Chapter 10 - Hatred as an Instrument of War Policy

Posted in The Forgotten People

During the last week or two a considerable argument has been proceeding about the anti-Japanese publicity campaign officially sponsored over the air and by posters and newspaper advertisements.

I cannot say that I have myself heard or seen a great deal of the propaganda in question, but what I have seen provokes me to make some observations on a matter which, unless quietly considered, may probably lead to misunderstanding and accusations and counter-accusations of an unfortunate kind. It is not a party political problem, for there must be differences of opinion about it on both sides.

The last advertisement I saw, after setting out various arguments, ended by announcing, apropos of the Japanese, that "We always did despise them anyhow."

Now, if I may take that last observation first, it does seem to me to be fantastically foolish and dangerous. It is, in my opinion, poor policy to try to persuade people to despise the Japanese.

So far in this war they have shown us points in most departments of fighting. Their courage is admitted; their skill is much greater than we thought; their resource and ingenuity and capacity for devising novel means of warfare have been at times staggering.

To despise such people is absurd. Such an attitude is merely of a piece with the constant underestimation of our enemies which has been one of our great handicaps in this war. We cannot begin too quickly to develop a great respect for the Japanese as a fighting organism. When we attach a proper value to him in this sense, we shall begin to realize with fullness that we are not dealing with a contemptible enemy whom a second-rate effort will serve to overthrow, but with a tremendously powerful enemy whom we will have to go at full stretch to defeat.

But this is only one aspect of the problem. The real thing that troubles me about this campaign is that it appears to proceed from a belief, no doubt quite honestly held, that the cultivation of the spirit of hatred among our own people is a proper instrument of war policy.

No one wants to be academic or unearthly or superhuman on such a matter. We all fall far short of the perfect Christian ideal, and we all - and very naturally at a time like this - have our moments of burning hatred. But the real question is whether we should glorify such a natural human reaction into something which ought to be cultivated and made a sort of chronic state of mind.

I think it was Napoleon who was credited with saying that "hatred is the mark of a small man". And if that epigram referred to continuous and settled hatred, not of the evil in human beings but of human beings themselves, then it was unquestionably true.

In a great war like this, bitter moments are the portion of many thousands of people, and one must respect that bitterness and its cause. But if we are to view war problems from a national point of view and - what is even better - from a world point of view, then we must inevitably conclude that if this war with all its tragedy breeds into us a deep-seated and enduring spirit of hatred, then the peace when it comes will be merely the prelude to disaster and not an end of it.

It is conceded the world over that the Australian soldier is a good fighter. But I have never heard it suggested that he was a good or persistent hater. He has very frequently respected his enemy though he has fought him, and fought to kill.

Do we want to change him, or are these campaigns directed to the civilian? Is it thought that Australian civilians are so lacking in the true spirit of citizenship that they need to be filled artificially with a spirit of hatred before they will do their duty to themselves and to those who are fighting for them?

I remember one night in England last year sitting at dinner with Mr Churchill. The topic of conversation was something akin to the one I am discussing with you. The Prime Minister, with one of those flashing turns of speech which characterize him, suddenly drew out of the past an observation of his own:

"In war, fury; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity; and in peace, goodwill."

Don't you think that is a fine doctrine? And note the language. He didn't say, "In war, cold and calculated and cultivated hatred"; he said, "in war, fury". There is nothing artificial about fury, and least of all about the honest fury of an outraged citizen who is determined to defend himself and his home and his beliefs from barbarian attack.

It is an offence to an honest citizen to imagine that the cold, evil and repulsive spirit of racial hatred must be substituted for honest and brave indignation if his greatest effort is to be obtained.

Of course, we live in a world of men and not of saints, and we must not be highfalutin or priggish. But it is not highfalutin to have a noble and decent cause in war. It is the very moral height of our great argument which alone can reconcile the mother to the death of her son in battle. This war is no sordid conflict of racial animosities. If it were, it could never end in your lifetime or mine.

When generals and statesmen sit around the conference table at the end of this war they may make treaties, but treaties cannot alter the spirit of man. Peace must not only close the door on war; it must open the door to better things. It is not by treaty that we shall pass out of this hideous valley of death into the higher lands of peace and goodwill. Peace may be all sorts of things - a real end of war, a mere exhaustion, an armed interlude before the next struggle. But it will only be by a profound stirring in the hearts of men that we shall reach goodwill.

In short, when this war is over we all hope to live in a better world in which both Germans and Japanese, violently purged of their lust for material power, will be able to live and move in amity with ourselves and in that friendly intercourse which is a more powerful instrument of peace than any artificial plan ever devised.

This does not mean that we are to be soft or hesitant or anything other than determined and ruthless in our search for victory. It does not mean that in some dreamy or philosophic fashion we are to forget that the salvation of mankind requires that this generation of ours should be ready to go through hell to defeat it devils. But it does mean that we should refuse to take the honest and natural and passing passions of the human heart and degrade them into sinister and bitter policy. We shall, in other words, do well if we leave the dignity and essential nobility of our cause unstained and get on urgently with the business of so working, so fighting, and so sacrificing ourselves that the cause emerges triumphant and the healing benefits of its success become available as a blessing not merely for us but for all mankind.

10 April, 1942