Notes on the Way [II]
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[ 159 Notes on the Way [II] Time and Tide, 16 (12 Jan 1935) 33-34 There is no subject of the first importance to everyone today on which there is more confusion than that of Peace and War. That we all dislike war and wish to avert it only increases the confusion: for we not only have very different notions of how it is to be averted, but very different notions of why it is a bad thing. Most people, I fear, do not think it necessary to devote much attention to the problem of why they believe War to be a bad thing – it is their first assumption. This failure to examine assumptions, to “dissociate ideas,” may lead them to conclusions which fail to persuade. I find that while I begin the perusal of any treatise against War in entire sympathy with the author, I am apt to put it down in a state of vexation. Take, for instance, Mr. A. A. Milne’s recent essay, Peace with Honour. On the first page he summarizes the events which precipitated the Great War: the murder at Serajevo, the need that “the honour of Austria” should be satisfied, and the refusal of Serbia to satisfy it.1 This hardly differs from the ordinary newspaper story of the time, except by Mr. Milne’s insinuations . He suggests that the “honour” of a country is a simple idea, that it is a wrong idea, and that it can be a sufficient cause of war. He implies further that a country’s “honour” is humbug, because it was because “Austria was a bigger country than Serbia” that her honour required satisfaction.2 I think that Mr. Milne, in his zeal, and by his simplification, rejects possible friends at the start. “A country should have a sense of honour” is one of those assertions like “War is evil” which command such immediate assent from most people, that their meaning requires very careful examination. If you deride the “sense of honour” among nations, you cannot very well uphold it among individuals, unless you believe that a nation is something with a “collective soul,” which is something different from the collection of the souls which compose it.3 I admit readily that among individuals, as among nations, the “sense of honour” has led men to commit all sorts of folly, and that it has been, and is, very often, merely a name for vanity and pride – leading men to perform sometimes right actions and sometimes wrong actions, and both for the wrong reasons. A sense of honour is the name for a residue of acquired and transmitted feelings and habits; and if Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 160 ] you are to deprive popular morality of this name, then you must replace it with some other more fundamental morality than Mr. Milne bothers to provide.4 * ButMr.Milne,likemanyreformerswhoseattentionisnarrowlyfocused, is so devoured by the thought that War is Bad that he cannot see that a great many other things are bad too. He maintains the old rational view that wars are caused directly by men’s passions and stupidity, by their failing to understand what is to their own interest, or by their failing to feel passionately enough against war. I am not favourably impressed by his emotive utterance that if only the Pope were Milne, it is at least possible that there would be no more war in Europe. It is possible that if Milne were the Pope, he might be more aware of the difficulties.5 Mr. Milne’s assumption that he feels more passionately about war than does either the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury may be true, because it cannot be disproved; but, like some other of his assumptions, it may not appear selfevident to others than himself.6 For instance, he says, in passing, “It is true that we should all like to abolish the tip, the gratuity, the pourboire” [35]. I question this assertion. It is true that when we see the gratuity abused – that is to say, when we see people with more money to spend getting more attention than we get, we grumble, and perhaps blame a now almost mythical American Tourist. It is true also that in giving tips we may merely be flattering our vanity by winning a little cheap gratitude, or the appearance of it. But, on the other hand, there is something about a tip which establishes a personal relation between you and...