Saturday, June 6, 2015

"When the miserable quibbling hair-splitters..."

Simon Templar makes a speech. From The Avenging Saint (1930):
".... Fighting is for the strong—for those who know what they're fighting for, and love the fight for its own sake. We were like that, my friends and I—and yet we swore that it should not happen again. .... The flags flying, and the bands playing, and the politicians yaddering about a land fit for heroes to live in, and the poor fools cheering and being cheered, and another madness, worse than the last. Just another war to end war...But we know that you can't end war by war. You can't end war by any means at all, thank God, while men believe in right and wrong, and some of them have the courage to fight for their belief. It has always been so. And it's my own creed. I hope I never live to see the day when the miserable quibbling hair-splitters have won the earth, and there's no more black and white, but everything's just a dreary relative grey, and everyone has a right to his own damned heresies, and it's more noble to be broad-minded about your disgusting neighbours than to push their faces in as a preliminary to yanking them back into the straight and narrow way...."
I suspect from other things I've read that this is the voice of the author, Leslie Charteris. It reminded me of George Orwell's statement in the middle of the next war: "The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it," or, I would suggest, to refuse to fight it. In 1933 the Oxford Union debated the question "that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country" and the students voted in favor of the resolution by a majority of 213 to 138. No doubt World War I was much on their minds. 1933 was the year Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.