What is War

The Reith lectures this year are all about why we go to war. Not the reasons we give, the reasons behind the reasons we give. There is no tribe we know about that has not fought other tribes and no tribe we know about that has not had ‘traditional’ enemies. I heard a philosopher say one day when talking about world war two ‘men love to fight and women love warriors’.

In his opinion that meant war would always be with us. It always amused me that we had theories of a just war and it bemuses me that no one, given the DNA evidence now with us, seems to have realised that all wars have been civil wars as we are all cousins.

But I have to agree with those who tell us we like war. There is a wicked freedom in war to be who you want to be without rules. There is a violence we admire and there is a voyeurism of not being one of the dead but walking away. We do have a blood lust that killing animals in their billions does not sate.

This Morning

on my walk with my dog I found a dead new born calf. As I came up on it tucked into the base of the hedge in the long grass I thought it was black and white cat. It was still soft with the hard head of its species, and as I turned it to find out why it was dead I saw its whole side had been ripped into.

The field itself is growing grass this year an the next two fields are sheep so whatever brought this calf here to eat made a trip. I just wondered as I looked at it, why people make a virtue of the nature being brutal, to excuse their own brutality. I see no difference in this dead calf to dead babies blown to pieces in a war, but I can excuse a carnivore; I cannot excuse humanity. We have the ability to be different, and choose not to be,

They Say

… that the elements of business are the same as those of war. They say that war is diplomacy by other means. They have said that a diplomat is someone sent abroad to lie for his or her country. That countries are the modern realisation of tribalism, that tribalism is as nature intended us to be.

That tribes have structures and inherent to those structures is the idea of leadership. In fact leadership is inherent to everything. But for their to be leaders there have to be followers just as for business to flourish there have to be buyers.

Buyers come in many sizes depending upon their wealth. Each wealth group is tribal to its own group. An extension of business, country and leadership wealth engenders followers like flowers following the sunshine.

We Sold Our Ethics

A long time ago we created money. About five thousand years ago and in that time money have proven it can build anything but humans have successively become incapable of doing anything without money. The economic system is now a straight-jacket holding us back. There are multitudes of interesting, better inventions that could make cheap energy, good food, clean water and we put them all on hold to keep business afloat.

We know what it best to do. We always have people who have the knowledge to advise us. We rarely do it. We pretend what we do is wise, we suborn our better natures to the system, we go along with the general view and we agree with the lies we are told because the lies make our living with ourselves easier.

We ceased to question. And in the same, strange, ridiculous way an army surrenders when its leader is killed or tells them to, as if all the reasons for fighting vanish with the loss of a general, so too will money vanish but the army it leaves behind will barely be able to feed itself and it will have no home to go to. Economics is fundamentally anti-nature and we have ceased to believe we can live without it.

Who Dares Choose?

Every day around the world people are dying in wars. One would think this would be the starter piece for every news cast. After all what could be worse? Well apparently the drop in  a gambling den known as the Dow Jones was more important for two days. Indeed it led the news here in the UK this morning as the Stock Markets around the world ‘bounced back’. Wish the chemical weapons and bombs used this week also bounced back.

The editors of the news broadcasts around the world have an unenviable task – of all the hundreds of stories coming in every day what to run and not run, and in what order. After all war was headlines yesterday how can we make it headlines again and still be interesting?

I am afraid the victims will have to find new ways of dying and await the next atrocity before they are remembered. This is how news has become the drug of choice for those who actually want to feel good but do nothing. Feel informed and yet be allowed to forget.

Let’s Talk War

Men love to fight and women love warriors.

In a history of conflicts between us an nature when strength was a determinant far more than today, women chose to breed with strong men. Sometimes they didn’t choose. This physical prowess has spilled over into games and sports where it is still strong and you only have to look at the Olympics to know how in love with physical prowess human beings are.

This ability to defeat others by the strength of one’s body has transferred to the financial world which sues the same language: winner and loses, hostile, warring parties, survival of the fittest, hierarchies with a king at the top etc.

And our myths are filled with nothing but warriors and what happens to them.

Isn’t it time to evolve out of this nonsense?


