Book projects – Whiplash: 6: War and peace

All of us aspire for the power to live our lives in peace: but when dispower is confused with power, what we get is war.

Dispower is war. It’s as simple as that.

The ramifications of that simple statement, however, are far from simple. And that’s where we’re likely to get stuck if we’re not very careful indeed.

So although Starhawk, for example, might argue that dispower “is ultimately born of war and the structures, social and intrapsychic, necessary to maintain mass, organized warfare”, war is better understood as an expression of dispower, not the source of it. War is indeed maintained by “structures social and intrapsychic” – even, in some countries, a huge ‘military-industrial complex’ – but that’s only because of the addictive nature of dispower, and the obsessive need to maintain the delusion that dispower is true power.

Dispower is, amongst other things, the belief that power only exists when it’s taken from others: hence it easily seems necessary to build “structures … to maintain mass, organized warfare”, either to ‘take’ power from others, or to prevent what little power we feel we have from being taken. But in the process, our power – our ‘ability to do work’ – is tied up in creating and maintaining those structures: which means that we actually become less and less powerful in any real sense. Which means that we’re more likely to feel that we need to take power from others in order to defend our power: which in turn leads either to direct warfare, or to the delusions of dispower-with – such as ‘the faces of the enemy’ mythology – which is also, in its own way, a kind of warfare.

The surface appearances of war – its horrors, its symptoms, its symbols – always seem to be the obvious place to search for the source of the problem. But that isn’t where the problem lies; nor does it ever help if we go hunting for someone to blame. War is the result of an attitude of mind, of self, into which any and all of us may fall: the self-centred delusions of dispower, of power-over and power-under. These include paranoia – that complex form of arrogance in which we believe ourselves to be the centre of everyone else’s life – and the tangled confusions and dishonesties of ‘faces of the enemy’ mythology: both of which lead to the unfocussed violence of ‘redress in general’, for ‘wrongs’ which are more often imagined than real. Where these delusions provide a false prop to our sense of self, we’ll find ourselves defending them as if life depends on them, because our definition of ‘self’ indeed does depend on them. And it’s a fact which we dare not admit, especially to ourselves, hence that ‘defence’ may well be to the death…

Dispower is war. The reverse is not quite true, though: war is more than just a form of dispower. There’s at least one other crucial element: an addiction to an internal hormone to provide a sense of power and purpose. The problem is not so much testosterone – contrary to feminist theory, which often regards war as ‘testosterone poisoning’, or ‘menstrual envy’ – but adrenalin: which, once again, is an issue for both genders. Adrenalin is the fear-response fight-or-flight hormone – or, more accurately, ‘fight or flight – or freeze’; it creates a temporary surge of power in the body, an emergency reserve – and one that’s supposed to be reserved for real emergencies. But to most of us, who for most of the time feel not particularly powerful, it can seem that only adrenalin is power – and hence, because the surge is necessarily temporary, can get caught in a classic addictive loop, trying to create conditions under which adrenalin is released, in order to feel powerful.

We can see this in most stereotypical male behaviour: “He loved auctions – he enjoyed the tension”, said the children’s researcher Iona Opie of her husband and research-partner Peter. Gambling, fighting, competing, arguing, risk-taking: these all manufacture a feeling of fear, which artificially creates conditions for the release of adrenalin, which creates an artificial feeling of power. Which usually goes nowhere: because there’s no work for it to do… And which then leads to a sense of powerlessness – which creates a further demand for the same cycle. Adrenalin is addictive: perhaps the most serious problem of addiction that we know. Combined with the delusions of dispower it is, quite literally, lethal.

But we can also see the same addiction to adrenalin in most stereotypical female behaviour. In keeping with the old restricted social rôle of ‘womanliness’, this often used to occur in the paradoxical ‘freeze’ mode, where the power is turned inward: an artificial manufacture of powerlessness, helplessness, in order to entrap others to be powerful on one’s behalf – the complex dishonesties of dispower-under. The artificial manufacture of crises where none actually exist, to create a sense of power and meaning: same drug, different form. Or, combined with someone-else’s illusions of power-over, it may lead to the lethal co-dependence of the sadist and the masochist – the classic tyrant/victim cycle. In puellist circles, given their equally obsessive rejection of the old ‘womanly’ rôle, it now comes out as an addiction to anger, power created for the purpose of propping up illusions rather than to do any actual work: but it’s still the same drug-addiction, still the same problem. The real problem, though, is that we think of it as normal.

