Litkicks Message Board Archive

That's fine, but still, tell me

Posted to Poetry and Politics




how did she know that "war is the great pleasure of people whose love is atrophied, who need war to feel alive, who find in violence and clash a semblance of relationship". Eh? Was she a warrior? Did she know any warriors? Why should I take it for anything more than sanctimonious drivel?

Nietzsche, for example, would disagree. Why should I favour Nin over Nietzsche? Nietzsche at least had some war experience.

Here's yet another view:

Reflective apologists for war at the present day all take it religiously. It is a sort of sacrament. Its profits are to the vanquished as well as to the victor; and quite apart from any question of profit, it is an absolute good, we are told, for it is human nature at its highest dynamic. Its "horrors" are a cheap price to pay for rescue from the only alternative supposed, of a world of clerks and teachers, (...) of "consumer's leagues" and "associated charities," of industrialism unlimited, and feminism unabashed. No scorn, no hardness, no valor any more! (...)

So far as the central essence of this feeling goes, no healthy minded person, it seems to me, can help to some degree parting of it. Militarism is the great preserver of our ideals of hardihood, and human life with no use for hardihood would be contemptible. Without risks or prizes for the darer, history would be insipid indeed; and there is a type of military character which every one feels that the race should never cease to breed, for everyone is sensitive to its superiority. The duty is incumbent on mankind, of keeping military character in stock -- if keeping them, if not for use, then as ends in themselves and as pure pieces of perfection, -- so that (...) weaklings and mollycoddles may not end by making everything else disappear from the face of nature.

This natural sort of feeling forms, I think, the innermost soul of army writings. Without any exception known to me, militarist authors take a highly mystical view of their subject, and regard war as a biological or sociological necessity, uncontrolled by ordinary psychological checks or motives. When the time of development is ripe the war must come, reason or no reason, for the justifications pleaded are invariably fictions. War is, in short, a permanent human obligation.

General Homer Lea, in his recent book The Valor of Ignorance, plants himself squarely on this ground. Readiness for war is for him the essence of nationality, and ability in it the supreme measure of the health of nations. Nations, General Lea says, are never stationary -- they must necessarily expand or shrink, according to their vitality or decrepitude. (...)

Other militarists are more complex and more moral in their considerations. The Philosophie des Krieges, by S. R. Steinmetz is good example. War, according to this author, is an ordeal instituted by God, who weighs the nations in its balance. It is the essential form of the State, and the only function in which peoples can employ all their powers at once and convergently.

No victory is possible save as the resultant of a totality of virtues, no defeat for which some vice or weakness is not responsible. Fidelity, cohesiveness, tenacity, heroism, conscience, education, inventiveness, economy, wealth, physical health and vigor -- there isn't a moral or intellectual point of superiority that doesn't tell, when God holds his assizes and hurls the peoples upon one another.

Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht; and Dr. Steinmetz does not believe that in the long run chance and luck play any part in apportioning the issues.

The virtues that prevail, it must be noted, are virtues anyhow, superiorities that count in peaceful as well as in military competition; but the strain is on them, being infinitely intenser in the latter case, makes war infinitely more searching as a trial.

No ordeal is comparable to its winnowings. Its dread hammer is the welder of men into cohesive states, and nowhere but in such states can human nature adequately develop its capacity. The only alternative is "degeneration." (...)

--William James

Well?