American Progressive Writer and Leftist Intellectual
Randolph Bourne, fully Randolph Silliman Bourne
American Progressive Writer and Leftist Intellectual
A man with few friends is only half-developed; there are whole sides of his nature which are locked up and have never been expressed. He cannot unlock them himself, he cannot even discover them; friends alone can stimulate him and open him.
Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which states seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of arts, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war.
He who mounts a wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes.
Our real duty is always found running in the direction of our worthiest desires.
We may by our excessive prudence squeeze out of the life we are guarding so anxiously all the adventurous quality that makes it worth living.
The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated.
We cannot crusade against war without crusading implicitly against the State. And we cannot expect … to end war, unless at the same time we take measures to end the State in its traditional form.
If the State's chief function is war, then the State must suck out of the nation a large part of its energy for its purely sterile purposes of defense and aggression. It devotes to waste or to actual destruction as much as it can of the vitality of the nation. No one will deny that war is a vast complex of life-destroying and life-crippling forces. If the State's chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. And this means not only the actual and potential destruction of the enemy, but of the nation at home as well. For the … calling away of energy into military pursuits means a crippling of the productive and life-enhancing processes of the national life.
It cannot be too firmly realized that war is … the chief function of States. … War cannot exist without a military establishment, and a military establishment cannot exist without a State organization. War has an immemorial tradition and heredity only because the State has a long tradition and heredity. But they are inseparably and functionally joined... it is not too much to say that the normal relation of States is war. Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which States seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of wits, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war. Diplomacy is used while the States are recuperating from conflicts in which they have exhausted themselves. It is the wheedling and the bargaining of the worn-out bullies as they rise from the ground and slowly restore their strength to begin fighting again.
We of the middle classes will be progressively poorer than we should otherwise have been. Our lives will be slowly drained by clumsily levied taxes and the robberies of imperfectly controlled private enterprises. But this will not cause us to revolt. There are not likely to be enough hungry stomachs to make a revolution. The materials seem generally absent from the country, and as long as a government wants to use the war-technique in its realization of great ideas, it can count serenely on the human resources of the country, regardless of popular mandate or understanding... We are learning that war doesn't need enthusiasm, doesn't need conviction, doesn't need hope, to sustain it. Once maneuvered, it takes care of itself, provided only that our industrial rulers see that the end of the war will leave American capital in a strategic position for world-enterprise.
We can easily become as much slaves to precaution as we can to fear. Although we can never rivet our fortune so tight as to make it impregnable. We may by our excessive prudence squeeze out of the life that we are guarding so anxiously all the adventurous quality that makes it worth living.
This feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth's surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them...The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the idea of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition; it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion...
War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense...the nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war...The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history - war.
There is a theory that since the child will be obliged in later life to do many things that he does not want to do, he might as well learn how while he is young. The difficulty here seems to be that learning to do one kind of a thing that you do not want to do does not guarantee your readiness to do other kinds of unpleasant things. That art cannot be taught. Each situation of compulsion, unless the spirit is completely broken, will have its own peculiar quality of bitterness, and no guarantee against it can be inculcated.
There is no group so uncongenial as an uncongenial family.
The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade. What shall we do with leaders who tell us that we go to war in moral spotlessness or who make democracy synonymous with a republican form of government?
The State represents all the autocratic, arbitrary, coercive, belligerent forces within a social group, it is a sort of complexus of everything most distasteful to the modern free creative spirit, the feeling for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. War is the health of the State. Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover...A nation's patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd-strength...
Self-recognition is necessary to know one's road, but, knowing the road, the price of the mistakes and perils is worth paying. The following of that road will be all the discipline one needs. Discipline does not mean being molded by outside forces, but sticking to one's road against the forces that would deflect or bury the soul. People speak of finding one
Society is one vast conspiracy for carving one into the kind of statue likes, and then placing it in the most convenient niche it has.
Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance towards a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us.
Really to believe in human nature while striving to know the thousand forces that warp it from its ideal development-to call for and expect much from men and women, and not to be disappointed and embittered if they fall short- to try to do good with people rather than to them- this is my religion on its human side. And if God exists, I think that he must be in the warm sun, in the kindly actions of the people we know and read of, in the beautiful things of art and nature, and in the closeness of friendships.
Good talk is like good scenery - continuous, yet constantly varying, and full of the charm of novelty and surprise.
No matter what we have come through or how many perils we have safely passed, or how many imperfect and jagged - in some places perhaps irreparably - our life has been, we cannot in our heart of hearts imagine how it could have been different. As we look back on it, it slips in behind us in orderly array, and, with all its mistakes, acquires a sort of eternal fitness, and even, at times, of poetic glamour.
Friendships are fragile things, and require as much handling as any other fragile and precious thing.