You don’t get peace by hating war: the theory of emotions

25 Apr

Some years ago I recall the Dalai Lama observing that hating war isn’t the way to find peace.

From this I took it that he meant personally entering into the territory of hatred and fear, the same emotions that fuel war, is not the most useful way to change a paradigm. I liked the Dalai Lama’s theory: that in order to effect wider change one must first start with the self. Every time we manage to overcome a negative emotion, he said, and allow it to dissipate without acting on it, we have achieved a miracle.

There’s nothing exclusive about the idea. There was a rich Greco-Roman tradition of shaping the self through commitment to self-improvement that involved, among other things, a theory of emotions and the necessity to understand them for the betterment of the self and the community. The Stoic philosopher and writer, Seneca, was an advocate of this culture of the self, later interpreted by Foucault as technologies of the self, designed to shape the subject through a set of practices that position one in critical relationship to oneself, with the goal of improvement not just for the self, but for society.

Currently, I am deep in Martha Nussbaum’s “Upheavals of Thought: the intelligence of emotions.” Nussbaum makes a powerful argument that there can be no adequate ethical theory without an adequate theory of the emotions. Emotions, far from being messy, sticky and yes, let’s not pretend otherwise, characteristically female hindrances to clear thinking, are suffused with intelligence and discernment. They are a powerful source of information, awareness and understanding.

On ANZAC Day, I feel sorrow for those who are sent to die by the State, and for those who lose the ones they love. I also feel a profound contempt for the State that slaughters its young, and the young of its enemies. I wish that what we were encouraged to remember on ANZAC Day, as well as those who died, is the vileness of war, and the tremendous responsibility we have to refrain from engagement, except in the most dire of circumstances.

However, hard as it is, I will attempt not to hate war, in the hope that any individual who manages, even for a short time, to refuse to enter the energy of hate, makes her own tiny contribution to changing the world.

Join me, anyone?

70 Responses to “You don’t get peace by hating war: the theory of emotions”

  1. Peter Bayley April 25, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Evidence of the leavening and balancing effect of emotions is the strong drive the military has to eliminate them as much as possible from your average soldier


  2. Hypocritophobe April 25, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Define ‘war’ ? Eg; I don’t think the conflict in Afghanistan earns the label, as to Australia’s participation.
    Surely the *people* behind acts of terror on the West (especially the US) see themselves as fighting their own war on terror, or tyranny?

    Some would argue war is a legitimate tool.
    Me, I *hate* the ‘glorification’ of war, especially by way of ANZAC Day.
    We should always remember ‘sacrifice’, but we should always condemn senseless sacrifice.
    Too many people are making too much money and building too many empires and industries on the back of ANZAC Day.(War)
    Sadly I believe ‘that’ exploitation, like reality TV, is here to stay.
    (Another couple of things ‘not’ to die for.)

    I bet ‘even’ the Dalai Lama has muttered, ‘I hate that!’, when he stubs his toe on the same rock for the second time, on a frosty Tibetan morning.


  3. hudsongodfrey April 25, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    “fighting for peace is like fighting for virginity”

    people attribute it to George Carlin, I suspect that’s too good to be true 🙂

    Hate war? Perhaps not but it’s hard to like stupidity. And I think fearing it is healthy.


    • hudsongodfrey April 25, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” – obviously!

      Didn’t actually notice it was wrong when I pasted it 😦


  4. Tiga April 25, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I like the idiom “Fighting for Peace is like Screwing for Virginity” – War is necessary in the same way that operations to remove an ailing appendix are sometimes necessary.

    To leave certain things alone that are otherwise benign is to misunderstand what the body is telling us. “Remove this thing from me that has enlarged, ruptured or otherwise become a danger to my life. If you do not, the entire being is lost.”

    War is sometimes needed in this respect. Doesn’t mean it is needs to be this ridiculous pantomime of the macabre that we’ve witnessed with Irag or Afghanistan or the ‘War on Terror’, nor does it stop the genital-fuelled civil wars in Africa or Asia (my deck is bigger than your deck), nor does it stop the “Dogs of War’, the businesses who supply those incredibly creative methods for oblivion.

    They’re not wars. They’re businesses. Deciding when to, and how to, act is the true dilemma of ‘war’. Needless years and waste of life could be saved by concise extrication/eradication of the problem before it festers and erupts. Yet taking out one rogue in a calculated operation that is focussed on the individual is seen as anathema, with the preference being to take out the liver, kidneys, a lung and the colon instead.

    Business isn’t a sentient being, though it most capitalist societies it has the same, if not more, rights than ‘people’. Business does reflect on itself, examining itself for improvement, but it isn’t Seneca’s model, rather it is model by Narcissus, hair by Hydra, makeup by Persephone.

    We can’t expect business to be like you or the Dalai Lama, Jennifer. It’s run by people.


  5. zerograv1 April 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Rapprochment, Diplomacy, Trade deals, Overseas aid programs and Colonialism have been some of the alternatives used historically as a prevention measure against war. Sadly, these are less likely to be encountered in this “nuke em all” age where shoot first ask questions later seems to be prevalent, It’s unthinking, usually ignores a few basic truths (like is this person even involved – he/she must be, they live there, kill em all) and frankly disgusting in the extreme. The jingoist manipulation of the msm to encourage a population they are doing someting “right” be engaging in a war is easily spread among the masses, there is even a large element in Australia that somehow justifies our involvement in a matter that has little to do with us – Afghanistan and various other troop support of American conflicts for instance. But again, our politicians arent wise, or particularly good at standing up for something worthwhile so pander readily to whatever cause makes headlines. It’s a sad world that normalises this, but its also an ever present part of human history. All we can hope for is that individuals as individulas choose to think and stand another way – namely for peace, co-operation and a better world. Hoping for it universally seems sadly to be too idealistic to aspire to.


