7.17.2012

rtod

Revolutionary thought of the day:
Among the peoples of the world the idea of war resistance is growing. You must fearlessly accept the challenge and aggressively spread the idea of war resistance. You must convince the people to take disarmament into their own hands and to declare that they will have no part in war or in the preparation for war. You must call on the workers of all countries to unite in refusing to become the tools of interests that war upon life. Today, in twelve countries, young men are resisting conscription and refusing military service. They are the pioneers of a warless world.

Albert Einstein, 1931
I've posted this before, but I just love it so much. I repeat it to myself, like a prayer.

7 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I've read the tag end of this on your site many times, but I had never seen the date when Einstein made his remark. I know we had a kerfuffle over my comment that Norman Thomas wasn't much of a prophet, but I repeat it again, substituting Einstein for Thomas.

Orwell predicted much better in '1984': "Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia." That, despite Einstein's hopes, is the thumbnail history of all the years since 1931.

laura k said...

And by Norman Thomas, I assume you mean Eugene V. Debs.

The kerfuffle was, and will be, your assumption that any of these men were trying to be prophetic. I see no reason to believe they were. I post their words because they stir my soul and my vision, not because they had powers to predict the future, something no human can possess.

johngoldfine said...

"And by Norman Thomas, I assume you mean Eugene V. Debs."

Fuck, Debs, right--I'm reading a wonderful book by William Ian Miller called 'Losing It', about just that sort of age-related slippage, although he deals with much more than lapses of memory.

Yes, I do assume that Einstein intended to be prophetic--that's how his comment reads to me anyway. If not prophetic, then certainly its cousin, 'inspirational.'

What inspires and stirs me is the unremittingly grim worldview of a mutual favorite, Orwell.

laura k said...

I do find this quote tremendously inspirational. I guess I don't believe in prophecy, so I don't read anything as prophetic, nor see anyone as a prophet.

I'm not sure that Orwell had an unremittingly grim worldview. I would not normally associate him with that... but I'll think about it out of deference to you.

"I'm reading a wonderful book by William Ian Miller called 'Losing It', about just that sort of age-related slippage, although he deals with much more than lapses of memory."

Hmm. From what you say here, sounds like a must to avoid, but I'll look it up online.

laura k said...

Orwell predicted much better in '1984': "Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia." That, despite Einstein's hopes, is the thumbnail history of all the years since 1931.

This is my problem. Why do you insist we choose between one and the other? Is it not possible to hold in one's head "we have always been at war with..." (which I say all the time btw) and "the pioneers of a warless world..." at the same time, to believe in them both?

I cannot understand why you set these great minds against each other in some kind of contest to predict the future, a power no human can possess, and a talent none of these men claimed to have.

If I'm repeating myself, I apologize. Allan and I have been discussing it so it's on my mind.

johngoldfine said...

* I'd hate to think that I failed Keats' definition of 'negative capability' and instead reached irritably for certainties where there are none. In other words, that I insisted on a choice between Orwell and Einstein....

But, as I think about it and my own mental habits, I must admit that I tend to categorize and then to polarize, perhaps even demonize!

* I think Orwell makes a point about Dickens that is true for him as well: both men believed in general social improvement arising from individual reform and goodness. Orwell's books seem grim to me, but he went to Spain and fought; he did not despair or give up, despite the grim view he took; he did something himself, even if he could never be much of a joiner or ideological true believer.

* I understand that Einstein's comment was not particularly a prophecy (though he certainly was a fellow who enjoyed professionally theorizing about how things worked and what would happen next....)

But that '1931' just gobsmacked me. Einstein was no more right about the future warless utopia than Orwell was about the future permanent-war dystopia, but somehow events, it seems to me, made a fool of Einstein, not Orwell....

How about this?: both men loathed war and the civilization that seems to demand it, but Einstein approached that problem with love and hope, while Orwell approached with anger and dismay?

(That grimness of Orwell's does stir me: if one believes the worst and still goes on, one is braver than the person who fights for a tomorrow whose realization is unlikely given the crooked timber of humanity.) (But there I am again, insisting on putting the two viewpoints at odds.)


* William Ian Miller is worth reading, whatever his topic!--a fine prose stylist, very funny, often witty, always provocative. In 'Losing It' he is unremittingly grim! But, as I say, also very amusing and enlightening.

laura k said...

Thanks, John, good thoughts. I do think you are setting up some kind of dichotomy where none exists.

I love (adore) Orwell's essay on Dickens, and/but I don't think Orwell agreed with Dickens' vision of social reform through individual goodness. In that essay, he's not disapproving of or dismissive of Dickens' vision, but he knows it's not sufficient to bring about real change.

Even though Orwell understood the dangers inherent in any power structure, he was still a revolutionary, in my reading. It's because he saw so clearly how "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" was always one step away, he knew we needed a completely different power structure.

Dickens didn't want to change the power structure. He wanted to reform it - make it more equitable, safer, cleaner. Dickens was a New Deal guy.

Orwell knew he hadn't yet seen the real people's revolution, but I think he saw it as the necessary goal.