23.3.41

Yesterday attended a more or less compulsory Home Guard church parade, to take part in the national day of prayer. There were also contingents of the A.F.S., Air Force cadets, W.A.A.F’s, etc., etc. Appalled by the jingoism and self-righteousness of the whole thing…. I am not shocked by the Church condoning the war, as many people profess to be – nearly always people who are not religious believers themselves, I notice. If you accept government you accept war, and if you accept war you must in most cases desire one side or the other to win. I can never work up any disgust over bishops blessing the colours of regiments, etc. All that kind of thing is founded on a sentimental idea that fighting is incompatible with loving your enemies. Actually you can only love your enemies if you are willing to kill them in certain circumstances. But what is disgusting about services like these is the absence of any kind of self-criticism. Apparently God is expected to help us on the ground that we are better than the Germans. In the set prayer composed for the occasion God is asked “to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to help us to forgive them; to give them repentance for their misdoings, and a readiness to make amends.” Nothing about our enemies forgiving us. It seems to me that Christian attitude would be that we are no better than our enemies, we are all miserable sinners, but that it so happens that it would be better if our cause prevailed and therefore that it is legitimate to pray for this……. I suppose the idea is that it would be bad for morale to let people realise that the enemy has a case, though even that is a psychological error, in my opinion. But perhaps they aren’t thinking primarily about the effect on the people taking part in the service but are simply looking for direct results from their nation-wide praying campaign, a sort of box barrage fired at the angels.

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7 Responses to 23.3.41

  1. “…the enemy has a case…”

    Yeah, he wants you dead or enslaved. Yes, you.

  2. The Ridger says:

    WWII may not be the best illustration of his point, but it’s valid most of the time.

  3. M G says:

    “Actually you can only love your enemies if you are willing to kill them in certain circumstances.”

    You’ve lost me there, George. I think you should have elaborated on your point a bit.

  4. Steve says:

    But you Brits were better than the Germans, at the time.

  5. TimothyMN says:

    “…the enemy has a case…” I don’t go along with your black and white view of things here JamesonLewis3rd and think GO had a point.

    Germany was treated very harshly at the end of WW1and in that sense ‘had a case’. Of course the Nazis were than able twist this into aggression and their own agenda. But this would have been more difficult if Germany had originally been treated more fairly.

  6. jhameac says:

    One of my more favorite diary entries of late, particularly the section starting “I am not shocked by the Church condoning the war, as many people profess to be…” which has caused most of the commenting to date.

    I think he is right re “”love your enemies”
    that, writ large, making war on the Germans was to the benefit of German folk and that the Allied Powers knew “better” what was to there good. I would dare anyone though to find any historical “we are doing it for their good” rhetoric.

  7. Barry Larking says:

    What is remarkable about this entry and similar one’s at this time is the still strongly Edwardian sensibility and outlook of Orwell’s mind. He had rather less than ten years to live from this date, yet he emerges in his written work as a ‘modern’ figure, warm, sympathetic and a voice raised above all against cant and hypocrisy, expressed in some of the most resonant prose written in English in the 20th century. Quite a transformation. This entry echoes for me another (I think it is in one of his slightly later “As I Please” columns for Tribune) on the subject of lying propaganda and how lying is worse than killing. The reference is the First World War battle of Caporetto [1917] where Italian soldiers were ‘taken in’ by leaflets distributed by the Austrians. It is the last trace of Edwardian decency (used in a very Orwellian way) where ‘hitting below the belt’ or ‘kicking a fellow when he is down’ was regarded as worse than loosing a fight. Orwell frequently seeds his work with references, sometimes oblique, to this fading and faded code of moral behaviour of his upbringing.

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