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1 Burnside American Studies- Culture Wars

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

by

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning Cover

 

 

Excerpt

The eruption of conflict instantly snuffs out the headache and trivia of daily life. It gives us purpose. It is exciting. It takes precedence over all the mundane tasks and noisome clutter we face each day. The communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out the unsettling undercurrents of alienation and dislocation. Patriotism, a thinly veiled form of self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy and bemoans the perfidiousness of those that hate us.

War makes the world understandable, a black and white tableau of them and us. It suspends thought, especially self-critical thought. All bow before the supreme effort. We are one. And given a choice between a vapid life of ease or one of danger, adventure, hardship and even violence most of us willingly choose the latter, at long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good. We will always choose meaning, even if it entails suffering, over a hollow life in the pursuit of happiness. For it is not happiness we seek but meaning. And war is perhaps the most powerful engine in human society to achieve it.

But war is a god, as the ancient Greeks and Romans knew, and its worship demands human sacrifice. We urge young men to war, making the slaughter they are asked to carry out a rite of passage. And this rite has changed little over the centuries, centuries where there has almost continuously been a war raging somewhere on the planet. We call on the warrior to exemplify the qualities of manhood necessary to prosecute war--courage, loyalty and self-sacrifice. The soldier, neglected and even shunned during peacetime, is suddenly held up as the example of our highest ideals, the savior of the state. He is who we want to become, although secretly many of us, including most soldiers, know that we can never match the ideal held out before us. And we all become like Nestor in the Iliad, reciting the litany of fallen heroes that went before to spur on a new generation. That the myths are lies, for those who went before us were no more able to match the ideal than we, is carefully hidden from public view. Indeed, the whole purpose of the Iliad was to hold up a golden age of heroes that later Greeks were meant to measure themselves against. The tension between those that know combat, and thus know the public lie, and those that propagate the myth, always ends with the myth-makers working to silence the witnesses of war. But I often wonder if they even have to bother. Few want to listen.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781586480493
Author:
Hedges, Chris
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Military - General
Subject:
Military Science
Subject:
War
Subject:
Public Affairs & Administration
Subject:
Military history, Modern
Subject:
War (philosophy)
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - International Secur
Subject:
World
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20140401
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8 x 5 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » Culture Wars
History and Social Science » Military » General
History and Social Science » Military » General History
History and Social Science » Politics » Activism and Peace Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Culture

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages PublicAffairs - English 9781586480493 Reviews:
"Review" by , "If...I thought Bush and Blair would give it time I would happily send them a copy to read."
"Review" by , "I highly recommend Chris Hedges' splendid little book....His understanding is profound and was earned on the ground."
"Review" by , "As the 'war on terror' continues on its...potentially catastrophic course, America would do well to heed Hedges'...warning."
"Review" by , "Hedges' account of the horrors of war follows a confession of rare and frightening honesty."
"Synopsis" by , A veteran New York Times war correspondent presents a thought-provoking reflection on how life is lived during times of war, and tackles the ugly truths about humanity's love affair with war, offering a sophisticated, intelligent meditation on the subject that is also gritty, powerful, and unforgettable.
"Synopsis" by ,
A veteran New York Times war correspondent's complex, moving, and thought-provoking reflection on how life is lived most intensely in times of war
"Synopsis" by ,
It is often said that war is hell. But for many of the people who experience war first hand--civilians and soldiers alike--it is an emotionally intense and even exhilarating experience. War is an intoxicating and addictive elixir. It gives us purpose, resolve, a cause. Chris Hedges, an award winning journalist for the New York Times, illustrates the complex dichotomy of war in the paperback reissue of the award-winning War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

One need look no further than America in the days following September 11, 2001 to see the effects of war: how heightened our senses were, how every event seemed momentous, and how full of meaning our lives became. Such feelings, Hedges points out, are characteristic of war in general--as soldiers and civilians come to see themselves as part of a grand cause or nation, their lives take on a new vividness and a new meaning. Sometimes this leads them to do great things; sometimes it leads them to commit crimes. Based on the literature of combat and his own experiences in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central America, Hedges challenges us to take a look at the spiritual and emotional costs of war.

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is one of those rare books that transcends matter to offer profound insights into the human condition itself. Drawing on a lifetime's reading of literature and philosophy from Homer to Shakespeare to Erich Maria Remarque and Michael Herr, Hedges reflects on the impact of war on the ordinary individuals--a topic with a continued urgency for America today.

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