"What a disgraceful spectacle
spite of fearful wounds, humanity makes war upon itself.
deal with the sores afflicting mankind are struck more than others
by all the evil men voluntarily inflict upon one another.
I am neither a
politician nor a
It is not my business to occupy myself with
I have too much else
I am moved by a great pity, as lofty as a
Dr. David Hawthorn smiled sadly at this
vehemence, then his smile vanished at
"Unfortunately you are right.
With all the misery
we have to suffer, we tear
ourselves with our own hands besides - the
war of the classes, the
war of the
nations, whether you look at us from afar or from above, we are
barbarians and madmen."
"Why, why," said Angus Starling, who was
getting excited, "why do we
continue to be fools when
we recognise our own folly?"
Dr Hawthorn shrugged his shoulders, as he
had a few moments before when they spoke of incurable diseases.
force of tradition,
fanned by interested
We are not free,
we are attached to the past.
We study what has always been
done, and do it over again - war and injustice.
Some day perhaps
humanity will succeed in ridding itself of
the ghost of the past.
Let us hope that some day we shall emerge from this endless epoch of
What else is
there to do than to hope?"
one great general cause for the world's ulcer."
"You have said it -
servility to the past, prejudice which prevents us from
doing things differently, according to
The spirit of tradition infects
humanity, and its two frightful
Dr. Hawthorn rose from his chair, as if about to protest and as if
to say, "Don't mention them!"
Angus Starling could not restrain
himself any more.
inheritance from past
"Hush!" cried Dr. Hawthorn.
treading on ground on which I cannot follow.
I recognise the present
I pray with
all my heart for the new era.
More than that, I believe in it.
But do not speak that way about two sacred principles."
"You speak like everybody," said Angus Starling bitterly.
must go to the root of
the evil, you know we must."
"You certainly do," and he added
violently, "Why do you act as if you did not know it?
If we wish to
cure ourselves of oppression and
war, we have a
right to attack them by all the means possible - all! -
the principle of
inheritance of past technique and the
cult of the homeland."
"No, we haven't the right," exclaimed Dr. Hawthorn, throwing a look
at his interlocutor and rising in great agitation.
"We have the right!"
cried Angus Starling.
The grey head drooped, and Dr. Hawthorn said
in a low voice:
"Yes, it is true, we have the right.
remember one day during
We were standing beside a dying man.
No one knew
who he was.
He had been found in the debris of a bombed ambulance -
bombed purposely or not, the result was the same.
His face had been
He moaned, groaned, sobbed, shrieked - appalling
We listened to the sounds that he made in his agony, trying to
find one word, the faintest accent, that would at least indicate his
nationality. No use.
We looked and listened, until he fell silent.
When he was dead and we stopped trembling, I had
a flash of
I understood in the depths of my being that man is
more closely knit to man than to his vague compatriots.
Yes, we have a
right to question oppression and
I saw the truth several
times afterward again, but I am an old man, and I haven't the strength to stick
"My dear sir," said Angus Starling, rising, with respect.
Evidently he was touched.
"Yes, I know, I know," Dr.
Hawthorn continued in an outburst of
"I know that
in spite of all the arguments and
the maze of special
cases in which people lose themselves, the absolute, simple truth remains,
that the law by which some are born
rich and others poor and which maintains
a chronic inequality in
society is a supreme
It rests on no better basis than the law that once
forged races of slaves.
know patriotism has become
a narrow offensive sentiment which as long as
it lives will maintain war and exhaust the world.
I know that neither work nor
material and moral prosperity, nor the noble refinements of progress, nor the
wonders of art, need competition inspired by hate.
In fact, I know
that, on the contrary, these things are destroyed by arms.
I know that
the map of a country is composed of conventional lines and different names,
that our innate compassion of self leads us closer to those that are
like-minded than to those who belong to the same geographical group, and we are
more truly compatriots of those who understand us and who are
on the level of our
own souls, or who suffer the
same slavery than of those whom we meet on the street.
adoration we have for our native land would be good and praiseworthy if it did
not degenerate, as we see it does everywhere, into
the spirit of predominance,
distortion of the patriotic sentiment is
increasingly killing off humanity.
Mankind is committing
suicide. Our age is an
Two men have a simultaneous vision: "A cancer!"
Hawthorn grew animated, succumbing to the evidence.
"I know as well as
you do that posterity will judge severely those who have made
a fetish of the
institutions of oppression and have cultivated and spread the ideas supporting
I know that the cure for an abuse does not begin until
we refuse to submit to the
cult that consecrates it.
And I, who have devoted myself for half a
century to the great discoveries that have changed the face of the world, I
know that in introducing an
innovation one encounters hostility." - Henri
Dr. David Hawthorn and Angus
Starling from The Ghost and the Darkness fill the roles of generic
characters in this Henri Barbusse tale.
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