it insists upon war, the other nations have a right to combine against it, even if not themselves sinless, because it has committed a crime different in kind from the petty wrongs which hitherto it has committed or suffered. Again, the pacifists labor to prove that Sir Edward Grey, in the course of the negotiations before the war, was not always perfectly just or wise. That

may be true of him, as it is true of most men. But the question remains whether he desired war, or whether Germany desired it; and that is to be determined by the whole course of the negotiations, not by any single failure of his in wisdom or justice. If Germany was bent upon war, the wisest and most upright statesman that ever lived could not have prevented it. In every quarrel the question is, not whether one party is sinless, but which willed the quarrel; and the pacifist who tells us that we are not sinless tells us what we know already. It is a reason why we should not be self-righteous, not a reason why we should refuse to fight.

The pacifist is apt to irritate us all by assuming that he is more righteous than we are. War is wicked, he says; and he is against wickedness. Certainly, if we are for war in this case we should search our hearts to discover why we are for it, but he also should search his heart to discover why he is against it. He should remember that we suffer from the war just as much as he does; we are not enjoying it because we approve of it. Even the militarists, if any remain, can not be enjoying it now. But there is a question which every pacifist should ask himself, if he wishes to know his own heart and his own motives the question, namely, whether he is quite sure that he would wish us all to be pacifists. In a nation of pacifists this

. doctrine might be put to the test, and all the nation might have to suffer for it. In England at present it is only preached, and the preachers themselves know that it will not be practised.

Certainly they need some courage to preach it now, but not the courage they would need to practise it. In preaching it they may become unpopular; they may be hist or even pelted by a mob; but if they practised it they would risk more than this. They would risk for their wives and children, as well as for themselves, what the Belgians have suffered. Are they sure that the Germans, if they invaded a country and were not resisted, would behave decently? No one else is sure of that. Are they sure that if there is no organized resistance, there would not be a resistance instinctive, desperate and futile? And do they suppose that the Germans, in case of such resistance, would not hasten to make what they are pleased to call an example, and would not so provoke more resistance, to be no less bloodily and foully supprest? At present they can preach pacifism without much danger, but to practise it would mean danger unspeakable, and to others besides themselves. And if it came to a question whether it was

« AnteriorContinuar »