“Not one of them has the least thing to blame himself for. Not one has any guilt. One might believe that everything was for the best, even though a few million men lie under the ground. …and the end and aim of it all is to have the war over again, the next war that draws nearer and nearer, and it will be a good deal more horrible than the last. All that is perfectly clear and simple. Anyone could comprehend it and reach the same conclusion after a moment’s reflection. But nobody wants to. Nobody wants to avoid the next war, nobody wants to spare himself and his children the next holocaust if this be the cost. To reflect for one moment, to examine himself for a while and ask what share he has in the world’s confusion and wickedness—look you, nobody wants to do that. And so there’s no stopping it, and the next war is being pushed on with enthusiasm by thousands upon thousands day by day.”
From ; Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse
It Gets Worse
The quote above was from a passage where Harry Haller was explaining to the lovely and mysterious Hermine why he was so universally despised. Since the novel was published in 1927 it is safe to assume he was making a reference to World War I and World War II. And he was certainly accurate. It was much worse, for everybody.
Hesse was an intellectual with a keen grasp of human frailty, and the undeniable thirst for the absolute. And certainly, being a European he understood the way wars could grow beyond any relation to the origin.
It Always Gets Worse
Take, for example, the Thirty Year War. Brought to you by competing faiths. Catholics and Protestants who were intent on destroying each other, or at least claiming victory and thereby proving that God, did, indeed like them best. But, when it was done churning over the nation of Germany at least 20 percent of the population had perished. Civilian casualties would not be matched until World War II. Unspeakable atrocities had been common. It was an awful chapter in the history of man.
But, it was a long time ago, we have learned so much.
What happens if we change the labels. Let’s start with a classic, something older, less fashionable, but still relevant, Capitalist and Socialist. If you are in the mood for something more current and in vogue you can choose Christian and Muslim. Patterns expose themselves, nothing ever changes. We pretend that it is new, and important, but it is only the same movie with new actors. To quote Bob Dylan, “The game is the same, it’s just on a different level.”
Imagine what Harry Haller would say about this. Maybe his words are just as good today.
And A Quote To End
Today we are going to close with something from Albert Einstein.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.