Saturday, May 28, 2016
For Most Countries, At Most Times, People Looked at Military Service with Dread
C.S. Lewis, best known for The Chronicles of Narnia served in World War I in the British Army. He was a citizen of Northern Ireland and was not subject to the draft, but volunteered to serve. He was badly wounded twice and between battles lived in cold, muddy trenches. During the first year of World War II, Lewis spoke to a pacifist society at Oxford with the title "Why I Am Not a Pacifist." Most of the speech is technical, but he gave a haunting summary.
He describes the life of a soldier on active duty in a war:
All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service.
Like sickness, it threatens pain and death.
Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger.
Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule.
Like exile, it separates you from all you love.
Like the gallies, it imprisons you at close quarters with uncongenial companions.
It threatens every temporal evil—every evil except dishonour and final perdition, and those who bear it like it no better than you would like it.
Then he describes the life of those who avoid service, whether by pacifism or other means:
Though it may not be your fault, it is certainly a fact that Pacifism threatens you with almost nothing.
Some public opprobrium, yes, from people whose opinion you discount and whose society you do not frequent, soon recompensed by the warm mutual approval which exists, inevitably, in any minority group.
For the rest it offers you a continuance of the life you know and love, among the people and in the surroundings you know and love.