To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilisation.
We must recognise the essential underlaying savagery in the animal called man, and return to older and sounder principles of national life and defense. We must realise that man’s nature will remain the same so long as he remains man; that civilisation is but a slight coverlet beneath which the dominant beast sleeps lightly and ever ready to awake.
We believe that civilization has been created under the pressure of the exigencies of life at the cost of satisfaction of the instincts.
The spread of civilization may be likened to that of fire: First, a feeble spark, next a flickering flame, then a mighty blaze, ever increasing in speed and power.
The only very marked difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other painted.
Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests.
Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.
Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence.
If there hadn’t been women we’d still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends.
I do not believe that civilization will be wiped out in a war fought with the atomic bomb. Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth might be killed. But enough men capable of thinking, and enough books, would be left to start again, and civilization could be restored.
I am distinctly opposed to visibly arrogant and arbitrary extremes of government—but this is simply because I wish the safety of an artistic and intellectual civilisation to be secure, not because I have any sympathy with the coarse-grained herd who would menace the civilisation if not placated by sops.