Rant against War (Charles Richet)

An impressivee  rant against war by the Nobel Prize winning French scientist Charles Richet published about 1925 in his book Idiot Man or The Follies of Mankind (L’Homme Stupide.) A now rare and undeservedly forgotten book in which Richet seems to see ahead to all the millions of deaths in wars of the next 90 years...

  When I evoke the vision of war–bloody, cruel, hideous war– burning, shuddering pictures instantly swarm into my mind, so numerous and vivid that I am dazed by them.
  Thanks to war, the proofs of human ineptitude are so blatant that any words could only weaken them. But I shall do my best to dam this overwhelming flood of ideas and to calm my indignation.
  It is futile to reiterate that war means death, death, and yet again death. But it is not these countless deaths that are my chief charge against it. After all, we must all die someday. A little sooner, a little later, what does it matter?
  There are fifteen hundred million human beings on the face of the globe, and glorious war of 1914–18 was only able to destroy fifteen millions. That's nothing, for these fifteen millions represent a mere fraction of mankind; one per cent, which is next to nothing. Two years of increased fertility will make up for this holocaust. And I am almost tempted to use the words of Napoleon, who murmured with a kindly smile as he gazed on all the corpses which his vain glory had piled up on the field of Eylau: "One night in Paris will make up for all of this."

  And now, among all the peoples of Europe, there reign hatred, abuse, outrage and calumny; with cries of anger, vengeance, and fury which blacken the soul. War stirs up all the base, fierce instincts peculiar to man; man who is baser and fiercer than the jackal or the hog. Everything low, vile and bestial is given full rein. A vain mountebank like Wilhelm II, a brainless old brute like Hindenberg, are worshipped as gods by a hundred thousand imbeciles. All justice scorned; all falsehood exulted; all pity insulted. The whole of humanity wallowing happily in blood and slime, and finding therein some obscure, perverse joy more hideous than a noble grief.
  Apparently man, in his quest for that which will at once injure and degrade him to the utmost, has finally succeeded in attaining the maximum. He has bent all his energy, all his cleverness, all his passion to this painful task. And with great success. The result has been splendid. During five or six thousand years man had tried his strength in continuous, but comparatively bloodless little wars,. But these were sketchy, childish efforts, mere preludes to the magnificent work accomplished in 1914–18...

  Carry on, comrades! Keep it up–keep the ball rolling! Here you are at the dawn of the new era. For this war is only a truce. Wars will break out anew and our grandchildren will see still more glorious massacres; they will undergo more acute and prolonged suffering.

  Forward! Bon appetit! Perfect the art of killing. There are still splendid things you may invent; you have still greater heights to scale. Strain every nerve! Toil on! A few years hence you will achieve superb results.
  Shed the last vestiges of timidity! However great your savagery, your imbecility will far surpass it; and compared with it your savagery will be as a reed beside the Eiffel Tower.

  Pitiful humanity has fallen so low that men kill without hating each other (the phrase is from Bossuet) and they no longer fill me with pity, but the black shame. Yes, in my inmost being, I am humiliated because I belong to this vile animal species, the most foolish of all created things.

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