Home > Uncategorized > John Middleton Murry: The pacifism of luxury and the pacifism of sacrifice

John Middleton Murry: The pacifism of luxury and the pacifism of sacrifice


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

British writers on peace and war

John Middleton Murry: Selections on peace and war


John Middleton Murry
From Beyond the Nation

Up to the last war our nationalism did not require conscription. It left the individual all kinds of luxury freedoms – and pacifism was one of them. In England it was possible to be a pacifist and a nationalist at once…..But slowly and inevitably, the mists of the old illusion are moving away, and the naked reality of the landscape begins to emerge….Our nationalism reveals itself as precisely the same as everyone else’s: it’s compelling us to do precisely the same things as everybody else. It is beginning to dawn upon us, generally, that the whole nation will be mobilized for war, and that it follows inexorably that a man will not be able to be a pacifist and a law-abiding citizen as well. Out of the war-machine today means out of the national machine.

It is best to have no illusions about it: not simply because it is always, in the long run, a good thing to have no illusions, but because (in my personal opinion) it enables the pacifist to understand what he is really after. He is out, whether he knows it or not, to break up the machine that has usurped the place of the natural society. That is the negative. The positive is that he is out to create a new international society. And that new international society does not have to wait for existence upon vast and impossible surrenders by the nations themselves. It exists already: it has existed from the moment that individual pacifists in every nation have decided that, in the matter of modern nationalist warfare, they must obey a higher authority than the nation. They may call this authority by different names. Some will call it Conscience; others will call it Reason; yet others will call it Humanity. I myself call it God. But it seems to me that there can be no doubt that under whatever name it may be concealed or revealed, it is always the same Authority. I also think that those who elect to obey this Authority are citizens of the same City.


From This England

And how shall this country – this freedom that is my country – be defended today? By compelling its members to bear their part in raining high explosives and the rest of the abominations upon defenceless populations, to teach them not to rain them on our own?


We lift up our hands in horror at what Japanese patriotism is doing in China. We refuse to admit to our consciousness that English patriotism will do exactly the same thing. It is time for a new patriotism: a patriotism that will die for its country, but will not kill for it – a patriotism that will bring the City of Man a little nearer to the City of God, instead of degrading it to the City of the Beast.

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