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Orwell on the Evils of Hatred in War


I try to read a few things every other day from my massive tome of George Orwell’s Essays (in the Everyman Library).   Today I came across a real gem.

In his Tribune column “As I Please” Orwell wrote (August 4, 1944) that death and destruction were not the most evil thing about war:

We shall all be dead in less than a hundred years, and most of us by the sordid horror known as “natural death.”   The truly evil thing is to an act in such a way that peaceful life becomes impossible.  War damages the fabric of civilization not by the destruction it causes (the net effect of war may even be to increase the productive capacity of the world as a whole), nor even by the slaughter of human beings, but by stimulating hatred and dishonesty.   By shooting at your enemy you are not in the deepest sense wronging him.  But by hating him, by inventing lies about him and bringing children up to believe them, by clamoring for unjust peace terms which make further wars inevitable, you are striking not at one perishable generation, but at humanity itself.  

I thought immediately of Lebanon and Hezbollah, which has made a religion of hatred masquerading as Islam. 

It is the almost insane hatred one sees in our enemies that has most horrified me since September 11, 2001.  I have written elsewhere that militant Islam is suicide terrorism as social contract – they are willing to destroy their entire societies in order to strike their enemy.   But Orwell’s column makes me realize that the Islamist movement is also a spiritual and moral suicide.  By so viciously dehumanizing their perceived enemy, they dehumanize themselves.   Sooner or later, they will learn to abhor that form of suicide—but when?  Tell me the answer to that question, and I will tell you how much longer the war will last.  


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