Review of Reviews

How To Avoid War In Europe

A Moral Programme, Preached by Writers and Educators, Should be Followed by the People

October 15 1934
Review of Reviews

How To Avoid War In Europe

A Moral Programme, Preached by Writers and Educators, Should be Followed by the People

October 15 1934

How To Avoid War In Europe

Review of Reviews

A Moral Programme, Preached by Writers and Educators, Should be Followed by the People

A MORAL PROGRAMME for Europe in order that it shall avoid the horror of another war, is advocated by Julien Brenda in Foreign Affairs, New York. He argues that:

The educators should preach to the peoples in order to create such a state of mind that they are ready to come together. The peoples should be exhorted to banish from their hearts the religions of force, “will to power,’’ “dynamism” and other Nietzscheisms, and go back to the cult of universality, harmony and moderation so long neglected. They should be urged to abandon the German ideals and go back to the cult of the Hellenic-Christian, to the gods of the Mediterranean.

“Will to power" and “dynamism” have their value. They are the essence of human progress. But they are not the supreme values. Above these human and, therefore, necessarily struggle-values, there are divine values of peace and serenity. We are to keep them both, teaching, however, that the divine values are higher than the human ones.

Who are to be these educators, the evangelists of this gospel of understanding? First of all, the clergy of all creeds. They are not at present doing their duty. The German pastors kowtow to Hitlerism and there is no lack of churchmen energetically propounding the morality of war also in other countries, God, a principle of peace since Plato’s time, has become today a "fighting” or “dynamic” principle.

Another preacher of pacifist morality might be the League of Nations, if it were to conceive of its functions in much higher terms that it does at present. I could not express my thought better than by quoting a Jesuit father who grasps the present-day rôle of the educator in its full grandeur: “One may criticize the Christian unity of the Middle Ages for confining itself too strictly to religious and intellectual spheres and not coming down to the solid earth. But the League of Nations seems to be drifting into the opposite error. It is striving to organize humanity on a temporal basis and taking too little interest in the frightful spiritual and moral anarchy in which the modem world is floundering.” Other preachers would be the writers of Europe. Some of them, like Jules Romains and Thomas Mann, are doing their duty by trying to create in the peoples a mentality suitable to peace. But there are many others who are not, but who on the contrary are furiously nationalistic. Many men of letters do not really believe in nationalism, yet when they have a pen in hand, they are fire-eating nationalists. Why? To please the bourgeoisie which makes reputations and dispenses honors and is, as it happens, nationalistically inclined. Here, however, we must distinguish between the men and the women.

Another and still more fundamental instinct is hatred of the democratic spirit, so far as the latter smacks of anything not respectful of authority, not submissive to one’s betters.

A number of writers preach peace in perfectly good faith, but meantime say things which I believe are false and do actual harm to the cause of peace. They fail to teach the peoples that peace can be achieved only through their own desire for it and a change

in their moral outlook; that peace is a gift that the peoples must make to themselves and that will not be handed down to them by some power from above and will not be brought about by the natural evolution of economic conditions. The doctrine that peace will be bestowed upon humanity by the fatal trend of history, that is to say, mechanically, merely encourages people to neglect the one factor which can bring them peace, namely, an effort of will.

It is in no way proved that a nation has to be insane before it starts a war. Those who rule out war on that order of reasoning make the evangelists of peace seem either frauds or fools.

One may take it for granted that if war broke out in Europe today it would be more than ever a conflict between tw'o principles,

two conceptions of life and two orders of value. On one side would be the system w’hich sets the greater store by such values as respect for truth and justice. That system is meagrely represented today in Europe. France holds to it, theoretically at least. And on the other side would stand the system which lays sole emphasis on the practical values of strength. The nation most representative of the second system is Germany. It is easy to see that whatever the outcome of such a war, it would be disastrous for the idealistic system. If the former system happens to win, the conflict between the two principles would be left where it was. In the opposite case, the victorious country would be wild and fanatical enough to take every advantage of its victory and to destroy the idealistic principle.