This subject brings me to that vilest offspring of the herd mind — the odious militia. The man who enjoys marching in line and file to the strains of music falls below my contempt; he received his great brain by mistake — the spinal cord would have been amply sufficient. This heroism at command, this senseless violence, this accursed bombast of patriotism — how intensely I despise them! War is low and despicable, and I had rather be smitten to shreds than participate in such doings.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What I Believe,” Forum and Century (Oct 1930)
    (Source)

Einstein crafted and recrafted his credo multiple times in this period, and specifics are often muddled by differing translations and by his reuse of certain phrases in later writing. The Forum and Century entry appears to be the earliest. Some important variants:

This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor. That a man cant take pleasure in marching in fours to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; unprotected spinal marrow was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them! How vile and despicable seems war to me! I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild] [tr. Bargmann (1954)]


This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abjor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does by the name of patriotism -- how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild] [tr. Harris (1934)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Feb-21
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