Posts Tagged ‘War’

There are many, many problems with our time and people that I have struggled with over the years.
How can we move ahead if still held back by these… they must be glitches, plummets into madness? ‘The blindness of God,’ perhaps.
If we think of ourselves as planing onwards towards better futures, – think of a slow low and elegant curve upwards, of improvements in general technological, scientific, especially ethical and moral codes. Then does this leave us open to misrepresentation and misinterpretations of our basic human nature? And so, prone to perpetuating these same horrible acts?

One of these ‘problems’ I have been struggling with has been how people could, that is, certain officials backed up by the rank and file officers, think it acceptable to release poison gas onto battlefields, into trenches, of the opposite forces.
The recent Times Literary Supplement has an article on Einstein’s brief stay in England. Mentioned in a sideline is Fritz Haber who helped develop this ‘tactic’. So, we have a name.
https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/the-public-and-private-lives-of-albert-einstein-p-d-smith/

How could anyone think that was acceptable behaviour under any circumstances?
Is my problem a lingering belief in an agreed gentlemanly conduct, even in wartime. The two 1929 Geneva Conventions, perhaps?

I began to wonder whether there was something about the German make-up, at that time, beset by War reparations, the Financial crisis, and the Soviet Union’s internationalist programme.
And then, of course, there was the Holocaust.
Completely unimaginable how that could be perpetrated, on such scale and over such a length of time. How was that possible?
Not that there have not been pogroms of great brutality throughout history. They are easy to forget, especially if one’s own history glosses over such self acts.

The scale, I think, is the problem.

I have come across incidents in history, going way back, of equal and sustained barbarity. All smaller scale, but as bad in their ways. Precedents, then.
And then I came across this book review:
Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45, and the American Cover Up

https://contagions.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/japanese-use-of-plague-during-world-war-ii/

That the Japanese military had indeed been conducting biological tests on prisoners using ‘plague, glanders, anthrax’ etc to see which was most effective, i.e. quicker, and most contagious. They extended these tests to villages, to find which could decimate larger areas.
This was conducted in Manchuria/Manchukuo, preWar.
Now, Manchuria was bordered, in the West and North, by the Soviet Union.
They also were carrying out similar tests, and along this same border.

So, is the German make-up exonerated?

It is the military mind, then, surely…
how it isolates itself from common morality ( how could you kill wholesale otherwise?) but in time becomes self-sufficient in its own utilitarian ethics and morals.

And so, in a little way, but nonetheless revealing, is myself looking for cause (blame?) in the German make-up, that gives a quick glimpse into my failings (get the hint? Conjugate my) – a lack of sufficient background knowledge.

I reviewed a book some years back, The Causes of War, by Professor Hidemi Suganami, published by Oxford University Press:

https://pure.aber.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/the-causes-of-war%28486854c0-7420-4dc2-b947-48ff5f1b0090%29.html


His conclusion? Wars exist because they are continue to be seen as a viable option.
It sounds banal, especially after the hugely meticulous research and arguments he perused and conducted.
Wars seem as viable an option now as they ever have.
Short-term thinking and blinkered reasoning.
It is the aftermath, though, that takes generations, centuries, to struggle to accommodate, or reject, that wars leave behind is the real face of war

And so, that is where I begin here, as part of those attempts to accommodate the problems of my time , and yes, as can be seen, even attempt a brief rejection (German make-up).

We are all prone to these creeping errors of thought. We all must be constantly on guard – against ourselves, that is, our mono-cultural attitudes, backgrounds, and prejudices.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/11/european-colonial-powers-still-loth-to-admit-historical-evils


This is not something that needs to be started now – it is the common practice of modern historians and cultural materialists, and has been for many years. It’s already on its way.
Let’s climb on board.

Earlier, I had written:

 Book Review: ‘The Evenings, by Gerard Reve

This is an early outsider novel, and a classic:
– ‘a cornerstone… of modern European literature…’ (Tim Parks)
– ‘The funniest, most exhilarating book about boredom ever written…’ (Herman Koch)

And that last comment captures my problem with the book.
Thr novel is set in 1946, presumably Amsterdam. There’s no TV, no record-player or records, there is, a radio, yes, that plays classical, a bit of jazz, some Latin American.
And everyone is bored out of their heads.

The chief charcter, 26 year old Frits Egters, entertains himself by needling everyone. This ‘enetrtainment’ takes over, to increasing degrees.
At first I thought I had a distinct impression of Billy Liar, by Keith Sillitoe, but, no.

