Reading for Sunday, 4 January

A day behind again!  Ah well . . . in this very short chapter, which didn’t take me long to read, the nobility all get behind the war effort and agree to help the Tsars.  Nobody asks any questions like, “What are you going to do with our men?  How well is the war going?  Does anyone have the slightest idea what they’re doing?”

And so the war begins.  Nobody quite understands what they’re doing, but they know it’s emotional and powerful.

I can’t think of anything to compare this with in my experience.  We’re so blase about everything here in Australia, and most of our recent combat experiences that we get involved in (Afghanistan, East Timor, etc.) tend to just cause protests and bitterness, rather than a patriotic rallying of the country.

Are we losing patriotism?  Are we more sensible nowadays?  Certainly, the patriotism portrayed in this chapter of War and Peace is blind patriotism, which is not necessarily the best way to get into a war.

And congratulations, we’re nine books down on War and Peace.  Over halfway there!

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 9.23 – Supporting the War Effort

  1. Well, I don’t know what Tolstoy would have wanted us to think of the blind patriotism that we see shown in this chapter, although I do tend to get the sense that he is, at very least, drawing our attention to the way in which the people have become almost drunk on it – Pierre now feels ashamed of his former liberal leanings, so whipped up is he now in the fervour of patriotism. And yet we know his liberalism is important to him, but now he’s embarrassed by it. And then in the final line, I cannot help but once again get the feeling that Tolstoy is telling us that in the near nysteria of patriotism, people forget who the are, and what they’re doing: “All the assembled noblemen took off their uniforms, planted themselves at home or in the clubs again, and, groaning, gave their stewards orders about the militia, astonished at what they had done”.

    Anyway, whatever Tolstoy ultimately thinks of this sort of patriotism, I guess I can only see it as a bad thing. I can accep that at times there may be a need to go to war – as a last resort of course – but not out of patriotism, but rather when it is necesssary to defend justice. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it’s just that when we are motivated by patriotism, I think it is much harder for us to know when to stop.

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