Between Nation and Nation.

From: The Creed of Kinship (1935)
Author: Henry S. Salt
Published: Constable & Co Ltd 1935 London


“Si vis pacem para bellum.
Leave such lies to those who tell ‘em.
Wiser maxims now replace ‘em.
Ni vis bellum para pacem.”

  The saving sense of Kinship is necessarily a power of much later growth between separate nations, even if they be neighbouring nations, than between countrymen of the same race. Barriers of distance, and differences of speech, always delay, and frequently prevent, a mutual understanding; and the tradition handed down from generation to generation has more often been one of mere enmity than of friendship. Such are the discouraging facts which, in spite of conferences and “conversations,” have to-day to be acknowledged.

  Nevertheless here, too, the feeling of friendship, even of brotherhood, exists, and if not forever checked and countered by its exact opposite (the fighting spirit which breeds quarrels between races), is capable of making the world a civilised and habitable place, instead of the hell of rival camps that we see it to-day. Let us consider.

  Turning straight to such international matters as would be affected by a belief in Kinship, we find the first and most obvious in the crime of War, a madness which is at last beginning to be recognised as suicidal to both parties engaged. Of war’s horrors it is less necessary here to speak: it is the glaring misconceptions connected with it that demand attention.

  Si vis pacem para bellum (“if you wish for peace, prepare for war”), is a fallacy which, far from being dead, as was fondly supposed a few years ago, is still very much and very mischievously alive. Under such a truce, open hostilities may doubtless be staved off for a time by a show of warlike preparations, but for a time only; for as soon as the opposing nation is also well equipped it will be ready to take the field, and much more likely to do so than if there had been no rival preparation. The mere postponement or avoidance of warfare is not peace; and the avoidance of hostilities is ultimately endangered, not secured, by international armaments. For, in the long run, opportunity begets action; and whether you put a whip into a coachman’s hand, a poker into a lunatic’s, or a rifle into a soldier’s, the weapon will eventually be used. There is no sillier saying in the world than Si vis pacem.

  In view of the appalling miseries which war inflicts on mankind, one can only smile at the plea that it inspires, among those who wage it, a spirit of comradeship and patriotic unselfishness in “the Cause.” Let the claim be fully granted; but at what cost is this attained? Love of comrades, based on hatred of enemies; fellowship, rooted in animosity—is this sort of moral stimulant likely to be of much service to mankind? It may be allowed that, owing to the diversity of human character, it is possible that some individuals may be sobered and strengthened even by the fearful ordeal of war; but the majority are made more callous, more restless, and less able to settle down to a rational and peaceful life.

  I have heard it amiably remarked that “there are worse things than fighting.” Perhaps so; but it is conveniently forgotten that the things that are worse, or are assumed to be worse, than fighting, usually follow in war’s train. We have war, plus the things that are worse, not instead of the things that are worse. Rape, robbery, violence in its many forms—when do these things most flourish? To state the question fairly is to see the fallacy exposed. For war, as John Bright described it, is “the combination and concentration of all the atrocities, crimes, and sufferings, of which human nature on this globe is capable.”

  And all the time there is seldom any real hostility between the actual combatants; it is not so much the men who have to fight as the fools by whom they are forced to fight, that hate each other. The enmity between races is usually worked up. One of the few healthy and cheering incidents in the great European struggle was the manner (hardly to be mentioned) in which the English and German soldiers fraternised during an armistice, as if it were a football match, not a battle, and of course such a rational symptom was suppressed. Contrariwise, it was a glaring instance of war’s wrongs that socialists should have been compelled to fight against socialists, though in truth far more closely akin to one another than are the workers and the idlers of the same race.

  Another fact which ought to be more clearly recognised is that there is a close connection between wars and other inhumanities, the ill usage, for instance, of animals, especially of horses—a point which the pacifists themselves do not urge as they ought. Peace cannot be secured by itself: its attainment will depend on kinship in all departments of life; on the way in which men regard and treat their fellow-beings generally. Animals suffer greatly in war, and as a consequence of it; and just as the waging of wars has a serious bearing on the treatment of animals, so, it may be asserted, the treatment of animals is not without its effect on the conduct of wars, a civilising or a barbarising effect, as may be.

