Wednesday, July 29, 2015


For those of you who don't yet know him, I urge you to check out the writings and youtubes of journalist Chris Hedges.

A good place to start is War Is A Force that Gives Us Meaning.

Some excerpts:

"Patriotism, often a thinly veiled form of collective self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy and bemoans the perfidiousness of those who hate us. Never mind the murder and repression done in our name by bloody surrogates from the Shah of Iran to the Congolese dictator Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who received from Washington well over a billion dollars in civilian and military aid during the three decades of his rule. And European states—especially France—gave Mobutu even more as he bled dry one of the richest countries in Africa. We define ourselves. All other definitions do not count."

"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. Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good, for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically war is sometimes the most powerful way in human society to achieve meaning."

"Look just at the 1990s: 2 million dead in Afghanistan; 1.5 million dead in the Sudan; some 800,000 butchered in ninety days in Rwanda; a half-million dead in Angola; a quarter of a million dead in Bosnia; 200,000 dead in Guatemala; 150,000 dead in Liberia; a quarter of a million dead in Burundi; 75,000 dead in Algeria; and untold tens of thousands lost in the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the fighting in Columbia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, southeastern Turkey, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and the Persian Gulf War (where perhaps as many as 35,000 Iraqi citizens were killed). In the wars of the twentieth century not less than 62 million civilians have perished, nearly 20 million more than the 43 million military personnel killed."

"While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill. Thus killing is done in our name, killing that concerns us little, while those who kill our own are seen as having crawled out of the deepest recesses of the earth, lacking our own humanity and goodness. Our dead. Their dead. They are not the same. Our dead matter, theirs do not."

“ 'The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus,' ” wrote Danilo Kiš, the Yugoslav writer. “Nationalism is the line of least resistance, the easy way. The nationalist is untroubled, he knows or thinks he knows what his values are, his, that’s to say national, that’s to say the values of the nations he belongs to, ethical and political; he is not interested in others, they are of no concern of his, hell—it’s other people (other nations, another tribe). They don’t even need investigating. The nationalist sees other people in his own image—as nationalists."

"Those who do defy the nationalist agenda in war are usually reviled during the conflict and shunned afterward. They are, at least by the labels placed upon them by the world, often rather humble, sometimes simple, and not always well educated. The acts defy the collective psychosis...

Many of those who defy the collective psychosis of the nation are solitary figures once the wars end. Yet these acts of compassion were usually the best antidotes to the myths peddled by nationalists Those who reached across lines to assist the “enemy” freed themselves from nationalist abstractions that dehumanized others. They were vaccinated against the cult of death that dominates societies in wartime. They reduced their moral universe to caring for another human being. And in this they were able to reject the messianic pretensions that come with the nationalist agenda. By accepting that they could only affect a few lives they also accepted their small place in the universe. This daily lesson in humility protected them. They were saved not by what they could accomplish but by faith. Such people are, however, very rare."



  1. I recommended this book to you a while back. After reading it, I look at all war, all "enemies", and all patriotism through a new and very critical lens. Remember in the 70's we started fighting the North Vietnamese, who became the Communist North Vietnamese, who became the Viet Cong, who finally turned into the Communist Viet Cong Gorillas? These same "ape-like" creatures who moved around underground in turnnels are making me some beautiful shirts and pants today!

  2. Geurillas, surely? Not gorilla's?

    1. I stand corrected. I only heard the term on radio and television and never noticed it in print. The visual image I always had was that of apes. I wonder if many others listening to media shared my error. Thank you for the correction


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