The same is true of war. We may bewail its consequences, but in general we regard its sources, in our (lack of) understanding of ourselves, as ‘normal’. Dispower is ‘normal’: hence it seems so obvious that we have to control others, ‘for their own good’ as well as for ours. [1] We don’t trust others to ‘get it right’ [2]; what we rarely, if ever, admit is that what we’re expecting those others to ‘get right’ is that they should, must, offer themselves in service to us – or to our ideals, which is much the same thing. Men demand it of women; women demand it of men; nations demand it of nations. “Peace on our terms” is not peace at all, but a declaration of war, a demand that others should make themselves subservient to us. We demand that others should support us in our delusions of paediarchy: and then have the self-satisfied stupidity to call it ‘power’. Or war: a war by others by others against our ‘rights’…

Feminism is perhaps at its most insulting when it denigrates and blames men alone for war. Starhawk – generally one of the most perceptive of feminists – is unusually obtuse on the issue of war: “hey guys”, she says, “you could end it tomorrow, simply by refusing to fight in it”. [3] Well, yes… but it’s not quite as simple as that… especially not when she demands, almost in the same paragraph, that men should be “fearless defenders” of other people’s liberties – usually at the expense of their own liberty, and sometimes at the expense of their own life. Easy enough to demand this, too, when you know, by virtue of your gender, that you’re not going to be forced to fight on someone else’s behalf… When someone lets loose a comment as asinine as this, whilst at the same time insisting that others should “face the issue of war clearly”, it’s evident that they haven’t actually thought it through much beyond the easy position of blame.

Let’s start by demolishing one central myth: that war is only a problem of – and for – men. Many men are deeply involved in maintaining the myths of war: no doubt about that. Many men seem incapable of distinguishing between childish fantasies with ‘bang-bangs’ and the all-too-real destruction wrought by real guns with real bullets: no doubt about men’s childishness there… Given the much-promoted myth that “power comes out of the barrel of a gun”, it’s not surprising that guns provide some men with the only real sense of power they know or understand [4]; in that sense, war is the ultimate form of dispower, of men’s ‘power-over’ others.

Yet the reality, as we’ve seen, is that women are just as much involved in dispower as men. Hence women are just as much involved in its expression in the form of war – even though it seems to please everyone to pretend that they’re not. There’s no doubt, for instance, that women routinely use as a weapon of war their privileged position of ‘protected person’: for example, Serbian women blockading United Nations food trucks en route to Bosnia (and no, no-one forced them to do so, so let’s not go into the standard puellist magic shuffling act – “it’s all the fault of the patriarchy” – that tries to blame men for women’s deliberate actions wherever those actions are demonstrably other than ‘pure’…). And women have routinely used every trick in the book to force, entice, cajole or bully men to fight on their behalf: the white flowers and yellow ribbons come out in every war – in London in 1940, for example, my father and his fellow medical students were so much harassed by women calling them cowards for not being in uniform that they had to be given armbands to wear to prove that they were on essential duties.

And militarist women leaders – such as Margaret Thatcher, or Golda Meir, or Indira Gandhi – are not ‘fake men’: they’re women – women obsessed with the delusions of dispower, and embodying indisputably female archetypes. They’re no less ‘womanly’ than more obviously feminist-oriented politicians such as Gro Bruntland of Norway, Vigdas Finnboggadottir of Iceland or Mary Robinson of Eire. Thatcher, in particular, typifies a bloodily voyeuristic mindset that can be seen in women throughout Conservative Britain, which would best be described by a ‘game’ which psychologist Eric Berne defined as “let’s you and him fight”. [5]

For example, I have bleak memories of listening to two middle-aged women on a train, coming back from London, soon after the poll-tax riots: “and next time”, said one to the other, with gleeful vindictiveness, “they’ll bring the tanks in and they’ll machine-gun the lot of them!” They were keen to benefit from the theft – forcing the poor to pay for the rich – that the poll-tax represented; they had no qualms whatsoever about demanding that someone else – but certainly not themselves – should fight a war to protect that theft. And judging from the tone of their conversation, they’d have had no qualms about branding as ‘a coward’ any man who did not wish to fight on their behalf: a classic example of power-under. Women are every bit as involved in maintaining war as men: they just happen – courtesy of some none-too-truthful gender-stereotyping – to be more easily able to conceal it…

Even where it’s not concealed, women are still assigned special privileges as ‘protected persons’. In countries such as the United States which do allow women to join the armed forces, a combat rôle is an option, not a requirement; in countries such as Israel, where women are conscripted along with men, women soldiers may choose to opt out of a combat rôle, whereas men have no choice at all. And yet the Irish Republican Army reportedly prefers to use women commanders in the field, especially in mainland Britain: the IRA’s experience, in an echo of Kipling’s famous comment, is that “the female of the species is far more deadly than the male”.

