Dipper Rock, Whisper Flow, Cliff River watershed,
Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
War pays, literally . . .
More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle (384 - 322 bce),
in his classic NICHMACHEAN ETHICS, states uncharacteristically
as if it were self-evident and not in need of logical demonstration,
that we prepare for, and wage war in order to achieve peace,
and for no other reason. I disagree. War and Peace are not
contraries, not opposites; they are in my view utterly
unrelated, in the same way that what we think of as 'evil'
and 'good' are also unrelated and not opposites.
The metaphysics behind these thoughts is important. For, if
we believe that war is inevitable, and that we therefore must
prepare for it, then the thought itself becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy and hence one of the primary causes of all the future wars
that this way of thinking sees as inevitable, and so on. And on,
Projecting evil out into the world as an actual independent
force out to do us in, say as the Lucifer of Dante's Inferno,
also leads, in my view, to equally imbalanced ways of thinking.
This might be easier to see if we think for a moment on music.
Now, we performers make mistakes. It happens all the time,
and to the best of us. Now imagine that if we, every time we
erred——that is, strayed from the good, the right, the beautiful——
simply said, "Lucifer made me do it!" That would not get
us very far, would it? Because we would be looking for the
source of our mistakes——in other words, the 'evil' that has
befallen us——somewhere outside of ourselves, which is, of
Well, my contention is that with War and Peace it is no different.
In other words, war is not a means to peace; it is simply a mistake.
A very grave mistake, indeed, one which has become in a way the
world's most serious fatal habit or illness. After all, it is clearly
irrational in the extreme to devote half of the world's resources
to the slaughter of one another in greater and greater numbers
and by ever-more scientific and efficient means.
This, I think, is clearly an ethical problem. Not a religious one.
And not a political one. Why? Because it is a problem of the heart,
of compassion. And, in my view, as an ethical problem it even trumps
climate change because the waste generated by the machinery
of war is itself a primary cause of anthropogenic climate change,
AND, is at the same time totally unproductive!
[Somebody please do the numbers here because I have no doubt that
they are surely horrifying.]
And the economy? Unpayable mountains of debt? Well, "it's the war,
stupid." Preparations for war in even a healthy economy will tend to
drive that economy towards collapse, because war preparations are by
far the greatest destroyer of wealth, even when your industries still
produce more than just weapons, and even when you have not borrowed
your way into a debt so deep in order to finance those war preparations
that it will take generations of hard work to clean up the mess.
So, why is this not a theme of political debates? Because, as
the brilliant Marilyn Warring says in Terre Nash's documentary,
Sex, Lies and Global Economies (1998), "The cost of a single
new nuclear submarine equals the annual education budget of 23
developing countries with 160 million school-age children.
This is war. War is marketable. War pays, literally."
"It is no longer the choice between violence
and non-violence in this world;
it's non-violence or non-existence."
from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last major address,
April 3rd, 1968, "I Have Been to the Mountain Top."
One of the most persistent and pernicious illusions
of control is the ancient idea that we can come to peace
by way of war. It is this thought that conflict is inescapable
and unavoidable that leads us to incessantly prepare for it.
Yet, preparing for war is not like preparing for fire, or for
a hurricane. No. Preparing for war is a primary cause of war.
There are evidently only two alternative paths: One follows
the drumbeat of essentially lost leaders, marching us straight
off the cliff of non-existence; The other is the path of peace.
Nowhere do they cross; Nowhere do they meet.
The great and historic challenge but also opportunity
before us, both individually and collectively, is the
demonstration in all possible directions—one at a time
and all at once—of the urgent necessity of this truth.
Eagle Cap Wilderness,