Home > Uncategorized > Émile Zola: Prescription for a happy life in the midst of universal peace

Émile Zola: Prescription for a happy life in the midst of universal peace

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

Émile Zola: Selections on war

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Émile Zola
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified

ZOLA_1902B

“It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to give back.”

It is necessary to give back, because death results from the wealth stolen from others. It is necessary to give back, because the only cure, the only certainty, and the only happiness lie in doing so. It is necessary to give back, from a spirit of justice, and still more from personal interest, as the happiness of each can reside only in the happiness of all. It is necessary to give back, in order to compass our own welfare, and to live a healthy and a happy life in the midst of universal peace. It is necessary to give back, since if all the possessors of public wealth should to-morrow give up all the riches that they are squandering for their solitary pleasures – the great domains, the great exploitations, the manufactories, etc. – we should at once have peace, love flourishing among men, and such an abundance of blessings that there would no longer be a single wretched person upon earth. It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to set an example if it is desired that other necessary rich persons may understand and feel whence proceed the evils that they suffer, and desire again to seek in active life, in daily labor, the bread that never nourishes better than when it has been earned. It is necessary to give back, while yet there is time, when there is still some nobility in making restitution to one’s comrades, in showing them that one has been deceived, and in resuming one’s place for the common effort, with the hope of the approaching hour of justice and peace. It is necessary to give back, and thus to die with a clear conscience and a heart rejoicing at a duty fulfilled, leaving behind the lesson of reparation and liberation, to the last of the race, in order that he may raise it again, that he may save it from error, and that he may continue it in strength, in joy, and in beauty.

“It is necessary to give back; it is necessary to give back.”

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Ever since electricity had been employed the horrible racket kept up by the rolling-mills had ceased. They now worked softly, as if well oiled, with no noise but that of a little silvery sound as each rail dropped upon the pile of others that lay cooling. The machines were incessantly producing what would tend to peace, would cross old frontiers, and make neighboring nations one great people, until the whole globe should be furrowed by their tracks. There were great steel ships – no longer abominable ships of war, carrying devastation and death, but ships of solidarity and fraternity, exchanging the products of continents, and increasing tenfold the wealth of mankind, and to such a point that abundance was now reigning everywhere. There were bridges also facilitating communications, and girders and the metallic frame-work needed for public buildings, such as communal houses, libraries, museums, asylums, immense cooperative storehouses, elevators, and granaries able to contain grain enough to feed all nations. Finally, there were innumerable machines, which in all places and for all purposes were taking the place of the arms of men, whether tillers of the soil or toilers in the workshop. Luc rejoiced at seeing all this iron used for pacific purposes. He looked on it as the conquering metal, long used to make swords and other weapons for men of blood, then in later years it had made cannon and shells, but now he was employing it to build houses for fraternity, justice, and happiness, peace in these last times having been attained.

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