Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today -100: August 25, 1916: It was part of the war and of our courage

The Women’s Social and Political Union, in its newspaper Britannia, says that the possibility of conscientious objectors voting is an insult to women, involving as it does the theory “that men do not vote on account of any service rendered to the state, but simply and solely because they happen to be males.” One can remember a time when the WSPU opposed the idea that men had the vote and women did not because only men could fight wars.

They should be happy that at the next election, women (some women) will vote but conscientious objectors will not.

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, until recently the head of the Germany Navy, has evidently issued a “manifesto” – issued in what form is not clear because of German censorship – demanding a return to unrestricted submarine warfare.

The upper house of the Danish parliament, the Landsthing, votes to postpone the sale of the Danish West Indies to the United States until after the war or a general election, whichever comes first.

The French Army orders soldiers to shave off their beards. A general claims that the aggregate weight of those beards is 120 tons – “it is natural that the staff should think of relieving the army of this considerable and useless weight.” I suspect the order had more to do with poilu fitting into gas masks. French intellectuals have weighed in, as is the Gallic custom. Edmond Rostand (author of the play Cyrano de Bergerac) says the beard is a symbol of “all the beauty of all of France, a soul, a jewel, a torch, a prod,” whatever the fuck that means. Henri Bergson (philosophe): “the visage is matter, while the beard is mind.” Maurice Barrès (novelist, righty politician) says the beard is “a heritage of long ago in which the dead lived again and which bound us mysteriously to the soil. ... It was part of the war and of our courage.” Henri Bataille (playwright, poet) calls the beard “a nest of souvenirs [and baguette crumbs], dear and tender, somewhat timid, and a little shivery.” I may have added the bit about baguette crumbs – it was implied. Auguste Rodin (sculptor and the only one of these dudes with an actual beard, which I know because research): “Men without beards, women without sex, statues without heads, bodies without arms, humanity without weakness, that is my opinion.”

As it happens, none of the above was true, although the NYT correspondent was thoroughly taken in. It’s from Le Fuse, a trench paper along the lines of the Wipers Times.

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