Flimsy Sanity: Men Like to Fight

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Men Like to Fight

A former school-mate and I once got into a rather heated discussion. I said men like war and he thought I was insane - that no one would like getting shot at. My contention was that the movies and books men prefer are most often about a violent resolution to problems. The role playing games little boys choose are war-like ones. Competition comes with testosterone, locally with sports, nationally with war. Obviously, they must like it. My cousin's son was in Iraq and wants to go back, school life is too tame. Chris Hedges, author of What every Person should Know About War had this to say:

I have felt the attraction of violence. I know its seductiveness, excitement and the powerful addictive narcotic it can become. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. They catapult from being minimum wage employees at places like Burger King, facing a life of dead-end jobs with little hope of health insurance and adequate benefits, to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth." The disparity between what they were and what they have become is breathtaking and intoxicating. This intoxication is only heightened in wartime when all taboos are broken. Murder goes unpunished and often rewarded. The thrill of destruction fills their days with wild adrenaline highs, strange grotesque landscapes that are hallucinogenic, all accompanied by a sense of purpose and comradeship, overpowers the alienation many left behind. They become accustomed to killing, carrying out acts of slaughter with no more forethought than they take to relieve themselves. And the abuses committed against the helpless prisoners in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo are not aberrations but the real face of war. In wartime all human beings become objects, objects either to gratify or destroy or both. And almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.


  • At 11:44 AM, Blogger Peacechick Mary said…

    I was just thinking today that maybe this is all about the winner getting his pick of females as it is in the animal world.

  • At 5:36 PM, Blogger Omnipotent Poobah said…

    I don't know if men like war (I don't, although I believe sometimes it is unavoidable). I think it's the inclination to tear things down.

    Explosions, big trees falling, etc, etc. are intriguing because of their ingenuity and power. Some women like these things for the same reasons.

    It seems to me the point isn't liking or not liking violence or war. The key is learning the difference between tearing things down and building them up and always be willing to do the harder part of the equation - building things.

    But what do I know. I'm a man :-)

  • At 10:02 AM, Anonymous RJ Adams said…

    As a boy I always wanted an air rifle (Bebe guns, in America, I think) but never got one. My parents, wisely, didn't approve of such things. Later, in my teens I boarded on a farm and took pleasure in the farmer's 12-gauge shotgun - downing ducks and pheasants in the neighboring woodland. Then I matured sufficiently to realize my actions were contrary to my belief system, and learned the true reason behind my desire to kill.
    The answer comes down to one word: POWER. Power is why politicians seek high office, its why boys from Burger King join the Marines. Power brings its own grotesque form of excitement - control over others. Whether its the control of hiring and firing, starting wars, or fighting in them, the true testosterone rush is for power. Along with Power rides its partner, Corruption, rising exponentially as Power grows ever stronger. It is Corruption that created the Abu Ghraib and similar atrocities, fueled by a Power unleashed without the control of law and statute. We all feel the attraction of violence as a means of control over others. Often as a way to "get our own back". The power of revenge. Young soldiers are handed that power along with a sub-machine gun, half a dozen grenades, and an armored tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, or state-of-the-art fighter jet.
    A long way from the Bebe gun or 12-gauge, but an identical principle.


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