In the standard stereotyping of rôles, men – as ‘disposable persons’ – are expected to do the dangerous work: and while estimates may vary, all would agree that well over ninety percent of the more hazardous occupations are still undertaken by men. Despite the assertions of some feminists, many of these tasks – such as fire-fighting or deep-sea fishing – are necessary in almost any culture: the risk-taking is not solely derived from male arrogance or male foolhardiness. But this easily leads to the assumption that men are responsible for dealing with anything a woman fears or dislikes – including the fact that the same woman does not want to admit that the fear is her own. This, in turn, sometimes leads to demands from women that men should be violent – as long as it’s on that woman’s behalf. So when men try to stop being violent, they may get pushed back into doing it once more – often by the same woman who claims to be trying to stop them; and then find themselves blamed – or worse – for all of it, all over again. For example, Robert Hart, director of a centre working with violent men, described how one man they’d counselled had finally found the courage to break free of his sexism and blame, and to not be violent: “we were very pleased”, said Hart. But the man came back a few weeks later, very distressed:

He was crying. He said he’d been beaten up by his partner. We were very taken aback and we asked why she had attacked him. He said a bloke down the pub had been bothering her, so she asked him to beat the guy up. When he refused, she beat him up instead.

It makes me wonder who really wants to control the power in relationships. The old idea of the patriarchy is a very unsophisticated idea of how people relate. [6]

Sexuality, not surprisingly, further confuses the issue. Sam Keen makes the blunt assertion that “war is a form of sexual perversion”, one in which both genders play an active rôle. [7] It’s arguable as to what extent the highly-sexualized imagery of ‘the champion’ is natural – biologically-driven – or derived from ‘patriarchal’ mythology, but there’s no doubt that women do play a deliberate and conscious part in promoting it. Germaine Greer, for example, admitted, in her inimitable fashion:

Violence has a fascination for most women; they act as spectators at fights, and dig the bloody violence in films. Women are always precipitating scenes of violence in pubs and dance-halls. Much goading of men is actually the female need for the thrill of violence. [8]

The old power-under game of “let’s you and him fight” – a game in which someone other than the player pays the price… And some women also play a deliberate and conscious part in rewarding the violence of ‘the champion’: for example, journalists Robert McGowan and Jeremy Hands, describing the return of Marines from the Falklands war, noted “it was to happen several times again, but on this occasion, four lovely girls had stripped off their T-shirts to reveal their charms”. [9] It’s useful to compare this, or the treatment of the returning ‘heroes’ of the Gulf War, with that meted out to Vietnam veterans – the ‘failures’ of a failed war…

Given the scale of social ostracism that so many Vietnam veterans have suffered, it’s hardly surprising, as Robert Bly points out, that more have committed suicide since the war ended than died in the war itself. Starhawk comments on this, saying that the young men were “deceived into thinking that they were fighting for values when they were fighting for profits”, yet she somehow blames the soldiers themselves for being in this state, whilst exculpating herself as a ‘good’ anti-war activist. [10] It’s just not honest to blame others without fully including oneself within the ‘blame’: in fact it’s another form of violence, which only perpetuates the problem.

War is violent; violent, violated people need care to be brought out of this state – not further abuse. Ex-soldiers are magically expected to cope with impossible strains – or to be derided as ‘criminal’ or ‘anti-social’ if they fail. One Vietnam veteran I spoke with, an Australian conscript, commented that “they spent sixteen months training me to react instantly to danger, training me to fight in a jungle, training me to kill – and then just dropped me back in the city and said ‘You’re on your own now, deal with it yourself’…” The post-traumatic stress alone is bad enough, as survivors of civil disasters know all too well:

I don’t need a video to see it all again, it’s like there is one going permanently in my head. How can you forget the smell of burning people and kerosene, or watching the rescuers pick up bits of bodies? They tell us to live our lives, but they don’t tell us how. [11]

For soldiers, though, there is the additional knowledge – and guilt – of having caused exactly this kind of carnage, in the name of peace and justice: and, as Quakers put it, “the real horror of war is not that the weapons would be used against us, but that we would use them against others”. Few women have any idea of the strains that this places on sanity: those women that do are mostly those who have killed, or almost killed, in fear, such as fear of rape – and whose recovery is not helped by puellists and others inciting them to revenge.

