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cant(er)ing into war


‘My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may say to a man, “Sir, I am your most humble servant.” You are not his most humble servant. You tell a man, “I am sorry you had such bad weather and were so much wet.” You don’t care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don’t think foolishly.’


One particular way you can fail in both things, fail morally, is cant.

It is cant to say that the UN is in danger of destroying itself when you yourself are leading whoever you can against its legitimate practice and its authority, in fact acting to weaken or undermine it. It is cant to say that it is Saddam who is responsible for a war about to happen, and you are not, when you are massing armies, condemning every concession as fraud, bribing poor governments to get votes for war, and about to attack.

Cant is no part of moral intelligence. It can turn the stomach. It should. It does.