Tolstoy on Kaiser William II

Like a bold hypnotizer, he tests the degree of insensibility of the hypnotized subject. He touches his skin with a red-hot iron; the skin smokes and scorches, but the sleeper does not awake.

Tolstoy writes this about Kaiser William II of Germany, a good twenty years before the outbreak of the World War I. Sage words of caution from the wise man. Any resemblance to other persons, living or dead, is what it is.

/In Germany, where compulsory service first originated, Caprivi has given expression to what had been hitherto so assiduously concealed–that is, that the men that the soldiers will have to kill are not foreigners alone, but their own countrymen, the very working people from whom they themselves are taken. And this admission has not opened people’s eyes, has not horrified them! They still go like sheep to the slaughter, and submit to everything required of them.

And that is not all: the Emperor of Germany has lately shown still more clearly the duties of the army, by thanking and rewarding a soldier for killing a defenseless citizen who made his approach incautiously. By rewarding an action always regarded as base and cowardly even by men on the lowest level of morality, Wilhelm has shown that a soldier’s chief duty–the one most appreciated by the authorities–is that of executioner; and not a professional executioner who kills only condemned criminals, but one ready to butcher any innocent man at the word of command.

And even that is not all. In 1892, the same Wilhelm, the ENFANT TERRIBLE of state authority, who says plainly what other people only think, in addressing some soldiers gave public utterance to the following speech, which was reported next day in thousands of newspapers: “Conscripts!” he said, “you have sworn fidelity to ME before the altar and the minister of God! You are still too young to understand all the importance of what has been said here; let your care before all things be to obey the orders and instructions given you. You have sworn fidelity TO ME, lads of my guard; THAT MEANS THAT YOU ARE NOW MY SOLDIERS, that YOU HAVE GIVEN YOURSELVES TO ME BODY AND SOUL. For you there is now but one enemy, MY enemy. IN THESE DAYS OF SOCIALISTIC SEDITION IT MAY COME TO PASS THAT I COMMAND YOU TO FIRE ON YOUR OWN KINDRED, YOUR BROTHERS, EVEN YOUR OWN FATHERS AND MOTHERS–WHICH GOD FORBID!–even then you are bound to obey my orders without hesitation.”

This man expresses what all sensible rulers think, but studiously conceal. He says openly that the soldiers are in HIS service, at HIS disposal, and must be ready for HIS advantage to murder even their brothers and fathers.In the most brutal words he frankly exposes all the horrors and criminality for which men prepare themselves in entering the army, and the depths of ignominy to which they fall in promising obedience.

Like a bold hypnotizer, he tests the degree of insensibility of the hypnotized subject. He touches his skin with a red-hot iron; the skin smokes and scorches, but the sleeper does not awake.

This miserable man, imbecile and drunk with power, outrages in this utterance everything that can be sacred for a man of the modern world. And yet all the Christians, liberals, and cultivated people, far from resenting this outrage, did not even observe it./

– Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You

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