The thoughts expressed in this weblog are different from the usual psychological insights that I share with the readers. These thoughts have constelled over last few years/months, as I experienced disturbances in interpersonal relationships with colleagues. These disturbances were all related to differences in ethical and moral standards.
I tried to understand those aberrant, unethical, immoral individual behaviors in context of national behaviors. Since then, I have been meaning to write something on the conception of aggression, and the culture of war that has pervaded and is now entrenched in the US psyche. Germany went through it, Britain went through it and now US is living through it. It starts off as an innocent and noble idea of helping humanity, helping those that are less fortunate, those that are unable to defend themselves. It begins as a desire to create a breed, race, or a society that is blemish free, perfect in every way, a little better than the rest. And then the people begin believing in their own narcissistic myth. These countries – Germany, Britain and US – among many many many more through the annals of history, had good intentions, but the power of power is infectious. As someone once said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And I now live in a country which does not know its limits ! From trillions of dollars in budget surplus, we have gone into trillions of dollars in debt. The infrastructure has crumbled in the last 15 years. But we still do not know how and when to stop !
But can we really afford to stop the war? What will happen to the millions of warriors who return home? We don’t have jobs for them, because we outsourced our industries to other countries that were willing and able. Just like old times, we didn’t want to do the hard work ourselves, we were too comfortable with the concept of having other countries and races for slaves ! Oops ! We thought we were being smart! The strategy backfired !
We can’t get the troops back because we don’t have a mental health infrastructure to support them. We damaged it irrevocably by slashing mental health budgets. Why? because instead of strengthening ourselves from inside out, we channeled all our resources towards oppressing people, finding more slaves and exploiting the resources of other countries. Oops again! Most veterans are psychologically damaged and their return would wreck havoc in society without a mental health system to contain them !! Pill popping isn’t such a better option it is made out to be, is it?
We don’t have the ability to assimilate these wounded soldiers back into the society because while they were out fighting un-needed wars, the home base has turned into a bra burning feminist society. No one anymore believes in the evolutionary role of the woman as a nurturer and a healer. Why? Because we abused our women and tried to turn them into slaves as well !!! As Bono says “You become a monster so the monster doesn’t get you.” The women all rebelled and chose to become like men ! Big big big oops! And we laugh at the non Western societies where women still look, feel and act like women? We’re crazy !
We also destroyed or marginalized religions and religious institutions that previously helped with psychological healing. Damn!!! We laugh at half teh world who have better spiritual and religious base ? Psychologically, we’re doomed !
We have encouraged self oriented, individualistic behaviors, we have degraded the collective, we have annhilated the children, the old and the aging and neither their innocence, nor their wisdom is available to us any longer! Oops! We ridiculed nations like Japan and China that emphasized the traditional, the collective, self sacrifice for children, respect for their elders ? Whose laughing now?
We have no one and nothing to fall back on! We are reaping what we sowed!
So now, in our dire states, we have become merciless towards our own sons and daughters. We cannot afford to take back into our societal fold, we choose not to bring them home, all those kids who we sent out to the front lines. We have fallen into the cannibalism inherent in human nature – the body turns on itself in times of extreme depravity and consumes its own muscles for proteins.
This is why we continue with the imperialistic, expansion program, pumping more and more people into the military, sending them overseas, creating war in regions that are not our responsibility, propping up scarecrow puppet governments, and destroying country after country after country, destroying peace and tranquility of millions and millions, killing women, sons and fathers. All this because we are unwilling to bring our kids home. We are guilty of having stolen their wits, and helped destroy those kids.
What would happen if there were no war? Everyone would focus on national reforms ! The public would be less harried, more free to have a greater understanding and realization of government failures. New trends would emerge in politics. US would possibly break into a civil war. In order to keep the (diseased) ball rolling, we keep everyone’s eyes focussed on a non existent enemy. We desperately need an enemy to survive. We prop up a new enemy every time we destroy the old one. And if we don’t have one, then we create one. Year after year after year.
When I think of how our armies indiscriminately wreck the world, I am reminded of Aries, and Hera, the gods of war and vengeance. These archetypal energies have taken absolute hold of us. We don’t realize it internally, but we are a broken nation today. Jobs, employment, economy, social structure, education system, social system, crime statistics, child abuse, domestic violence – everything points to a country that has lost its economic, social, moral and ethical compass.
The most profound understanding of war comes from my philosophical mentor, the Bhagvad Gita, which holds that a war is productive when it is fought without any attachment to a desired outcome, when it is fought because it has to be fought, when it is fought against injustice. Such a war, whether fought on individual or national level, is an ethical obligation of every human being because it is life enhancing. It enhances the overall well being of humanity. However, the writings caution that the war that is fought with evil intentions, to dominate, to oppress, to exploit, to cheat, is bound to destroy the self of the warring party. This is the law of Karma. The effect is desterministic, a pre-destined outcome arising of the cause. There is no getting away from this principle of life and existence. The wars that we fight for oil, for dominance, to exploit and suppress the rest of the world, are destroying the roots, the philosophy, and the nation of United States. They are doing so very quickly.