  6. silkworm April 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    I disagree with the general thrust of your argument. Inner peace does not lead to outer peace, and the hatred of war is not the same as the hatred that sometimes leads to war. In fact, one’s personal state of mind has little to do with the causes of war, which are mainly socio-economic. To stop wars, we have to understand their causes, and this requires careful thought and research, and a considered engagement with the world, not a withdrawal from the world implicit in Buddhist and Stoic philosophies.


    • paul walter April 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

      Silkie, wouldn’t you say if you clear your mind first, you can make better decisions, ones you’d be less disappointed with later especially when these impact more positively on others?


      • silkworm April 26, 2013 at 1:08 am #

        Yes, to an extent. One needs to make a moral judment in order to act in the world. The Buddhist ideal of achieving inner peace kind of implies not making a moral judgment and not interacting with the world.

        In any case, I think Jennifer’s depiction of opposition to war as a type of hatred is misguided. It implies an immoral basis for opposing war.


        • paul walter April 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

          Well, it could be that the Buddhist position derives inevitably from a judgement and that doing less harm requires a certain withdrawal, to avoid doing even more harm, given one’s own human condition.


  7. Christine Says Hi April 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    A timely and interesting and thoughtful post and thought provoking comments, but I fear we often do anger a disservice.

    Anger is a very valuable emotion. Anger creates both emotional and physical energy, which can be used as impetus and for action.

    It’s true that allowing most occasions of anger to pass through and disseminate is probably wise ~ there’s not much social or individual need for more instances of road rage or pub brawls, for example.

    Other types of anger ~ anger which responds to injustice, or oppression, disrespect and violence, need to be acted on, the factors which give rise to them confronted. “Domestic violence” is a good example (of many), of something that it is vital to get angry about. When women started to get collectively angry about DV in the 1970s for instance, rather than accepting it as ‘natural’, things began to change. To me this is a useful and important way anger is channelled and transformed into positive energy.

    Opposing “war” strikes me as very similar. Sure, throwing red paint on soldiers or executing the enemy are not useful or constructive ways to deal with “war” or the anger we feel about war. But these are not the only ways to oppose war ~ and opposing war is not at all the same thing as “fighting for peace” (a phrase often used outside its original context I think, of indicating a political strategy of engaging in armed conflict using ‘creating peace’ as a rationale).

    Maybe more to the point, anger is part of our makeup as human beings, we all have the capacity for anger, so rather than labelling it ‘bad’, I see it as something we need to explore and understand.

    On a personal level, anger is a useful emotional tool. It helps us understand ourselves, and gives us a tool ~ impetus, to use to deal with important events and issues. It might also, at some evolutionary level, help us recognise situations which need our attention.

    Learning how to channel our anger, to use it to help drive progress and develop our other human resources ~ emotional, physical and practical, seems a more intelligent use of the energy anger helps us discover.

    Like most of our natural human attributes, the destructive factor is not anger, but the ways in which we choose to employ anger.


    • Hypocritophobe April 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

      Interesting.I wrote this this morning at the time of my first post on this topic, and cut it out for further thought:

      “Hate should not be the end product.
      (I know some people here accuse me of hate for ‘Gillard.’Some say I am deranged and display it, with ‘hate speech’)Well here’s the thing.You can actually ‘hate/despise/abhorr/be enraged by a situation.(As is the case) And act for a positive outcome.If others want to ‘interpret it as personal hate,that’s THEIR baggage!

      I think hate is a legitimate tool in life.
      (Albeit it forms one function of our Swiss Army knife of emotions) What and how and how long you use the ‘hate’ tool is the issue.
      For some people ‘hate’ is something to hate.

      If hate is a temporary destination or stopover on the journey to a better place or better more constructive emotion, then it has its place.”

      Thanks for articulating the point for me, CSH!


      • Christine Says Hi April 25, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

        Agreed, hate should not be the ‘end product’, otherwise it’s just a waste. Thank you for these good thoughts and kind words 🙂


    • zerograv1 April 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Unfortunately what used to be known as “racket anger” in the 70’s made this less useful (and therefore more police actionable). Faking anger can achieve the same results and is in fact bullying sometimes to a criminal level. Reward an angry person (male or female) with a win and watch them increasingly use it to get there own way….this is not something I personally would like to see as a growing trend. Fighting off an attack? Sure, but thats healthy defence. It’s the unprovoked initial assertion of anger by one party or the other that leads to war too. Look at what is happening in North Korea for instance. It was also part of the damage of one of the waves of feminism that had unreasonably and unfounded attacks against men that caused a lot of divorce heartache and reward of pretty unjustifiable behavior. Interestingly way back in 1991 there was a 92% increase in female incarceration not long after this idea became “mainstream feminism” due to “Violence by women” becoming recognised. Who stirs up this s**t? How is that empowering? Empowered straight into jail…yeah great idea!


      • helvityni April 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

        “….this is not something I personally would like to see as a growing trend.”

        Anger and bullying are prevalent on these blogs…I think people are more likely to abuse and bully fellow bloggers anonymously. They feel safe hiding behind pseudonyms.


        • Hypocritophobe April 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

          “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
          Passion has many heads
          I see plenty of cowardice,dishonesty and deception too.
          It’s hard to create an atmosphere of peace in that milieux.

