Posts Tagged ‘military’

You can’t handle the truth!

Friday, August 29th, 2014 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts, Video

In the film A Few Good Men Colonel Jessep speaks the often quoted, though perhaps not very well understood, “the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

I used to consider myself more right-wing in that I was (and still am) a libertarian. Though as I have grown older I have come round to more of a lefty socialist world view. However, my attitude towards the military has changed in the opposite direction.

As a libertarian I was anti-military. My view was that we should just let other countries get on with it and you should not be classified as a hero for taking government money to go murder black and brown people. Consistent with my libertarianism, though not a view in line with what many other people on the right would think, most of whom want to see aggressive military spending.

As a socialist, I am now not no so sure. If we are going to say that the machinery of governments should be used to maximise equality instead of liberty, then why should it stop at an arbitrary national border? Why insist that money be taken from the rich and given to the poor, while at the same time reconciling North Koreans to their horrible fate of oppression and starvation?

Of course one message to take away from this is that the whole left-right issues are not so easily pigeon-holed. But also, that the left-right view points are often inconsistent within themselves – the right do not want the state to interfere (except in the bedroom), the left do want the state to interfere (but not in the bedroom).

Back on the video though, it illustrates an important point. This issue is not an easy one. How do you balance the desire for peace with the desire for justice and liberty?

Armed Forces Day

Saturday, June 29th, 2013 | Religion & Politics


Today is Armed Forces Day. A event that I am sure we will all agree to be a very important one.

After all, it’s easy to overlook the armed forces. Too often we think about heros who save likes, likes doctors and firefighters, and forget about those people who do just the opposite – take lives away. In exchange for money.

It’s not easy to shoot in Iraqi civilian in the face. That’s not a joke – it’s genuinely very difficult. And even if you manage it, you then have to live with the fact that you’re a murder for the rest of your life. Even if you leave the military in good physical health, veterans often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

So let us take the time to remember those who accept our tax money in exchange for killing other people. The sad reality is that they too are a victim of the military venerating brainwashed society we live in.

New recruitment campaign

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 | Photos, Religion & Politics


Saturday, May 5th, 2012 | Humanism, Religion & Politics

At the rather delayed meeting of the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire which had to be moved back to accomodate term times at the Swarthmore Centre that took place recently, Gijsbert presented a talk on Pacifism and Humanism.

It’s a tricky subject and one which has been debated before in the group – notably when there was a suggestion that as a society we should lay a wreath on Remembrance Day.

It was a really interesting talk, and I agreed with Gijsbert that going to war simply doesn’t make sense in modern times. However, as I blogged about in December, the real question facing most of us today is are we willing to go along with the state’s brainwashing of the lower working class to convince them go die in Afghanistan on our behalf.

You would assume the answer would be no, but it becomes more tricky when, as a Humanist, I am also an interventionist when it comes to things like genocide. How do we work out whether someone really is going the military voluntarily, knowing what the reality of war is, or simply because of “it’s noble to die for your country” propaganda and economic conscription. Such issues cause me a great struggle in trying to reconcile both my Pacifism and my Interventionism, with my Humanism.

The trouble with war

Monday, December 5th, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Following on from yesterday’s post about Remembrance Day and my recent thoughts about venerating the military, I thought I would expand a bit on the subject based on some of the conversations I’ve had.

As I said in my previous post, it is interesting that we give so much respect to those who gave their live in war, but so little respect to those who gave their life to keep our supermarkets stocked with fish, or our power plants stocked with coal – even though fishing and mining are high fatality industries. You’re right, I wouldn’t want to go to war and I’m glad someone else is willing to do it, but I would equally hate working down a mine!

The standard response to such a question is that people choose to work as fishermen and miners, but then people choose to sign up to the military as well. We don’t operate any kind of conscription in the UK, beyond that of economic conscription that I discussed in my previous post, so every solider in the army today signed up voluntarily, and is handsomely rewarded for it. Interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone say “no, don’t bother paying me, I’m joining because it’s the right thing to do, not for the money.”

It becomes a different matter when we were talking about actual conscription during the world wars, when people were forced to go to war. But the sad reality of it is, if you were conscripted into the army, that wasn’t really a noble sacrifice was it, because you didn’t have a choice. It’s a pretty horrible truth, but a truth none the less.

Actually, the truth is much more horrible when you think about conscription. It wasn’t that these people chose to die for their country, it’s that we, as a society, murdered them. We executed them; sent them to their death. They didn’t decide to go and die, we made them go and die. If anything, Remembrance Day should share a similar tone to Holocaust Memorial Day.

What I found most interesting about the attitudes of people surrounding Remembrance Day, was how closely it fits in with what I said in my previous post about venerating the military. The upper classes sending the lower classes to die in their wars.

This was most apparently in specifically two of my friends, Kieran who retweeted extensively on the subject and Rebecca whose idea it was to go out to the war memorial on November 11th. Now, neither of these are people are either royalty nor right wing nutters. I consider them both good friends, but they are both from well off backgrounds and if I was to pick the two of my friends most likely to vote Conservative, I would pick those two (except for Norm, who I suspect mostly votes Conservative because even though he wants to vote Labour now, could never admit he was wrong about a political party 😉 ).

Indeed, when I had a discussion with Rebecca about it, and pointed out that if you sentence someone to death using conscription (it’s a to lot easier because you don’t have to bother with that whole trial by their peers nonsense), then it’s not really a noble sacrifice because they didn’t choose it, she seemed to get very flustered and told me to “just stop it now.”

