Friday, November 9, 2007

Does Peace Bring War?


Does Peace Bring War?
A commentary by Paul Barrow

The most attractive thing on local television news, it goes without saying, is a four-car accident at the corner of 5th and Main with a fire hydrant spewing Old Faithful, an SUV upside down on the sidewalk and people lying in the street. We love our accidents. We prefer to see on the local evening news what the worst idiots in our community have been up to today. I’ve never understood why someone hasn’t just appointed a local police captain to a news position at the local television station, so that we not only get to see the crime scenes but we get reality crime tv. We see the bookings, we chat with the prisoner in the morning as we give him his tray. We see children sobbing because their mother just died in an apartment fire, and we get to look at the scorched naked corpse. We get the mug shots of middle-aged men hitting the wanted list at the local precinct for raping little boys, and then we get to ask one of them after an arrest, “Why’d you do it?”


That’s the local news, right? And this is the interactive age. We know what we like because those stories invariably have the highest viewer ratings.

We like violence in many forms. In the context of the Michael Vic brouhaha, a story in the News Observer in Raleigh, NC, reports that “the Humane Society estimates there are at least 40,000 people nationally involved in dog fighting. And in a recent interview, a state representative of the group said about 1,000 people are involved with the practice in North Carolina alone.’Psychologists tell us that there is a need, a thirst for violence that can be excited through the battling of animals,’ said Bob Reder, the HSUS representative for North Carolina.”

The assertion Dennis Kucinich has about the inevitability of peace rings somehow hollow in context. If war brings a craving for peace, then perhaps peace brings a craving for war.

Peace certainly sustains, at least, a vibrant preoccupation with war toys, war video games, and a steady diet of violence on tv. That’s what appeals to us the most. We are most entertained by the very worst examples of civilized life local reporters can uncover. Is it nothing more than a need for excitement to drive away the boredom of being middle class or do we actually have a deep-seated need to re-live something ancient and primitive in us? If we are willing to accept violence in our daily lives to satisfy a need for excitement or for any reason, it is difficult to believe that life is going to get better.

The inevitability of war or peace is also a question about the nature of man’s spirit and whether or not it is possible to grow emotionally, to grow morally and to grow spiritually. Are we as a race, as a species, growing through our attempts to be civilized? Are we learning through the process how to do it better, how to live equitably with others, to give our fair share, and to take responsibility for what kind of mark our lives leave in this universe? At risk of sounding like Anthropology 101, do we, in the 21st century, know how to use history and its lessons to greater advantage than our ancestors?

Who is leading us toward these goals? Who is not?

To propose the inevitability of war is certainly cause to ask: What kind of war is inevitable? Can we predict that? For example, is a revolution possible in the United States today?

The answer to that is that we’ll fight tyranny as long as we can get a babysitter and don’t have to work overtime this week. To want justice so badly that you’ll drop everything you’re doing to fight for it represents a special state of mind not particularly familiar to most Americans today. On the take-our-country back side of things, we have a country full of vegan environmentalist knock-kneed save-the-spotted owl armchair anti-war activists who like to rally just so long as we can get a crowd of, say, a hundred thou. They’re big on the internet because sitting at a computer and just sitting are really good old country kinfolk who know each other very well.

So let’s face it: War doesn’t come out of your circumstances or mine. I know already from organizing many liberal Kucinich meetup groups, we just aren’t mad enough. War is therefore possible right now, right this minute, through your cooperation, through your complacence, your indifference to what your government is doing. It can also come, as it did with the Iraq war, through a great deception. It comes out of the detachment you have from the lives and sufferings of other people, out of the detachment of government from its own people, and out of the willful ambitions of influential men of great wealth and power who have used their talent and skills to dupe you, to organize you into little automatons each doing some simple little thing, all the while ripping you off. And you, willfully being cogs in the great wheel of someone else’s fortune, all thinking that you deserve less because you’re not as advantaged, you believe you deserve less because what you do is little compared with whom you are doing it for, who thereby, through your compliance, exercise the machinations of governmental intrigue in the desire to pilfer the coffers and resources of other nations and all who have not the power to resist. (that should be re-written, I think.)

As we all know, it’s the strong preying upon the weak. It happens to nations like Iraq worn down from a decade of sanctions till nothing was left but mere rags of people walking about with children diseased and dieing at astronomical rates, all under the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, a president who was every bit as anxious to go to war with Iraq as George Bush. It’s what the sanctions were for. We wanted a weak nation so that we could go in and overthrow it with no resistance. The history of how the U.S. was using the U.N. to find targets in Iraq during the weapons inspection program is fairly well documented.

It’s war not on our own soil. It’s just on television. It’s out there somewhere. It’s like entertainment to us. We turn it on. We turn it off. War today. Peace tomorrow. Want to watch CNN or America’s Funniest Home Videos? That’s pre-emptive war. It’s a consumer’s war, a war between competing interests for your dollar; that’s what it means to you. It’s really a question of affordability. We look at it less from an ethical sense than from an economic one. How many billions will it cost?

Want to go to war today, son? No? How about tomorrow? Saddam is an evil man. The loss of 3500 young kids doesn’t make a huge dent in the overall sense of strength or moral duty 300 million people have as a group. We may want to get out of Iraq today, but just let some crazy Iranian fly a plane into the Sears Tower. All hell will break loose. We’ve been primed and don't let the conspiracy theorists get ahold of that one.

Fundamentally, the questions is: How do we, as a nation, introduce into our Constitution or into some other legal framework, the kind of law that outlaws war? How do we stop ourselves from entertaining and approving of acts of war by our government? How do we stop being blindsided by the intrigues of certain administrations?

Wise men have struggled with this same question for centuries, and the most modern attempt at a solution is something we call the United Nations. What has become a prototype for unity and cooperation among nations is still the most viable answer, I believe. What we as a nation must do is to relinquish substantial decision-making authority about war to the United Nations and to quit acting unilaterally despite the will of other nations affected. Unilateral action should be considered criminal and a court of international law should be able to try those who commit such crimes. People like George Bush and Dick Cheney should be locked up forever. We must be willing to lay this authority to press the button or pull the trigger at the door of a world community. Differences, cause for issue, should be placed in the hands of an arbitrator and ultimately in the control of the entire body of international representatives. It’s the only real path we must take if we want world peace.

I believe peace is inevitable. It’s inevitable because it is a law of physics. Entropy is a smoothing out of all differences, and social intercourse and global thinking are direct consequences of how that law works among human beings. It is inevitable also because it is necessary if we are to survive. And we will survive.

Paul Barrow is the Middle Tennessee Coordinator for the Dennis Kucinich Campaign

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