In Praise of War

Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed.But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.

Depending on the breaks.

The young have not the means to cure the ills of the world: they can only protest – the more angrily because it can be seen that their action is futile. It is years since marches stopped impeding the normal flow of traffic between Aldermaston and Trafalgar Square, and still nuclear bombs are tested and still more armaments pile up.

To make matters even more pathetic, half the time the world-savers are crying out against situations that are not ills at all. War is the most obvious of these. No less an authority than Sir Edmund Leach, the social anthropologist, states that to live under the perpetual threat of invasion is normal and almost certainly salutary.

We all knew it was normal. Even Walt Disney, the Archdeacon of Twee, did not try to bury this fact beneath a heap of sugar. In none of his nature films was there a single chipmunk that ate his lunch in peace. After seeing any of these movies, one felt that possibly small animals die as often from ulcers as from enemy activity.

To say that war is salutary is another matter. The statement requires an explanation and this Sir Edmund is prepared to give on behalf of the majority. It increases the solidarity of nations, he says, and reaffirms boundaries. This last remark is the first flash of style to illumine the landscape in a long time. It is another and much more daring way of saying that without a frame there can be no satisfactory picture.

It also makes clear that to great modern thinkers human life is no longer sacred. We should have known that this would be so. Nothing except diamonds is above the law of scarcity value.

Quentin Crisp
How to Have a Life-Style (1979)

Screenshots: “General Buck Turgidson” (George C. Scott) in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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