War … hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; and we are here as on a darkling plain swept with confused alarms and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night.
— Matthew Arnold
The dictionary says that “War is an organized action of aggression or defense, planned and prepared for in advance to achieve certain goals that have the approval of the tribe or nation. It is carried out primarily by men, but must be supported by women.” We can see by this common definition of war that it is outdated. Many women today support war by becoming soldiers themselves.
War is one of many indicators that humanity has failed to create a sustainable human community. War is suicidal. War foreshadows the end of civilization. Is that what we want for our children and grandchildren? It is time for humanity to stop approving of war. The following content describes why.
War magnifies the worst aspects of the human false self and makes it less likely that the compassionate True self will be expressed in our behavior. War brutalizes not only the soldiers but all of humanity touched by the war. “Once an army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains.” Speaking is a young soldier just out of military school, George C. Marshall. That beast he speaks of is the false self and it is energized by the fear that attends the violence of war.
“They spent millions training me. But they never taught me how to come home.” This is Army Sgt. Caleb Daniels, who fought in Afghanistan, talking to Jennifer Percy, the author of Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism. “She wonders whether, if Daniels ‘sustains one kind of hallucination, then America maintains another—the hallucination of a sterile war. I can’t help but wonder if the United States as a nation is suffering from a form of cultural PTSD.’”
We are not saying that a soldier is not compassionate, does not have a True self, but that the conditioning experienced in training for combat and the context of battlefield violence overcomes that innate human decency.
Retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman writes that methods that increased the firing rate from 15 percent [Korean war] to 90 percent [Vietnam] are referred to as “programming” or “conditioning” intended to address—or redress—“the simple and demonstrable fact that there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. Studies show that over the course of our military history, American soldiers have become increasingly more willing to kill.” In short, war is dehumanizing.
The American military over time has clearly decided to descend more deeply into the darkness of P-B. The U.S. government has been willing, due to increased fear over time, to allow its citizen soldiers to become more conditioned to violence, to allow them to repress their innate humanity in order that the civilians at home can feel safer. The irony is that many of these soldiers returning to civilian life are traumatized and act out their conditioning at home among family, friends and their community. A community at war, wars upon itself.
Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War by Dale Maharidge should remind us that the lingering effects of even a “good war” last well beyond the signing of surrender documents. “World War II had been over for more than a decade when Dale Maharidge was born, but he still sees himself as damaged by that war, in particular by the battle of Okinawa, in 1945. His father Steve, a Marine sergeant, brought that battle home with him, to a suburb south of Cleveland. It lived on, taking the shape of desolate anger, forever on the edge of violence, of pain that he parceled out to his wife and children over the rest of his life.”
“‘My dad came back and was drunk for four years,’ Mr. Maharidge said. He was surprised while researching the book to learn how many vets died in the years right after the war. ‘A lot of guys just drank themselves to death,’ he said. ‘My father, if he hadn’t met my mother, he wouldn’t have lived.’”
“The invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and family breakup have soared for the military along with repeated redeployments. The most glaring result is the 80% increase in suicides, averaging nearly one a day this year —the fastest pace in the nation’s decade of war. This is the second year in a row that more active-duty soldiers have been lost to self-inflicted death than to combat.” The invisible “wounds” mentioned above are invisible to the majority of Americans in a P-B context. To some of us, however, these results of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the reactions of the soldier’s false self are only too predictable.
David Finkel writes about the aftermath of the Iraq war in his book Thank You For Your Service (2013) which focuses on the home front. The Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment was deployed to Baghdad for 15 months during the surge of 2007-8. “For several of the battalion’s survivors, who are struggling with a variety of psychological and physical ailments, [being at] home assumes an unrelenting immediacy that proves more baffling and tormenting than the war itself. It is a world dominated by an elemental aloneness.”
“Finkel refuses to pathologize soldiers, even as he concentrates on the 20 to 30 percent who have been psychologically damaged to some degree by their service in Iraq or Afghanistan: ‘Most are O.K,’ he says, ‘and others are not.’” He also “refuses to gild the misery and ugliness of the last decade and the unpoetic aftermath of war, the kind of sentimentality that has so often clouded our thinking, not only about our military commitments but also about the veterans they produce.”
“‘Every war has its after-war, its consequences and reminders,’ he writes, ‘and so it is with the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have created some 500,000 mentally wounded American veterans,’ a number that will have an impact on American social policy, medical care and the overall economy for years to come.” Such facts as these should have a sobering effect on the gray-haired “hawks” as they urge us on to another ill-conceived and fruitless display of American military might.
One of the wounded having trouble adjusting to the home front is Adam Schumann who describes his experience at the Pathway Home in Sacramento, California where he spent four months in rehab. “At Pathway, the ‘haunted soldier’ of Iraq and Afghanistan meets their counterpart from the previous century’s wars: World War II and Vietnam veterans who live on the campus year-round. These men ‘never say hello, or even wave. They just sit there and drink.’ ‘That’s me in 30 years,’ Schumann declares one day. ‘If this doesn’t work out, that’s me.’”
Historian Will Durant sums up the unavoidable consequences of war. “Though there is drama in the details of strife, there is a dreary eternity in its causes and results; such history becomes a menial attendance upon the vicissitudes of power, in which victories and defeats cancel one another into a resounding zero.” Durant has also revealed the major cause of war, namely the power energy center of the false-self survival strategy. We probably couldn’t find any discussion of this reality in the Congressional Record in the days and months leading up to declarations of war. Neither those who fight the wars nor those who declare them know what they are doing or why.
Let’s pause for a broad historical overview of war and violence on our planet. By war and violence we mean the history of human reactions expressed as international war, institutional oppression, failed states, psycho-pathological despots, colonial wars and civil wars to name a few.
