The ends and the means

When I was young, I used the library in Newcastle under Lyme to educate me in ways that school didn’t or couldn’t. I was after the sort of vicarious ‘interlectewalism’ you can only get by carting around Orwell, Dostoevsky and Kafka and which is only impressive in your own delusions. A lot of it inevitably either went over my head or was beyond my maturity and none of it helped make me more attractive to women, which is what I was also preoccupied by at the age of 17.

While large chunks of what I read passed me by, bits of it stuck. I recall reading the essays on war and humankind by Aldous Huxley in a collection called Ends and Means. His core argument in one essay was that the ends can never justify the means because the means determine the ends. It’s an idea that I still use to filter the thoughts of other people and it came to mind when thinking about the latest justifications of Tony Blair, that supposedly committed Christian, forthe Iraq war. 

What Blair has said about his commitment to the war, which he now admits was going ahead regardless of whatever justifications were needed for it, is fundamentally wicked. Huxley the humanist was way better and way ahead of him. In 1937 he wrote: ‘no government has the right gratuitously to involve its subjects in war. War is so radically wrong that any international agreement which provides for the extension of hostilities from a limited area to the whole world is manifestly based on unsound principles. Modern war destroys with the maximum of efficiency and the maximum of indiscrimination, and therefore entails the commission of injustices far more numerous and far worse than any it is intended to redress.’

‘Those who prepare for war, in due course get the war they prepare for.’


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