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Romain Rolland: The way to peace is not through weakness

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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
From Mahatma Gandhi
Translated by Catherine D. Groth

The world is swept by the wind of violence. This storm which ravages the harvest of our civilization did not break out from a clear sky. Centuries of brutal notional pride, whetted by the idolatrous ideology of the Revolution, spread by the empty mockery of democracies, and crowned by a century of inhuman industrialism, rapacious plutocracy, and a materialistic system of economics where the soul perishes, stifled to death, were bound to culminate in these dark struggles where the treasures of the West succumbed. It is not enough to say all this was inevitable. There is a Δίκη in it. Each people kills the other in the name of the same principles which hid the same covetousness and Cainish instincts. All…claim that they have the right to use force, while refusing this right to others. Half a century ago might dominated right. To-day things are far worse. Might is right. Might has devoured right.

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The peace of the world is far off. We have no illusions. We have seen, abundantly, during the course of half a century, the hypocrisy, the cowardice, and the cruelty of mankind. But this does not prevent us from loving mankind. For even among the worst’ there is a nescio quid Dei. We know the material ties that weigh on twentieth century Europe, the crushing determinism of economic conditions which hem it in; we know that centuries of passions and systematized error have built a crust about our souls which the light cannot pierce. But we also know what miracles the spirit can work.

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The Realpolitiker of violence, whether revolutionary or reactionary, ridicule our faith, and reveal thereby their ignorance of deep reality. Let them jeer! I have this faith, I know it is scorned and persecuted in Europe, and that in my own land we are but a handful – are we even a handful? – who believe in it. And even if I were the only one to believe in it, what would it matter? The true characteristic of faith is not to the hostility of the world, but to recognize it and to believe in spite of it! Faith is a battle. And our non-violence is the most desperate battle. The way to peace is not through weakness. We do not fight violence so much as weakness. Nothing is worth while unless it is strong, neither good nor evil. Absolute evil is better than emasculated goodness. Moaning pacifism is the deathknell of peace; it is cowardice and lack of faith. Let those who do not believe, who fear, withdraw! The way to peace leads through self-sacrifice.

This is Gandhi’s message.

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