Illustrated London News, January 14, 1911
I never can quite understand why it is that when the newspapers mention Christmas and its lessons they begin to talk at once about international disarmament. It is certainly a Christmas ideal that unjust wars should cease; but not more than unjust Governments, or unjust trades, or unjust law-suits, or any of the numberless other ways in which men torture or betray their kind. The usual and popular translation of the song of the angels is "Peace on earth: goodwill among men." Apart from the accuracy, it might be worth while to point out that the two are very different things. Peace on earth might mean something quite different from goodwill among men. Peace on earth might mean a still panic, lying flat before a universal tyrant. Peace on earth might mean every man hating his neighbour, but fearing his neighbour just one shade more than he hated him. "They make a solitude and call it peace." So said the old Roman satirist; but the silence of which he spoke was at least a dead silence. How if we make a living silence- a silence of mute millions of slaves? And how if we call that peace?
This, of course, leads me to the case of Mr. Carnegie. I have put up, as best I might, with millionaires of my time when they decreed war, sudden and sensational war, as everyone admitted; mean and immoral war, as I believed. I have got used to millionaires when they dictate war. But if they begin to dictate peace I positively rebel.
Mr. Carnegie ought to know as well as anyone else how curious quarrels can arise in this human family of ours. Mr. Carnegie, to say the least of it, is scarcely a Christmas person. If he came down the chimney (carrying a free library) it would hardly console the children for the absence of Santa Claus carrying a bag of toys. I can scarcely conceive any personality, in fact or fiction, who would fit in less with Christmas than this mechanical millionaire, with the head of metal and the theories of clockwork; a cold complication of the Yank and Scot. He typifies machinery, and like most machinery, he goes wrong at times.
One vital mistake is made about this matter by Mr. Carnegie and his kind. They persistently say, and they actually seem to think, that wars arise out of hatred. There may have been wars that arose out of hatred, but at this instant I cannot recollect a single one. In this, as in many other matters, the truest tale in the world is the Iliad or Siege of Troy. Wars never begin in hatred; they either arise out of the honourable affection a man has for his own possessions; or else out of the black and furtive affection he has for someone else's possessions. But it is always affection; it is never hate. The Greeks and Trojans did not hate each other in the least; there is scarcely one spark of hatred in the whole of the Iliad, save that great flare that comes out of the hero's love for Patroclus. The two armies are strewing the plain with corpses and dyeing the very sea with blood from love and not from detestation. It all arises because Paris has conceived an evil affection for Helen, while Menelaus cannot cease to love her. In other words, both hosts are fighting, not because fighting is not nasty, but because they have something nice to fight about.
That will be found to be the feeling of all real soldiers everywhere. "The distant Trojans never injured me." A real soldier does not fight because he has something that he hates in front of him. He fights because he has something that he loves behind his back. Tolstoy and other advocates of an abject submission have often urged this fact of the non-existence of hatred as an argument for the non-existence of war. The little French peasant (says Tolstoy) does not really hate the little German student; why then should they fight? The answer comes with all the most high and disdainful thunders of the human soul. They fight because they love, not because they hate; the Frenchman strikes because France is beautiful, not because a German happens to be ugly. The German strikes because Germany must be loved, not because France cannot be loved. And until the advocates of peace have understood and allowed for this affectional root of military energy, all their words will be wind and waste. A man loves a certain tree; and twenty men propose to cut down that tree. He may kill the twenty men, and that may be very tragic; but he does not hate the twenty men; he loves the tree. If one may love a tree one may love a forest; if a forest, one may love a valley; if a valley, a whole country or a whole character of civilisation. One may love it rightly, like Menelaus, or wrongly, like Paris. But it is always desire and not repugnance. Whatever beautiful affections or base appetites inspired the Boer War, it was not inspired by primary dislike or disgust. I do not suppose that there was one real case of Briton and Boer hating each other in the whole case of the affair. And the peace propagandist has got seriously to face the question of these special attachments. We will remove from the discussion all the ugly affections, all the evil loves that are largely the making of the conflicts of mankind. We will suppose that we are speaking only of the chivalrous or the domestic attachments that make up much of the slender dignity of man. And still the question remains for the peace propagandist to answer. Does he mean that the British soldier ought not to love his colours? Does he mean that the Boer farmer ought not to love his farm?
There seems, indeed, to be a strange forgetfulness among writers and thinkers of the actual sentiments of the mass of men in these matters. They do not understand how positive and virile are men's loves. I saw in the Nation the other day an article called "The Grey Novel," which was devoted to praising (doubtless most justly) a novel by Mr. Arnold Bennett. But I do not deal here with the novelist, but with the critic. In Mr. Bennett's story, it appears, there is a description of Paris during the siege of 1870; and the reviewer says admiringly that Mr. Arnold Bennett treats the situation economically, as it appeared to the small tradesman, without any glory or tragedy.
Now in the name of the Seven Champions of Christendom, who is this reviewer that he should say that "small tradesmen" felt no glory or tragedy in the defence or desolation of France? If he had said so to the small tradesmen themselves during the siege, they would have torn him in pieces. Surely the reviewer is "realist" enough to appreciate such a reality as that. Surely it is perfectly plain that it is precisely the ordinary man, the little clerk or shopkeeper, who does feel the patriotic sentiment to the verge of Jingoism. It does not require wealth or culture to love one's country; on the contrary, one has to be in rather an advanced and alarming stage of wealth and culture to avoid loving one's country. If there were any people in Paris during the siege who felt no glory or tragedy (which I very gravely doubt) they are much more likely to have been polished and ingenious politicians or Rationalist professors at the Sorbonne, than "small tradesmen" or men of the people. And it is exactly because this class has, in the modern world, been so strangely cut off from the collective sympathies and loyalties of the race that they can do nothing whatever for the cause of peace, with all their conferences and courts of arbitration, and donations and plutocratic pomposity. You cannot make men enthusiastic for the mere negative idea of peace; it is not an inspiring thing. You might make them enthusiastic for some positive bond or quality that bound them to others and made their enemies their friends. You may get Tommy to love Jimmy; you cannot get Tommy to love the mere fact that he is not quarrelling with Jimmy. So it would be far easier to make an Englishman love Germany than to make him love peace with Germany. Germany is a lovable thing; peace is not. Germany is a positive thing; one can like its beer, admire its music, love its children, with their charming elf-tales and elf-customs, appreciate the beaming ceremony of its manners, and even (with a brave effort), tolerate the sound of its language. But in the mere image of a still and weaponless Europe there is nothing that men will ever love, either as they can love another country or as they can love their own.