Home > Uncategorized > Georg Brandes: The future will look on war as the present looks on witchcraft, the Inquisition

Georg Brandes: The future will look on war as the present looks on witchcraft, the Inquisition


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

Georg Brandes: Selections on war


Georg Brandes
From The Great Era (1915)
Translated by Catherine D. Groth

Georg Brandes

How often we hear that we are living through epoch-making days! That the war marks the greatest events in the history of humanity, since never before have human lives and material values been counted on such a scale. All this may be true, but, personally, I do not see facts in this light. I look upon great inventions that benefit humanity — steamships, locomotives, telegraphy, electricity, aeroplanes, etc. — as factors which create epoch-making days. But I cannot conceive continuous wholesale murder, egged on by the vilest and most rabid stirring of national hatred, as creating a great era, if by great one implies valuable. Of course it may be claimed that the magnitude of the ideals fought for, not the magnitude of the damage done, makes the present war great.

…But as a general thing, wars are not waged for ideals but for profit. Economic competition is always tense between nations, and the object of an open break between them is to gain undisputed power, supremacy.

All of the belligerents are convinced that right is on their side, and the leaders of public opinion impress this on the masses in their respective countries. The people in every country, therefore, believe they are fighting for right and never doubt that Heaven owes them victory. They all frown on neutrals, whom they despise for being unable to see right on one side only. They who are fighting for their lives are not receptive to arguments, and it is futile to answer their attacks.

The great days we are living through are, therefore, days where old prejudices, race hatred, and national hatred have been stirred to life and become omnipotent. Everything bestial in human nature spreads and stretches itself. Murder all night and all day, unceasing, is weakening European and Asiatic nations — their youth is sacrificed on the battlefield, and the people at home perish from sorrow, want, and starvation.

And this is the result of humanity’s gospel for nineteen hundred years: Love your neighbour as yourself!

It is inevitable, that the very young who have never seen war before and who have been taught that something good comes out of everything, even from the worst, have faith in the coming peace.

As for me, I am convinced that future generations will look upon the great days we are living in as we look upon the days of witchcraft and the Inquisition.

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