Tuesday, September 13, 2005


"Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience, and a slavish enthralment to those in power. And as such it is recommended wherever it is preached.
Patriotism is slavery."
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), from "On Patriotism"

Repin Ilya Yfimovich (1844-1930)
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887, Moscow, The Tretyakov Gallery)

Tolstoy goes on to argue that the way to peace is not through social activism, but through thought and its expression. What is needed, according to Tolstoy, is a change in public opinion, and this will come about only when men have the courage to express the truth of the brotherhood of all nations. He enjoins people to have faith in themselves, to believe that what they are conscious of in the depths of their souls "is the power which transforms the world, and to express which is the mission of mankind: it is sufficient to believe that truth is not what men talk of, but what is told by his own conscience, that is, by God..." He finishes the essay:

If only the hearts of individuals would not be troubled by the seductions with which they are hourly seduced, nor afraid of those imaginary terrors by which they are intimidated; if people only knew wherein their chiefest, all-conquering power consists--a peace which men have always desired, not the peace attainable by diplomatic negotiations, imperial or kingly progresses, dinners, speeches, fortresses, cannon, dynamite, and melinite, by
the exhaustion of the people under taxes, and the abduction from labor of the flower of the population, but the peace attainable by a voluntary profession of the truth by every man, would long ago have been established in our midst.


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