simone weil – violence

simone weil gravity and graceDeath is the most precious thing which has been given to man. That is why the supreme impiety is to make a bad use of it. To die amiss. To kill amiss. (But how can we escape at the same time both from suicide and murder?) After death, love. An analogous problem: neither wrong enjoyment nor wrong privation. War and Eros are the two sources of illusion and falsehood among men. Their mixture represents the very greatest impurity.

We must strive to substitute more and more in this world effective non-violence for violence.

Non-violence is no good unless it is effective. Hence the young man’s question to Gandhi about his sister. The answer should have been: use force unless you are such that you can defend her with as much chance of success without violence. Unless you possess a radiance of which the energy (that is to say the possible effectiveness in the most material sense of the word) is equal to that contained in your muscles.

We should strive to become such that we are able to be non-violent. This depends also on the adversary.

The cause of wars: there is in every man and in every group of men a feeling that they have a just and legitimate claim to be masters of the universe—to possess it. But this possession is not rightly understood because they do not know that each one has access to it (in so far as this is possible for man on this earth) through his own body. Alexander is to a peasant proprietor what Don Juan is to a happily married husband.

War. To keep the love of life intact within us; never to inflict death without accepting it for ourselves.
Supposing the life of X… were linked with our own so that the two deaths had to be simultaneous, should we still wish him to die? If with our whole body and soul we desire life and if nevertheless without lying, we can reply ‘yes’, then we have the right to kill.

Excerpted from Simone Weil‘s Gravity and Grace. First French edition 1947. Translated by Emma Crawford. English language edition 1963. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

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