Thursday, June 4, 2009

H. L. Mencken On Peace

"What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace- the peace of a trusty in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The Fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take- his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact. A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a)from his superiors, (b)from his equals, and (c) from himself. This last service, under democracy, is commonly the most esteemed of them all. In the United States, at least theoretically, it is the only thing that keeps ice-wagon drivers, Y.M.C.A. secretaries, insurance collectors, and other such human camels from smoking opium, ruining themselves in the night clubs, and going to Palm Beach with Follies girls. It is a democratic invention. Here, though the common man is deceived, he starts from a sound premise: to wit, that liberty, is something too hot for his hands- or, as Nietzsche put it, too cold for his spine."
H. L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy

3 comments:

Christopher said...

You mean Nietzsche on peace.

Josh said...

I've never read Nietzche, and this is a Mencken quote.

Christopher said...

Nietzsche.