We Love War, Don’t We?

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“The fact is clear: Western wars are backed by the Christian God, and we cannot dodge his draft because we are all Christians, regardless of the faith you profess, the church you attend, or whether you declare yourself utterly atheistic. You may be Jew or Muslim, pay tribute to your god in Santeria fashion, join with other Wiccas, but wherever you are in the Western world you are psychologically Christian, indelibly marked with the sign of the cross in your mind and in the corpuscles of your habits…Once you feel your own personal soul to be distinct from the world out there, and that consciousness and conscience are lodged in that soul (and not in the world out there) and that even the impersonal selfish gene is individualized in your person, you are, psychologically, Christian.” — James Hillman, A Terrible Love of War

I played cowboys and indians when I was a kid, with real horses. My older brother loved guns. He collected and restored them. I didn’t love war movies, but I was fascinated by Westerns as a child. I imitated the way my movie heros mounted and rode their horses.

We were Texans. That was our mythology.

Hillman is saying in the quotation above that there is a larger mythology the whole western world subscribes to whether it wants to or not. It’s invisible but ever present. We have wars on everything from poverty and drugs to the ubiquitous and unconscious war on nature. Why would it be surprising that we have the largest and most powerful military on the planet and that we are involved in scores of undeclared wars? How could it be unexpected that we have whole industries focused on the technology of killing everything from microbes to insects to human populations?

It’s not only our religion, it’s big business. It’s amazing how much money can be made out of taking life from living beings. America has taken this orientation of the Western Christian mindset and cultivated it into a viral strain that threatens to blow up the planet or else poison everything living on it. Outside the American paradigm it’s common knowledge that we have this mental aberration, but you have to exit the American mindset and enter another very different one to get the message.

We’re isolated on the North American continent. Canada is a little less extreme than we are and of course Mexico poses no danger to the world, in spite of our Trumpian paranoia. Americans don’t travel much compared to Europeans, who have actual paid vacations of the kind that Americans can only dream of. Our isolation makes it hard to even realize how different the rest of the world is. I’m embarrassed when I remember American friends in Europe who proposed to teach the natives how things should be done.

From ignorance to hubris, in one short step.

Maybe we’re due for a comeuppance. I hate to think of the unnecessary suffering on top of the existing travail, but it’s coming. There have been two opposing camps since before the Civil War, and they are still here and still implacably opposed to the vision of the other side. But that’s a tempest in a teapot compared to the issues facing the planet as a whole.

If we can’t stop thinking in terms of separate indivisible souls instead of a web of life we all play a part in, we’re done. Our vision is too small for this world. We have conquered the concrete, but remained spiritually illiterate.

Those of us who have a knack for communicating are needed now, provided we have vision.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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