Aldous Huxley: All devote themselves methodically and scientifically to general massacre and wholesale destruction
From Science, Liberty and Peace (1946)
(In memory of Mons Lomblad)
In a world where the concentration of economic power is advantageous to the ruling minority, it is only natural that the results of disinterested scientific research should be applied in such a way as to foster large-scale mass production and mass distribution. And in a world where nationalism is taken for granted, and where the values of nationalism are held to be supreme, it is only natural that these same results should be applied to the end of producing and continually improving the instruments of war.
Because it paid them to do so, men of science, inventors and engineers have worked to build up a system of centralized industry; and because, as nationalists, they thought it was their duty (and also, it must be added, because the duty was often a very profitable one), they have worked to produce such marvels of technological ingenuity as tanks, bombers, flame-throwers and atomic missiles.
‘Nationality,’ wrote Lord Acton in 1862, ‘does not aim either at liberty or prosperity, both of which it sacrifices to the imperative necessity of making the nation the mould and measure of the state. Its course will be marked with material as well as moral ruin.’ Acton’s prophecy is still in the terrible process of fulfilment. The material havoc wrought by applied science in the service of nationalism is such that it will take a generation to repair the damage. For many millions of men, women and especially children, the moral ruin caused by the war is irreparable; to the end of their lives they ane doomed to remain psychologically warped…
[I]ncendiaries, the heavy bomber and the jet-propelled robot plane, the rocket and finally the atomic missile — taken together these constitute a powerful temptation to ignore the traditional rules of war and to obliterate whole-sale entire civilian populations and their dwellings. To this temptation all the belligerents in the Second World War succumbed.
And so long as governments and manufacturers continue to subsidize research into the science and technology of armaments, these temptations will remain, irresistibly beckoning to nationalistic power lovers, just as drink and sex and money beckon to their respective addicts.
In recent months many persons have optimistically argued that the harnessing of atomic energy must (because that energy is so destructive) put an end to men’s inveterate habit of making war. Similar arguments have been set forth in the past. Whenever progressive applied science has produced some strikingly more efficient instrument of slaughter, hopes have been voiced, and facts and figures marshalled to prove, that henceforward war would be too expensive in life, suffering and money to be worth waging. Nevertheless wars have still been fought…
Methods of defence against the new destructive weapon are devised and yet more efficient instruments of counter-attack are invented. Advances in technology do not abolish the institution of war; they merely modify its manifestations. In the present instance it seems quite possible that there may be no defence against atomic missiles. But this does not necessarily presage the end of warfare. The collective mentality of nations — the mentality which reasonable adults have to adopt, when making important decisions in the field of international politics — is that of a delinquent boy of fourteen…
Area bombing, saturation bombing, rocket bombing, bombing by atomic missiles — the indiscriminateness has steadily increased throughout the Second World War, until now no nation even makes a pretence of observing the traditional distinction between civilians and combatants, innocent and guilty, but all devote themselves methodically and scientifically to general massacre and wholesale destruction. Other practical consequences of our ‘nothing-but’ philosophies of life are the employment by civilized people, with a high standard of scientific and technological training, of torture, human vivisection and the systematic starvation of entire populations. And finally there is the phenomenon of forced migration — the removal at the point of the bayonet of millions of men, women and children from their homes to other places, where most of them will die of hunger, exposure and disease.