          If you transpose that across the political landscape you will readily see what the thickness of the brick-wall heads get to bang on.

          I find the obsequious ‘teachers pets’ and ‘tattle tales’ as ‘useful’ as the bullies.Perhaps less..


        • paul walter April 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

          You make an interesting point Helvi.
          At some blogs the moderation is so stifling as to make the attempt to present futile.
          Jennifer’s blog operates from the opposite pole.
          Even quite harsh stuff gets by without comment and it is up to posters to make what they will even of adhominems and snarks : the price of this relative freedom of expression here can be manifest in discomfort at the more unfair stuff.
          You need a thicker hide to survive and prosper here.
          Don’t let them push you off though, you have as much a right to a say as anyone else posting here. You have a quieter style, but are no less appreciated for it and its content, believe me.


          • helvityni April 26, 2013 at 8:25 am #

            Paul, I have never a problem dealing with people whose views are a total opposite to mine, some of my best friends Liberals…
            However I do not believe that snarking , bullying and ad hominems are part of any civilized discussion, however fierce the discussions might be.
            I lament the loss of the more reasonable voices of Elizabeth, Poirot, anodyne…

            I appreciate your kind words, Paul, growing a too thick skin might just make us all mini “Morrisons and Alans”….


            • helvityni April 26, 2013 at 8:27 am #

              I have never HAD
              best friends ARE


      • Christine Says Hi April 26, 2013 at 12:03 am #

        Really? Divorce unhappiness caused by fake anger by fakely angry women fakely marching in the streets? You sure that divorce heartache wasn’t mostly about people “suddenly” being legally able to divorce without the protracted proceedings and heavy costs (which non-working women could mostly not afford) of the pre-non fault divorce system? I think that’s probably a tad more likely than a giant conspiracy of fakely angry women determined to make men pay for …. well, for what?

        Apart from that, I was really addressing the more personal aspects of anger. Of course anger can be misused, and that was kinda my point.


  8. zerograv1 April 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Sorry for the slightly off topic response, but this post prompted a sudden burst of song. Some of you may know I’m a performer and I have a couple of upcoming performances in the near future. I was looking for some new material and although its unfinished this is the creative burst I got from reading Jen’s original post… (Chords added for the muso’s among you)

    The Ukulele Peace Song – Fast 12 bar beat – (c) 2013 ZeroGrav

    [A] I aint no politician
    I aint no new elite
    I don’t give party favours
    To the [A7]people that I greet

    [D]I’m not here for the power
    I’m just here for the song
    And I consider a day complete
    [A]If just one sings along

    [E7] I became a musician
    about the age of ten
    a Ukulele mistress
    [A] plays again again again

    SOLO – Standard 12 bar A, D, E7, A with frills and fills

    [A]The great ol ukulele
    Its an instrument of peace
    It wont make you weathly
    Wont find no golden fleece[A7]

    But if [D] Mr Obama
    Hands them out over there
    [A} That’s good enough for me
    Ill take mine everywhere

    [E7] Its not about the money
    It just about the song
    Whoa Whoa Whoa (OR There aint gunna be no woe is me)
    [A] Grab a uke and play along

    SOLO (as above)

    Last verse to be added here………

    Hope you like it and it puts all in a more cheerful frame of mind.


    • helvityni April 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Zero, the ukulele must be dear to your heart, you wrote about it only the other day, I think it was on the Ellis blog, it was not so peace loving…

      Are the posters here not cheerful?


      • zerograv1 April 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

        Well that wasnt me, I dont write on the Ellis blog, but yes sometimes the tone here is a little “disheartening”. On Sunday I was invited to play at a musical event to entertain some of the older folk unable to attend ANZAC services today. I did it really as a favour to musician friends and the theme was songs about war, both sorrowful and anti. I found the whole thing a little depressing to be honest and although some of the more heartfelt songs were well intended, thoughtfully and beautifully written, the deep sadness in the lyrics was not easy to listen to.


  9. hudsongodfrey April 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I think if you want to look for answer to war then people mightn’t want to go far past Steven Pinker’s – The Better Angels of out Nature.

    Basing some of his arguments on Hobbes he argues that humans are not necessarily violent. Using the “Better Angels” phrase (taken from Lincoln’s inaugural speech) he reflects on self-control, empathy, morality, and reason through the emergence of a strong government/authority with a monopoly on violence, the interconnectivity of cultures through trade; increased literacy, urbanisation, mobility and access to mass media and the spread of democracy.

    We stop fighting when we conspire to create conditions under which we stop wanting to fight.


  10. doug quixote April 25, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    I suppose the Dalai Lama’s point is that if no-one hated anything or anyone, there would be no war.

    That may be so, for the last 90 years or so, considering that aggressive war was outlawed in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact. See :

    The world took some time to realise that the rules had changed; it took the Nuremberg Trials of 1946 to sheet home what should rightfully be called the New World Order, and not the perversion of that phrase we have come to distrust.


  11. paul walter April 25, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    It is hard work when it involves the ego, but a clearer conscience sometimes, if for effort only when success seems elusive, can be a good consolation.


    • Hypocritophobe April 25, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      “It is hard work when it involves the ego, but a clearer conscience sometimes, if for effort only when success seems elusive, can be a good consolation.”

      Is that another way of saying that principles are important?
      What a breath of fresh air.
      Or to put it another way,be true to ones beliefs?
      Because to me a ‘fair go’ is everything.
      I can spot a fake a mile off.As you have probably noticed, I tend to waste fuck all time letting others in on it.For NO personal advantage, and within the time frame of my mortal existence..
      Do yourself a favour, folks.Hone your intuition.Listen to your inner voice.(Conscience)
      Who knows, you may get a rare glimpse of the BIG picture.


