The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936
I have been reading an account of a British armament firm who have in their office a schedule of orders which runs something like this:—
Schedule of Orders, 1935-36.
Italy .... £x,000,500 for armaments supplied
Abyssinia £,000,000 for armaments supplied
I have also the record of a similar French concern with branches in every country in Europe, whose schedule shows:—
Germany £x,000,000 for armaments supplied
France. £ x,000,000 for armaments supplied
I have also on authority that practically the entire French press is owned by the above syndicate.
There is to my knowledge one, and only one, business in Great Britain manufacturing gas masks. The latest bombing planes can carry at least one ton of gas, and any warfare of the future will undoubtedly be aerial gas warfare; and so on.
A hat to be of any practical use, has to fit; so does a gas mask; they are extremely difficult and uncomfortable things to work in; a striking feature is the extreme difficulty of eating or drinking when wearing such a gas-tight muzzle; however, we shall assume for the sake of illustration that an unprovoked aerial gas attack by some "enemy" has suddenly been found on the way, and the population of England is complete with gas masks.
This assumption is of course ridiculous as a considerable amount of dexterity and training is required before the mask can be donned rapidly, as would be necessary if the bursting of the first bomb were the signal of the raid; hence the situation for inmates of hospitals and lunatic asylums would be most awkward, while the case of young children and babies can only be imagined. The psychological aspect, however, is the most serious: the horror of wearing a mask in real gas has to be experienced to be believed.
The population of Great Britain is of the order of fifty millions, and the number of gasmask manufacturers, one, and strangely enough they do not seem to be making masks for Englishmen to wear. Most of them are apparently exported to Turkey, Italy and Abyssinia. Nevertheless it is assumed that in the locality under attack, Englishmen are clothed in gasmasks; the enemy approach at night with hundreds of planes, each laden with their ton or two of gas. Defence is impossible, despite allegations of the efficiency of sound indicators and anti-aircraft guns, as an airman may drop gas bombs from extreme altitude. Which particular building is hit is comparatively immaterial; he is in any case invisible, the atmospheric conditions being chosen entirely by the attackers.
Bombs are bursting everywhere, and anywhere. Babies and all sit round in their gas masks, terrified. The pangs of hunger, which occur in a few hours, will be impossible to allay without intense suffering and injury, as it must be realized that modern gas is not merely a weapon of fleeting character, but a deadly, persistent, horror of hours, days and weeks. Modern gas can last sufficiently long to cause the death of hundreds of population through a combination of terror and starvation. Also the result of coming in contact with an object which has been subjected to an attack of mustard gas is just as severe three weeks later, as at the time of application, and where depressions occur, the effect of rain is negligible.
Now let us drop the erroneous assumption that the total population of the affected area will be in gas masks, and study the effect of a gas, such as "Lewesite," on a victim, unavoidably trapped before shelter can be reached. The particular characteristic of mustard gas, Lewesite, and allied gases, is their property of dissolving body membranes. Hence the unfortunate victim is first assured of an agonising form of pleurisy, then, a little later, something gives, his life-blood is pumped through the disintegrated lung wall, and he drowns. Put yourself in his place, drowning in agony in your own blood.
Ah! think of the glory of it, the bravery, the supreme chivalry and sacrifice. There was equal beauty in the case of those boys, just left school, drafted to France, and blown out of existence by a renegade enemy shell as they sat down to have their first tea on the fringe of the "lines." And a grateful, deceiving War Office adds to the parents' grief the lying news of the "magnificent sacrifice for England's glory." Sons who, at the present time, are knocked fly- page 35 ing into Eternity by roadhogs apparently do not deserve the same laudations; and yet they die as martyrs to the cause of safer motoring on New Zealand highways. The farcical bravery of having one's intestines blown out by a piece of £100 shell coming from a gun five or ten miles away, or skull split by the bullet of some poor unfortunate under cover of darkness, is lamentably obvious.
The "glory" part, of course, comes in at Returned Soldiers Re-union dinners, but what of the stark realities?