There is a lovely Monty Python song about the universe and how insignificant we all are in terms of the vastness of space, the impressive distances, and the sheer energy at play. The song ends with a hope that there is intelligence out there somewhere because there is bugger all on Earth.

We enjoy telling ourselves how brilliant we are – we have a word for genius, give ourselves awards, grade our intellectual and academic achievements, impress ourselves with our inventions. And yet we are children in a candy shop trying everything within reach without limits. We are sickening from our intelligence because it has never been anything but selfish.

The mounting dead built on our nationhood, buried in our wars, slaughtered for our food and killed for business continues to grow. We have a brilliance for making blood flow and we don’t care to stop. We are the voyeurs of our own self-destruction.

The Fight For Peace

It is a strange aspect of our existence that we do one thing because we hope for the exact opposite. In fact we do the thing for that reason; so we go to war, so that we can have peace. At least that is what we do these days. But in other times that was not the reason we went to war. Prince’s a warriors made war for conquest and gain, and many would spend their whole lives either at war or planning for it.

Very religious people spend their whole lives preparing themselves for living after they are dead.  We work all week so we can enjoy our holidays and leisure time the more. We make money so we can buy the things that are made of the things that were found on this planet free of charge. These things rule our existence and yet in themselves they are not the aim or objective, they are merely the means.

Even stranger then to know if we did without them we would have peace, lots of leisure time,  and more of a heavenly life on this side of death than most people think even possible. All it takes is a different way of thinking and a different way of building nations. Which means we really need a wholly different kind of human being.

Empowerment of the Individual

So much of the history of political and social development has been around the empowerment of the individual we sometimes fail to recognize that leaders are individuals too. We have argued so long trying to understand why a 100,000 men would follow one man into a war we have not looked long enough at one why man would want to lead 100,000 men into war.

The idea that they are all out for personal gain is too pat, too simple and hardly covers all the ways in which men and women have gone to battle. Nor can we say they go to battle to defend as it is painfully obvious many times we start wars without provocation.

Once we see human beings as animals and get rid of the stupidity of religion and superstition, the reasons for people fighting become obvious because although we use our minds in war we lose a major part of them to engage in war. We are working on an instinct so deep we can never change it until our DNA changes because it isn’t about survival, or territory but about who we are and what our standing is in the body politic of the community.

The reason Spartan women gave their shields to their men was simple – emotional blackmail. The same keys that leaders have used for thousands of years. The rights of the individual are a fight for people to think for themselves and not as  a group. It is in fact, a fight for peace.

All The Odds Are War

I don’t have to wonder why people go to war, and I don’t actually need much explanation as to the reasons why they start them after agreeing with a general who once observed that the study of war aptly shows they are started for the worst and most nonsensical of reasons. But I have to wonder why an apparently intellectual animals follows leaders into war.

And it must in some way be linked to the same reasons we have for mostly following the norms of our societies for it is obvious to the observer that some societies have laws and norms in variance to others but each one thinks theirs superior and if not they think them more than acceptable. For some reason we are wired young to fit into the general consensus because this general consensus provides us with the greatest chance of survival.

 Yet of course when we all go to war, those chances are reduced for individuals but not for society as a whole. And here we have something that is strange in the mind – we fight for individual freedoms and we progress societies thinking freedoms better than diktat even if they produced the same outcome, but we will martial ourselves into armies for nothing more than power and money.

We think our politicians liars yet we kill for them and applaud. Truly the crowd thinks differently from the individual.

The Philosophy of Antangonism

It is well known that huge advances in technology and sometimes in science occur during wars. Inventiveness takes off because a war brings about a whole different feeling in society. Instead of people vying for personal space they are all pulling in the same direction, and governments eager to remain viable give money to every idea that comes along. In fact it is during war that ideas become the currency.

This is wholly in accord with what we know of nature as evolution favours adaptations in animals that enable them to survive and breed the next generation and eliminates adaptations that leave the animal more vulnerable to attack and disease. This is because nature herself sets us challenges on a daily basis, from the single cell to the complex animal.

There are those who say there is no reason for this and others who look for reasons because we are geared up to find answers to any question that enters our heads. Since evolution in the universe is a continuous process it can hardly be said we have sufficient reasons to create a theory as to why antagonists vie for supremacy in the natural world over and above any immediate considerations of survival.

