Home > Uncategorized > George Santayana: If dreadful outer world became troublesome, it would be necessary to make war on it and teach it a lesson

George Santayana: If dreadful outer world became troublesome, it would be necessary to make war on it and teach it a lesson


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

American writers on peace and against war

George Santayana: Selections on war


George Santayana
From The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel (1935)


Her moral ideal was democracy, but a democracy of the elect. There could be no oppression in imposing uniformity on people who were really all alike; and such a society exacted from its members only what, if they were honourable, they would exact from themselves. She couldn’t conceive life except in a clan, where all the peers should have equal rights and similar virtues. Beyond the pale there could be nothing but utter darkness – an alien, heathen, unintelligible world, to be kept as remote as possible. If they couldn’t grow tea at home, she supposed they must get it from China or Ceylon. And she supposed that if occasionally that dreadful outer world became troublesome, it would be necessary to make war on it and teach it a lesson: but by far the best thing was to ignore it altogether. It ought never to have existed.


“It is unfortunate to have been born at a time when the force of human character was ebbing, while the tide of material activity and material knowledge was rising so high as to drown all moral independence. I have been a victim of my environment: but I have not surrendered to it. I have surrendered only to my own limitations.”


“Poor prodigal world, let us not insult it: let us pray for it. But meantime, we must remain ourselves, as Emerson remained himself, only not on those stilts of his, not with that self-worship; because the world was no more made to serve us by illustrating our philosophy than we were made to serve the world by licking its boots…

“Boston and Harvard have need now of fresh blood, of fresh spiritual courage. They are becoming too much like the rest of the country, choked with big business, forced fads, and merely useful knowledge. Our fearless souls of other days have left no heirs. We need to break away again – were we not always come-outers? – from intellectual professionalism, from the slough of wholesale standardised opinion, from the dulcet mendacity of the pulpits, from the sheepish, ignorant, monotonous, epidemic mind of our political rulers…America is the greatest of opportunities and the worst of influences…

“You look shocked and a bit offended: why do I say that America is the worst of influences? Because it imposes vices which regard themselves as virtues, from which therefore there is no repentance at hand. It imposes optimism, imposes worldliness, imposes mediocrity. Bur our mediocrity, with our resources, is a disgrace, our worldliness a sin, our optimism a lie…”

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