  Blood-sports and battles are certainly kindred pastimes with a good deal in common, and the temper which makes war still possible is kept alive and fostered, among other practices, by that of doing to death thousands of helpless animals for purposes of mere recreation. Peace advocates who declaim against the horrors of war, without taking note of the kindred horrors of “sport,” have not looked very deeply into the subject of their propaganda; and the same is true of those lovers of animals who are shocked at the idea of chasing a fox, but accept the flimsiest sophism as an excuse for warfare. Blood-sport is in truth a form of war, and war is a form of blood-sport.1

  Perhaps the worst and most shocking fact of all, in regard to international disagreements, is the readiness of the Press of one country to foster jealousy and animosity against another, as in the reckless abuse of Russia by certain journalists of this country, writing in papers which are the mouthpieces of the wealthy classes, and consequently view the communist experiment with apprehension. Then, as regards our “possessions,” as we absurdly call them, it is full time for the nonsensical talk about “empire” to be given up; for in the present age it is not possible for one nation permanently to occupy the country of another. Surely our colonies- America beyond question—have taught us that lesson; and now Ireland and India follow on like lines, and doubtless with the same result. As in Francis Adams’s verses, To England:

“Look westward! Ireland’s vengeful eyes are cast
On freedom won.
Look eastward! India stirs from sleep at last.
You are undone!”2

  Against these terrible facts what can avail an idle talk about “patriotism,” when a genuine patriotism is something quite different from the selfish and silly affectation with which dullards confound it? Again, why, it must be asked, are those who fall in war “heroes” more than those who die when doing their duty in any other field or occupation? Without the least ingratitude or disrespect to the memory of dead soldiers, the nonsense, sheer nonsense, that is talked about soldiering must in honesty be pointed out. Look at the following instance.

  Speaking on Armistice Sunday, 1932, Sir Ian Hamilton said: “Wicked and cruel as war may be, it does at least possess one merit—it draws folk together, so that the whole of the people of each of the contending countries feel that they belong to one family.”3 But where is the merit of drawing people together, unless the purpose is good? It is an additional evil, not merit, of war, that it creates a feeling of hatred between the nations that disagree. How people act and behave, when a war makes them “feel that they belong to one family,” was very clearly shown in the course of the Great War, when there was an agitation in London in favour of the internment of all aliens “of enemy blood.” The words used by certain speakers were of a nature which one would be almost ashamed to reprint; yet the audience in Trafalgar Square repeated after one of them a solemn oath to bring force to bear on the authorities “to turn out the accursed, insidious, and dangerous enemy alien.”4 That is the way in which the people of one country are “drawn together” by war. The foolish sentiment that has been cultivated all down the centuries by poets and painters is used, in the long run, by the militant spirit for a cruel and vindictive purpose of its own.

  A full sense of kinship is probably at present more a matter of rationality than of nationality, of good sense than of “patriotism.” Ages have yet to pass before, in any nation, the quarrelsome fool is eliminated. But, meantime, something can be done to make progress, and it is of interest to recall a suggestion of a high and truly heroic nature made, some years before the war, by the correspondent of a London newspaper.5 It was that Germany should restore to France the provinces that had been taken from her. “What a thrill throughout the world,” he wrote, “what an imperishable place in history for the German Emperor, were the centenary of Waterloo to be commemorated by the generous, the magnificent release of Alsace Lorraine!”

  That was most true; but Germany is not the only nation that has failed to make a gesture of that kind. There are other “empires” that have been no less oddly built up. We had better look” nearer home.”

1 The Morning Post of November 13th, 1933, actually had a picture of fox-hunters reverentially observing the Silence for the Dead.
2 I believe there is nothing that so causes the dominant races to be detested, as their bad manners, as the insolence of Englishmen in calling Indians “niggers.”
3 The Morning Post, November 7th, 1932.
4 The Daily Mail, July, 1918.
5 Mr. J. F. Macdonald, Paris correspondent of the Daily News.

All Sub-Works of The Creed of Kinship (1935):
PDF Sub-Works open in a new tab. Close the tab when done viewing to return here.