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Fred Vahey, as a tiny child, saw wrecks in blue pyjamas who stumbled around Chester. These shell-shocked veterans of WWI shaped his philosophy of pacifism towards people and planet. As a son of servants, he determined never to be exploited nor to exploit. His trade was plumbing and thatching; his work was painting and drawing. Like many environmental activists today, he forged his freedom from the state by building a house and farming a plot of land. When the state demanded that he kill, this is what he replied.
I refuse to be conscripted because it is a denial of human liberty.
I claim, as an individual, the right to act towards my fellow individuals, and no less to all creation, in the manner that my intelligence and my convictions guide me through the medium of my conscience.
Whatever may be the reason for the Universe, I see it as a whole - composed of subsidiary parts and each part is again made of smaller units.
The perfection of the whole is dependent on the wholeness of its component parts. The human race is dependent on its individuals and each individual is, consciously or unconsciously, part of the whole and his actions should be such that he hinders not, nor exploits, nor harms in any way other individuals.
Do as you would be done by His duty to his neighbour is obviously to do unto him as he would like to be done unto. If he acted so by his conscience. A man may exploit or even kill his neighbour and drown his conscience in patriotic hysteria or some other anodyne, but mankind does not end at national frontiers, so to kill a neighbour for patriotic reasons is a crime against humanity and can only be done for the material gain it may give to a special section, and to conscript individuals for patriotic adventure is especially criminal and should not be tolerated.
A man's conscience is his most precious possession, and if the state within whose boundaries he resides attempts to conscript him into armies, organised and ordered to do to his neighbours is contrary to this he will be in other states, things that he would be punished for doing to his neighbours within his own state, and things that he can have no desire to be done to himself, then he must resist.
Exploitation is one of the basic crimes of human society and conscription is one of its crudest forms. Our whole “capitalistic” civilisation is built on exploitation. Right at the foundation where the land, from which all men must obtain their needs, is in the hands of the few, thus throwing the masses of men onto the labour market where they are exploited by their more privileged brothers.
Exploitation increases as the power of privilege grows over the disinherited. The state, the mouthpiece of privilege, becomes a tyrant backed by the armed forces it has set up for the maintaining and furthering of privilege and exploitation - empires etc. But exploitation goes even beyond the boundaries of human persons.
Squeezing the earth
Vistas of material profits and personal gain are opened up through the unjust privilege and the land is squeezed and exploited by the unscrupulous in their selfish scramble. The land, from which the means of life for the present and future generations must come, is impoverished. In different ages and different parts of the world fertile soil has been turned to desert (vide the dust bowls of America today).
Some fourteen years ago I realised that the exploitation of anything was immoral and since then I have lived as a vegetarian.
Later, from the same motive, I abandoned the “capitalistic” way of life and have lived now for some few years on a small plot of land, growing my simple food, and following my principles of non exploitation of brother men, animals, nor soil, and endeavouring to meet animosity, when encountered, with friendliness.
To follow this path, with humanity at large pursuing other goals, means abandoning material comforts often, but the wholeness of conscience is worth preserving, and this I mean to do, war or peace: conscription or democracy, and the state and all its material power may whistle.