‘Our Indifference To Ourselves’ – Beyond The ‘Virtue’ Of Self-Sacrifice – Part 1?
Posted by sashimi on May 28, 2023, 9:09 am, in reply to "does anyone have the ML editors Tolstoy quote - probably need RhG"
An obvious question arises: why would these cheering young men race to sign up
for a 'glorious adventure' that was so clearly not in their own self-interests?
Even if they couldn't always imagine the full scale of the inferno to come, war
clearly meant they would be torn from homes, jobs, loved ones, families and
friends; that they would have to violently kill and be killed.
Tolstoy, who had also experienced the grim reality of war first-hand, explained
this 'enthusiasm' for war with typical honesty:
'From infancy, by every possible means - class books, church services, sermons,
speeches, books, papers, songs, poetry, monuments - the people is stupefied in
one direction' - militant patriotism. (Tolstoy, 'Writings On Civil Disobedience
and Non-Violence,' New Society, 1987, p.95)
The 'enthusiasm', then, is crudely manufactured in a way that hides the reality:
'before they look round, there will be no more admirals, presidents, or flags,
or music; but only a damp and empty field of battle, cold, hunger, and pain;
before them a murderous enemy; behind, relentless officers preventing their
escape; blood, wounds, putrefying bodies, and senseless, unnecessary death'.