Monday, November 16, 2009

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges

He's an eyewitness. That's the book's relevance.

I didn't like the end of the book. It's too easy to say that secretly, inherently, we all want to die, or that violence is addictive because we all want the rest of death. Of course we do want to rest, but that's not the sole—or even the primary—source of our violence.

I also don't like the dedication to his children. If it isn't disingenuous, it should be.

The story about the Muslim man who brings milk everyday for the Serbs' infant after the mother can no longer nurse is devastating. It's the book's secret.

A helpful way to approach a critique of this book might be to imagine an ideologue—from the right or the left—reading it. Because it's a confused book. It's broken. Brokenness is its rhetorical stance.

Hedges' likely response to that observation is explicit in the book: Brokenness is the only reasonable stance to such horror, and so much of it.

There is something tiresome, however, about its dismay. Hedges posits an idea of humanity—a liberal humanist's idea, I guess, and in truth I can't think of another worldview worth defending—and then laments our inability to live up to that idea.

But the idea, despite the fact that it's been our salvation, might need to be reevaluated. Could it be that the idea is now facilitating slaughter? Based upon the content of this book, it's an idea so easily refuted by the facts of the world that to read the book is to watch liberalism collapse.

Outside the book, of course, liberalism collapses at an anthem's first note.

I saw that last night, when I watched an NFL football game and saw the Indianapolis Colts unfurl an American flag the size of their football field. In such sights one foresees the end of the world.

In any case, I recommend the book. It's a good introduction to the problem of violence—specifically, to the problem of violence as it's perceived by modern liberalism. So it's a good introduction, too, to modern liberalism generally: to what to admire about it—the poetry, in the first place—and to its vulnerabilities.

They're the same vulnerabilities that Nietzsche addressed, futilely. Wrongly, Nietzsche called them weaknesses.

My god, how we love our tragic lives!

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