By Andrew Joyce, Ph.D.
“Fail, and that history turns into rubbish,
All that great past to a trouble of fools.”
— W.B. Yeats, Three Marching Songs
In 1937 the great Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats was visited by a professor from India who, after lengthy discussion over lunch, requested a message to his country. ‘Let ten thousand men of one side meet the other. That is my message to India,’ replied Yeats, who then seized a Japanese sword and shouted, ‘Conflict, more conflict!’ To twenty-first-century ears, the message might seem bizarre, and may even have jarred the constitution of Yeats’s visitor. It was rooted, however, in the context of the poet’s Romantic and nationalistic belief system — a belief system in which conflict was both natural and good, and essential to the prevention of tribal decay, pollution, and decadence.
We are now, of course, far removed from such an understanding. It has been exiled from artistic and political expression, and driven from instinct by a weak and perverted culture. In the present, to be angry is ‘to let your enemy win.’ To hate is to commit the most grievous of sins of personality. To assert yourself and your interests is to perpetrate a pathological level of selfishness. Yeats would be repulsed. He would have understood that whereas conflict offers at least the opportunity for victory, and thus assumes a heroic quality, the pacifism currently inculcated in the West offers only ignoble defeat and death.