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A year of surging death

While October has had a relatively low number of deaths, at least 852 military personnel have died thus far this year — the highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003.
And that doesn’t include the hundreds in mercenary forces.

By Leo Tolstoy
Last Message to Mankind:(Delivered at the 18th International Peace Congress, Stockholm, 1909)
Before us are millions of armed men, ever more and more efficiently armed and trained for more and more rapid slaughter. We know that these millions of people have no wish to kill their fellows and for the most part do not even know why they are forced to do that repulsive work, and that they are weary of their position of subjection and compulsion; we know that the murders committed from time to time by these men are committed by order of the governments; and we know that the existence of the governments depends on the armies.
Perhaps Christianity may be obsolete, and when choosing between the two – Christianity and love of the State and murder – the people of our time will conclude that the existence of the State and murder is more important than Christianity, we must forgo Christianity and retain only what is important: the State and murder.
That may be so – at least people may think and feel so. But in that case they should say so! They should openly admit that people in our time have ceased to believe in what the collective wisdom of mankind has said, and what is said by the Law of God they profess: have ceased to believe in what is written indelibly on the heart of each man, and must now believe only in what is ordered by various people who by accident or birth have happened to become emperors and kings, or by various intrigues and elections have become presidents or members of senates and parliaments – even if those orders include murder. That is what they ought to say!
But it is impossible to say it; and yet one of these two things has to be said. If it is admitted that Christianity forbids murder, both armies and governments become impossible. And if it is admitted that government acknowledges the lawfulness of murder and denies Christianity, no one will wish to obey a government that exists merely by its power to kill. And besides, if murder is allowed in war it must be still more allowable when a people seek its rights in a revolution. And therefore the governments, being unable to say either one thing or the other, are anxious to hid from their subjects the necessity of solving the dilemma.
Humanity in general, and our Christian humanity in particular, has reached a stage of such acute contradiction between its moral demands and the existing social order, that a change has become inevitable, and a change not in society’s moral demand which are immutable, but in the social order which can be altered. The demand for a different social order, evoked by that inner contradiction which is so clearly illustrated by our preparations for murder, becomes more and more insistent every year and every day.
The tension which demands that alteration has reached such a degree that, just as sometimes only a slight shock is required to change a liquid into a solid body, so perhaps with a slight effort or even a single word may be needed to change the cruel and irrational life of our time – with its divisions, armaments and armies – into a reasonable life in keeping with the consciousness of contemporary humanity.
Every such effort, every such word, may be the shock which will instantly solidify the super cooled liquid. Why should not our gathering be the shock?
In Andersen’s fairy tale, when the King went in triumphal procession through the streets of the town and all the people were delighted with his beautiful new clothes, a word from a child who said what everybody knew but had not said, changed everything. He said: ‘He has nothing on!’ and the spell was broken, and the king became ashamed and all those who had been assuring themselves that they saw him wearing beautiful new clothes perceived that he was naked!
We must say the same. We must say what everybody knows but does not venture to say.
We must say that by whatever name people may call murder – murder always remains murder and a criminal and shameful thing. And it is only necessary to say that clearly, definitely, and loudly, as we can say it here, and men will cease to see what they thought they saw, and will see what is really before their eyes.
They will cease to see the service for their country, the heroism of war, military glory, and patriotism, and will see what exists: the naked, criminal business of murder!
And if people see that, the same thing will happen as in the fairy tale: those who do the criminal thing will feel ashamed, and those who assure themselves that they do not see the criminality of murder will perceive it and cease to be murderers.
But how will nations defend themselves against their enemies, how will they maintain internal order, and how can nations live without an army?
What form of life men will take after they repudiate murder we do not and cannot know; but one thing is certain: that it is more natural for men to be guided by reason and conscience with which they are endowed, than to submit slavishly to people who arrange wholesale murders; and that therefor the form of social order assumed by the lives of those who are guided in their actions not by violence based on threats of murder, but by reason and conscience, will in any case be no worse than that under which they now live.
That is all I want to say. I shall be sorry if it offends or grieves anyone or evokes any ill feeling. But for me, a man eighty years old, expecting to die at any moment, it would be shameful and criminal not to speak out the whole truth as I understand it – the truth which, as I firmly believe, is alone capable of relieving mankind from the incalculable ills produced by war.

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