Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Soundtracks of Chaos: There's Nothing Good About War (Part II)

I spent some words the other day trying to convince my readers and the rest of the world (from the perch of a relatively unknown blog, so kudos to me for the positive self-image) that war is an outrage -- an outrage that doesn't make us feel outraged, because it is an ingrained part of our world history. We simply throw our hands up and say: "It's part of life..."

I also posited the idea that war will never end until we can convince our children to see it as an outrage and to, more importantly, feel that it is an outrage. 

It so happens that, yesterday, my son was watching a Call of Duty tournament on YouTube. He plays the game, as well. I have never believed that these games cause kids to be violent (he is not violent, nor are the majority of kids who play it) but, having just written my last piece, it hit me like runaway rhino: this game is part of the problem of the normalization of war -- part of the muffling of the much-needed feeling of outrage. 

As long as people can look at war and at shooting others as a form of entertainment, we will never make the transition into the outrage against war that I called for in part one of this little anti-war series.  

We all agree that war is a thing best avoided, but, as a species, we humans have a hard time feeling that it is an outrage. It's, as I said, "part of life," to us. History tells us this; literature tells us this; film and TV tell us this; our elder family members may have fought in wars and we admire them (as we should) for their courage. Sure, we are all able to shake our heads and say, "Man, war stinks," but so few of us are able to feel outrage about it; to say: it just is not something we should continute to accept. 

I think I have recounted this before, but I remember my dad telling me about a time when he and some friends were watching the news during the Vietnam War, and, as they rolled footage of the fighting, my dad said, "Hard to believe. People are actually shooting guns at each other." According to him, his friends didn't know what to make of that statement. One of them even called him "a weirdo." 

He was, indeed, a weirdo. A sad state of affairs that more people are not that weird. 

So, there sat my son, watching a game with realistic graphics of shooting and killing and there sat (on the TV) an audience full of people cheering (cheering!) when one of their favorite players gunned down another. (Meh -- no loss. They just have to wait to "respawn.")

That said, let's process something together: Can you imagine a video game based on rape? -- in which the objective was to rape other characters? Of course you can't. But...why not? 

If any two actions vie for equal levels of moral outrage, they are the taking of a life and rape. (Though, personally, I often think rape is the worse offense.) We would never, however, create a video game in which raping people is the objective. This is because rape is felt to be as outrageous a violation of human morality -- of humaness itself -- as it really is. Everyone on the planet but the profoundly inasane and the deeply evil agree: rape is an unspeakably horrible act. 

This is the state that our thinking about war needs to reach. 

But, imagine the effect over the centuries if we off-handedly started to include rape in our games, films, stories, TV shows, etc. Not as a topic for awareness or as an outrageous act of some hateable villain, but as background noise or as a common occurance that people just shrug off and move on from. Imagine if, over generations, it were presented as an unavoidable occurance in life. Would the perspective shift? Would people say, about this unsepeakable new game objective, as they do about violent video games: "It's not really's just a game."

So another proposed impossible solution (which is more of a meditation than an implementable solution, you might have already gathered): 

We eliminate all media in which war is a topic. Over time, kids and adults who don't see violence as entertainment, will again be shocked and appalled by it and they will have developed the outrage for war that is necessary to produce leaders who will avoid it at all cost and citizens who will refuse to show up to fight. 

Sadly, we lose Henry V, of course. We lose great films like Glory and Saving Private Ryan. We lose all war-based video games and all games with guns and killing. The Iliad and The Odyssey need to go. Indiana Jones? Superman? Captain America? The Sun Also Rises? All Quiet on the Western Front?

Chess? (American) Football? Both based on war. Toy soldiers? Those little green army men? Boy Scouting? R.O.T.C?

I know is sounds ridiculous and I am even more aware that it is an impossibility, but it sure does underscore something: We are conditioned to accept war from the earliest periods of our lives. 

If we could do it, though, would it be worth it? Should some Shakespeare go out the window if it means that our sons and daughters would see war for the outrage it is? If this could all really be done, what would the impact on the economy be (no football)? What about the video game industry? -- the film industry?

If my solution were to work (probably over a century, if not longer) would the trade-off be worth it? I would argue that, to end war, even the greatest works of literature of all time might worth forgetting. Wouldn't you? Surely a few great movies, too... And some fun entertainment... 

As I said, this is all more of a meditation than a praxctical solution. I'm pretty sure it would work, but I know it could never be applied. 

A last thought, though: books and movies that conjure outrage for war might be allowed to remain... I'm thinking of works like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. 

At any rate, as Sting once wrote, "I hope the Russians love their children, too."

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