I was going to write out a whole opinion piece regarding what I have read thus far in Chris Hedge’s book ‘War is a Force That Give Us Meaning’, but decided against it. You see, my opinion, in all honestly, shouldn’t really matter to you all, it is your opinions that truly matter. And this is what I am interested in anyway, I am interested in how others interpret the things that I have read, and personally, on my own, I can assess how others’ opinions and evaluations differ from mine. You see, I am not one of those people who are completely set in my ways; I am willing to change my opinions and viewpoints on things if presented with compelling evidence and simple arguments that make sense to me. I am also a huge individualist and feel that no matter what your opinion on an issue, if you can state your reasons for feeling a certain way in a logical and rational fashion; I will accept and respect that, even if I strongly disagree. This is why I can be civil and even friendly with Christian Evangelical Republicans even though their reality and my own are very different, and our opinions on pretty much everything are polar opposites, but the individuals I know are smart, their opinions are well thought out, they just came to a different conclusion from the ‘evidence’ than I did. And I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with that, I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again, the world would be a pretty boring place if everyone thought, felt, and acted the same, now wouldn’t it?
Anyways, I thought I would simply use quotes that I have marked in the book and follow with some questions by me. Now, any of you out there who have a psychologically oriented background could probably figure out, at least to a certain degree, my opinions on this topic merely from the information I chose to present and the questions I ask, as well as the way those questions are framed. (This might also be a little something to think about when watching the news on NBC or any other mainstream media source, just remember news anchors are people too, with their own biases, and hang-ups, and this is reflected not only in the semantics used, but the very stories covered. I’ll leave it there, but trust me; I could go on and on.) Or you may just think you know how I feel about something, how much are you willing to bet that you’re right? Knowing just a bit about linguistics, persuasion, and public opinion due to my studies, what chance is there that I am sneaky in my use of semantics so as to intentionally not let my true opinion show through? Just remember, we psychology folk are evil like that. :-)
Quote 1: “The historian Will Durant calculated that there had been only twenty-nine years in all of human history during which a war was not underway somewhere.”
Now I haven’t checked the integrity of this ‘fact’, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is true. So, only 29 years in ALL of human history has there been peace.
What does this say about human nature? Does this mean that we are more like our animal relatives than we like to think? Are humans predators? To what or whom? With history in mind, is there any hope for true, lasting world peace? Is violence inherent in the human condition or are the evil few just very good at manipulating the masses? Why haven’t the masses learned from history and revolted against the ‘status quo’ of continuing conflict and violence? Are we bound to destroy ourselves because of our propensity towards violence or mere stupidity?
Quote 2: “Patriotism, often a thinly veiled form of collective self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy, and bemoans the perfidiousness of those who hate us.”
Do you agree with this? Do you think that Nationalism and Patriotism are negative qualities? Are we (any nation) really morally good and just? Why is it that, especially after a crisis, criticism of the policies of one’s nation is not accepted and ‘frowned upon’? That suddenly, by virtue of our criticism, we become one of ‘them’, the enemy? Why is it all or none? Why is it that we think the horrible things others do, at least in reference to America, are done because ‘they hate our freedom’? Do we really believe that emotion and rage of this level of intensity really stems from their ‘hating our freedom’ or being jealous of our stuff? What do you think the real root of a lot of this conflict stems from?
Quote 3: “While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill. Thus killing is done in our name, killing that concerns us little, while those who kill our own are seen as having crawled out of the deepest recesses of the Earth, lacking our own humanity and goodness. Our dead. Their dead. They are not the same. Our dead matter, theirs do not.”
What do you think of this statement? I must point out here, that I don’t think he is referring to individuals; he is referring to us collectively and that we seem to be much more affected by the death toll to our own soldiers than the death toll of the innocent civilians that occupy the area of conflict. What do you feel are the implications of the ‘us and them’ mentality? Does this give us, however thin, justification to commit atrocities since the enemy is the ‘other’? Why is it that in combat, where the mission of both sides is essentially the same, to win, that one side’s acts are moral, and the other side’s acts are barbaric? Why is it that seeing one of ‘our dead’ elicits and greater emotional response than witnessing ‘their’ dead? Aren’t we all people? Do you see animal cruely as an extension of our justification to do immoral things, the us and them mentality?
And finally, quote 4: “Just remember” a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel told me (Chris Hedges) as he strapped his pistol belt under his arm before we crossed into Kuwait (Persian Gulf War), “that none of these boys is fighting for home, the flag, for all that crap politicians feed the public. They are fighting for each other, just for each other.”
What does this say of the strength of our argument to go to war? Do our soldiers really believe in the mission of the conflict they are fighting in? Shouldn't they if they are risking their lives for it? In current times, with the above said statements in mind, do you think American soldiers are more worried about ‘bringing democracy’ to places like Iraq and Afghanistan or merely trying to survive their tour so they can go home?
Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and ponder this. These statements really made me think and I was curious as to the reactions others would have reading them. Do they make you angry? Do you try to think about where the author is coming from, even though his views and statements seem pretty far out there? I probably didn’t ask all the right questions, but I was trying to ask the questions that Hedges may have had to ask himself before really being able to look at these statements and war in general though a different ‘lense’ or perspective. And believe it or not, I am hopeful about the future of humanity, that doesn’t mean that I think things will get better, but that I believe it is possible.
And I must add in closing that these questions are not asked to offend people. If you are offended, please tell me, and explain why, that was the point of this. I have family in the military, as many of you may have as well, and these statements do not diminish their bravery, it just merely calls into question whether or not we should be sending our brave men and women into conflicts, and whether or not, in the long term, constant conflict (with both nature and each other) will lead to our species' demise. I know how I felt about what I read; I was just curious how this resonated with others. Don’t be shy, call Chris Hedges a crazy or whatever you want, just please explain why you feel the way you do.
‘Til next time.