Terrorism and Russell’s love of excitement

For some clo­sure for the events that hap­pened in New Zealand I just want to share this speech by Ber­trand Rus­sell that he de­liv­ered win­ning the No­bel Prize for Liter­a­ture.

The ti­tle means love for ex­cite­ment is the sub­ject that Ber­trand Rus­sell points in the speech that fol­lows. If hu­man would get along this love for ex­cite­ment that cre­ates war should be solved.

[...] come now to other mo­tives which, though in a sense less fun­da­men­tal than those we have been con­sid­er­ing, are still of con­sid­er­able im­por­tance. The first of these is love of ex­cite­ment. Hu­man be­ings show their su­pe­ri­or­ity to the brutes by their ca­pac­ity for bore­dom, though I have some­times thought, in ex­am­in­ing the apes at the zoo, that they, per­haps, have the rudi­ments of this tire­some emo­tion. How­ever that may be, ex­pe­rience shows that es­cape from bore­dom is one of the re­ally pow­er­ful de­sires of al­most all hu­man be­ings. When white men first effect con­tact with some un­spoilt race of sav­ages, they offer them all kinds of benefits, from the light of the gospel to pump­kin pie. Th­ese, how­ever, much as we may re­gret it, most sav­ages re­ceive with in­differ­ence. What they re­ally value among the gifts that we bring to them is in­tox­i­cat­ing liquor which en­ables them, for the first time in their lives, to have the illu­sion for a few brief mo­ments that it is bet­ter to be al­ive than dead. Red In­di­ans, while they were still un­af­fected by white men, would smoke their pipes, not calmly as we do, but or­gias­ti­cally, in­hal­ing so deeply that they sank into a faint. And when ex­cite­ment by means of nico­tine failed, a pa­tri­otic or­a­tor would stir them up to at­tack a neigh­bour­ing tribe, which would give them all the en­joy­ment that we (ac­cord­ing to our tem­per­a­ment) de­rive from a horse race or a Gen­eral Elec­tion. The plea­sure of gam­bling con­sists al­most en­tirely in ex­cite­ment. Mon­sieur Huc de­scribes Chi­nese traders at the Great Wall in win­ter, gam­bling un­til they have lost all their cash, then pro­ceed­ing to lose all their mer­chan­dise, and at last gam­bling away their clothes and go­ing out naked to die of cold. With civ­i­lized men, as with prim­i­tive Red In­dian tribes, it is, I think, chiefly love of ex­cite­ment which makes the pop­u­lace ap­plaud when war breaks out; the emo­tion is ex­actly the same as at a foot­ball match, al­though the re­sults are some­times some­what more se­ri­ous.

To read it full on: https://​www.no­belprize.org/​prizes/​liter­a­ture/​1950/​rus­sell/​lec­ture/​

No comments.