Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957, the second youngest writer to receive this honor. He died three years later in an automobile accident. “Neither Victims nor Executioners” that he wrote, appeared serially in the autumn of 1946 in Combat, the daily newspaper of the Resistance, which Camus helped edit during the Nazi occupation and for a short time after the war. It was published in English in the July-August 1947 issue of Politics. What follows is an excerpt calling for nonviolence and preservation of life.
“All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.” ~ by Albert Camus, translated by Dwight Macdonald.
So, inspired by Camus, I pause and ask myself, “Who am I? Am I a murderer? Am I an accomplice of murderers? Do I send others to kill on my behalf? What part do I play in the killing? In what ways do I benefit from the killing of others?”
The truth is that even I, this flimsy and hesitant promoter of peace, am guilty. For the mere fact that I am a citizen of this country, and a taxpayer, I somewhat contribute to the killing of others. Without regard for my personal opposition to the use of violence, my government sends emissaries to kill, and that they do on my behalf. They may not have my explicit consent to do so, but they somehow benefit from my silent connivance, and from a system that ignores my position.
So, I hear Camus asking me, “In the midst of this murderous world, what do you choose?” And my answer is, “I choose life. I choose active nonviolent resistance to all forms of violence, all forms of oppression and exploitation, all the inhumane forms human beings treat other human beings.”
May we, all of us, make a similar choice. May we all choose life. May we grow in mindfulness, experience oneness, and engage in the work of alleviating other people’s suffering, and that of preserving the planet and all life in it. May we reject violence and killing. May we believe in the intrinsic goodness of man and the power of nonviolent, friendly persuasion to dispel tensions and solve conflicts. May we live with the conviction that words are more powerful than munitions. May we choose selflessness, modesty, and cooperation, not competition. May we choose peace, always.
P.S. To all my sisters and brothers in arms, independent of what country or group you pledge loyalty to… To all those engaged in fight and killing… To all those getting physically and mentally wounded… To all of those trapped in the crossfires… To all the conscientious objectors and deserters… To all of you, all over this world of ours, know that I feel your pain and that I love you all. We are all in this together. I can imagine how hard it may be to do some of the things you are ordered to do. Maybe not thinking about the insanity of it all is the only way to cope with it, and maintain some sort of sanity. I can understand that. I can feel that pain. If you are engaged in killing, and if you can find a way out, I hope you exercise this option. Finally, I want you to know that you are loved.