Tuesday, March 29, 2022

“WHAT IF THEY GAVE A WAR AND NOBODY CAME” (Because they had a life to live)

Remember that saying that became a slogan? Those of us alive in the 70’s probably remember it on T-shirts. Of course, this is unlikely to happen because one side will always be suspicious that the other side is using this hypothetical statement as a trap, and yet it would be the simplest end to the problem of war.

“Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die “--Alfred Lord Tennyson, from the Charge of the Light Brigade.

There are times when all must work together as one mind like worker bees. However, it is very dangerous, when the motivation is a single individual’s personal beliefs and ambitions. Group response for group well being would seem to be the obvious preference. Worker bees don’t attack in support of the queen’s megalomania.

The Russian troops thought they were on a special training mission until ordered to invade Ukraine, (at least that is what we were told). I immediately thought of that old anti-war saying from hippie days, “what if they gave a war and nobody came.” Of course, the human herd instinct is so strong that this is extremely unlikely to happen.

We humans seem to be caught in existential conundrum. We are herd animals who are suspicious of our neighbors, we are inclined to steal their goodies, and we are now in a situation where we are all dependent on each other for trading resources and labor. Not many people would now justify an invasive war for purely material, “rape and pillage” reasons, but if given even a weak moral argument willingly go to war with the neighbors.

Interestingly, leaders are often morally less developed than most of their subjects. Perhaps, it’s because narcissistic personalities have the motivation to scramble, and bully unencumbered by empathy or doubt to the top of a group in any way they can to gain the importance externally that they lack internally. Within a group, they are the individuals who aren’t aligned with the group’s well being. So, there are two types who are not inclined to follow the charge of the light brigade; those who have no moral compass or sense of responsibility, and those who see their group membership within a larger spectrum of outcome and history, in other words, as citizens of the world first and citizens of a tribe secondarily.

The big picture, (or at least the next grade up) is apparently invisible to those wearing elaborate masks whose eye holes only see in one direction. I was recently watching a history of the early Middle Ages in the Ukraine and Western Russia. Each warlord conquered as many territories as possible, burnt the cities and towns of rival chieftains, and gathered goods and slaves until another younger and stronger one (often a son or brother) did away with him  and then carried on in the same pattern. We like to think that danger is greater today than in the distant past, but about the only difference is that leaders now attempt to rationalize their avarice and power mongering while, in the past, it was a badge of glory. However, the most important difference is that technology has finally reached an impasse with atomic weaponry. Like the biblical Sampson, the overly ambitious may well bring their own roof crashing down on top of their head while sending debris across the rest of the planet. Of course, there are those who are hoping to ameliorate this problem by colonizing other planets.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if those potential escape planets were long ago rendered into inhospitable deserts in the same way that humans are trying to make this planet inhospitable? Its like a terrible housekeeper moving to a new house to leave the mess behind. The house might be fresh, but the new owner is the same bad occupant.

Are those horror movies about an overwhelming alien invasion of earth by aliens a guilty self-projection by this planet’s most dangerous occupants?  Have we created a mountain of debris so high that karmic gravity must finally cause it to collapse in a catastrophic landslide? To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the Alien and he is us.

The leaders of countries seem to easily slide into the temptation to regard their country much like the proud, ambitious parent of a little league ball player, or Olympic athlete. This is certainly a good reason for limiting the time permitted in power. In this case, the occupants of the disputed land are regarded as at best disloyal children and at worst pawns. The decision to go to war to claim territory is incredibly dehumanizing and cruel, but no nation can claim innocence, and self-righteous outrage directed at the latest autocrat is historic amnesia. I can’t think of an innocent nation. I wonder if humanity can ever outgrow this primitive game. The instruments of war become ever more sophisticated while the impetus is developmentally locked in place .

And yet, nobody likes war, at least they won’t admit it, (except for General MacArthur who openly admitted that he loved war). That’s why they blame the other guy, whom they hope will turn out to be the unfortunate loser, by divine will or some other high authority. It reminds me of the way a neurotic will keep repeating the same mistake in hope that next time it will work if he/she just uses more force or determination.