Monday, April 9, 2012

Tough love, tougher peace

They say that war is hard. That tough decisions have to be made in wartime, and that it separates the chaff from the wheat. That war is a big forge that hammers toughness into people, much like the forges of times past hammered metal into swords.

They are wrong.

Now, war is not easy, either. But it exists in the realm of extremity that simplifies things. There is us and them, we and the enemy, friends and foes; and out of this simple distinction, every big decision in the world as always-already made beforehand. Friends, protect; enemies, destroy.

This is not easy. But it's simple enough. And as long as you are in the realm of extremes, all you have to do is follow the logic of the friend/foe distinction. All the brutally hard and uneasy choices one makes on the local scale, are situated within a global framework which is rarely questioned.

War is brutal and everything but easy. But it's simple.

Peace, on the other hand, removes this  framework. Suddenly, the simple/brutal life logic of the soldier is removed. There are no more foes, and thus the prospect of friends become that much harder. Us and them, too, becomes confusing as "we the people" disintegrate into an ever evolving confusion of identity merging and politics.

Suddenly, you are left on your own. You and your cosmological infoecology against the world. And all those words Sartre wrote about being forced into freedom becomes flesh - your flesh, as it were. Without much of a clue as to what the next step is.

How do you build a life? A friendship? A love? A self?

Many who return from a war zone find themselves unable to care about the small things. About the everyday choices that building a life, friend, love, self requires. Not because they find them unimportant, but because the simple/brutal logic of war gives them permission to act as if they don't care. And when given the choice between certainty and uncertainty, many prefer the former over the latter.

It's a simple choice. Probably an easy one too.

But what did we say about tough choices?

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