Hurray for the King!

Yet the new regiment had a very peculiar character. The soldiers were all rigid Puritans. One of their first acts was to petition the Parliament that all drunkenness, licentiousness, and profaneness might be severely punished. Their own conduct must have been exemplary: for the worst crime which the most extravagant bigotry could impute to them was that of huzzaing on the King’s birthday.

Excerpt From
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 3
Thomas Babington Macaulay

It appears from what little I know of warfare that drunkenness, licentiousness and profaneness regularly attend military men engaged in mortal combat. The predilections survive war and extend in peace time to what are popularly called Legions. My late father reported that several of his men who clung to a dinghy in the North Atlantic after their bomber was attacked by a German submarine in World War II would have survived had they not been inebriated the night before. I had always imagined that if I were one of those young men in a bomber over the North Atlantic pursuing German submarines with the motive to kill the Arian sailors, I too would have been drunk the night before. I would never have thought the momentary alcoholic escape would have imperilled my ultimate survival. Ironically the origin of the word “huzzah” is late 16th century: perhaps used originally as a sailor’s cry when hauling.

Ar·i·an·ismnoun Christian Theologyan influential heresy denying the divinity of Christ, originating with the Alexandrian priest Arius (c. 250–c. 336). Arianism maintained that the Son of God was created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal with the Father, nor consubstantial.

Of greater interest to me is the meaning of bigotry. The conjunction of Puritanism and bigotry in the context of war raises a curious debate.

Definition of bigot
: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices
especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Seldom do we imagine we’re bigoted to criticise those insisting upon moral virtue. Seldom do we propose to equate morality with war. What is more questionable for me is the utility of morality in war. Rather I would have imagined that tolerance of any behaviour in wartime is more predictable. The blunt truth is that I see war as shameful, often nothing but the manifestation of severe emotional insecurity of so-called leaders who have power well beyond their entitlement or capacity. Surely we could agree to replace the “finger on the button” with a more cheerful and useful decision – like settling things amicably even if repeated attempts at conversation were required. I wonder whether I would have resisted conscription? Would I have been standing on my moral right to oppose killing and maiming others? For the time being I prefer to avoid any contemplation of such crude conduct.

Nor by the way do I consider war – or disagreement – a means of resolution. In my professional experience there was no disagreement which was impossible to resolve. Only rarely did the disputants (and their agents or lawyers) submit to determination of their argument by a court of law (that is, by a putative unbiased party). The contest is however better than cutting one another’s throats.

War – whether between different countries or civil – is to me as wasteful and ill-advised as suggesting that we cannot meet others on a level playing field. The foreseeable profit from unity is well documented. As well the cost of war far surpasses the cost of social improvement.

As for the Puritans, I’m afraid I am about to disclose my own bigotry. The nexus between Puritanism and religion is for me fatal. For one thing, I find it singularly contrary to Puritanism and religion to engage in what is so callously dismissed as war.  The horrors of war are enough to keep one awake for the rest of one’s life. I know of no war which was not ultimately regretted.  Sure, there are occasions when one argues with oneself (and possibly with one’s religion) about the need to kill others and destroy their architecture to make a point. Did Marie Antoinette have to be beheaded?  Were the Romanoffs only persuaded by murder?

The House of Romanov was the reigning imperial house of Russia from 1613 to 1917. They achieved prominence after the Tsarina, Anastasia Romanova, was married to the First Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible.

There is no question that the military machine is good for business. And frequently the people directing retail have the fortunate consequence of a sore left heel which prevents them from participating in the explosive madness that is war. But notwithstanding such participatory impediment they are handy at holding up the Bible as evidence of some deeper contribution. Onward, Christian soldiers!

Finally I ask myself whether it were not possible to develop a global plan for peace and shared advantage?  We are able to arrange rockets to the moon and the mystery of the internet worldwide. The proposition for such an agenda is not unimaginable in my opinion. The thesis is simply directed to accommodation not ruination. And as for the cooperation of different races and ethnicities, I can only say that I personally prefer the diversity to the preposterous inclination for punishing alcoholism and profanity.