Say NO to war. George Papanastasiou, Victoria University. 3/10/02
“When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die.” Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialist philosopher.
The world is being dragged to war, kicking and screaming, by leaders who see it as profitable and sustaining for them, and patriotic, brave and romantic for those in the battlefield.
Picture this: a searing, copper-coated hollow bullet slices the air with supersonic speed, striking and expanding in a human skull. The entry thud muffles an explosion of smashed bone and brain matter on the other side.
A bloody mist wavers mid-air, before descending cloak-like on the person slumped below.
Life spent, cheaply.
Is it your father? Your mother? Your brother or sister? Is it your son or daughter?
Is it romantic? Brave?
Should we sing the national anthem?
It happens many times a day, every day, only some distance from you. Violence becomes mechanical. They got us: now to get them - the title of the cookbook of death, with new editions and recipes published regularly.
Over 2000 years ago, Plato directly described the reasons for war in ‘The Republic’, a study of collective metaphysics. Here, I must cite the importance of our classical philosophers; they remain to this day the greatest thinkers of all time. We owe them everything.
Almost unintentionally, whilst speaking as the imposing and historic philosopher, Socrates, Plato wrote: “Let us only notice that we have found the origin of war in those passions which are most responsible for all the evils that come upon cities and the men that dwell in them”. (b373)
What are ‘those passions’?
Plato’s fictional city descends into war when its citizens “overpass the bounds of necessity and plunge into reckless pursuit of wealth”. (d373)
Quite simply, and to be sure, war has its origins in the passions derived of the ‘reckless pursuit of wealth’.
Today we know this as capitalism, a word purposely mistaken as a synonym for freedom, which is then, of course, a more appropriate basis for murder.
I believe, as pure truth, that capitalism negates freedom and that murder cannot be reconciled with any doctrine.
We live in times when the ‘pursuit of wealth’, of ‘freedom’, is so paramount, so venerated, and so total – that it’s almost religious in its recklessness.
Undeniably, here’s a world where the rich, as Plato described, “have no praise for anything but riches”. (c330)
These ideals, from so long ago, were re-visited and studied countless times since. But never realised. Well, we re-visit them again today, poised on the brink of madness.
In man, war is characterised by the most appalling violence, always unique in ingenuity and sadistic in nature. Its evolution follows a doctrine of efficiency in death, how to kill as much of the enemy - as cheaply as possible. Flesh is torn, scorched, stabbed, hacked, drowned, burnt in every way. A man will look into another’s eyes before cutting his throat, then go on to draught rules for warfare, to murder humanely. The ultimate oxymoron.
I recently described violence in a poem as “a test for passive disposition”, “a gauge for higher consciousness”; asking “Is it on sentinel duty? Guarding of tomorrow? Is violence the armour… or the end?” knowing those least inclined to violence will also suffer least from it. So violence in man, in every respect, acts like a sive, filtering and disposing of the violent, violently. But if we understand this natural principle, as we now do, it no longer applies to us naturally. Collective consciousness can steer away from violence and the proverbial bullet in this game of Russian roulette.
We understand that violence is not a characteristic of higher consciousness so cannot be a trait of tomorrow. Nothing good comes, has come or can ever come from man lifting a fist, throwing a stone or shooting a bullet at another man.
And what of justice? Plato spoke of dispensing it to the wicked or to ones enemies – he said when men are harmed in its name “they become worse as men, that is, worse in human excellence”. (c335)
They become more unjust. So nothing is gained from war, nothing from violence. In fact, everything is lost.
The pending war reflects all these assertions.
So I ask you - Who will do the killing? Who will do the dying?
Who will it be?
It will be your friend. It will be your father, your mother. It will be your brother and sister. It will be your children.
And, as you sit by unspoken - it will be you.
Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba, recently ended a speech to world leaders with these words:
"As I have said before, the ever more sophisticated weapons piling up in the arsenals of the wealthiest and the mightiest can kill the illiterate, the ill, the poor and the hungry but they cannot kill ignorance, illnesses, poverty or hunger. It should definitely be said: "Farewell to arms." Something must be done to save Humanity! A better world is possible!"
I believe in those who dare to live to principles they expect in others. I believe in those who dare to dream of peaceful futures, abused by empires as they have been. I have an undying love for the fearless people of Cuba. And I’ll take Fidel at his bold word.
But around him, and around many others, a capitalist psychosis spreads militarism as septically as it does materialism - and our leaders are ill.
Tom Stoppard put it perfectly: ‘War is Capitalism with the gloves off.’
Responsibility for global violence is foremost with those who’ve the global weapons. If the United States of America succeeds in its ruthless crusade to attack Iraq, the war will be remembered forever as the greatest crime committed by that country in its history. Greater than the cruelty of Vietnam, greater even, than the perpetual crimes of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the genocidal sanctions already suffered by Iraq.
Pandora’s box couldn’t be so big as to hold all the horrors that await.
Say NO to war, any war, whatever the reason. Say NO to violence – and instantly you evolve as a person.
Who knows, a better world may indeed be possible.