This I Believe

Angell, Norman

  • Norman Angell describes his belief that evil will triumph over good in society unless indviduals recognize their own personal capacity for evil and strive to overcome this tendency through self-discipline.
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And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow
This I Believe. Sir Norman Angell was born in England almost eighty years ago. He was educated in France and Switzerland and at seventeen came to America where he worked for six years as a farmhand, cowboy and prospector. Returning to England he became a newspaperman; started the Paris Daily Mail; entered Parliament; was knighted and received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Along the way he found time to write forty books and give innumerable lectures, particularly on economics and political science, the fields in which he is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts. Here is Sir Norman Angell’s creed.
I believe that the judgments upon which depend the character of human society are dictated by emotional forces that are blind and evil, as well as good. I believe that at critical junctures, as often in the past, the evil will prevail over the good unless we face honestly the stark fact that these irrational forces do exist within us and do need conscious control, the discipline of thought and reason.
I believe men capable of this self-discipline, once they recognize the need for it. I believe in this capacity because we see it achieved daily within narrow limits, as in a court of law, where judge and jury set aside their natural emotions and apply cold reason to the evidence. But we evade this responsibility to rise above emotion, instinct, passion, wherever collective conflicts like those of nationalism, race, class war, political partisanship are involved. In those fields we have seen, in our own generation, irrational passion rising to the point of hallucination and insanity. The German nation, educated and cultured beyond most, engaged in the wholesale massacre of millions of human beings because they belonged to the race which gave the world Jesus Christ.
We have seen Russians exterminating on even larger scale millions of other Russians for the crime of coming from the wrong social class or expressing some heresy contrary to Moscow’s dogma of the moment. We have seen Japanese exterminating Chinese; Chinese, themselves, other Chinese for being communists or not being communists; Muslims in India killing Hindus; Hindus killing Muslims. The passions here displayed are no greater than those were revealed in the wars of one Christian sect with another, in the massacre of Protestants by Catholics on a St. Bartholomew’s eve, or of Catholics by Protestants in the Cromwellian campaigns of Ireland. We cannot condemn the auto de fe and forget the Negro lynchings, or sight the terrors of a Christian inquisition and forget the terrors of anti-Christian revolutions.
I believe that we can overcome these baser forces of the human spirit, but only if we recognize, without evasion, the fact of their presence within us. The navigator who complacently assumes that rocks and shoals do not exist will lose his ship. If I have no belief in the danger, I can have no sense of responsibility consigning it. The old problem of making reason prevail over unreason has been made a new one by the coming of the atom bomb, a tool the fanatics of the past did not possess. If the old passions and fanaticisms are to remain undiminished, that too will be used and urbanized civilization will be extinguished, leaving the way of life to be determined by the savages of the sheltered jungles and the nomads of inaccessible desert spaces.
There the beliefs of Sir Norman Angell. He is still vigorous in body as well as in mind and does not hesitate to take his yacht out into the North Sea alone.