Sunday, 26 April 2009

Pinter on War

Here's a little something by Harold Pinter you may not have seen before... His comments ring as true now as they did then.

Harold Pinter’s comments on his National Service Application to Register Conscientious Objectors. Received December 14th, 1948.

I consider that a world war at this time would be disastrous to mankind and would wreck civilization. It is useless speaking of policies or sentiments of defense against aggression, for all these words will mean nothing in a final and eternal extinction. Beside the atomic horror, the world’s food situation, already disintegrating considerably, would fall and lessen to a terrifying degree, and finally, as Sir John Boyd Orr has pointed out, result in world famine. Far-seeing statesmen like Sir John, however, remain unheeded, and the people are misled by valueless, uncomprehending and completely immature pronouncements which will but hasten the end. Even without war the food situation is extremely precarious, but in such an event, aided by the great expense and energy wasted on armaments and industry, and devastated by the atom bomb, a weakened and ruined world would come to a certain chaotic calamity. As these are plain material facts of the situation today, besides the fact that war can never be justified, I cannot conceive of my helping on this disaster.

My main objection, however, is a moral one. My great emotion regarding the armies of the world is a sadness. Man since the beginning of time has continuously allowed his animal nature to conquer him where it should have been mastered – in the respect of war. The history of mankind is marked by an eternal conflict between brainless, bestial savages fiercely grappling with each other, and men who comprehend and see the world’s truth and goodness. Certainly war in some ages can be understood as consistent with the temperament and humour of the time, but never justified, for killing is the one primal sin, and man’s life is sacred. After so many years of civilization we still contemplate casually disinterestedly wiping out millions of fellow humans for selfish, petty political reasons. Man’s moral sense has been left high and dry somewhere in the Industrial Revolution. In the past, because of the immediacy of life and death, there was a moral consciousness, but now, the mass of the world, including leading statesmen, having retarded in vision and realization of the true values, death is so wholesale that world’s moral recognition has almost disappeared and material gain is all. We live in an immoral civilization which we must realize, not surrender to.

To join an organization whose main purpose is mass murder, whose conception of true human values is absolutely nil, speeding on the utter degradation of a prematurely fatigued man, and whose result and indeed ambition is to destroy the world’s very, very precious life, is completely beyond my human understanding and moral conception. And finally, to take one human life is completely alien to my moral code.

The mind that contemplates warfare is stupid, debased and deformed by fear. As human beings we are bound to bring forth and foster that inherent wisdom and goodness which is endowed in us and replenish and illumine our fellows with this spiritual realization. Each person is compelled by this moral responsibility to hold sacred human life, to cast out fear and to fulfil this existence as a creation out of the immense order of things. The dismissal of these principles, the betrayal of all Jesus Christ, the great Mystics and Dostoyevsky have said, has led to the perversion and ignorance of man today. The position in our society for one who believes in his responsibility as a Man is simple. He shall with great sorrow and love defend the innocent with physical sacrifice and moral enlightenment. But on no account shall he be the arbiter of another “humans” existence by taking arms. Nor shall he tarnish his soul by joining such an evil, stupid, sorrowful organization as the army. With these beliefs, it is therefore quite impossible for me to even contemplate such an act.

Statement continued:

Having just received the findings of the local Tribunal I regret that through a misunderstanding there has been a distortion of some of my statements. The findings say that I declared I would never defend innocent people. This is an unhappy mistake. My opinion on this subject which I stated at the time, is that I would defend the innocent with my life without hesitation, but that to kill others, to attack as the best defence is something I cannot conjecture. It seems to me that to attempt to eliminate aggression by further aggression is merely to out-wrong the wrong-doer. And these means it is essential to stop.

1 comment:

emmet the allisonian said...


i just found you.

we both adore daniel macivor, ben folds, and mix cds. we both think our generation needs to ease up on the irony. we both wanna write plays, but have weird feelings about writing about plays.

so that's pretty cool.