It’s Always the Old To Lead Us To the War

Phil Ochs

After all these years I still maintain my appreciation of the late, great Phil Ochs. My copy of the album, I Ain’t Marching Anymore, is lost in the years of moving, changing media, and the demise of the good old record player, but I still remember the picture of Phil sitting with his back against the wall covered with posters and peace signs. Ah, the sixties.

But the whole concept of war still exists—it’s brutality, unfairness, deviousness and corruption—and what Phil Ochs wrote fifty years ago it still true:

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all.

I was interested to see similar opinions express even early by Guy de Maupassant in Sur L’eau:

“No one has an absolute right to govern others. It can only be done for the good of those who are governed. Whosoever governs must consider it as much his duty to avoid war, as it is that of the captain of a vessel to avoid shipwreck.

“When a captain has lost his ship, he is judged and condemned if found guilty of negligence or even of incapacity.

“Why should not governments be judged after the declaration of every war? If the people understood this, if they took the law into their own hands against the murdering powers, if they refused to allow themselves to be killed without reason, if they used their weapons against those who distributed them to slaughter with, that day war would indeed be a dead letter. But that day will never dawn!”

Sur l’eau or Adrift in English, is a short piece ostensibly relating a voyage by the author on his yacht, the Bel-Ami. But there’s a lot more and I highly recommend you read it. I guess when you’re waiting for a west wind far from sight of land you have time to contemplate your life and life in general.

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