Bill Marsh, writing in The New York Times Sunday Review, says of the data found in his research: “The deadliest ‘multicides’ are more plentiful in recent centuries, given that there were more people to kill and better ways to kill them on a grand scale. Even so, killings as a percentage of all humanity are probably declining.” Well, we probably should take whatever good news we can get because it won’t be much.
They made a desert and called it peace.
The Roman historian Tacitus (557-118 A.D.) gives us the sobering realization that although we have known about the madness of war for some time, we seem to have been powerless thus far to do anything about it. Students of Simple Reality know why. Let’s see if we can’t spread that awareness around a bit more.
Military weapons possessed by a nation have no power. The power is in the nation’s narrative which will determine when a nation goes to war and the reasons for doing so. Since well before the time of Homer’s great epics, The Iliad and the Odyssey, Western humanity has believed violence exhibited in wars to be heroic, therefore, even if only subconsciously, many of us think wars are desirable. It is then easy for a nation’s leaders to lead the nation to war even though the rationale for doing so is specious. Recent wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were rationally indefensible but could rage for over 10 years because once started, it becomes virtually impossible to admit that the lives and money were being wasted. Most of the nation’s people join in the denial because the truth is too painful to acknowledge.
William Deresiewicz contributes several key insights in drawing the distinction between the toxic effects of myth and the ever-illusive truth concerning war. Once a war is declared and casualties occur dissent means treason, it is too late to alter course. “Now the logic was inverted: supporting the troops, we were given to understand, meant that you had to support the war. In fact, that’s all it seemed to mean. The ploy was a bait and switch, an act of emotional blackmail. If you opposed the war or questioned the way it was conducted, you undermined our troops.”
The more supportable conclusion would be that as long as we continue to stick our heads in the sand and refuse to deal with reality, fear and violence will lurk just below the surface of our pseudo-civilizations. Wars are collective decisions by a nation either by conscious assent or by unconscious denial on the part of the majority. The majority of Americans as individuals either want a given war, reacting against an imagined other, or they don’t want to think about it. The ostrich provides an apt metaphor for the human tendency to leave our head in the sand for fear that we won’t like what we see when we retract it and look around.
War does not decide who is right but who is left.
— George Bernard Shaw
As naïve as it sounds, whether the global village accepts war as inevitable because it is believed to be an unchangeable part of human nature, or whether we have a choice, was recognized long ago by the Cherokee tribe in America. A young girl is troubled by a recurring dream in which two wolves engage in a vicious fight. Her wise grandfather explains that there are two forces within us that struggle for dominance, one wants peace and the other, war. Wanting to know which wolf will win, the young girl anxiously awaits his answer. “The one you feed,” he replies. Seeing the wolves as the True self and the false self, we see the relevance of this dream to the content of Simple Reality and to the future of humanity.
“If we do nothing, what occurs? Nothing occurs. The conflict has no one to claim it. It has no energy. It has no opposite. It can no longer exist. It is no longer as aspect of our reality.” Steven Harrison in his book Doing Nothing, epitomizes divergent thinking on how to combat the violence-prone false self. This is his description of responding instead of reacting. Wars depend on our reacting and projecting our shadows on the other.
As the Cherokee story about the wolf and the Hindu imagery relating to the false self make clear, the false self is like the bad wolf or a fire. If we don’t feed it, it will die; if we don’t resist and struggle against the darkness, the light will be revealed, the light of our True self.
Too many people are stuck in the beliefs, attitudes and values of P-B with identities that promote and sanction violent behavior. Religious terrorists, Jewish extremists, Christian anti-abortion activists, Neo-Nazis, the American militia movement, Sikh militants, Islamic Jihadists and yes, even Buddhists in Myanmar. The postmodern world has essentially the same human behavior as the premodern world which we assumed was more prone to warfare.
Both the premodern and the postmodern worldviews are versions of P-B. A new and, some would say, radical narrative is needed for the people of the global village. The likelihood of such a paradigm shift may seem remote or non-existent but those are nevertheless the two choices. Continue the direction we are currently going with never-ending war and violence or take the field of battle in the only “war” that makes sense, the war against war.
As some of us take that field embodying the courage of our convictions, as advocates of Simple Reality, we call upon our invincible compassion to provide us endless energy. We have chosen to embrace the light of self-transformation. We have chosen peace.
Those who remain on the sidelines paralyzed by fear also make their choice to remain in the abyss of darkness, to remain unconscious. Fearing change they return to the all familiar dissatisfying hopelessness, they flee from Chimera, the she-monster of despair, while at the same time pursuing the illusions of pleasure, power and material wealth. Stumbling and groping in this darkness, nothing can be found that is real, nothing can be grasped that isn’t ephemeral, nothing provides what is truly needed, the light of courage.
For he shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:11-12
 Mogelson, Luke. “A Beast in the Heart.” The New York Times Magazine. May 1, 2011, p. 40.
 Carpenter, Lea. “The Enemy Within.” The New York Times Book Review. January 19, 2014, p. 11.
 Mogelson, op. cit., p. 62.
 Downs, Lawrence. “A ‘Good War, a Bad Father.” The New York Times Sunday Review. October 6, 2013, p. 10.
 Sheehy, Gail. “Saving Private Rodriguez.” USA Today. July 6-8, 2012, p. 1A.
 Samet, Elizabeth. “Not O.K.” The New York Times Book Review. September 29, 2013, p. 12.
 Durant, Will. The Life of Greece. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939, p. 587.
 Marsh, Bill, et al. “Population Control, Marauder Style.” The New York Times Sunday Review. November 6, 2011, p. 7.
 Deresiewicz, William. “An Empty Regard.” The New York Times Sunday Review. August 21, 2011, p. 7.
 Harrison, Steven. Doing Nothing. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1997, p. 22.