We keep postponing the inevitable – that the soldiers must return one day, that we must absorb them back into the society one day, that the pain of such absorption is the cost we pay for our foolhardiness, and that it is a cancer that has to be endured before it can be healed. There is no getting away from this action, no matter how our politicians wish the boys and girls in the military would disappear without debilitating the economy further. Every politician defers the inevitable for his successor. Lets just continue the way we are, they say to each other. If we don’t address this issue, maybe it will go away!!!! The soldiers have become orphans expelled from home. They are never to return home.
The postponement has much in common with the delusion of an ostrich. We bury our heads in the sands of time, and inactivity, pretending the danger does not exist. Like rabbits we are petrified in the face of the calamity of recall.. But with every decade that passes, their return becomes increasingly difficult, because the damage inflicted on them has increased. We choose to find other places to send them and are compelled to create wars to home these wounded and mentally destroyed soldiers. The culture of war gets increasingly entrenched in our society, destroying the emotional and economic well being of the society, in turn causing degeneration of personal values, ethics, and morality.
A miltiary endeavour that started as a noble gesture to create a better world, is now a cancer that multiplies and consumes, a toxic complex that threatens to devour the physical and mental health, and the body of the world. With the recent incidents in Libya, we are now firmly in a zone of the diseased, we have passed the point of no return. We are mercenaries now. It was not so 20 years ago. We could have chosen – and did choose – to abandon the Operation Desert Storm.. The world would have been – and was – so much more peaceful. With are getting worse. We have lost support of the entire world. US today has no influence anywhere, except through its military. It is an alienated, disrespected country today, socially and politically isolated from the world body. Only the economic imperatives with other countries create an *illusion* of connectedness. It is the law of nature that that which is disconnected from nature and humanity, cannot hope to survive. To have hope, we must find our way back.
When we look internally, we see this phenomenon reflected in the way individuals behave with each other as well. People of America seem frazzled. There is too much dishonesty, deception, litigation, rivalry, too much disconnection, animosity between individuals, factions, groups and societies. Individuals are estranged from their environment, families, children, colleagues. Confidentiality is such a big issue in US because everyone feels that everyone else is out to get them. And they are right !!! Survival of the self is threatened. Survival is an effort. We have an animal like existance in a concrete jungle which constantly threatens our existence. We project this fear on others and attack them, alleging lawlessness. The lawlessness is here, in this country, not elsewhere. We can’t even conceive of a society where survival is not so difficult, where people are essentially helpful and compassionate. It is difficult for us to imagine that life in other parts of the world, even in those that we destroyed, used to be much more peaceful and contentment oriented before we turned our guns on them. What you do unto others, boomerangs back in some way or the other. This is the fundamental law of nature. In order to avoid an awareness of these disappointments with life, in order to cope with their failures at varying levels, people develop manic defenses. The more we seem to be drowning in the econo-socio-political quicksands, the more arrogant and unbending we become. We engage in frivolous festivities and revelries as if there was nothing wrong, or as if what is wrong will go away if only we just pretend for a little while. The rabbit and the ostrich come to mind again.
The schism between reality, and our perception of it, keeps growing. We create a smokescreen of normalcy to hide reality not only from the world, but from our own awareness as well. If we knew, we’d have to do something about it. Most of us are unwilling to do anything. There is a Buddhist saying “See things as they are, not as you want them to be”. I doubt if the writing on the wall is clear to anyone yet.
The national psyche is deeply diseased, and is infecting the world psyche with its disease. The national psyche is but a reflection of the individual psyche.
War has lately become of paramount importance in US. It sustains us now. Our economy is a warring economy. There are no jobs because they have been outsourced. The federal government believes war is more important than education. The education system – never very good to start with – has been absolutely disabled in the last 10 years. When healthcare benefits are reduced and/or eliminated, we can, and must, expect a physiologically and psychologically unbalanced and unhealthy bunch of people . What are the long term implications of such policies and plans? What can we expect from people who have been thus disadvantaged ? Anger, aggression., feeling of being betrayed and cheated out of a heritage! That anger and aggression is further exploited by politicians by pointing fingers at straw figures and non-existent enemies in the outside world. No one did this to Americans. The Americans did it to themselves, and continue to do so, through their arrogance and short sightedness. But the angry public is led to believe that the Middle East, USSR, China, Pakistan – THEY are evil. They are blamed for our failures.
The politicians, aided by the media, steal the wits of the people. The public disappointment and aggression is craftily exploited and channeled into more war. This is nothing short of re-traumatisation of the already-traumatised people under the guise of misplaced nationalisation. If war really helped, we’d be the strongest economy of the world by now !!! But the war is simply a defense, to prevent awareness, and insight into our own psyche, and an awareness of our own noxious and toxic behaviors. Into our cancerous nature. Such an exploitative war blindfolds us into feelings of misdirected fervor and misplaced nationalism.
