The Insane Root

Even the lowest of the carnivorous animals do not kill members of their own species for no good reason.

The blood-soaked tunic of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, next in line to his elderly uncle’s Austro-Hungarian throne, remains a relic of the murder that sparked a war.                                        (PICTURE-ALLIANCE/DPA/AP)

In the space of two years, 6 million human beings have been slaughtered by other human beings, and the slaughter still goes on; 35 million have been mutilated, and the mutilation still goes on; 15  billion pounds’ worth of property has been destroyed, and the destruction still goes on. On the one side a devastating whirlwind, a tempest of elemental forces, a wild chaos of death and ruin; on the other side, a chorus of talkers and speech-makers and article-writers; political philosophers building their cloud-castles; a monotonous singsong about “humanity” and “society” and the “world-state” and the “social whole.” Visualize the 6 million slain and the 35 million wounded … and you will understand, even though you cannot express, the meaning of the words, “Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!” …

There is no theory of human nature, no view of the world, into which [this war] can be fitted. Even if one holds, as I have recently heard it suggested, that man is the lowest of the carnivora, the situation is still inexplicable and meaningless. The carnivora do not make war on their own species; they make war on other species; they make it in a less cruel manner, and for a far better purpose, for their prey is their food. There is nothing in the life of the lowest of the beasts which can be compared for utter senselessness with this mutual rending to pieces of the nations.