In recent days a stampede of browsers have come by to read Leo Tolstoy’s Letter to the Liberals. Unfortunately, the referrer is obscured and so I don’t know the cause for the sudden interest. But this led me to re-read the essay and thereby to remind myself of how much I admire it.
We could use more Tolstoy around these parts, and so I’ve added a couple more essays to those hosted at The Picket Line.
The first is his essay “Carthago Delenda Est”. Here is a brief excerpt:
A man cannot help but wish that his life should not be a useless, aimless existence, but that it should be a service to God and men. Frequently a man lives his life, without finding an opportunity for this service. The call to take part in military service is that opportunity which presents itself to every man of our time. Every man, by refusing to take part personally in military service, either as a recruit or as a payer of taxes to the government, which uses these taxes for military matters, by this refusal in the most efficacious manner does a great service to God and men, because by this refusal he in the most efficacious manner contributes to the forward movement of humanity toward that better social structure, toward which humanity is striving and at which it must arrive.
The second is his essay Patriotism and Government, which diagnoses that dual problem, its bloody symptoms, and its cure. Excerpt:
In the schools they fan patriotism in the children by means of history, by describing their nation as the best of all the nations and always in the right; in the adults the same sentiment is roused by means of spectacles, celebrations, monuments, and a patriotic, lying press; but patriotism is chiefly roused in them by this, that, committing all kinds of unjust acts and cruelties against other nations, they provoke in these nations a hatred for their own nation, and then use this hatred for provoking such a hatred in their own nation.
That almost sounds like the plank of a contemporary American political platform or two.