Cosmic War I
Remember the other day, I made reference to Bion’s idea about “attacks on linking,” in which the individual dismantles the thinking process so as to be unable to recognize truth? The left’s reaction to the President’s statement is a fine example. In order to not perceive the simple truth that we are in a world war--if for no other reason than our enemies are in a global war with us--the mind must unconsciously “attack” any evidence that leads to that conclusion. Thus, it may look like President Bush is being attacked, but he is incidental to the deeper process of attacking and dismantling a reality that the left does not wish to see.
Anyway, in response to the piece, I impulsively typed the comment, “I realize that it's not fashionable to say so, but it's actually the denouement of Cosmic War I.” That is, we divide history into this or that war, but if we truly stand back and take a “martian’s eye view” of the situation, and try to look at history from without rather than within, we can see that this is so. In reality, human history has been just one long battle.
There are two ways of looking at this, one way rather pessimistic, the other way more optimistic. The pessimistic view is that there is something innate--perhaps even genetic--that makes human beings love war. There is this romantic notion that deep down human beings are gentle and peace-loving noble savages, but I presented some of the latest research in my book explaining how this is not the case. Rather, primitive groups were actually much more violent than we are. It’s just that the violence took place on such a small scale, that it’s not as noticeable.
In his book Constant Battles, archaeologist Steven LeBlanc noted that the “cruel and ugly” truth is that in traditional societies an average of twenty-five percent of the men died from warfare. Anthropologist Lawrence Keeley, in his War Before Civilization, noted that “Whenever modern humans appear on the scene, definitive evidence of homicidal violence becomes more common.... If anything, peace was a scarcer commodity... than for the average citizen of a civilized state.”
Indeed, LeBlanc writes that the homicide rate of some prehistoric villages would have been 1400 times that of modern Britain and about 70 times that of the United States in 1980. Although roughly 100 million people died from all war-related causes in the twentieth century, Keeley estimated that this figure is twenty times smaller than the losses that might have resulted if the world’s population were still organized into bands, tribes and chiefdoms.
Keep that last figure in mind in considering the nature of World War III---or what I believe is Cosmic War I. At the moment, our enemies are limited to killing only as many as they can. But what if they were only limited by how many they wanted to kill? I think you get Keeley’s point. The primitives with whom we are at war are limited only by the means, not the will. We, on the other hand, are not limited by our means, but by our will. If any of you read that gruesome story this weekend about the beheaded Iraqi journalist, it is hard to imagine that our enemies would repeat this infinitely evil act upon millions and millions of people if only they could. And yet, they would--to you, your children, anyone they could get their hands on
Because of “attacks on linking,” we are not even allowed to think about the possibility of using nukes against Iran, because that would be "too cruel." But should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, I imagine the only thing that might stop them from using them is that they would not be cruel enough.
Well, I’m really running short of time. What I really wanted to discuss was the nature of Cosmic War I, but I see that Van der Leun has beat me to the punch anyway. His wonderful essay this morning, Clear History, touches on many of the themes I might have if I had had the time. He captures the pan-historical sweep of the war we are engaged in, whereas I barely have time to spiel-check what I’ve just spieled.
One more thing--I mentioned that there is an "optimistic" way of looking at the cosmic war we are engaged in. Van der Leun implicitly touches on this, but unfortunatley I am flat out of time, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.
Good thing it's only a hammer.