Saturday, December 08, 2007

Why isn't war obsolete?

I am digging more deeply into the issues that underlie the news and analyses of the news on blogs, i.e., the “fresh hell”* I read each morning.

In order to learn more about what’s going on in the Middle East, I’ve read Robert Fisk’s 1000+ page Great War for Civilisation -The Conquest of the Middle East and Pity the Nation - The Abduction of Lebanon, Richard Ben Cramer’s How Israel Lost- The Four Questions, and most recently Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States.

Joe Conason’s It Can Happen Here - Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush has helped me understand the slow and steady erosion of the underpinnings of our democracy.

Currently I’m interested in why human beings continue to engage in or support war. In my October 1st post I asked Why isn't war obsolete? I think this is coming up for me because I’m spending a lot of time with my twin grandchildren. I see their chubby little legs and feel their soft, silken skin and can’t imagine them growing up and heading off to war to either have their legs blown off or to die.

In order to understand the why war has endured throughout human history, I’m rereading Chris Hedge’s War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. I’ve dog-eared half the pages to return to again and again.

Hedge’s describes the enduring attraction of war: “Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent.” War gives our lives meaning because we have become disillusioned with “…a sterile, futile, empty present.”

My question: Why are our lives shallow, vapid, sterile, futile and empty if we don’t have a war to fill the void? I’m so full of purpose with my family, my work as a mediator, and my passion for this country that these adjectives don’t describe my life. Yet I sense that meaningless exists for many, many people. My next question: If lives lack meaning unless there’s a war to be fought or launched, what can I or what can we do about this underlying condition?

* As I read the news and my favorite blogs, I say to myself, "What fresh hell is this?" attributed to Dorothy Parker

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