War as a Force that Gives Us Meaning

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War is a Force that gives us Meaning – By Chris Hedges

O. Introduction

* Author has experienced war and conflict his entire adult life. * War forms its own culture.
* Even with destruction and carnage, war can give us what we long for. * Enticing elixir that gives warmth and resolve and a cause to believe. * War is a crusade (Bush said people fight terror or are our enemies) * War gives us a supreme worth in our lives.

* Corpses deliver a message in wartime.
* Organized killing is done best by a disciplined, professional army. * War = good distraction from lame/depressing daily life. * Patriotism celebrates our goodness.
* War makes world understandable and is a god that needs human sacrifice. * “Iliad” and “Odyssey” = perfectly chronicle rage and consumption of war. * Armed movements seek divine sanction and certitude of truth. * America is not immune to blind nationalism.

* We are responsible for world’s genocides because we have the power to intervene and yet haven’t.

I. The Myth of War
* Ethnic conflicts and insurgencies are caused by collapse of civil societies, perpetuated by fear and greed and paranoia, and are NOT caused by civilization/culture clash. * Roots from gangsters who rise from bottom of society and demonize. * We demonize our enemy so they no longer seem human.

* We view ourselves as ultimate epitome of goodness.
* War = “sensory reality” vs “mythic reality”
* Sensory = we see events for what they really are.
* Mythic = we give events perspective and meanings they done have. * Press and state disseminate the myth.
* Myth makes us aim for absolute victory = impossible to accomplish. * Hence, we can eliminate terrorism, etc…
* Myth’s potency = it helps us make sense of mayhem and violent death. * National myths are mostly racist and fed by ignorance.
* We sometimes cause terror to our enemies yet laud ourselves as “freedom fighters.” * Myth of war sells and legitimizes the drug of war. (war = drug) * Modern war is directed primarily against civilians.

* Nationalist and ethnic follies are purely sustained by myth. * (ex) = Serb, Muslim, and Croatian conflict.
* All find emotional sustenance in war’s myth.
* We are humiliated in combat (fear = reality check).
* Once in conflict, we move from abstract to real (mythical to sensory) Story of gunfight where his comrade died yelling for his mom. II. The Plague of Nationalism
* Argentina’s military junta was on verge of collapse when street demos and nationwide strikes occurred, but as soon as the war began, junta seemed like national saviors * War replaced reality with wild legitimization of worst prejudices and paranoia. * Every society/ethnic group/religion nurtures its own myths (benign in times of peace, provoked by war) * Acts of compassion are generally the best antidotes to nationalist myths. * Glorification of nationalist myths makes people abandon concerns of daily life. * Nationalistic myth, provoked/ignited by conflict/war, implodes ferociously. * Nationalist triumphalism = shunned/discredited in the USA after Vietnam war * We were forced to see ourselves as other saw us (not always in a good way) III. The Destruction of Culture

* The state seeks to destroy its own culture in wartime. * This must be completed before destroying culture of opponents * States at war silence their own authentic and humane culture. * National symbols (flag, songs, sentiments) invade and take over cultural space. * Cultivation of victimhood is essential to nurture conflict. * [Story of Palestinian kids who want to be martyrs picked up by God] * Cultural destruction in wartime is also physical. (Buildings, monuments, religious buildings are destroyed) * People displaced from their homes have felt the assault on culture and nurture an...
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