Ok, this post is something different and it was weird and difficult to write and I didn’t know and still don’t know whether I should actually post it on here because, let’s be honest, this is a rather humorous blog, very light-hearted, never really in depth, it’s like skipping along only in the form of writing.
But this thought – which actually is more a chip of a bigger thought – has been on my mind a lot and turned into a weird and uncomfortable loop. And usually, I get those things out by writing about them. And often it’s enough if I write it down somewhere and leave it at that. But I thought, if only once, I might share. And it’s not funny, neither is it light-hearted. So…you can skip one post ahead and we’ll be able to continue what we have here just like before. Or you can read on and it might change things for better or worse, who knows.
I recently watched „The Hurt Locker“ even though I really am not into war movies but after getting freaked out by Jeremy Renner in „Dahmer“ and hearing praises for him for this movie, I thought I might give it a shot, maybe there would even be some nude scenes, I thought, chuckling to myself like only weird and awkward people do. Boy, never go into a movie about war and joke about nude scenes because you feel like the worst person ever.
I am not completely against war movies, I guess the character driven ones that are also considered the classics are some of my favourite movies overall. But many others treat war like an adventurous story, something where a romance is the one important thing (Pearl Harbor, anyone) or the greatness of fighting for your country. I get sick when a movie tries to sell war as some sort of great quest. Heck, one of the worst specimen is actually a kid’s movie. The first „Narnia“movie left a really bad taste in my mouth and not only for the crude symbolism of Christianity but mainly because one of the main characters starts the movie by being incredibly disappointed that he can’t take part in the war because he is too young (mind, this was WW2) and is super happy by the end because he was able to wear an armor and fight in a real war against the evil Witch. What a great lesson for our kids, there.
Fortunately, not every movie about it is a somehow disgusting celebration of war and whenever the movie concentrates on the individuals, it can show the real face of what is sadly enough a basic and natural institution in our society.
There is something about “The Hurt Locker” and greats like „Apocalypse Now“ and „Full Metal Jacket“ that make me despair over humanity. It’s not the individuals and what they are doing but the fact that they are doing it. And those movies remind me.
It’s so easy to live in a society where there might be terrorist threats but not actually soldiers, tanks and bombs mowing through the streets, and then be so shocked at murders and killing sprees. The way we talk about mass murderers and serial killers, the way the media not seldom use the terrible word „monster“ to describe them shows a certain, maybe deliberate ignorance towards what’s actually happening around us.
We call them „monsters“ because they dehumanize their victims for their own pleasures, because they threw aside the morals that society put on them and went their own route. Most of them know that it’s wrong and do it nevertheless for nothing else but their own urges. And we play shocked and the newspapers make it look like it’s a surprise that someone would be able to do something like this and it surely had to be something, not someone that had done this. A monster.
But we as humans are capable of this, most of us, anyway. Because we go to war, we shoot people in gang wars, we wish death on people from other religions, we rape and use people for human trafficking, we convince young people to go to a war because surely an 18-year old is capable of grasping what’s going on over there and will not face any emotional consequences.
And then they come back and we discard them. Sure, there are celebrations but there’s nothing you can buy with that, a celebration won’t treat the trauma, the PTSD or the sudden realization that all the control that you are under in an army is suddenly gone and you have to make your own decisions live your life without the structure of a regiment.
It is funny but I always figure that any soldier that comes back without mental problems had to develop a bizarro version of himself (or herself, you get the drift) just so he can deal with what we learn in school (don’t kill) and what he has to do at war (kill). We are used to think for ourselves and I like to think that this is something unique for humans. But in the army it’s the worst way to go, in the army your comrades rely on you listening and acting on orders and not thinking for yourself, at least not thinking too much about why you are doing this.
And then you’re back. If you’re lucky, you’re back unharmed, physically. But you have to get back to think for yourself, everyone expects you that whatever you’ve seen there is gone now, that there won’t be any dreams, no depressions or substance abuses to deal with this new, different life. And they leave you alone without any therapeutic help.
In winter 2011, I did an interview with Dan Mangan and at some point we started talking about war and the way soldiers are treated in the United States and it reminded me of another conversation that was about the fact that many vets end up in addiction or even mental institutions and they just get left there.
It’s shocking and telling how no one hesitates to throw empty gestures out there, in parades and celebration days but no one actually cares about the lingering traumas that ensue. It’s like asking „How are you“ to seem polite without waiting for an answer. It’s the defending of the troop’s honors but ignoring the sometimes broken individuals that come back and can’t adequately return to their former lives. Because that is not glamorous, it’s not pretty, it doesn’t fit the image.
It’s celebrating them for what they are doing without questioning why they are doing it and what happens then.
In my point of view, it’s always worth to believe in the individual and you should never stop putting faith in people, never consciously try to hurt them and always try to treat everyone with respect and from experience I know that many people hold up to it but whenever I try to put things into context, whenever I try to see us as a human race, as a whole I get lost.
Because every single day, everywhere, there are people committing such atrocities to human beings, such horrible and unspeakable things that we most of the time forget them again once we heard of them because it would break us. If whatever we did, wherever we were, we always had in mind that these things happen, that these people suffer, it would break us into pieces.
Why don’t we try to understand how and why it comes to a point where we get orders to kill someone, whether it be from a military general, a friend or family member, our own inner urges or our religion? Or rather, why does it happen that we follow that order and do it, despite the fact that all major religions, all general laws and morals we teach and learn speak out against it?
There is something off with our wiring if we can dehumanize a killer and send him to death as a “monster” and at the same time condemn that killer for dehumanizing his victims. There is a split personality in all of us, some barrier that we can’t or won’t break down that allows us to celebrate the death of the leader of a terrorist organization just as he celebrated attacks on western society. Why do we think that our acts, our society’s acts are plausible while other’s are inhumane?
It’s because we are able to consider our group as more humane than others and every other group seems to do the same. I am generalizing here, of course, but it’s obvious that at no point in our history we have been able to see all human beings as the same. Whether it was jews, women, gays, Iraqi, Vietnamese or Africans – there was always a sometimes hidden, sometimes bluntly open hierarchy of human-ness that we buried deep into our worldviews and that made it so much easier to consider a dead child in our country as far worse and news-worthy than hundreds of deaths of children in other’s.
And to be honest – we probably would go insane if we wouldn’t.
One of the saddest and most disturbing things I’ve recently seen was an interview with Edmund Kemper, a convicted serial killer who took the life of all in all 10 people and eventually handed himself to the police. It was not his story about how he killed them or why he stopped and called the police that disturbed me most. It was something he said at the very end. He said „I am a human being and I killed human beings.“ And with that, he somehow said and summed up what every country, every society, every group of people should always realize when they plead for death penalty, for military, when they allow human traffic when they accept casualties, when they defend their property by shooting someone when they rape, murder, preach eternal hell for people with a different life style and cause harm to others. This is one of the things that makes us human.
We are human beings and we hurt human beings.