  12. paul walter April 26, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    Hypo, I think if you are alive you are inevitably bound to be skewed on the horns of various dilemmas quite a lot during life; seems to part of the deal. Nothing meaningful seems to come with out pain for me, am thick or a slow learner.
    I’ve always thought the philosophical question posed by the lifeboat dilemma says most of it. Do you risk tipping the life boat by adding someone else when it is already full.? Who stays? Who goes?
    Who decides?
    Life has an unpleasant way of finding people out. Just when we thought we were safe.
    Some times winning is easy, other times, you can’t win, some thing a funeral always reminds you of the truth of, especially when it’s someone close.
    You realise life is laughing in your face, that’s a nasty shock.


  13. Hypocritophobe April 26, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    What happens when….?


    • hudsongodfrey April 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      So what happened here? I think he may have just been the victim of people taking permission to hate, so because they thought he was the bomber he jumped in the river?

      If he wasn’t why not fight the charges?

      Or did someone throw him in?


      • paul walter April 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

        Yes, its unclear as to cause of death. Did he end his life in a fit of depression? Was there an autopsy and did it reveal cause of death?
        I must admit I think the two brothers appear to have been deeply alienated souls, especially Tamerlan.
        There is something in US culture, with its capacity to provoke “statements” from angry young men, coupled with ease of access to weaponry of different types,
        The Johnny Reb culture has been nurtured for a long time and has spread to new underclass subcultures already laden with masculinist tendencies.


        • hudsongodfrey April 26, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

          Or they grew up in another part of the world thinking “what would Putin do?”


  14. samjandwich April 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I haven’t read any of the comments yet, but on the article I’d like to propose that the emotions that led young men to enlist in world wars 1 and 2 are ample evidence of a male emotionality whoch underscores the personal ethics of those that fought, died, or survived. While you can of course point out that the state co-opted and exploited and mis-managed this willingness of those thousands upon thousands of men who volunteered, I think it’s important to see each individual’s reason for getting involved as containing a strong element of free choice, morever resulting from a deeply-felt sense of purpose – and to simultaneously honour this while also pointing out the vileness of war itself.

    As for Vietnam and many of the wars or other military actions Australia has been involved in ever since the arguments for waging them have been tenuous at best, and therefore hard to support (though perhaps with the exceptions of Timor Leste and the Solomons).

    But think about how we feel about those who have risen up against Mubarak or Gadaffi or Assad. Would we say that they are participating in a hateful thing for good reasons?


    • paul walter April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Sam you are obviously a Kiwi if you claim” a male emotionality whoch underscores the personal ethics of those that fought…”.
      Yes, they WERE coopted by the system due to their individuation and the happy parallel of the creation of a militarised society that created a commodification mode lasting through to current times, which is useful in maintaining populist rightism.
      One device that encouraged this “male emotionality” was a widespread female tendency to donate white feathers to those less enthusiastic of mindlessness.


      • silkworm April 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

        How is donating white feathers a female tendency?


        • paul walter April 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

          You’re missing the point.
          My point was to do with the malleability of young people when subjected to inundations of propaganda.
          I am less convinced of the free will element than samjandwich, particularly when emotionalism is fired, Cronulla-style, by manipulators.
          as to your point, I think it is pretty much a historical given than women, especially girls, also caught up in the foment of war, will often urge boys and men to participate by calling them cowards if they don’t join, something that they, like the males, regret at a later and more reflective date.


          • helvityni April 27, 2013 at 8:54 am #

            Paul, I don’t think that women/girls would easily urge their men to go to distant wars, women are more pragmatic and don’t want to lose husbands, fathers of their children, not brothers or boyfriends either, not someone who brings in the bacon, does the farming or the welding…

            If their own country were attacked, that would be different, more real reason, fighting for your own place ,your livelihood and you ownr family.


            • doug quixote April 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

              The past was another country – they do things differently there.

              The giving of a white feather – a symbol of cowardice – by a woman to a man was a matter of peer pressure in its strongest form. The feather was not kept secret; people had larger families and a lot less with which to occupy their time. All apparently-healthy men were supposed to volunteer, to do their bit for King and Country (and God as well, since he was on our side).

              And most people had no understanding of war or what it might do to its combatants. Few ever saw a battle injury, much less a battle.


    • zerograv1 April 26, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      A dilemna was presented to those conscripted from “good” families, either go to war or face jail. Dont ever forget that when arguing about free choice.


      • helvityni April 27, 2013 at 10:04 am #

        Are you implying that the egalitarian Australia has a class system? If not, then what are your ‘good’ families, and what are the not so good ones?
        Isn’t the dilemma of going or not going to foreign wars the same for all boys/men and their good or not so good families….


        • zerograv1 April 27, 2013 at 10:18 am #

          Helvi – I lost a older cousin in Vietnam (post war actually – effects of Agent Orange) The family was old fashioned and quite a few years older in generation than myself (my youngest cousin was 12 years older than me from that family). They were a very good family, contributors to the community, well regarded, respectable types. When the conscription notice came for Anthony it caused a great deal of grief, The option of objecting and facing jail was unthinkable (nor should it have been) and so Anthony with great reluctance enlisted leaving behind his rather newly married wife and his brother sister and parents. He was sent into a conflict zone in Vietnam, injured by a fragment to his hand which rendered him unable to fire and so was returned home (I think it was 2 years there, Im not sure I was only in my teens at the time). 4 years later, fully recovered (we thought) he was performing renovations on the family home, Sat down to lunch with his visiting parents and collapsed from heart failure due it later was discovered to be agent orange effects. He was far from the gung ho type, a real gentleman and well loved, a quiet respectable family that just wanted to live their lives. Vietnam took away his life but it was hardly a willing enlistment in his case….


