Home > Uncategorized > Bertha von Suttner: Vengeance! War breeds more war.

Bertha von Suttner: Vengeance! War breeds more war.

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

Women writers on peace and war

Bertha von Suttner: Selections on peace and war

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Bertha von Suttner
From Lay Down Your Arms
The Autobiography of Martha von Tilling

Translated by T. Holmes

Vengeance! and always repeated vengeance! Every war must leave one side defeated, and if this side can only find satisfaction in the next war, a war which must naturally produce another defeated side craving satisfaction, when is it to stop? How can justice be attained, when can old injustice be atoned, if fresh injustice is always to be employed as the means of atonement? It would never suggest itself to any reasonable man to wash out ink spots with ink and oil stains with oil, it is only blood which has always to be washed out with new blood!

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What is most astonishing, according to my way of looking at it, is, that men should bring each other into such a state – that men who have seen such a sight should not sink on their knees and swear a passionate oath to make war on war – that if they are princes they do not fling the sword away – or if they are not in any position of power, they do not from that moment devote their whole action in speech or writing, in thought, teaching or business to this one end – Lay down your arms.

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“Mahomet’s paradise was assured to every Mussulman who had killed a Christian,” replied Bresser. “Believe me, my dear Frau Simon, all those deities who have been represented as leaders of wars, and whose assistance and blessing the priests and commanders promise as the wages of murder, all of them are as deaf to blasphemies as to prayers. Look up there; that star of the first magnitude, with reddish light, it is only seen twinkling or rather shining, for it does not twinkle, over our heads every second year, that is the planet Mars, the star dedicated to the God of War, that god who was so feared and reverenced in old times that he had by far more temples than the Goddess of Love. Of old on the field of Marathon, in the narrow pass of Thermopylæ, that star shed a bloody light on the battles of men, and to him rose up the curses of the fallen who accused him of their misfortune, while he indifferent and peaceful, then as now, was circling round the sun. Hostile stars? there are no such things. Man has no enemy except man, but he is savage enough. And no other friend either,” added Bresser….

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What is most astonishing, according to my way of looking at it, is, that men should bring each other into such a state – that men who have seen such a sight should not sink on their knees and swear a passionate oath to make war on war – that if they are princes they do not fling the sword away – or if they are not in any position of power, they do not from that moment devote their whole action in speech or writing, in thought, teaching or business to this one end – Lay down your arms.

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“Believe me, my dear Frau Simon, all those deities who have been represented as leaders of wars, and whose assistance and blessing the priests and commanders promise as the wages of murder, all of them are as deaf to blasphemies as to prayers. Look up there; that star of the first magnitude, with reddish light, it is only seen twinkling or rather shining, for it does not twinkle, over our heads every second year, that is the planet Mars, the star dedicated to the God of War, that god who was so feared and reverenced in old times that he had by far more temples than the Goddess of Love. Of old on the field of Marathon, in the narrow pass of Thermopylæ, that star shed a bloody light on the battles of men, and to him rose up the curses of the fallen who accused him of their misfortune, while he indifferent and peaceful, then as now, was circling round the sun. Hostile stars? there are no such things. Man has no enemy except man, but he is savage enough. And no other friend either,” added Bresser….

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The more progenitors one can point out in one’s family who have lost their lives in battles, whether won or lost, the prouder is the descendant of it, the more value may he set on his name, the less value on his life. In order to show oneself worthy of one’s slain ancestors, one must have a lively joy of one’s own in slaying, active and passive.

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The very name of the opposing nation gathers round it in war time a whole host of hateful implied meanings. It is not merely the distinctive name of a nation hostile for the moment, but it becomes the synonym for “enemy,” and comprises in itself all the repugnance which that word expresses.

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“Rather say that our present stage of civilisation does not suit the savagery which has come down to us from old times. As long as this savagery, that is, so long as the spirit of war is not cast out, our much-valued ‘humanity’ cannot be looked on as reasonable….”

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