Is it realised that every man who, in allegedly defending his country, principles, honour, nation, or any other lie a government can invent, caused the death of an "enemy" is a murderer in the true sense of the term—or if you would rather; in God's sight—just as certainly as the criminal who goes to the scaffold or electric chair? When I read the Ten Commandments I see. "Thou shalt not kill."
Not, as is often imagined, "Thou shalt not kill for fear of the scaffold, but. in event of war, you may cause the death of as many humans as possible, whom you do not know, and who have never interfered with you or done you any harm whatever." The lawyer to whom Jesus told the parable of the "Good Samaritan," held the solution of our problems, but, like us, failed to use it. "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself."
The love of neighbours even in the most literal sense, is lamentably absent from nations and armament syndicates, but there is a much greater danger to peace than armament firms, as these would have rather a lean time if the support of unpopular nationalistic governments was to be relied upon.
Do you know it?
Patriotism! one of the most subtle and treacherous of human inventions. Under its guise, our Union Jack is more a symbol of murder, hate and treachery, than an emblem of which one can honestly be proud. Perhaps the case of Germany is the best example of the chaotic way down which the gilded finger of patriotism points.
In 1918, Germany, the beaten and dishonoured nation, was subjected to great humiliation by the gloriously victorious allies. And yet no other nation has caused such uneasiness in Europe during the last fifteen years as a result of unjustified national hatreds, not to mention the waste of ten million men, and directly and indirectly the deaths of uncounted thousands of women and children. And the whole object of that disaster remains as unachieved as it was in 1914.
Is there any remedy for this mess, any hope for the future of mankind?
My answer is a most emphatic "Yes." The most stupendous event in the history of humanity, 1903 years ago, that of a Sinless Man, dying for the Principles of God, was not merely an historical event; it is the Event. The sole hope of the world in all its muddle is by the individual living of the Code of that Man. We call it Christianity.
But War is our problem now, and Christianity is evidently too high and too absolute a standard for those in whom the power lies to end this atrocity. Who are these fiends, who have this power, but allow the horror to continue? Just you and I! We must name our attitude, then, so let us call it Christian Pacifism. Here are the clauses set out in the Covenant of the Christian Pacifist Society.
"(i) I will do all in my power to promote peace, and to prevent war and strife between persons, groups, and nations, and I will endeavour always with the love God so freely bestows upon me, to love, understand, and serve my neighbours, whether near or far, white or coloured, friendly or hostile.
"(ii) Towards this end, and because my first loyalty is to Jesus Christ, I here and now renounce war and preparations for war, and I declare that I will not fight nor render military service under any circumstance.
"(iii) I further declare that I will not undertake "non-combatant" service such as Red Cross, Nursing, Chaplains, Y.M.C.A. work, etc. unless allowed to do so with Christian impartiality for friend and foe alike, and not under military control."
It is obvious that if a fraction of the people of the European countries could take the above as part of their creed, the further use of the brutal arbitration of war, would be impossible.
This pacifism is definitely not a negative attitude as is so often argued, but a definite positive aim, which has no moral equal, and requires intelligence and character of the highest order to achieve. It is no easy matter to place page 36 truth first; to place the teachings of Christ before the orders of a Government whose mind is perverted by a false sense of security, based on fear and greed.
The subtle inducements of such "non-combatant" work as is given in clause (iii), as an alternative to the job of killing, is no evasion of the fact that war is wrong. Whatever else may be involved, such work merely serves to enable the fighter more comfortably to carry out his inhuman task.
But do you realize the implications of Christian Pacifism? If the Great War may be taken as any indication it may mean imprisonment, torture, or the penalty of a brick wall and a firing party. Even if the latter, will it be in vain? If you want honour in the eyes of the present world, you will not get it that way; if you covet that type of "glory." you will be disappointed; but if your ideal is a world of peace, happiness, and true security to posterity, such sacrifices may have to be made; are being made. For instance, those countries with undeveloped colonies will most assuredly have to disgorge, if less fortunate countries need them in order that their citizens may enjoy that standard of living which through no fault of their own, they are denied. Tariff barriers, capitalism, race prejudices will all have to go.
That present methods will succeed, it is ridiculous to suppose: that the way of Love will, is an inevitability; but just how far in the future, depends entirely on ourselves.