That upset me somewhat because I felt like she was trying to claim the moral high ground, even though she was speaking on the pro-war side and I was suggesting it isn’t cool to sent working class people to their death just so our dirty work can get done. But this isn’t about my sensitive emotional centre carefully wrapped in an excessive amount of hair.

The response struck me as that of a religious believer when you’ve just found a massive problem with their worldview. They don’t know what to do. “You can’t say that – that’s not on the script! Don’t you understand how this works. We have to maintain the veneer or all the poor people will realise that our wars aren’t worth them dying for.”

Though as I discussed in my previous post, just because I feel that is the truth, doesn’t provide an answer as to what to do about it. Maybe we do need to keep even our own minds ignorant of the beast below.

Remembrance Day

Sunday, December 4th, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

I’ve suddenly found myself becoming a prolific anti-war blogger and I didn’t really mean for this to happen. But, I have a severe tendency to play Devil’s Advocate and with it being Remembrance Day as I write this, I suddenly seem to have become left wing.

So, I was just wondering. Remembrance Day. My question is, what exactly are we remembering?

I think the answer is, we’re remembering those who gave their lives in war, but I think a more accurate way to put my question might be, what is the purpose of remembering?

It isn’t to honour the dead, really. No remembrance ever is. Because they’re dead, so it doesn’t benefit them. Funerals are a great example of this, we don’t hold a funeral for those who have sadly passed away, we hold it for the people left behind to help them move on with their lives. A funeral is to give ourselves closure and help us to deal with the loss.

So perhaps the answer is to give ourselves some closure about the whole incident.

However, I’m not sure that is the case because we do it every year. I think, actually, Remembrance Day has a far more important purpose. We remember to remind ourselves that this should never happen again. Although clearly, we didn’t remember hard enough the first time, so more accurately, this should never happen a third time.

That I think is a worthwhile and noble purpose, one which the tradition of Remembrance Day is well worth dedicated time and effort to. It makes the world a better place.

Unfortunately, when I look at this, I wonder how much good it actually does. We don’t even have pictures of some of them.

Venerating the military

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

The Humanist Society of West Yorkshire recently had a discussion about whether we should participate in an official remembrance service, as many faith groups do and the BHA had encouraged local groups to join in by laying a wreath. In the end, the group decided not to, because there was a split feeling about whether it was a cause we should endorse.

After all, killing is wrong. The military is not a positive institution; it’s an institution of death. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world and the military does exist in practically every country in the world. Even Switzerland has a small armed forces. War is even arguably necessary – though in some cases, significantly less so than others.

Yet we, as a society, have a great reverence for the military. The United States, significantly more so. Being a solider is something noble, something to be looked up to, people sacrificing themselves for their country. This is an attitude reinforced by many different groups within our society and is deeply ingrained in our traditions.

But, I would propose that this isn’t congruent with many peoples attitudes. Many people, humanists and religious people alike, strongly detest the idea of war. A million people marched through the streets of London to protest against the Iraq war.

And anyway, is it really that noble to sacrifice yourself in such a way? The military is quite well paid, not to mention you get accommodation, free meals, a company car (so the advert picturing a young soldier driving a tank would have me believe) and get to travel round the world going to a variety of interesting, if a little dangerous, places.

Not to mention the fact that many people sacrifice themselves in a similar way. Yes, soliders can be seen as putting their lives on the line to keep us safe (though when was the last time sovereign British territory was under threat – The Falklands?), but similarly fishing is a very dangerous industry, it has one of the highest mortality rates of any industry and yet we don’t have remembrance days for those who lost their lives filling Tesco with cod fillets. This special privilege is afforded to the military alone.

However, I think I have an idea why. Much like Doctor Who’s The Beast Below, it’s hiding a terrible secret that none of us really want to acknowledge – giving special reverence to the military is the only way we can trick poor people into going to fight the wars we want to fight, so that we don’t have to go ourselves.

That, I suspect, is the cold hard truth.

We always send the poor to go die in our wars. It’s not officially conscription but when you have little education, little chance of gaining a well paid job and improving your quality of life significantly, the military must sometimes seem like the only option. It’s called economic conscription. It’s a condition created intentionally by us as a society, to railroad poor people into joining the army.

However, simply by forcing people to join up, doesn’t mean that you can automatically get them to lay down their lives for their country. You can brainwash them of course, and that is essentially what basic training is, but the best way is to make them think there is some noble, higher cause for what they are doing.

In a way, there is. It’s just not one that we think is personally worth fighting for. Because given the choice, none of us are going to join the military. It’s not worth it – we might die, and there is nothing worse than dying. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you, the end of the line, nothing is worth your life.

But we have a problem. Wars need to be fought. This is a whole separate argument in itself, but lets agree that whether we personally agree that wars need to be fought or not – society on balance, especially the government, thinks that wars do need to be fought. More so in more clear cut examples like defending ourselves from invasion in World War II, but also you could argue that humanitarian intervention is countries like Iraq, Zimbabwe and North Korea are well worth while.

So the problem is this – how do you fight a just war, if you’re not willing to actually do it yourself because you don’t want to die and as a rational human being you therefore won’t go to war. The solution is simple. You convince other people, through a combination of creating a society which venerates the military and coerces poor people with economic conscription, that it is noble for them to lay down their lives for their country.

But what do you do about this? If you agree that there is in some situations an argument for war, such as those mentioned above, and you agree that as a rational human being you don’t want to go to war, then have you rationalised yourself into a corner where you can morally support the propagation of nobility in military sacrifice? I’m not sure what the answer to that question is yet. Answers on a post card.