[Image: An aerial view of the bombing of Dresden during World War II; photo via Wikipedia].
Toward the end of an article by H.G. Wells, discussed in the previous post here, Wells writes: “I can bear to see no more ruins” – and you’re with him. You think exactly.
You read that Wells is “sad and weary with a succession of ruins” as he tours the Alpine battlefields of the Austro-Italian war, that “insane escapade” at high altitude, just one part of a larger “history of colossal stupidities” wherein war is a folly, a blunder, a disaster, and you think, of course, how could anyone bear to see yet more scenes of destruction.
But then you read the rest of the sentence.
“I can bear to see no more ruins,” Wells writes, “unless they are the ruins of Dusseldorf, Cologne, Berlin…”
War always leads to yet more of itself later.
Here are Part One and Part Two of the Wells article, originally published in 1916 in The New York Times.
3 thoughts on “I can bear to see no more ruins”
Amazing, isn’t it? Feelings of humanity, even loftily expressed, really only extend right to the edge of one’s own world, so that the supposedly most sophisticated and educated people can commit the most savage cruelty. And things just won’t change – you can see the same kind of sentiments today. I’m afraid we’re really not making much progress here…
Ah yes, Mr Wells. One of the writers with a lot of vision and great compassion, yet with an intense dosage of Germanophobia, indeed. It would be quite an undertaking to try and find out how deep-seated it was, and to what degree Wells was, so to speak, a victim of his time.
That just gave me a nauseous shudder. When will we rise above this kind of tribalism? What keeps us from admitting that other peoples’ ruins are the same as our ruins, that other peoples’ suffering is the same as our suffering?
I’m looking out my window at the Nikolaikirche in Hamburg right now: A blackened, jagged, crumbled dagger jutting into the fog. They shored the old church tower up and left it that way after 60% of the city was destroyed by firebombing. The city is healed now, but that old church looks like a scar – a stark reminder of an old injury.
Does every city need a scar like the Nikolaikirche? So that we all can decide we can’t bear to see any more ruins? And does that mean we’d have to bomb everyone, first?
It looks cold up in that ruin of a tower, and I’m chilled to the bone.