The desire for revenge is one of the key problems of paediarchy, a perennial source of war. When people are long on memory and short on understanding, dispower dominates, creating tragedies of Balkan complexity. The lessons of history have a habit of returning to haunt us: we react in horror at the tens of thousands of Moslem women raped and tortured in Bosnia, for example; but when the Caliphs of Turkey recruited their armies in the Middle Ages for their invasions of south-eastern Europe, one of their requirements was that their soldiers should use rape as a weapon of war, converting others to the Faith by both the sword and the ‘pork sword’ [12] – and Moslem women did nothing to discourage it. Centuries later, we may have forgotten this: but the men and women of the Balkans did not – and now they see it as their time for revenge… It’s up to all of us to challenge the delusions of dispower, in whatever form they take: there may not be much that we, individually, can do, but even the most minor form of dispower – let alone full-blown war – will challenge us to do what we can.

It’s easy to forget that whilst it takes courage to stand up and fight, it often takes even more courage to stand up and not fight. True pacificism demands extremes of courage and, paradoxically, a willingness to put oneself at risk. This is perhaps typified by the Quakers in the Second World War – many of whom, rather than withdrawing as conscientious objectors, instead volunteered to join the army as unarmed stretcher-bearers or bomb-disposal crews – or even more by the story of one German soldier, who refused to join a firing squad to shoot French civilians in reprisals for a Resistance raid. His officer angrily told him to follow orders, or join the French: whereupon he put down his rifle, walked across the yard to the villagers, and turned round to stand at full attention, to face his former comrades as they opened fire. A futile gesture, perhaps, but the only one he could make…

Society’s treatment of men like these has always been shabby: those who live may be fêted for a short while, but are soon derided as ‘yesterday’s heroes’, the forgotten men. The obsession with the current hero is typical of all paediarchies – sports stars or pop stars, all are discarded as soon as their star wanes. In many ways, it’s also reminiscent of the concept of the ‘year-king’, common in the ancient matriarchies described with such vigour in feminist ‘herstories’, in which a ‘champion’ was chosen as the consort of the queen, or of the house of women, free to do what he wished – until the end of the year, when he was ‘ploughed into the ground’, either metaphorically or, in some cases, literally. (It’s arguable that some historical developments of ‘patriarchy’, such as that of Minos of Crete, came about as a revolt against this tradition.) Starhawk, for example, promotes as ‘rôle models for men’ the three gods of her concept of witchcraft – the youthful Blue God of creation, the Green God of field and forest, and the Horned God, hunter and hunted – but fails to grasp the implications for men of the fact that the first remains a boy-child forever, and the primary task of the latter two is to die on others’ behalf. [13] Women may feel that they too are discarded as they get older, but perhaps not quite as totally as this…

Faced with the expectation of death as a central fact of their life-task, many men feel that war provides the only conditions under which they feel alive. Part of this, no doubt, is that addiction to adrenalin as a chemical substitute for meaning; but part also is a need for respect, for belonging, for community – all of which the ubiquitous ‘faces of the enemy’ mythology can provide. “Bonding together against the enemy” is one of the few ways in which many men – and, increasingly, women – are permitted to bond with anyone else at all: a point which is evidenced by the centrality of organisations like Veterans of Foreign Wars, the British Legion or the Returned Services League in so many ex-soldiers’ lives.

