understanding war

the idea of the warrior has been very interesting to me in the last few months.

the idea.

this sentence does not mean: for the last few months, i’ve been exciting about becoming a soldier.

on one extreme, there is this image, or platonic ideal, of the noble, principled, disciplined, courageous and hopefully often victorious warrior engaged in the work of defending, protecting and promoting civic good.

on the other extreme, there is the tired, dirty, wounded soldier somewhere out on the foreign soil of afghanistan, a soldier who was, perhaps, seduced by the ideal of the warrior, and now lies there in her blood, wondering how the dickens she got herself into this, and what it’s all for.

in my NaNoWriMo book, my hero’s grandmother, bumbda’a, starts off as one of the famed african amazons of dahomey. she ends up as one of the millions of victims of one of the biggest wars against humanity: the slave trade. the way i portray it, she goes from the ideal – where i talk about her skills, her uniforms, her courage, and her practice of meditating before each battle – to the mundanely horrible.

as i am writing this, i realize that my understanding of war is minimal. all i have are these almost cartoon-like images. i probably read an average of 4 ,5 books a month but try my darndest to stay away from anything war-related. on the internet, i don’t seek out anything about wars, and i’ll avoid even the best movies about war (over 20 years ago, i walked out of deer hunter, which i regret to this day, because it was obvious that it was a very good movie).

i hide from war.

where it comes from is not difficult to guess. the first and second world wars, together with the nazi times, were the biggest shapers of my parents’ and grandparents’, and therefore to a large degree my, history. i grew up with stories of hiding in cellars, of my grandfather riding off on his motorcycle into battle where he worked as a medic, my other grandfather being a POW, my mother finding a burned body on a pleasant little afternoon walk. one of the shapers of my personal history was a documentary film about the nuclear explosion over hiroshima; traumatic for a 9-year-old. so i’m scared of war, and i hide.

and here is a question: as long as i hide from war, can i truly call myself a pacifist? as long as i hide from war, am i not in danger of turning the ideal of the “warrior for peace” into some romantic, disney-like dream with little substance? if i don’t understand what i’m against, how can i intelligently oppose it?

perhaps the first step, today, november 11, will be this: “my” park right outside my doorstep is memorial park, a park dedicated to veterans. remembrance day celebrations will begin in a short while. rather than not going there because i don’t want anything to do with war (as i always have) i can explore it, allow myself to taste the atmosphere.

and in response to a suggestion from a reader, here is another remembrance day song: terry kelly’s pittance of time.


  1. Having been one of America’s warriors I know, too well, the utter stupidity of war as a “solution”.

    Even “noble wars” have their tenets tarnished when a concerted non-violent approach may have solved the issue {see the game, “A Force More Powerful”}.

    Now, I’m a warrior for peace and want to offer a perspective–what are the weapons of a peace warrior, what are the articles of war, what the strategies and tactics??

    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

    Alexander M Zoltai’s last blog post..One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Two

  2. I think my biggest misconception about war when I was younger, was that the only real wars that had gone on were those we’d been told about.

    Unfortunately that’s so far from the truth.

    There are wars in Africa, Japan, through parts of Asia and in many other places I’m sure I’m unaware of right now…

    Have you ever seen Hotel Rwanda? That’s a movie that made me cry for hours – whilst watching it and after it was over.

    Svasti’s last blog post..People watching, Chapter 2

  3. @alex, the game sounds interesting, i’ll definitely check it out. went to the site, will download it as soon as i have some time to play with it.

    “what are the weapons of a peace warrior, what are the articles of war, what the strategies and tactics?”

    i’m impressed by the salvation army articles of war – maybe that’s something to look at.

    alex, i suspect we have us a cross blog conversation in the making on this! your question brings up big topics.

    @svasti, thanks! one of the things i’m trying to bring out in my remembrance day posts is exactly that – there’s more wars going on than big US PR has us believe.

    and it’s interesting that you bring up hotel rwanda. that’s exactly the kind of movie i’m hiding from. i’m afraid of the feelings this kind of movie evokes in me.

    and as a warrior, that’s not on. so i need to find a way to watch it.

  4. Indeed – I think being a warrior is all about integrity and learning not to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, having preference for one over the other.

    I think everyone should see Hotel Rwanda at least once in their lives, but personally I plan to watch it more than that.

    Svasti’s last blog post..People watching, Chapter 2

  5. I think a lot of people are in the same boat as you!! I, personally don´t know much about war. I know a reasonable amount about world war 2, but less about the first one. I have to admit that everything I learned about the war was learnt in school! My family were all involved in the war, so I´ve heard a fair few personal stories in my time as well. My grandpa fixed the aeroplanes and was in India for a while. My gran was in the WRENS. My other gran was evacuated as young girl, as it happens, to the island where I was later born! I do love reading stories about the war – they really are fascinating! Lesley

  6. My father’s father came back from WW1 a war neurosis case: it was the suffering of the horses that got to him (after all people had made this mess in a way, but why should the horses suffer?).

    He got crazier and crazier until the police had to take him away. They wouldn’t enter the house so my father’s mother, his wife, had to persuade him to go with them. My father was around 11 years old at the time.

    I’m sure that growing up in this house affected my father (not that he ever talks about it). And I’m sure that I too am affected by this. The effect of WW1 will not have finished until I die (hopefully not for a few decades yet).

    I have great admiration for any soldier. I think modern warfare is irretrievably immoral as it involves the targeting of civilians.

    Evan’s last blog post..Blogs With Great Content and That Make a Contribution

  7. I like this article. Just want to add how important war is to Universal balance and harmonics. Like the importance of evil in good, and good in evil.

    Comparing to death… Experience is priceless… a little thing such as Right & Wrong take a million lifetimes to understand. Therefore I see robbing others’ of their experiences as a way to really hurt them in the long run.


    phramick’s last blog post..Equanimity in Compassion

  8. I can conceive of educators for peace, engineers of peace…I can even imagine artists for peace. But “warriors for peace”? The very idea strikes me as absurd.

    The desire for self-preservation is a virtue–up to a point–but we should not confuse that with a desire for peace. As far as I can see, the very noblest wars are based upon nothing more than want of self-preservation; if not for physical bodies, then for values.

    Chris | Martial Development’s last blog post..Martial Arts Secrets: Are You an Insider or Outsider?

  9. You may be interested to know that my Dad has written a memoir of his experience of being evacuated to Folkestone and then Tredegar, Wales. He and his sister were called back to London and shortly afterwards his school was bombed in a day-light raid, that became one of the most notorious attacks of the war. 30 children were killed, including my Aunt and my Dad was seriously injured. He recalls evacuation, the attack and his experience of rehabilitation. See:http://www.ericbradybooks.co.uk/

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