Social Peace through Enforced Conformity

27 September 1944

Dear Mother and Dad,

You will notice the double address. This is addressed to Dad because I have had considerable occasion to think of him in the last some days. For lo we are in Holland. The old world changes very slowly and I am sure this is the same world that he visited on a happier mission many years back.* The language of course comes easy. More I cannot tell, so we must needs talk about the fifth century to fill up space.

Truth has the face of a creditor whom no one alive has ever completely paid up – so none of us have the courage to look her in the eye. By the fifth century the people of the West had run up such colossal arrears to the lady that they just couldn’t face it. They settled instead for the poor shabby philosophy of St. Augustine – sit tight, don’t ask questions, do like the rest do, and you will be at least as safe as anybody else. Unitatis pacem is the war-cry (note to censor: this means social peace through enforced conformity) – people were told to stick together, right or wrong, to keep each other alive by the heat of their own bodies, prop each other up by their own weight, prove their case by a massed universal shout. No [one] asked what is two and two but only the old silly question, do you belong to our great Universal Society for the Accepted Interpretation of Two and Two Right or Wrong?

What brings this up is the sincerity of the Germans, who can build up a case for themselves without appeal to a single false statement. It is not what they say but what they leave unsaid that is dangerous. Suffering from a bad case of half truth – it is amazing what they don’t know, we are subsiding into the same evil way: there are too many things that are being hushed up, too many things that one just does not talk about. We think we are being frank if we sound off on sex while avoiding things of the mind or mention of the State Department as if they were untouchable. It’s the fifth century all over again…

Tomorrow I shall be two years in the army – I think that is about the length of time decreed. A new type activity should follow presently; two years is long enough with the souls in prison but there shall be other dire things. As long as one is able to do some good, everything is well, and there were surely never so many chances to do good as in this sad, sordid world. I look[ed] for Bro. Brown** recently, but the place was wrecked by a buzz-bomb.



*HN’s father, Alex Nibley, served as Mission President in Holland around 1905.

** Elder Hugh B. Brown was the Military Coordinator for all LDS service personnel in the European Theater during World War II, and also a family friend of the Nibleys.

For more on Hugh Nibley’s experiences in World War II, see Sergeant Nibley PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle.


About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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One Response to Social Peace through Enforced Conformity

  1. Laura Warburton says:

    Thank you for sharing.

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