I remember watching with sadness a documentary on the French Foreign Legion – sadness because of the seductiveness of the ‘devil’s bargain’ for which those men signed away their lives. These were, in most cases, brutal men – but also brutalised men. True, they were brutalised by military training; but they had all been brutalised in many ways before then – of which physical brutality was perhaps the least. The deal was that, in return for the use of their bodies, in whatever way it saw fit, the Legion would ask no questions about the men’s past – in fact make it impossible for anyone to ask questions – and would promise to take all responsibility for their actions, and never to abandon them. And the Legion keeps its promise: it never abandons casualties – it has a long history of “all out or none out”; and it never abandons its old soldiers – one of the tasks of the young men is to look after the Legion’s old. But others have paid a heavy price for that Faustian bargain… a bargain of ‘dispower-with’, sealed in other people’s blood…

The Foreign Legion is a fascinating example of the weavings of dispower on a large scale. The community exports its problem-children – or, more accurately, those whom it has most abused – into the Legion; the men gain a sense of self, of power, of community, a paradoxical sense of security; the State gains a fighting force that will do anything to maintain its sense of community, will do exactly what it’s told [14]; ordinary citizens – women especially – can blame the Legion for maintaining war, yet need ask no questions about the ‘spoils of war’ from which they themselves profit. Everyone seems to win – except, of course, those on the receiving end of the chain of exported violence. But as in the Balkans, these dishonesties, the delusions of dispower, never are truly exported: the pile of problems swept under the carpet eventually grows too large to ignore; or else the scapegoat returns, bringing the war back home – such as in the form of terrorism or civil war.

So it’s up to all of us to think clearly about the delusions and dishonesties that lead to war: about how we all attempt – or, all too often, demand – to export our problems to someone else. And it’s up to all of us to face the challenges to resolve these problems other than through “the structures, social and intrapsychic, necessary to maintain mass, organized warfare” – even those structures we rationalize as ‘necessary defence’. For example, my current contract as a computer systems specialist is with an aircraft research establishment, designing robotics to test airframes, to make aircraft safer: but I have to accept that some of those aircraft are military. I’m not comfortable about that – especially because of my Quaker family background. So I rationalize, and hope for the best: “at least it’s better for everyone than working for a bank…”

Yet not all of it is rationalization. Some of these same ‘military’ aircraft are used worldwide in disaster relief; and there are many natural emergencies – earthquake, fire and flood – when only a military-style ‘top-down’ organization can work fast enough to save lives and minimise damage. The warrior’s tools can’t be used for much other than murder, it’s true; but the warrior’s skills have other uses which we would do well to acknowledge and value rather than abuse. “God and the soldier we alike adore / but at the time of trouble, not before” goes the old poem: so if wartime is the only time the soldier is ‘adored’, or even acknowledged, where is the incentive to not make war?

Which is where we return to that comment of Starhawk’s, that “hey guys, you could end [war] tomorrow, simply by refusing to fight in it”. What, we might ask, are the incentives? More to the point, what are the disincentives to do otherwise? Where else, in our civilised society, would someone promise never to abandon a man – and keep that promise? A careful glance at the standard cultural conditioning of boys suggests that most are all but abandoned by the time they go to school – a situation not improved by the demands of some puellists that boys should be abandoned at birth. [15] As Australian Henry Tunks wryly commented, “from then until the age of eighteen he’s officially dissociated from the human race. And the only way he can reconnect with the human race is through his dick, which is terrible”. [16] Or through his fists, or through some weapon – a tragic way to ‘get back in touch’ with the rest of humanity…

It’s up to all of us – men especially – to find alternatives to this. But feminists could help a lot by encouraging women to be honest – honest about their own involvement in maintaining war, and about what they ask for from men. At the least, if they truly want less violent men, women should find the courage to confront their own issues, rather than entrapping men into being violent on women’s behalf. (It seems to me that much of men’s continuing entanglement in the war machine comes from nothing more than gullibility – complying with demands by women and others that they should be the ‘protectors’, the “fearless defenders” of others’ liberties, and wondering why on earth it’s all turned out so wrong…) And if they truly want gentle, caring men, feminists should encourage women to respect that – rather than spurning them for ‘the champion’. Especially, feminists should encourage women to be clear about what they want – and to not change the rules whenever it suits them. Men have been badly burned in the past by ‘feminist’ promises – so much so that it’s not easy to trust:

Keith Thompson: Back in the 60s, when we looked to the women’s movement for leads as to how we should be, the message we got was the new strong women wanted soft men.