    • helvityni April 27, 2013 at 8:19 am #

      Australian men have always related better to men than to women, they still do…
      Going to war was going for an adventure, going overseas, away from boring, lonely existence of Australian farm life, poor boys from country towns and cities. They were also going there with other men ,they were going to have new mates, and no, I’m not implying homosexuality…


      • paul walter April 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        I hope our allege difficulties in communication with our delightful ones is a one of a kind thing, unlike the happy state of affairs in other places like the US and Pakistan, say.
        No, we were not “gay” (although gay is good for gay; always has been) then or now, on the whole; the term you seek is homo-eroticism, or brother-love.
        Anthropology does point to a general trend of division of labour and subsequent time sharing throughout the history of the species, particularly emphasised from the time of the Industrial division of labour, as the masses were forced out of villages to new urban slums as factory fodder, creating a new sexual division of labour that apparently heightened alienation between the sexes and influenced the individuation of children during their growing up.
        The new man discovered his mother in the form of the company sargeant-major or factory foreman and women indeed became (more of) a mystery to men and men to women confined to a domestic and or factory sphere apart from the menfolk.
        It just made things easier to organise for the people running things, in a hierarchical culture and society, given the new vulnerabilities of common people, but its true that the human cost has rarely been calculated accurately to this (early?) point in the historical process, even within the elite itself.


    • helvityni April 27, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      Another point to Sam’s post, we always think that Muslim women are kept away from action, not so in Egypt there were plenty of fierce women protesting against Mubarak…

      Our young people do not protest much, do they.


  15. doug quixote April 27, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    There are many thousands who would volunteer today, if a major War broke out. Conscription is only necessary once the supply of the volunteering type starts to dry up – either because the body bags coming back are too confronting or the reports are too graphic. With war in our loungerooms via television, we forget that in 1914-18 the only accounts that reached us here in Australia were from British newspapers, and eventually from returning injured soldiers.

    You may imagine what stories the British newspapers fed to their readers : great successes and gung ho tales of derring-do and how tommy earned his medals for feats of bravery.

    Eventually the locals had to wonder, if we are doing so well, why isn’t the war over? It took years for the realisation that they had been fed triple-distilled bullshit to filter through. Volunteer numbers fell precipitately and conscription was successfully rejected.

    It cannot happen today. Never again. But there are thousands who would volunteer at first, the volunteering type is still amongst us, easily fired up by the rhetoric. But never again in the numbers that fed the war machine in WW1. Lest we forget.


    • Hypocritophobe April 27, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      Conscription during the Vietnamese war was a political option, for a war which was not in Australias best interest, nor popular.
      The memory of WW2 was still fresh.
      Rightfully, the number of volunteers was rock bottom.


  16. hudsongodfrey April 27, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I cast an eye over the article for a second time this morning looking for what I think we may have been missing by way of the theory of emotions.

    After all if we’re going to try to disrupt the synergy of hatred begetting more hatred then we’re not actually going to find ourselves deranged enough to start loving war…..

    “I wanted to visit Vietnam, the jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting, stimulating people of a rich and ancient culture, and kill them. I wanted to me the first kid on my block with a confirmed kill.”

    Stanley Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET

    And then there’s the theory of emotional intelligence. The one that says when I decide to do almost anything the emotional centres in my brain engage some significant amount of time before the rational processing areas kick in. If we seem to be feeling for what we want or how we want to respond to things before we’ve fully thought them through then rationality functions for much of the time as a way to keep our less beneficial impulses in check.

    If for example when we write about war or any other important issue we’re as likely to say “I feel” rather than “I think”, especially as the intensity of the argument increases, then that’s part of the theory of emotions too.

    When I try to recall something that gives rise to strong emotions about war for me then it’s probably the Collateral Murder video that Wikileaks leaked. I think by now that most of that will have seen it, and if you haven’t then Google it if you don’t follow what I’m concluding about it. There are copies on YouTube. It involved classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including children and two Reuters news staff, by an Apache helicopter using 30mm cannon. After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.

    What makes most of us angry is that the people who write these “Rules of Engagement”, who use soldiers as instruments of their policies don’t get questioned. They never get questioned as directly or as critically as we’d like to even when we know that on a conservative reading of international humanitarian law, the list of heads of government who could and probably should have been charged with war crimes is long and growing longer.

    The other day I heard an interview with the unfortunate Mrs Tsarnaev, mother of the two boys who committed those terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon. Her grief and our sympathy for her situation may be matched only by her deluded love for her boys. She cannot bring herself to believe what they have done, and is convinced it is a set up. There will of course be conspiracy theorists who agree with her but I’m not for the moment interested in predicting the outcome of investigations so much as I am in saying that on roughly the same amount of factual information Bostonians had Mrs Tsarnaev came to a very different conclusion. She included one piece of extra information others could only lack, a mother’s love.

    Thus I can only hope at this point to have raised questions as to whether negative emotions towards generals and governments who sponsor wars can help us in appealing for the right thing to be done, whereas sometimes even love could lead us to incorrect conclusions.

