Home > Uncategorized > Aldous Huxley: War is now the affair of every man, woman and child in the community

Aldous Huxley: War is now the affair of every man, woman and child in the community

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Aldous Huxley: Selections on war

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Aldous Huxley
From Ends and Means (1937)

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The whole effort of all the governments is directed, I repeat, to making propaganda against enemies and in favour of war; against those who try to tell the truth about the nature and effects of the new armaments and in favour of manufacturing such armaments in ever-increasing quantities.

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A principal cause of war is nationalism, and nationalism is immensely popular because it is psychologically satisfying to individual nationalists. Every nationalism is an idolatrous religion, in which the god is a personified state…Membership of the ex hypothesi divine nation is thought of as a kind of mystical pre-eminence.

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Self-esteem has as its complement disparagement of others. Vanity and pride beget contempt and hatred. But contempt and hatred are exciting emotions – emotions from which people ‘get a kick.’ Devotees of one national idolatry enjoy getting the kick of hatred and contempt of devotees of other idolatries. They pay for that enjoyment by having to prepare for the wars which hatred and contempt render almost inevitable. Another point. In the normal course of events most men and women behave tolerably well. This means that they must frequently repress their anti-social impulses. They find a vicarious satisfaction for these impulses through films and stories about gangsters, pirates, swindlers, bad bold barons and the like. Now, the personified nation…is divine in size, strength and mystical superiority, but sub-human in moral character. The ethics of international politics are precisely those of the gangster, the pirate, the swindler, the bad bold baron. The exemplary citizen can engage in vicarious criminality, not only on the films, but also in the field of international relations. Submissive to the wife, kind to the children, courteous to the neighbours, the soul of honesty in business, the good citizen feels a thrill of delight when his country ‘takes a strong line,’ ‘enhances its prestige,’ ‘increases its territory’ – in other words, when it bluffs, bullies, swindles and steals.

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The aim of modern nationalistic propaganda is to transform men’s natural affection for their home into a fiercely exclusive worship of the deified nation. Disputes between nations are beginning to take on that uncompromising, fanatical quality which, in the past, characterized the dealings between groups of religious or political sectaries. It looks as though all future wars will be as furiously ideological as the old wars of religion.

In tha past, many wars were fought for the ‘glory’ resulting from victory. The Assyrian monarchs fought for glory; so did Alexander the Great; so did many mediaeval kings and lords; so did Louis XIV and the dynasts of eighteenth-century Europe; so did Napoleon…Glory is generally regarded as the perquisite of the general or king; but not always or exclusively. In a country whose people are moved by strong nationalistic feelings, glory can be thought of as pertaining in some degree to every member of the community…The press, the radio and the film bring national glory within the reach of all. When things go badly at home and people start to complain, the dictator is always tempted to manufacture a little compensatory glory abroad…In the past the glory-making machine was a small professional army. So long as the battles were being fought at a reasonable distance from their homes, people did not feel much concern about this professional army; its sufferings did not affect them personally, and when it won a victory, they got the glory vicariously and free of charge. Today every man must serve as a conscript, and the aeroplane has made war almost as dangerous for non-combatants as for front-line fighters. Glory must be paid for by all; war is now the affair of every man, woman and child in the community…Twentieth-century armaments are an insurance against small and trivial wars. On the other hand, they are an absolute guarantee that when ‘vital interests’ and ‘national honour’ are at stake, the resulting war shall be unprecedentedly destructive.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 6, 2013 at 1:27 am

    Huxley is turning in his grave nearly 100 years after his visionary prophecies began to form into his own mode of fiction. He is one of my favorite authors and raised serious issues and made world-wide breakthroughs in the research of psychedelics as well as our cognitive liberties. I drew a portrait as homage to the man and his works. See the him roll with the mushrooms, the pills and the doors of perception at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2010/07/aldous-huxley-rolls-in-his-grave.html

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