Robert Bly: I agree. That’s how it felt! The women did play a part in this. I remember a bumper sticker at the time that read “women say yes to men who say no”. … The women were definitely saying they preferred the softer receptive male, and they would reward him for being so. [17]

But as we discovered, the reward for being a ‘softer receptive male’ was a full-tilt kick in the unfortunates: denigration as ‘the wimp’, to be mocked and derided by the ‘new strong women’ who’d based their new-found strength on dispower – and who went sailing back into the arms of the violent macho ‘champion’ type whom they’d said they didn’t want. [18] Now we hear much the same promises to ‘reward’ changed male behaviour – but the demands are even higher. “Feminists long for men to heal”, says Starhawk; she dreams, she says, of a world in which men would be:

sensitive nurturers, fearless defenders of all people’s liberation … serious without being humorless, stable without being dull, disciplined without being rigid, sweet without being spineless, proud without being insufferably egotistical, fierce without being violent, wild without being, well, assholes. [19]

Well, yes, men would like that of women too: it’s called perfection… A sense of realism might help, if women are not to drive men straight back into the arms of the war machine, as the only certainty most have ever known…

But the search for certainty is itself a primary source of war. Not trusting either ourselves or others, we seek to take control: which immediately throws out the balance of those weird flows and challenges through which Reality Department does provide us with what we need. True peace is not a stasis, an ‘absolute control’, absolute certainty, but a dynamic process through which conflicts both within and between ourselves are resolved. ‘Power-over’ doesn’t work; the only approach that works is ‘power-with’, empowering each other in a true sharing of rights, responsibilities and resources.

It’s a fact which has long been known and understood, from sources as disparate as ancient religions and modern psychotherapy [20]: and yet the message rarely seems to sink in. The notion that, with care, with awareness, with trust, it is possible for everyone to win, seems beyond most people’s comprehension: lacking trust, it always seems much easier to believe that “it is in the nature of power that it is impossible for one to have more without others having less” – and that we need to ensure that we’re not going to be the ones who end up with less. Yet ‘win/lose’ really is an illusory form of ‘lose/lose’: especially, no-one ever truly wins from a war…

The imagery of war is all around us. Throughout this city there are ‘war-memorials’, which perhaps would be better understood as war-glorifications, most of them portraying men with guns, standing in threatening poses. In one small town near here, the sign on the memorial to ‘the fallen’ (never ‘the murdered’, which is the more accurate term), which had originally read ‘The Great War / 1914-1919’, had been modified with an additional ‘s’ and the dates ‘1939-1945’; and then other places and dates added beneath: Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam… There is no final victory, no ‘war to end all wars’: and until we grasp that fact, war – however distant, however much exported to some foreign shore – will continue to be part of our lives.

War is still considered ‘proper’, a valid task for life (or death) – especially by those who know that they will not be sent to fight in it. [21] And anything which questions it is inevitably threatened with violence – because to question the culture of war is to make visible the paediarchy which underlies it. Even the Vietnam Memorial in Washington – one of the few that acknowledges the real human cost of war – was threatened with destruction soon after it was completed, because it was considered to be ‘corrupt’, ‘improper’ in its bleakness; only after a ‘proper’ memorial – a larger-than-lifesize sculpture of men in uniform with guns and the flag – was placed above it were politicians willing to leave the original memorial alone. The memorial has become a true shrine, a focus for the healing of the very human suffering of war: every day visitors leave small mementoes to acknowledge the brief lives of so many thousands of friends, relatives, lovers. Some messages are poignant – “Bill, you made a difference” – while others still show, decades later, the unhealed scars: “we fought and died for nothing and politicians”… [22]

The history of ‘modern’ warfare has been the glorification of increasing cowardice, of the dishonesty of abstraction. In the Celtic warrior-culture, warfare took place only between ‘champions’ – as in the ritualised warfare of modern-day sport – who each knew directly and personally the reality of death; now the self-styled ‘champions’ seek to build layer after layer of defence and distance, so that they may assault others with impunity – and all too often using their own kinsfolk as hostages. That’s paediarchy: the cowardly violence of the bully, masquerading as the courage of the ‘champion’. In generation after generation, the old men, and women of all ages, play the old game of “let’s you and him fight”, using myths of glory, of ‘a land fit for heroes’ [23], to entice young men to give up their lives on behalf of others – the omnipresent lie, as the poet Wilfred Owen warned, of “Dulce et decorum est / Pro Patria Mori”. [24]

There are alternatives to this: but they demand more courage from us, not less… and from all of us, not a selected sub-group of disposable ‘champions’… So it’s up to us – all of us – to find constructive resolutions to our conflicts – or continue to be haunted by the spectre of war which we so much try to shrug off to everyone else.

