Home > Uncategorized > Victor Cherbuliez and Erich Fromm: Wars are outbursts of destructiveness and paranoid suspicion

Victor Cherbuliez and Erich Fromm: Wars are outbursts of destructiveness and paranoid suspicion

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

Erich Fromm
From The Sane Society (1955)

220px-Victor_Cherbuliez_par_Eugène_Pirou
Victor Cherbuliez

erich_fromm
Erich Fromm

[Posted with fair use understanding. Spelling of surname of Victor Cherbuliez corrected from original text]

In the last hundred years we, in the Western world, have created a greater material wealth than any other society in the history of the human race. Yet we have managed to kill off millions of our population in an arrangement which we call “war.” Aside from smaller wars, we had larger ones in 1870, 1914 and 1939. During these wars, every participant firmly believed that he was fighting in his self-defense, for his honor, or that he was backed up by God. The groups with whom one is at war are, often from one day to the next, looked upon as cruel, irrational fiends, whom one must defeat to save the world from evil. But a few years after the mutual slaughter is over, the enemies of yesterday are our friends, the friends of yesterday our enemies, and again in full seriousness we begin to paint them with appropriate colors of black and white. At this moment, in the year 1955, we are prepared for a mass slaughter which would, if it could come to pass, surpass any slaughter the human race has arranged so far. One of the greatest discoveries in the field of natural science is prepared for this purpose. Everybody is looking with a mixture of confidence and apprehension to the “statesmen” of the various peoples, ready to heap all praise on them if they “succeed in avoiding a war,” and ignoring the fact that it is only these very statesmen who ever cause a war…

In these outbursts of destructiveness and paranoid suspicion, however, we are not behaving differently from what the civilized part of mankind has done in the last three thousand years of history. According to Victor Cherbuliez, from 1500 B.C. to 1860 A.D. no less than eight thousand peace treaties were signed, each one supposed to secure permanent peace, and each one lasting on an average two years!

***

In modern war, one individual can cause the destruction of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. He could do so by pushing a button; he may not feel the emotional impact of what he is doing, since he does not know the people whom he kills; it is almost as if his act of pushing the button and their death had no real connection. The same man would probably be incapable of even slapping, not to speak of killing, a helpless person.

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