But since the universe is a complex, single system I wouldn’t mind betting there are such reasons and we will find them out one day.

The Horror Of Spectating

I wrote somewhere here about how I thought being a spectator at sports events was ridiculous because the whole idea of sports was to exercise and participate in the game though I left most criticism to sitting in front of the TV. I return to the topic because for most of the events on this world we are all spectators having no direct link with what we see and hear yet joining in its drama.

Yes a high number of American soldiers died tragically this week and a famine warning was given for Africa and I watched in horror. Not only do I do nothing but I sense a kindred nature in these two tragedies because all the deaths are not the consequence of individual stupidity, or a war or even the lack of food. They are the results of a system that is geared up to place the most aggressive human  beings in posts of leadership in countries and leaders adore giving orders.

Orders result in death. Every time we make a decision based upon average statistics those on the periphery will die. And just because we choose not to see it doesn’t make us less spectators. Famine is caused by nature and exacerbated by international trade. Wars are caused by arguments between human beings made worse by fiscal policies.

At least we are not expected to applaud.

How Many Days

I am looking at a book on the Six Day war and remembering from history lessons how we title wars, the 30 years war, the Hundred Years war, the war of this or the war of that. Do we really think these wars are all started for different reasons? Do we really suppose that fighting for kingdoms, for empires , for succession, for revenge, for resources are all different wars? That somehow if the soldiers speak Spanish,Dholuo, English or Arabic they are somehow all different soldiers?

History lessons have defined periods of time to teach  and we do tend to divide countries up into strata that make some logical sense, stemming from political or social changes. But I wonder how different we think the English are from the Picts or the French are from the Gauls?

Plato used to talk about the nature of things and differentiated between those things that change and those that do not. Classically he talked about the size, shape, colour and materials of a table all changing but they were all still tables. There was something that was the same no matter what they looked like. The same is true of human beings. Language, clothes, habits matter nothing when trying to define what a human being is because a human being is all times, all countries, all conditions.

Given enough time, everything becomes meaningless.

Lovers’ Wars

It seems to me we choose our wars quite carefully but there are a series of ways in which they remind me of experiencing love-making:

The heat of battle attracts the young. They are full of the thinking that takes offence easily, stands beneath a flag, fights for a cause. They have the energy wars and sex need to be at their height.

It is the older with grey hairs who have seen it all before to whom the young go for their advice. It is always the older who govern the aims and objectives of wars these days, though in the past only those who could take to the battlefield commanded which meant leaders were far younger men than they are today.

No matter how well you plan or how enthusiastic you are, love and war never go quite the way you envisage it. They take on a life of their own as wrought with chance as emotion.

You will always be hurt.

It goes without saying both produce a good many unwanted children.

You can lose yourself utterly in both, almost transfigured into someone who is no longer thinking rationally but wholly immersed in something that has taken you over.

There is always the time when you come to.

And you will come  out of them with a host of stories and quite often a drinking problem.

Peace Through War

It is a common commentary on Europe that we now have peace because war became too violent even for us as the victims involved increased exponentially in the Twentieth Century. The reasons for war never changed in all the centuries: tribes moving to new places to live as their populations expanded, greed, to gain advantage on a feared neighbour, power, desperation, retaliation and fervour.  Then last is a comment on the expansion of armies followed by missionaries of new religions.

Have these gone away from Europe? Actually all of these reasons are merely dormant. Given the right kind of natural disasters or the wrong kind of financial ones any of these reasons would ignite conflict, as the shock wave caused by the Balkans showed in the 1990s. It seems we must all be ready for war whilst knowing peace is the better life style.

There is an old Indian fable about a king and his advisor playing chess. The King suggests they should campaign against their neighbour and the advisor asks if they win what they would do and the king says they would campaign against another neighbour and the conversation goes on and on and the kind keeps saying they will take another country, continent and eventually the whole world. What would we do then, asks the advisor. Then says the king, we could sit down and play chess. The advisor asks:

“Why do we need to go through all those years of blood and sorrow and mayhem just to do what we are already doing? “

To gain peace through war is not to gain peace, it is to be momentarily tired of war.

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