    So in coming to my own conclusion I think that our emotional responses can and inevitably will be primed by our associations with war to feel anything but ambivalent about it. We may be able from a humanitarian perspective to empathise with mothers everywhere, to try to love our enemies but hate what they’re doing. We may without wallowing in mind numbing national fervour love our homeland without forgetting the hateful things that our leaders have done. Lest we Forget the privations visited on our own for very little gain except perhaps some vague sense of service to a status quo calculated to conflate the national interest with economics and the military industrial complex at an ultimate cost to far too many.

    Love and hatred being as opposite sides of a coin, we can’t fail to acknowledge that what we hate is most often that which destroys what we love.


    • paul walter April 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

      Marvellous description of a historical/cultural process, HG!


      • samjandwich April 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

        Yes, bloody marvelous!

        Perhaps I might follow on, and concretise what I was going on about above, by looking at this a bit more phenomenologically.

        Can we start by saying, that there are some things we know, and others we don’t. Trouble is caused when we are required to think about something we don’t know. In this case the best we have to rely on is our emotions, feelings, intuition, hunch, gut reaction, spirituality, or other variations on the theme.

        One of the cornerstones of Growing Up and Being British is to develop a self-awareness. This largely consists of becoming cognisant of the relationship between your own inner voice and the outside world. This can be developed by things like experience, and can be damaged by abuse or willful ignorance. It also interacts with things like your intelligence, perception, enculturation etc. I would argue though, that essentially the state of Adulthood as we understand it, consists of reaching a state where the relationship between your internal dialogue and the outside world is fairly consistent. We can go about our business day to day without having to worry constantly about whether some sort of informational assault is going to ontologically nullify us through the need to go through a process of comprehensively reformulating our sense of ourselves in/and the world.

        Thus, we become more or less habituated to (if not necessarily comfortable with) processing situations where it becomes necessary to consider something we don’t know. Or to put it another way, we develop a sense of how trustworthy is our intuition.

        Second-tier to having a self-awareness is to gain some measure of control over your emotional reactions, as in an interactive world part of developing experience is to develop a sense of how much impulsivity works for you… the answer to this usually being that less is more.

        Because we are all innately aware of the above process, we are all basically amenable to accept that in some instances one’s intuition represents a valid basis for assessing situations where it is accepted that the future outcome is unknowable based on the information currently available (unless you’re a complete nutcase. It is true that we seem to be becoming more and more accepting of alternative viewpoints precisely because their value stems from sets of experiences which are different from our own. Nonetheless it seems we are still aware that a point exists where unconventionality cedes to nutcasedness, this latter state being dismissable. Oh how many times I’ve sat next to a crazy person on the bus in anticipation of learning something extraordinary, only to be thoroughly disappointed by the confined banality of what they have to say.).

        And so arises a discourse characterised by emotions. I *am* the things that I think and say, and since there are some things that are unknown, what I think and say is based both on my thoughts and my emotions. I’ve recently been reading some legal judgements (can’t you tell??), and what I find interesting about these is that there is a tacit acknowledgement that emotion as both an impetus and a reaction to an event is what is meaningful in figuring out what the whole circumstance means. The interaction of major political players is another example. We more or less know what Barack Obama is going to say, not because we understand fully what his ideological leanings are, but because he’s Barack Obama – and so we vote for him accordingly.

        And so naturally, there are some situations, such as love and war, where the unknowable far outweighs the knowable, and where we have to rely mostly on our emotions to make our judgements.

        Maybe this is the starting point in a discussion on whether negative emotionality is productive or not.


        • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

          “what I find interesting about these is that there is a tacit acknowledgement that emotion as both an impetus and a reaction to an event is what is meaningful in figuring out what the whole circumstance means.”

          Isn’t this what JW has often tried to seek an explanation for,in particular of the BACWAs who claim not to be driven by religious ’emotion’.?
          “Motive”,if you like.
          The BACWAs proclaim to know what goes on inside the minds of those who hold different views and want laws enacted accordingly, and yet they claim (if you can get them to respond) that they ‘alone’ have the correct view.

          “Do as I say, and not as I do”, exemplified.

          AS for
          “We more or less know what Barack Obama is going to say, not because we understand fully what his ideological leanings are, but because he’s Barack Obama – and so we vote for him accordingly.”
          This is also a demonstration of political dichotomies.
          “With or again”, which to me is as ideological as you can get.
          That is not to say Obama is not a good man, or deserving of a vote.
          The problem is (as here) voters are a slave to ‘anyone but the other mob’ mentality.At least our voting is compulsory.Which means (sadly- and because of the two party preferred crap) our vote is more accountable than the person we select.Now if we can just broaden our minds to embrace the big picture, and vote accordingly?


          • samjandwich April 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

            Somehow I knew you were going to say that…


            • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

              Somehow I knew ‘someone’ would hint at alleged ‘inadmissibility’, rather than refute the content.
              Pray tell were you too ‘toey’ to use a local politician as an example in place of Obama?
              If you go back to the point where I woke up to the PM you will see I predicted she would ride the dead horse of education (playing the kid card) until her last heartbeat.She has enlisted the disabled now.Rather than lifting up the poor she will drag down the working classes.
              I hope for your sake your neither.Making ends meet will soon be a far distant lotto dream.The best way to silence online critics is too make energy a luxury item.So far,so good.


              • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

                This is off topic, and it’s not just me. Jennifer started this thread with a completely different subject, and I’ve continued in that vein.

