Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lin Yutang on the Futility of Force

Bill Brown ... Xiamen University
In 1943, in his book "Between Tears and Laughter," Lin Yutang angered friends and foes alike by candidly laying bare the true motives behind the wars and the political machinations going on around the planet. And by the simple expediency of analyzing what the "Powers" had been doing, Lin was able to predict exactly what those same Powers would be doing half a century later.

Though Christ said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," I am skeptical of the motives of some who cry peace, peace (Herr Hitler cried peace even as he sharpened his swords]. But like Lin Yutang, I also do not feel it is unpatriotic or unChristian to question the motives of those resorting to war for the cause of peace.

The following excerpt from Lin Yutang's Between Tears and Laughter is, I think, even more poignant today, over 60 years after it was written. Download the entire book at Internet Archives, and as you read it, note the parallels with much of what we see today. In particular--note how Lin predicted we would rebuild Japan, and why.

Lin Yutang on the Futility of Force

Who will make plain to the world the law of the spirit, and demonstrate that Force generates Coercion, Coercion generates Fear, and Fear generates Hatred, as definitely and as accurately as one billiard ball sends another rolling? Who will write a philosophy and psychology of Force and its reactions and determine their characteristics ? Who will be the consummate fatalist to tell the world in plain, convincing, forceful terms that actions generate emotions and emotions in turn generate actions, that the fruit of Force is Fear and Hatred, that thoroughgoing Force generates Fear and Hatred and unthoroughgoing Force generates Hatred without Fear? Who will say, even as in a classroom in physics, that the greater the Force, the greater the Hatred, and that the greatest Force is the most hated of all?
And who will say, as clearly as the prophets of the sky say that a thunderclap presages a storm, that Force is inevitably followed by Hatred, and Hatred is followed by Revenge? For Hatred divides, and the structure of power must sooner or later fall.

In ignorance of such simple and self-evident moral laws, Pericles alternately threatened by force and cajoled by oratory the other Greek states. And after his death, Cleon the leather merchant, Eucrates the rope-seller, and Hyperbolus the lampmaker babbled. They were all good democrats and Cleon was a good general It was left only for the insolent public idol, Alcibiades, to complete the suicide of Greece.

But such laws, being the laws of God, are manifest to the mind of the simple man, requiring no proof. Therefore, he who would be strong within must guard against the use of power, for only then is he safe from corruption within and hatred without. And only he who is free from corruption within and hatred without can be strong eternally. Laotse says, "For love is victorious in attack and invulnerable in defense. Heaven arms with love those it would not see destroyed." Therefore he says:
Of all things, soldiers are instruments of evil, Hated by men. Therefore the religious man avoids them. Soldiers are weapons of evil; They are not the weapons of the gentleman. When the use of soldiers cannot be helped, The best policy is calm restraint. Even in victory, there is no beauty, And who calls it beautiful Is one who delights in slaughter. He who delights in slaughter Will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world. The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow. A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite. Those who love America and England and wish them to be strong forever must read Laotse again and again, for they will gain thereby the secret of immortal strength, exempt from corruption within and invulnerable from attack without. Let America be great, even as the great river of life: The Great Tao flows everywhere, (Like a flood) it may go left or right The myriad things derive their life from it, And it does not deny them. When its work is accomplished, It does not take possession. It clothes and feeds the myriad things, Yet does not claim them as its own... Because to the end it does not claim greatness, Its greatness is achieved. How did the great rivers and seas become the Lords of the Ravines ? By being good at keeping low. That was how they became the Lords of the Ravines. Therefore in order to be the chief among the people, One must speak like their inferiors. In order to be foremost among the people, One must walk behind them. Thus it is that the sage stays above, And the people do not feel his weight; Walks in front, And the people do not wish him harm. Then the people of the world are glad to uphold him forever. Because he does not contend, No one in the world can contend against him. I am not worried lest America may not be able to assert a leadership of force and power; I am worried lest she may. I am concerned to see America assume a moral leadership, a leadership of humility, so that the world may pay her glad homage and uphold her forever. Like the great river that nourishes life along its valley, she shall by the exuberance and richness of her life be a blessing upon the peoples of the earth. She shall stay above, and the world shall not feel her weight; she shall walk in front and no one will wish her harm. For she shall then lead in kindness and unselfishness and justice and by that secret of unused power bring a new era of brotherhood to mankind. No one can dethrone her because of her power for goodness, and no one can take away from her, because she does not take possession, She shall not contend, and no one in the world can contend against her, and because she takes no credit, the credit can never be taken away from her. This is my Dream America. Will it come true? Man has done it before. Abraham Lincoln did it. George Washington did it. In a world of evil chaos, great men have stood up and with the strength of their goodness and their simplicity and the innocence of youth proclaimed that the good in men can outweigh the evil, and they have acted upon that assumption.

Note: Lin did note, interestingly, that there were occasions where war was unavoidable:
"Civil wars are necessary in a nation until an equilibrium is restored. Revolts against empires are necessary until the invader is driven out. The only stable equilibrium in the world is the equilibrium of equality. Only when such equilibrium is reached can we have peace. Small countries have the right to fight, perhaps to settle an old boundary dispute. Big countries have no right to fight, ever, because when they fight they involve the whole world.

Lin Yutang on "Big Neighbors":

...Of all the fifty or sixty nations in the world, only three or four big powers are upsetting the peace of the world. These powers have run over this earth, kicking down people's fences in bad temper and worse manners, robbing them of their liberty and independence, and taking possession of their goods and have then
fought wars among themselves for these goods. First they fought among themselves, and then they called upon the entire world to fight for them to keep what they have. This makes little sense, and it makes still less sense to say that we can have peace only by giving greater power to the big powers and disarming the small powers, on the plea that the small powers may combine to attack them!

Big Powers, at least behave as if you were not scared! But now we suddenly hear about policing the world, as if the Greenlanders and Samoans and Formosans and Burmese were threatening the world peace, while the big powers don their uniforms, strutting about to club the small powers on their heads with a baton if they do not behave. It would seem that we could well police the big powers for a while and leave the poor Samoans and Balinese and Eskimos alone. But, no, we cannot disarm the big powers, because the big powers will not be disarmed, after having so heroically fought and triumphed in this war. Very well, then, let's have wars eternally. The first thing we know the police will start shooting among themselves and scare us poor humble neighbors out of our

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