And so I am struggling with it. Brcause… ‘I have seen the best minds of my generation…’
Exactly.
The date, see, is 1946.
The best minds of the previous generation were still numbed by years of Nazi occupation, the round-ups, transports. The best minds of that generation were shipped out to the German war effort. They returned home morally ruined, malnourished, spiritually dead.

OK, so, recently I was thinking about it again. And thought:

This book is not about boredom.

That is, boredom as the ubiquitous malaise we know it to be. The book describes conditions that are time-specific, culture-specific.

Think of it like this:
people had been living on a chemical diet of fear, adrenalin, horror for all the years of the Nazi Occupation. It had become their lives, creating its own neural pathways and specific synapses. The mind develops a world-sense around the nodes that provide the  information coming in.
Then it was gone.
The body, and concepts that the mind runs, its narratives, had to adjust. To what? What was left? Nothing was as before.
It must have been utterly exhausting, to the point of physically and mentally debilitating.

The Evenings was not about boredom.
It was about one person’s sense of War-fatigue, of dislocation, and trauma. Gerard Reve, the author, wrote of specifics, of a singular sense of these things, within the specific mind-set of Dutch culture, and its older sense of exclusiveness and strong cultural community.

And I’d mentioned the book’s kinship with John-Paul Sartre and his La Nausee.
In this way, nor was this book, and by extension Existentialism a universal condition.
It was a temporal, contingent, and place-specific physiological engagement with a suddenly changed world.
Sartre wove together his own grand narrative from writers who were exploring, or had explored, adjacent states of being, mind. Merleu-Ponty; controversially, Heidegger; Husserl; Simone de Beauvoir; they can all be counted as having contributed. Would they continue to recognise their work in his? And at which points, in the process that was the development of Existentialist thinking?
In this way Sartre attempted to create a universal mood from a specific, particular, set of circumstances.

It could be argued that this was Derrida’s modus also: his ‘little game’ as Foucault called it, of foregrounding (inconsequential?)  background detail. The destabilising he created – was that also a symptom of post-War reaction?

I suppose I am thinking here in terms of Post-Traumatic Distress.
If so, then forms of this state of being would also be present in Vietnam; Afghanistan; Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Serbia; in Syria and Iraq. In China and Russia. In all war zones.
It  comes down, in the end, to whether it is politically acceptable to recognise, define, identify, this in one’s populace.

*

Ever since I became fully aware, I have felt to have lived under a cloud from World War 2 fall-out.
It is the psychic damage that has been hardest to overcome.
So much so, that it now seems it would be an act of monstrous dimensions to attempt to overcome all that. One would have be a dangerous person indeed not to feel the, hear, the terrible cries still, of people killed mercilessly in that War. Any war.
And they do still keep occurring.

There is a book I read some time back: On The Causes of War, by Hidemi Suganami, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996.
Hidemi Suganami was Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the time of writing. He is now Professor of International Relations at Aberystwyth University.
For those who are not familiar with this post: Aberystwyth has a most prestigious International Relations department, of great reputation and  long standing.
His conclusion may seem banal in presentation:

That there is war, because war is still seen as an option.

It is the implications, though: we would rather kill huge numbers of people, let the beast in us out, and harm people for generations to come, than seek out other means of resolution.
And now we see the previously unthinkable: nuclear conflict actually on the cards.
It is definitely time to join CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I do not believe in unilateralism – but sometimes it is necessary to make a stand.

The perpetrators are as deeply affected as those they inflict their terror upon.

Trump and N Korea:
Yeh, that’s the way forward:
‘What brave new world….’

 

I heard a radio playing in Westminster

a blowy dappled day in March

 

‘Radio, radio, will you tell me the weather,

I must know if I am to marry tomorrow?’

 

–          I will tell you who plotted, who hid, who died;

I will not tell you the weather, it said.

–          I will tell you a tale to make your toes curl,

and another to make you despair, it said,

but not the weather.

 

‘Radio, radio, your music’s the music of my life;

your rock n roll, Motown, the life I know.’ I said

 

–    You’re the kind of man we like on our station:

dependable, a follower. Yes, you’ll get a mention

on the late night news amongst the dead.

But I will not tell you if you are to wed.

 

‘Radio, radio, I’ll turn on the telly, I will!’

I said, ‘I’ve wide screen, cable, satellite dish;

I’ve four directional speakers,

with woofers to make you spin on a finger!’ I said

 

‘I’ll not ask you again, now tell me the weather!’

 

And just as the weather was being read

three rendition flights flew overhead, I said,

‘If that’s the tone of the wedding, I’ll think again.’

–     You’ll go ahead. the radio said.