                Please respect that and take the anti-Gillard diatribe to the Happy Place, which becomes somewhere I can increasingly Happily ignore it 🙂


                • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

                  Oh,I see.
                  The truth offends thee.Put it in the happy place and ignore it to your hearts content,until such time as someone depicts the other Tea Party in a shady way, and then it’s OK and the gloves are off.
                  I get it.


                  • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

                    I haven’t tried it but I’m sure I’d tire of people lamenting even the ignominious Mr Rabbit after about the 500th time 😦


          • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

            Okay Hypo but should you not maybe stop to at least ponder what it is that allows you any kind of insight whatsoever into anything from BACWAs to Barack?

            What sensitivities to any ideology does one have if not those that say this is either sympathetic towards or opposed to my own principles and values? Are there emotions or only pure rationality engaged in the task of discerning where we stand?

            Anyone who is too critical of others without the slightest hint of introspection will I think raise suspicions of others regardless of how well intended they appear to be. The idea that we’d throw out the baby with the bathwater being a singularly cautionary one.

            The old adage about being only so open minded as to ensure your brains don’t fall out comes to mind whenever somebody calls for broadening our political horizons without being able to explain how its all actually supposed to arrive at a better result. I think it might, so I’m not saying it isn’t a possibility, albeit a really off topic one in a conversation about war and emotions….


            • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

              Lets ringbark the roots on that mulberry trtee one more time,eh,HG?
              Then again perhaps so called intellectuals are the easiest prey of all?
              Duped in the blink of an eye.

              Too smart to be fooled?
              All evidence is conspiracy based?
              The empire crumbles and the Queens invisible cloth is glowing like gold in the eyes of the earthly sages.

              Your eyesight must like a flys.Totally compound.You’re so busy eyeing off the bullshit one hundred times over, you cannot see the swat coming from behind.



              • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

                Well when it come’s to being duped then there are intellectuals, and then there are intellectuals. Do you call a scientist who admits he’s wrong when it is demonstrated to be thus, or a theologian whose apologetics have never failed him?

                Perhaps all evidence is not conspiracy. I find myself daily trusting that Newtonian Physics is true 🙂

                But if some evidence is born of a conspiracy to advance it then I would not be at all surprised. Especially not by attacks from the rear if I were a fly….



                • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

                  The swat emanates from behind, in an arc which mashes said fly as it alights forward.The SPLAT is downward and frontward and lethal, all the same.
                  That (however) does not change the fixation on bullshit,one iota.


                  • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

                    Or the creator of said dump!


                    • Hypocritophobe April 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

                      She certainly shits more out than ever comes in.
                      What surprises the awake amongst the masses is the insect life she attracts, form the flies and maggots to the poor old dung beetles who are so busy head down and arse up to notice the cow has been swapped for a one of a completely different colour and breed and which looks more like an elephant if it’s its output is to be scaled accordingly.
                      It’s pretty funny though to see so many insects behaving as one, (like sheep) when their normal modus operandi would see them acting alone.


                    • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

                      C’mon Hypo, Jennifer has supplied us with some fine thoughts to ruminate on while Sam and I have tried to reciprocate by expanding on them more thoughtfully than to have the entire conversation reduced to your obsession with figure of your derrission’s bowel movements!

                      Take it elsewhere…Please!


        • hudsongodfrey April 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

          I think you’ve come up with a very interesting question about emotional intelligence though I’m not sure that it arose from the reasoning you provided.

          It seems to me those legal texts have done more than to rub off on your writing style. They may have lulled you into as sense the world is, or should be constructed of prescriptive facts and evidence that describe how things work. If it’s any comfort I think organised religion makes the same mistake in a far less perceptive manner. Had any of it been essentially crafted after the rise (and arguably the fall) of mind body dualism, existentialism or any of the physical sciences then it might have made a far better fist of things. As it is I gather you’re ahead to the tune of having rejected superstition at the very least.

          I come back to that, but first I want to ponder your best thought about “emotion as both an impetus and a reaction to an event”, because it’s the one that raises all the best questions. Whether the reaction or impetus came first, like the chicken and the egg, almost involves the possibility of a kind of feedback loop that some would probably find a particularly unattractive prospect, but which of course doesn’t happen, presumably because rationality intervenes.

          I am of course merely surmising about those many things you rightly acknowledge that we don’t know. I am in that vein quite cynical indeed about the veracity of any metaphysical claims whatsoever; my experience of the advancement of knowledge being that each answered question spawns many more unanswered ones. So if its objectivity you’re after then I think we’ll be waiting some time.

          We may have to do the best we can with the knowledge that we have, but failing to allow for subjective perspectives in the absence of evidence that would either confirm one’s own theories or more importantly deny somebody else’s suffers whenever we become too overconfident in our assertions about how and why others tick! And this translates in social terms to a need of order, structure and things like rule of law, tempered with a love of freedom, independence and privacy.

          So unlike either the law or religion the arguments I’d make about love, hate and war are basically reliant on normative claims. Ones that I’ve framed in terms of using some rather extreme examples to interrogate the kinds of judgements we would make about things that I still think are largely subjective but we are able to take normative positions on.

          In other words we might tend to weight our habitual responses in terms of whether “growing up British” or some other cultural milieu applies, but as long as we’re relying on ideas about whether harming someone we love, or something we value highly, matter in reciprocal terms then I think we’d be making sound claims that transcend most cultures. War is after all a fairly extreme event arising from and giving rise to similarly extreme emotions rather than the kind of subtly subjective nuance we’ve reason to wonder whether or not it might seem advisable to keep in check or not. Far from saying “… where the unknowable far outweighs the knowable… we have to rely mostly on our emotions to make our judgements”, I’d be saying we desperately need to behave far more rationally when it does come to the call to arms lest Einstein’s prediction about the third world war might come to pass.

