I was watching “The Roosevelts,” which is a wonderful documentary in several parts by Ken Burns. He is masterful as he weaves pictures, commentary and of course the most influential parties of the era he is covering. Forget whether you agree with their politics, you get a behind the scenes look at them with their triumphs and their failures. Last night’s episode had to do with the buildup and actual declaration of our entry into World War II. It made me think.
Wars have been going on for millennia. Troy, Sparta, Rome, Carthage, London, Berlin, Washington, Baghdad…just to name a few. Somehow, someway there is conflict. Archduke Ferdinand got shot and caused the continent to react. I have a population overload and need more room. You have plenty of it so I will seize it. You may have oil or gold and it is mine for the taking. Sometimes it is like a government takeover GTO to increase GDP. Hey, it works on Wall Street.
Beginning who knows when many these revolved around religion or political ideology. You don’t think the way I do and ergo I will blow your head off. These become particularly dangerous because there can be no armistice or truce. These are ingrained hatreds and prejudices that won’t go away with the stroke of the pen. You think ISIS is nuts? What about Hitler, the Bolsheviks or even the Viet Cong. In all of the above there is a religion or cult that will fight to the end. War is not a means to an end. It is the end.
Sunnis and Shias have been at it since Mohammed left succession vague. Arabs and Israelis can’t stand the sight of each other. Turks and Kurds, African tribes of all sort and the multitudes of tribesmen from Afghanistan to Mongolia have some sort of grudge against one another. Those don’t die easily.
Wars bring out the absolute worst in people. Hitler was so obsessed with his venom towards Jews he built and operated ovens at Dachau et alia. That is not only heinous but scary that a leader of whatever sort can issue a proclamation to wipe out millions of people. Genocide is present throughout the world today and is not out of the ordinary. Darfur, Bosnia and Rwanda are not ancient history but part of all of our modernity. Pissing on bodies you have just killed or subjecting subhuman torture on the premise of gaining intelligence is unfortunately a reflection of the dealing party. Intelligence somehow seems to be a misnomer.
It is intriguing that if you took a vote of the masses probably there would be no war. It comes from the top, the military brass, politicos or some whacko Imam that says let’s go get them bastards. That in turn gets some sort of proclamation of worth and presto we have a policy that has to be carried out by the sailors and grunts. “Let’s Bomb them back to the Stone Age” doesn’t strike me as a particularly mature and reasoned approach to settle a problem. But hey, what do I know?
Now we all have gone to war in one way or another. When you were a kid there was a bully. He wanted your mitt or your lunch money. He remained in his highly protected position until someone bumped him off. Not literally. He had allies and so did you. But until someone became the intimidator instead of the intimidatee there was an uneasy peace. I guess that was the origin of balance of power.
It goes beyond brute force. We have wars of words. Look at out political dialogue if you want to call it that. Donald Trump, the master of insecurity tells us the Mexicans coming across the border are either criminal, drug mules or just plain stupid. That should go miles in getting him the vote of the fastest growing minority in the US. Listen to a couple who really get into it on some moronic TV show. Kids there is some serious hatred going on there but you don’t have to watch the tube. Go to an airport and see a loving family just back from vacation at the luggage carousel. That’s a show you want a front seat for.
I guess we are all competitive. We want our spot in life just as much as the next person. If you have it you don’t want to give it away. If you don’t, you will do everything you can to achieve it. Today that requires a certain sense of kill or be killed. As the room at the top becomes more and more crowded there just won’t be as many winners and therefore a lot of highly irritated people.
We have this overwhelming sense that life has to be fair. It ain’t. I am a great proponent of we are all in this together but if you are looking for Pax Romana you are going to have a long wait. There are haves and have nots. There are success stories and tales of failure. There are two sides to every story but the fairy tale doesn’t come true very often.
Now before you gloat or bury your head in your hands depending on which side of the 1% you are, I think there are two ways to add salve to these wounds. First is something called realistic expectations. I have spoken before of bigger houses and faster cars. They are not all they are cracked up to be. We have to engender some sense of it is okay to be ordinary. Today we make fabulous success a thing to be honored and sought after no matter what the cost.
Secondly is a realization on the part of the elites (whatever that means) of what the other side is going through. Walk a mile in their shoes. Really see someone bereft or in pain and just understand what the hell they are enduring. Work a bread line or deliver foodstuffs. Live on$180 a month for food for a family of four. I am not saying you have to give away all your possessions to the poor but just freaking get it. EMPATHY cost you nothing except maybe a a breakdown of your well preserved notions. Open your mind and your heart…just a little. And that my friends is my little war. Please forgive me.
Ted The Great
In 2013 there were 31,00 deaths worldwide from war. In 1990 there were 72,000. World War II took the lives of anywhere from 60-85 million human beings. The Mongolian Conquest of the 1300’s took 40 million lives but it beats me how they came up with that number. I don’t think there was Fox or CNN back then. I guess they just Googled it.
Conflict is a way of life. Road rage, mass murders, domestic violence, team competitiveness, lawsuits, divorce are sewn into the fabric of our daily lives.
War takes a societal toll. Marauders destroy priceless art and artifacts. Both the vanquished and the victors must count their dead and provide for broken bodies and minds when they come home. All else stops as we all support the “war effort” at a tremendous cost to development of science and infrastructure.