A Good Soldier


by Jack London.

Young man, the lowest aim in your life is to be a good soldier. The good soldier never tries to distinguish right from wrong. He never thinks, never reasons, he only obeys. If he is ordered to fire on his fellow citizens, on his friends, on his neighbors, he obeys without hesitation. If he is ordered to fire down a crowded street, when the poor are clamoring for bread, he obeys and sees the gray hairs of age stained with red and the life tide gushing from the breasts of women, feeling neither remorse nor sympathy.

If he is ordered off as one of a firing squad, to execute a hero or benefactor, he fires without hesitation, though he knows the bullet will pierce the noblest heart that ever beat in human breast. A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not even a brute, for brutes only kill in self-defense. All that is human in him, all that is divine in him, all that constitutes the man, has been sworn away when he took the enlistment oath. His mind, conscience, age, his very soul are in keeping of his officer.

No man cam fall lower than a soldier; it is a depth beneath which we cannot go.