The Uses of Hatred (31 december 1917)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Uses of Hatred is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 31 december 1917.

See also his first letter on the same topic: The Uses of Hatred (26 december 1917).


The Uses of Hatred

The Times (26 december 1917)



Sir, — I have the utmost respect for the Bishop of Winchester, but when he talks of hating the sin but not hating the sinner he gets into a metaphysical region which, to me at least, has no relation to fact. When I hear of a German kicking a wounded British soldier, it is not the kicking that I hate, but it is the German, and it is my hatred of that man, and my hope of punishing him and his fellows, which help me in my will to conquer. I claim that it would have that effect on any Briton, and that it is a driving force which we do not sufficiently use, because we do not disseminate the facts in a way which really reaches the people.

The Bishop uses the well-worn argument that, because the Germans have done this, and because we condemn German mentality, therefore we are debarred from doing it. This argument was raised over poison gas, and if it had prevailed we should now be at a vast military disadvantage. It was used again over retaliation for air raids, when the Bishops took upon themselves the responsibility of pronouncing against reprisals, and so hampered military action until the logic of events showed that the only possible defence was an attack. Now we have this argument put forward once more. The only answer is that it is certainly wrong to initiate such methods, but that if the enemy uses them, and they are of military value, then we must either follow his example or the cause of freedom and progress will be brought to ruin. Let the sin rest with him who made it needful. To quote Christ's words upon a question of how to conduct a war can lead to no useful purpose. If we had taken isolated texts in a literal fashion and "turned the other cheek," it is obvious that the Empire of the Hohenzollerns would now have covered Europe, and that the teachings of Christ would have been superseded by those of Nietzsche.

I have been asked in a hundred letters what steps I should recommend. I think they are perfectly simple. I do not believe in pamphlets, because the prejudiced man never even opens them. I do believe in placards and pictures, because one cannot help seeing them. I think, therefore, that a short, clear, human statement should be drawn up, fringed by pictures of the incidents I have related and of other similar atrocities. There is no lack of material. The tone of the address should vary according to the audience addressed. The munition workers should be told that their fellow-countrymen understand, and have sympathy with, their long hours, their hard work, the petty discomforts and vexations which they have to bear. Their attention should be called, however, to what others have endured, as shown in these pictures, and to these visible proofs of what the system is against which they are working. The same address would appeal to the coalminers. To the Irish, on the other hand, there should be a hearty appeal to their native chivalry, with some lines from Cardinal Mercier and a picture or two of what Belgian priests have had to endure. Thus each man should be helped to see the question from his own standpoint. All this is, of course, well within the scope and powers of our present War Aims and Propaganda Committees. I have had numerous offers of cheques to carry the matter out as a private enterprise. The officials have powers of distribution which no private individuals could possibly organize, and distribution is the all-important item. I think, therefore, that it should be left in their hands, and I can only earnestly hope that some good may come from it without unnecessary delay.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.