In front of them was a drunk looking hard man and in front of him a guy, let's call him the victim, who was just about to take a bite out of a gently steaming, newly purchased kebab. While the girl was distracted I stepped around her to the front of the queue and ordered a large kebab. I have also learnt that humanity's response to them has often not been much better than that of the girl I wanted to chat up. I count myself very lucky but also think I owe it to people not so as lucky as I to understand what they have experienced of war So with that view in mind I am fortunate that Chris Hedges has spent much of his life descending into wars dark pit and truthfully reporting what he found there. The truth of Hedges basic thesis on the nature of war is self evident: War is a myth, a collective delusion constructed around false narratives which is exploited by criminals, psychopaths and the very worst of us for their own ends: ...They are manufactured wars, born out of the collapse of civil societies, perpetrated by fear, greed and paranoia, and they are run by gangsters, who rise up from the bottom of their own societies and terrorize all, including those they purport to protect How different is Dick Cheney, adding up the value of his Halliburton stock options after a hard day's golf, from Arkan, one of the Serbian gangsters promoting the Balkan war, who spends his money on nightclubs and strippers. Nationalist and ethnic conflicts are often myths sustained by absurdities and almost imperceptible nuances within society: ...there were heated debates over the origin of gingerbread hearts...The Croats insisted that the cookies were Croatian. Kurdish captives speak after liberating their prison from their Iraqi guards: ....We wanted them all to come back to life...so we could kill them again My first experience of human cruelty was limited to a dust up in a kebab queue and that was enough for me. But I think it is the moral duty of every person to understand the evils perpetrated during war. But if either of them show any hints of believing the war myth I will leave my copy of Chris Hedges book by their bedside table.
The book is a philosophical inquiry into What War Is. It feels like it gives meaning to the lives of the men fighting it, he says, but it does so by playing to our most animal instincts, and by obscuring and numbing all that make our regular lives joyful. . Wars that lose their mythic stature for the public, such as Korea or Vietnam, are doomed to failure, for war is exposed for what it is - organized murder." (page 21) Here is a description of what war does to us: Our minds, our culture, our love of our fellow man. . Cultural or national symbols that do not support the crusade are often ruthlessly removed." (page 63) Genocide, ethnic cleansing, mutilation, the killing of innocents; it is all the side of war unseen to those supporting it. The war will only end when the lie has collapsed under overwhelming evidence - hard-fought, over a long time. All that is left when the lie disappears is guilt, and shame, and the holes in people's lives where loved ones used to be.
Hedges' biggest problem is a failure to decide whether he wants to write a philosophical examination of war or an anecdotal, case study-driven book about it. The book just didn't build the case well.
The only disappointments I ran into with Hedges writing were his predominant use of the Balkan conflicts for examples and that some aspects were mentioned but left rather undeveloped. This was mentioned briefly in Junger's book, War, yet I haven't read any extensive discourse exploring how in times of war, the sexuality of soldiers gets morphed or perverted into other expressions of power and affection.
War can serve as a unifying agent in society, subsuming the individual will into a greater national cause - of course, this is not always a good thing. It is a mistake to characterize him as anti-patriotic or anti-American, despite his fierce criticism of Bush II. Patriotism is not mindlessly waving a flag, buying ribbons and singing ballads, it is not hating those who are different or rewriting history to support your worldview, it is not destroying history or culture, or the addiction of violence, of being caught up in the narrative of war and good v.
***** The exposure of War in less than 200 pages ***** I recently made the decision to start marking certain books that I'm reading in real time. If I find anything important in the pages of the novel I'm reading, I mark it. What Hedges proceeds to expose in this short novel is a complete strip down of 'The Myth Of War'. I personally found them poignant when implemented, but they could easily derail someone if they've just been delivered some seriously raw information in the last five pages. Hedges is a journalist after all and his writing style definitely reads that way most of the time.
Shifting between philosophical ruminations on this ancient human enterprise, the various institutions that keep the myth alive (media, government) and anecdotes from Hedges' personal remembrances, this is structurally a rather sloppy book. Acts of human kindness, decency and yes - however silly it may sound - love, for Hedges are the only pathways to healing, reconciliation and personal salvation.
In his travels around the world hes found a recurring dynamic at work, the addiction of soldiers and citizens to the ecstasy of war. Hedges covers this topic exclusively in his book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. He explains how its created, who perpetuates it, how its disseminated in society, what function it serves, its psychological effects, how its maintained, and what happens when its finally punctured by the undeniable reality of war. The whole time Ive been wondering what this hypnotic like way of thinking is. This is a work that lays bare our naked desire for death and recognition.
It shows war for what it is - a messy, ugly, evil that brings out the worst in humanity. His conclusions - that the pursuit of truth is necessary to pierce the lies that surround war and that individual human relationships, most of all love, are all that can keep us from falling into the evils that war brings out - are powerful.