          It matters in those terms only that we’re able to recognise that if we’re hated then it probably means we’ve wounded what our enemies love, and by thinking in those terms allow empathy to restrain us. Even if we could only rationally try to that then I think we’d have made a productive step.


          • zerograv1 April 30, 2013 at 7:56 am #

            Empathy has its place but unfortunately it has become a buzzword, often inconsiderately used in the wrong place. It has a positive ring to it even though it can damage people. I was observing a strange mix of television last night in a rare bored moment and watched Q & A and Super Nanny, oddly Super Nanny offered a basic truth that went through to the keeper unobserved on Q & A. They were both talking about appropriate responses to a situation. SN recommended that when a rule or disciplinary action (A child’s time out) was implemented then it be consistently applied and reinforced so the message didn’t get confused by the kindness and comfort of guilty parent syndrome. Q&A briefly touched on the subject of support in Remote communities but instead took the expected line that throwing more money at the problem (support) was the answer. I ruminated over this and remembered just how often the kind humane approach had damaged the now extremely welfare dependent communities – there isn’t any easy answer to correcting this politically made horror story but a father christmas approach has only made matters worse. Yet “empathy” is what you will universally hear is the answer. Its the kindness that hurts, not cures in this instance however. I don’t claim to know the answer to how to solve it, but I do know that giving a heroin addict more government funded heroin to rehabilitate them simply wont work. There is no one size fits all, “correct” philosophy that can be applied to solving human problems….a variety (and yes reluctant as I am to admit it, even war) is required at times. I couldnt in conscience allow a Gaddafi, Idi Amin or similar atrocity continue without not at least considering some form of Western intervention if I was the one in the seat making the decision. Bullies are only ever beaten by standing up to them. Not empathetic, but definately effective. As for the communities? Suggestions more than welcome. Emotions have their place, reactions are only human, but answers come from thought.


            • hudsongodfrey April 30, 2013 at 10:52 am #

              Empathy is often misinterpreted to mean sympathy whereas that isn’t really what we mean by it at all. We actually don’t have to feel sorry for somebody else’s suffering, or even use suffering as opposed to joy as our primary example. The fact is that we’re programmed for a kind of vicariousness that allows us to appreciate that what is possible for others is also possible for ourselves and this is, once again, not in our rationality but demonstrably hard-wired into our neurological circuitry. One never wants to say anything is unique in nature lest some naturalist or biologist quickly contradict you, but the degree to which mirror neurons are highly developed in humans may be one of the main factors in explaining our ability to learn and which set us apart from other animals.

              So after a little more second hand neuroscience we come in search of rationality and find one of the central ideas of most moral codes, the principle of reciprocity. The golden rule, do unto others, rights guaranteed only insofar as they don’t transgress on those of others, that sort of thing. It’s also the point where we are able to say that if the idea of somebody else’s pain isn’t enough to dissuade us from visiting our pain upon them, then maybe the idea the bullies and haters are deeply unhappy individuals is.

              Science is beginning to show us that the separation between emotion and the previously supposed cold and clinical art of reasoning is slighter than we’d previously thought. Once you put aside the demarcation dispute that would have us distrust feelings then it emerges that what we can process Jennifer’s original thesis as a call to place more emphasis on emotions that can help us access outcomes we reason to be most positive. If we incorporate in our sense of selves’ identification with and desire for peace then thinking about how we ought to feel about an enemy with whom we would prefer to make peace than war is bound to be useful in guiding or instinctive response towards the exclusion of violence.


            • doug quixote April 30, 2013 at 11:03 am #

              “but I do know that giving a heroin addict more government funded heroin to rehabilitate them simply wont work.”

              I beg to differ. It is well established that heroin addicts will usually come through the addiction and be more or less cured after about ten years, if they are able to stay alive that long – ie avoid accidental (sometimes deliberate?) overdoses and avoid such things as the various Hepatitis strains.

              in that situation, a clean well-regulated supply of the drug or perhaps substitutes can save the lives of many who may well be very useful citizens with tremendous contributions still to make; I think of Marianne Faithfull in particular, but there are many you may not have heard of, besides the famous ones. Dr Google has the lists.

              You are not trying to rehabilitate the addicts but trying to help them survive until they are able to come through the addiction. As I said, it may take ten years.


              • zerograv1 April 30, 2013 at 11:19 am #

                @Doug : I was referring to welfare dependency, not literal heroin

                @HudsonGodfrey : Humans, and other animals eg chimps learn as babies by mirroring behaviour – it even works for teaching ukulele (Had to toss that one in! 🙂


                • hudsongodfrey April 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

                  I’d urge you to google mirror neuron, try….


                  Or maybe catch some of the TED talks posted by V.S Ramachandran. I’ve posted these everywhere before and don’t want to be seen to be evangelising this stuff, but I do find thinking about thinking quite interesting.

                  we by no means have a complete answer to any of this stuff, but one that points to the benefits of knowing that rationality and emotion are not completely separate impulses makes a useful start.

                  It’s not just mirroring it’s learning on as little as one exposure to a new idea, and perhaps being able to emote across the barriers dividing us from one another that counts for so much in humans…. We can learn the importance of being able to play ukulele yet desisting from doing so.


                • doug quixote April 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

                  I did notice you were discussing other matters, zero.

                  Even so, if the analogy fails at the first hurdle, it does not help the argument!


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