Philosophy - Part 15 - For King and Country

Philosophy - Part 15 - For King and Country - by P.K.Odendaal - August 2012

How many innocent, non-suspecting and honest people have been killed because of King and Country? And if you think that conscripted soldiers are not innocent, what are they then? Most countries do not have standing armies, so the soldiers are conscripted from the non-suspecting, innocent and honest population - and if they are pacifists, like myself, they go to jail for refusing. I did not go to jail, but complied with the call to arms, and did not protest against such, as I did not even know or care a hoot of why we were in that war - and that is why all countries take their youngest men. These men do not even know what the war is about - and it always happens the same, fighting for some pie in the sky.
And the truth is always the first casualty in any war. And a war is not about who is right, it is about who is left.

It now and then happens that some megalomaniac go out and kill zillions of people in the name of King and Country, Tsar and Country, President and Country, Dictator and Country, Pope and .. well, micro country ... the possibilities are endless. I accept that it is really psychopaths who do the actual killing, but that does not absolve the rulers from their responsibility.
Although I have very strong views on this subject, I cannot say it better than Leo Tolstoi, from his article 'Bethink yourselves', and I quote abstracts from his article.
Again war. Again sufferings, necessary to nobody, utterly uncalled for; again fraud; again the universal stupefaction and brutalization of men.
Men who are separated from each other by thousands of miles, hundreds of thousands of such men like wild beasts on land and on sea, are seeking out each other, in order to kill, torture, and mutilate each other in the most cruel way.
This unfortunate, entangled young man (The Tsar), recognized as the leader of one hundred and thirty million people, continually deceived and compelled to contradict himself, confidently thanks and blesses the troops whom he calls his own for murder in defence of lands which with yet less right he calls his own.
All over Russia, from the Palace to the remotest village, the pastors of churches, calling themselves Christians, appeal to that God who has enjoined love to one's enemies - to the God of love Himself - to help the work of the devil to further the slaughter of men.
Stupefied by prayers, sermons, exhortations, by processions, pictures and newspapers, the cannon's flesh, hundreds of thousands of men, uniformly dressed, carrying diverse deadly weapons, leaving their parents, wives, children, with hearts of agony, but with artificial sprightliness, go where they, risking their own lives, will commit the most dreadful act of killing men whom they do not know and who have done them no harm. And they are followed by doctors and nurses, who somehow imagine that at home they cannot serve simple, peaceful, suffering people, but can only serve those who are engaged in slaughtering each other.
... but how can a believing Christian, or even a sceptic, involuntary permeated by the Christian ideals of human brotherhood and love which have inspired the works of philosophers, moralists, artists of our time, .. how can such take a gun, or stand by a cannon, and aim at a crowd of his fellow-men, desiring to kill as many of them as possible?
All these insolent, mendacious speeches about devotion to, and worship of the Monarch, about readiness to sacrifice life (or one should say other people's lives, and not one's own); all these promises to defend with one's breast land which does not belong to one.
... we shall, first, keep subjecting ourselves more and more, transferring the major portion of our productiveness to armaments; and, secondly, by killing in mutual wars the best physically developed men, we must become more and more degenerate and morally deprived. (see my article : Survival of the Weakest)
The precipice which we approach is already becoming apparent to us, and the most simple, non-philosophising and uneducated men cannot but see, by arming ourselves more and more against each other and slaughtering each other in war, we, like spiders in a jar, can come to nothing else but the destruction of each other.
Bereft of religion, men possessing enormous power over the forces of nature are like children to whom powder or explosive gas has been given as a plaything. Considering this power which men of our time possess, and the way they use it, one feels that, considering the degree of their moral development, men have no right, not only to the use of railways, steam, electricity, telephones, photography, but even to the simple art of manufacturing iron and steel, as all these improvements and arts they use only for the satisfaction of their lusts, for amusement, dissipation, and the destruction of each other.
There is no King and Country which is worth one life to dispense with, for its loyalty or acquisition. Life is dearer than all the lusts , ideals and desires of all the Kings who ever lived - and yet, many millions of men have given their lives for it. Is violence so ingrained in each of us, that we don't think of what we are doing? We even close our eyes when we fire these shots, to not look upon the destruction and death we are causing.
But then ...
I am not so naive so as not to defend myself against an aggressor. Anyone who attacks me or my family or my home or my country will find me giving my life for survival and for preventing an aggressor from taking me into bondage, slavery or taking what I have. As a Boer I know too well what that meant to our nation over the past four centuries.
Oh, but we have this noble idea that we can fight other people's fights for them. That is why some of us are in Afghanistan and other such places. I have considered and done this in my life for smaller groups and have always come second.  There is no way I can fight for a cause which is not my own. In the end it will turn back on me and bite me.
So who are the aggressors then? Of course nobody ever was the aggressor. They and we have always given some spin to a story to make our aggression seem what it is not, but people are not so stupid so as not to see our hidden agendas.
If you and I find ourselves in war or in combat, it is prudent that we ask ourselves this simple question: Where are we now? If we find ourselves in our own country, defending what we have, please fight on! But, if we find ourselves in another nation's country, we should leave that battlefield as soon as we can - because then we are the aggressors, no matter how noble our intentions might be.

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