The whole thing/nation/region is in a mess. A mess that will take decades to undo. And I don’t see anyone even begining to undo that mess. We continue to spiral downwards. University budgets are continuously being slashed. Scholarships and loans for students continue being eroded. Women continue being marginalized (harmed?) thereby reducing their abilities to produce and nurture healthy, less damaged children that would lead to a less damaged society. Healthcare continues to be a nightmare. Pharmaceuticals continue to bombard people with harmful medications, creating a zombie like generation with bizarre behaviors and ailments, unbalanced mind and body. Until these, and several more, trends of self destruction are stemmed, and reversed, until more holistic ways of negotiating life are found, until the cancer is operated upon, until then the slide will continue downwards……I think we still have a way to go before things may start to improve.
Here is an article that speaks more than I could ever say about the culture of war, and how damaging it is. My sincere thanks to the author for birthing these insights into words.
Three recent deaths regarding a Camp Pendleton Marine and a sheriff’s deputy, killed by a returning veteran who then committed suicide, is a reminder of how war is an attack against humanity and a violent rupture of the intricate and powerful fabric of individual and communal life observed by states.(1) In the case of the Camp Pendleton Marine, he was shot and killed by a sniper while on patrol in Afghanistan. According to his father, the young Marine had grown disillusioned with America’s military mission in Afghanistan and no longer believed in war. Still, the young Marine believed he had a job to do and was willing to “see it through” even if it meant being killed. The other incident involved an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was on his way home. When he saw a suspicious car on the side of the road, he stopped and approached the vehicle. A National Guardsman fired 35 rounds from his M4 semiautomatic rifle killing the off-duty sheriff. The National Guardsman, a U.S.-Iraqi War veteran, afterwards committed suicide alongside the road.
Although the forces behind warlike policies are usually territorial and caused either by a scarcity of resources, ethnocentrism, the irrationally exaggerated allegiances to the tribe, or retaliatory revenge, some societies appear to commit aggressive acts for the sake of aggression itself. In other words, warlike behavior becomes so internalized that to merely live and exist means to go to war. In some war-like tribes and nation-states, even altruistic warriors and their self-sacrificing rituals can be due mainly to their service and allegiance to the “cult of war” and not in defense of their families, communities, or nation-states. Such kinds of organized violence and killing becomes institutionalized and a way of life. Still yet, anthropological studies have revealed that as societies become centralized and complex they develop more sophisticated military organizations, battle techniques, and forms of propaganda to not only expand their territories and displace competing cultures, but to enhance their “war cult” so as to control their adherents and followers.(2)
The idea that war is good, or a force that improves humanity and society, has existed for centuries. Some ancient societies believed the “cult of war” was virtuous. Modern philosophers, like Georg Friedrich Hegel who co-founded German Idealism, thought most things were trivial compared to war. “Through war,” wrote Hegel, “the moral health of peoples is preserved.” Benito Mussolini believed, “War alone raises all human energy to the highest pitch and stamps with nobility the people who have the courage to make it.” General von Moltke, Prussian Chief of Staff, denounced peace and claimed, “Everlasting peace is a dream, and not even a pleasant one. War is a necessary part of God’s order.” Such views encouraged both conservatives and liberals from around the world to worship and even idolize war. Some artists glorified war too, as they splashed across the painted or electronic screens idealized war machines, speed, danger, violence, cruelty, sleeplessness, and injustice. War cleansed the body and soul. It became the world’s only hygiene.(3)
If what a nation makes and produces also makes and produces that nation, then it is clear nations continually manufacturing and pursuing wars will be fashioned and marred by acts of aggression and violence. Nation-states perpetually at war and engaged in military campaigns will find their common identity and mutual responsibility in enhancing military training and war itself, instead of to individuals, a family or humanity. A citizen’s value is then linked to combat and the “cult of war.” Selfless service and the ultimate sacrifice is fighting and dying on an altar of war. At the same time, the object of war is not peace nor establishing democratic societies, but merely experiencing more combat and war. War is no longer the lesser of two evils but is distorted into something good, wholesome, even sanctifying. War and aggression becomes an activity and performance to pursue for their own sake. The ancient axiom: “Let him who desires peace prepare for war,” is perverted into meaning “let him who desires war prepare for, well…more war and combat.”
When tribes and nation-states institutionalize war and violence murder becomes legalized and ongoing, enormous strains and anxieties are imposed on the individual. War and militarism demands that the individual abandon conscience, reason and their humanness. Although the young Marine no longer believed in war, he still felt obligated to submit to organized techniques of aggression and institutionalized murder. For the U.S.-Iraqi War veteran, reason was abandoned, irrational hostility was fed, and runaway reactions of alienation and aggression were committed against others and himself. Perhaps Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome has been misdiagnosed, specifically when a nation and its soldiers serves and worships the “cult of war.” A more apt diagnosis might be Pre- and Post-Perpetual War Syndrome, or the process of always preparing and mobilizing for aggression and serving war. The best remedy would be to acquire skills on how to serve one’s conscience, reason, humanness, and humanity.
If a militant pathological tribe or nation-state truly wants peace, then, the best cure is to continually mobilize and prepare for peace, instead of always violently rupturing the intricate and powerful fabric of the global community.
Dallas Darling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for
(1) Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004., p. 110.
(2) Ibid., p. 117.
(3) Armesto, Felipe Fernandez. Ideas That Changed The World. New York, New York: Fall River Press, 2009., p. 314.