Men and women, we’re all responsible for war: we’re equal in this – as in everything else. One place in which we could start is to be a lot more honest about that other war which dominates our lives – the unnecessary ‘gender war’. The puellism of the past few decades has not only denied women’s equal involvement in war, but has consistently promoted a social concept of ‘equality’ in which “some are more equal than others” – one in which women have equal rights when it suits them, but far-from-equal responsibilities when it doesn’t. Not surprisingly, this has created more problems than it has resolved: so before we can move much further, we need a far better understanding of what exactly we mean by ‘equality’.

[1] See Alice Miller, “For Your Own Good”, for a detailed discussion of rationalizations of violence used against children – the biblical injunction that “to spare the rod is to spoil the child” is one of the lesser examples… In particular, abused children can become abusive adults with an adult rage for which everyone suffers: as one of her main examples, Miller explores in depth the intensely violent and abusive childhood of Adolf Hitler.

[2] For example, “our history with men doesn’t generate much trust that, left to themselves, they will actually get it right” – Starhawk, ‘A men’s movement I can trust’, in Hagan (ed.), “Women Respond To The Men’s Movement”, p.27.

[3] Starhawk, ‘A men’s movement I can trust’, in Hagan (ed.), “Women Respond To The Men’s Movement”, p.35.

[4] And, increasingly, women – admittedly with considerable assistance from weapons-manufacturers: see the comments on the magazine Women & Guns in Naomi Wolf, “Fire With Fire”, pp.230-5.

[5] See Eric Berne, “Games People Play”.

[6] Quoted in Thomas, “Not Guilty”, p.217.

[7] From the chapter ‘Rapacious normality: the war between the sexes’, in Sam Keen, “Faces Of The Enemy”, p.129-134.

[8] Germaine Greer, “The Female Eunuch”, p.316.

[9] McGowan and Hands, “Don’t Cry For Me, Sergeant Major”, p.305.

[10] See, for example, Starhawk, ‘A men’s movement I can trust’, in Hagan (ed.), “Women Respond To The Men’s Movement”, p.33.

[11] Sonya von Zoest, survivor of an aircraft crash on a housing estate in Bijlmer, Holland, speaking a year after the incident: quoted in “The Independent” [London], 30 Oct 93.

[12] Germaine Greer’s term for the penis.

[13] See Starhawk, ‘A men’s movement I can trust’, in Hagan (ed.), “Women Respond To The Men’s Movement”, p.35; or, for more detail, Starhawk, “The Spiral Dance”, especially chapter 6, ‘The God’.

[14] Except on the rare occasions when the State challenges that sense of community within the Legion: then the Legion’s priorities to itself become clear, which led to a near-mutiny in France when the Legion was blamed for the loss of Algeria in the 1960s.

[15] See, for example, the comments of Sheila Rowbotham, quoted in Lyndon, “No More Sex War”, p.196: “For some women the contradictory experience of mothering boys has been the source of such pain that they have rejected sons”.

[16] Quoted in Thomas, “Not Guilty”, p.263.

[17] Keith Thompson, “What Men Really Want: an interview with Robert Bly”, New Age magazine, May 1982; quoted in Thompson (ed.), Views From The Male World, p.18.

[18] {ref. to man asked to paint house, then dropped because he did so – i think it’s in ‘not guilty’, but i can’t find it}

[19] Starhawk, ‘A men’s movement I can trust’, in Hagan (ed.), “Women Respond To The Men’s Movement”, p.27-28.

[20] Compare, for example, religious writings such as the Chinese Tao Te Ching or the Quaker Advices and Queries, or even those occasional places in the Old Testament of the Bible which are not obsessed with violence and revenge. These all say much the same as the modern studies on the psychology of mediation and conflict resolution: see, for example, the section ‘The Future Of Enmity: a potpourri of possibilities’, in Sam Keen, Faces Of The Enemy, pp.145-178.

[21] It’s noticeable, for example, that the politicians who make the loudest and most belligerent noises are generally those who evade its cost… one classic example being former Vice-President Dan Quayle, who did his much-vaunted Vietnam-era ‘service to the nation’ in the safety of the National Guard, harassing those who did not wish to fight in a meaningless war.

[22] Small hand-written cards I noticed on a visit on 10 April 1989.

[23] The promise made to British soldiers of the First World War – who instead received the betrayal of the Depression…

[24] “Sweet and proper it is / to die for one’s country”. Owen, conscripted to the trenches of the First World War, was killed only days before the war’s end, shortly after writing the well-known poem in which these words appear.

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