Passing of the War Virtues, October, 1914

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PASSING OF THE WAR VIRTUES: BY JANE ADDAMS

"OF all the winged words which Tolstoy wrote during the war between Russia and Japan, perhaps none are more significant than these: 'The great strife of our time is not that now taking place between the Japanese and the Russians, nor that which may blaze up between the white and the yellow races, nor that strife which is carried on by mines, bombs, and bullets, but that spiritual strife which, without ceasing, has gone on and is going on between the enlightened consciousness of mankind now awaiting for manifestation and that darkness and that burden which surrounds and oppresses mankind.' ...

"At the present moment the war spirit attempts to justify its noisy demonstrations by quoting its great achievements in the past and by drawing attention to the courageous life which it has evoked and fostered. It is, however, perhaps significant that the adherents of war are more and more justifying it by its past record and reminding us of its ancient origin. They tell us that it is interwoven with every fiber of human growth and is at the root of all that is noble and courageous in human life, that struggle is the basis of all progress, that it is now extended from individuals and tribes to nations and races.

"We may admire much that is admirable in this past life of courageous warfare, while at the same time we accord it no right to dominate the present, which has traveled out of its reach into a land of new desires. We may admit that the experiences of war have equipped the men of the present with pluck and energy, but to insist upon the selfsame expression for that pluck and energy would be as stupid a mistake as if we would relegate the full-grown citizen, responding to many claims and demands upon his powers, to the schoolyard fights of his boyhood, or to the college contests of his cruder youth. The little lad who stoutly defends himself on the school-ground may be worthy of much admiration, but if we find him, a dozen years later, the bullying leader of a street-gang who bases his prestige on the fact that "no one can whip him," our admiration cools amazingly, and we say that the carrying over of these puerile instincts into manhood shows arrested development which is mainly responsible for filling our prisons. …

"Let us by all means acknowledge and preserve that which has been good in warfare and in the spirit of warfare; let us gather it together and incorporate it in our national fiber. Let us, however, not be guilty for a moment of shutting our eyes to that which for many centuries must have been disquieting to the moral sense, but [page 2] which is gradually becoming impossible, not only because of our increasing sensibilities, but because great constructive plans and humanized interests have captured our hopes and we are finding that war is an implement too clumsy and barbaric to subserve our purpose. We have come to realize that the great task of pushing forward social justice could be enormously accelerated if primitive methods as well as primitive weapons were once for all abolished. …

"INDUSTRIAL life affords ample opportunity for endurance, discipline, and a sense of detachment, if the struggle is really put upon the highest level, of industrial efficiency. But because our industrial life is not on this level, we constantly tend to drop the newer and less developed ideals for the older ones of warfare, we ignore the fact that war so readily throws back the ideals which the young are nourishing into the mold of those which the old should be outgrowing. It lures young men not to develop, but to exploit; it turns them from the courage and toil of industry to the bravery and endurance of war, and leads them to forget that civilization is the substitution of law for war. It incites their ambitions, not to irrigate, to make fertile and sanitary, the barren plain of the savage, but to fill it with military posts and tax-gatherers, to cease from pushing forward industrial action into new fields and to fall back upon military action. …

"It is the military idea, resting content as it does with the passive results of order and discipline, which confesses a totally inadequate conception of the value and power of human life. The charge of obtaining negative results could with great candor be brought against militarism, while the strenuous task, the vigorous and difficult undertaking, involving the use of the most highly developed human powers, can be claimed for industrialism.

"Militarism undertakes to set in order, to suppress and to govern, if necessary to destroy, while industrialism undertakes to liberate latent forces, to reconcile them to new conditions, to demonstrate that their aroused activities can no longer follow caprice, but must fit into a larger order of life. …  

"War, on the one hand -- plain destruction, Von Moltke called it -- represents the life of the garrison and the tax-gatherer, the Roman emperor and his degenerate people, living upon the fruits of their conquest. Labor, on the other hand, represents productive effort, holding carefully what has been garnered by the output of brain and muscle, guarding the harvest jealously because it is the precious bread men live by."

From "Newer Ideals of Peace:" Published by The Macmillan Co.

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