Friday, September 24, 2004

Wendell Berry - The Failure of War

Obviously, we would be less absurd if we took better care of things. We would be less absurd if we founded our public policies upon an honest description of our needs and our predicament, rather than upon fantastical descriptions of our wishes. We would be less absurd if our leaders would consider in good faith the proven alternatives to violence.

Such things are easy to say, but we are disposed, somewhat by culture and somewhat by nature, to solve our problems by violence, and even to enjoy doing so. And yet by now all of us must at least have suspected that our right to live, to be free, and to be at peace is not guaranteed by any act of violence. It can be guaranteed only by our willingness that all other persons should live, be free, and be at peace—and by our willingness to use or give our own lives to make that possible. To be incapable of such willingness is merely to resign ourselves to the absurdity we are in; and yet, if you are like me, you are unsure to what extent you are capable of it.

Here is the other question that I have been leading toward, one that the predicament of modern warfare forces upon us: How many deaths of other people’s children by bombing or starvation are we willing to accept in order that we may be free, affluent, and (supposedly) at peace? To that question I answer: None. Please, no children. Don’t kill any children for my benefit.

If that is your answer too, then you must know that we have not come to rest, far from it. For surely we must feel ourselves swarmed about with more questions that are urgent, personal, and intimidating. But perhaps also we feel ourselves beginning to be free, facing at last in our own selves the greatest challenge ever laid before us, the most comprehensive vision of human progress, the best advice, and the least obeyed:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

via Paul Fromont


Erich said...

I like this thing. He seems right to me, at least on this point. I don't know much about him except that he's difficult to situate on the current political scene. This could mean (although not necessarily) that he has a somewhat consistent worldview. After all, a consistent worldview couldn't fit on our contemporary American political spectrum. Thus, I am intrigued to find out more about this guy.

JJ said...

Yeah, he has got me interested too. I haven't read a book by him yet, but I am thinking of getting one that was suggested to me over the weekend, though the name escapes me at the moment...

Derek said...

I've read a bit-a-berry - recently, and when I was in university - and it seems that he is a thorn in the side of both the left and the right. John, I think you'd really like him. His writing is birthed from the land - both rural & agrarian. I just finished a collection of his essays called "Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community." There are some real pearls in that one.

Paul Fromont said...

Mate. Nice to see that grabbed your attention. I agree with Derek's comments, and would say start with the title he mentions. It still required reading in a number of courses...hope all is well with Andrea and the new addition to your family...PAX