Fighting the wrong war

Fighting the wrong war - by P.K.Odendaal - November 2014.


I have heard of war and I have actually also been in one. I have heard of conflicts and I have been in thousands of them. I have heard of causes and I have personally supported more of them than I care to count or remember.
But ... I am yet to know or find out which war, conflict or cause I was in, which I really had to pursue actively or with a straight face. I have this nagging feeling that I have been in the wrong ones for the wrong reasons and at the wrong times - much like the USA.

The joke however, is that I am not the only ignorant fool or culprit. I know a lot of them from our country and from history. In the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa, a few well-known white citizens talked, outside the country in Dakar, to a group of well-known black freedom activists. I am not sure what the agenda of those white citizens were, as we thought they were trying to assure a place for themselves in the New South Africa or in history. The fact is that, after democracy, they were shunned by both white and black people and in the words of one of them, Max du Preez, they turned out to be the useful idiots. I have no problem with them talking to those people, but I have a problem of becoming a useful idiot.
And so I think by myself: in which wars, conflicts or causes have I been the useful idiot. On reflection I come to the sobering thought that it was in most or probably all of them.
But let us look at history. There were people like Lord Byron, Lawrence of Arabia and countless others. I came to the sobering thought that nobody can fight the war of anybody else, because in their hearts and minds and culture, they cannot fully identify themselves with the ideals of others, how noble those ideals might be. So why do we and they get involved in those frays?
I we look at the life of Lord Byron, a life of excesses, sex and sodomy, which made him totally incompetent to lead a group into a party, he was asked to lead a group of Greek soldiers into war against the Ottoman Empire in the battle at Lepanto - not the famous one of 1571. It is said that if he won that war he would probably have become the King of Greece! He died before joining battle.
My own opinion is that he did that for his ego - to at last become a person of note for the right reasons, obliterating a life of shame, delusion and self-blame - having been infamous for the wrong reasons.
If we think about Lawrence of Arabia, we see that he and Lord Byron has almost the same problems, desires, aspirations and egos.
And that lets me think that our egos get into the way of our clear thinking and clouds our rational judgment - if such a thing does exist. Our egos will not let us say no to other people, will not let us walk out of a situation where we will be losing some of our own esteem and pride. If we did not have egos we would be super successful, compassionate and focused. The words I used for Lord Byron also fit me and many of us to some extent: 'to at last become a person of note for the right reasons, obliterating a life of shame, delusion and self-blame - having been infamous for the wrong reasons'.
If I think of the war I was in, I now know with hindsight it was an unreachable star, because it was basically flawed. Our war was the same type of war that the Czar of Russia made his subjects fight in Tolstoy's time - in fact the reason for all wars. Here are his words: 
Men who are separated from each other by thousands of miles, hundreds of thousands of such men like wild beasts on land and on sea, are seeking out each other, in order to kill, torture, and mutilate each other in the cruelest way.
This unfortunate, entangled young man (The Tsar), recognized as the leader of one hundred and thirty million people, continually deceived and compelled to contradict himself, confidently thanks and blesses the troops whom he calls his own for murder in defense of lands which with yet less right he calls his own.
All over Russia, from the Palace to the remotest village, the pastors of churches, calling themselves Christians, appeal to that God who has enjoined love to one's enemies - to the God of love Himself - to help the work of the devil to further the slaughter of men.
Stupefied by prayers, sermons, exhortations, by processions, pictures and newspapers, the cannon's flesh, hundreds of thousands of men, uniformly dressed, carrying diverse deadly weapons, leaving their parents, wives, children, with hearts of agony, but with artificial sprightliness, go where they, risking their own lives, will commit the most dreadful act of killing men whom they do not know and who have done them no harm. And they are followed by doctors and nurses, who somehow imagine that at home they cannot serve simple, peaceful, suffering people, but can only serve those who are engaged in slaughtering each other.
... but how can a believing Christian, or even a sceptic, involuntary permeated by the Christian ideals of human brotherhood and love which have inspired the works of philosophers, moralists, artists of our time, .. how can such take a gun, or stand by a cannon, and aim at a crowd of his fellow-men, desiring to kill as many of them as possible?
The conflicts and arguments which I was involved in, was only differences of opinion of opinionated people - opinions which they and I changed shortly afterwards.
The causes I supported ended up mostly for the benefit of the pockets and power of money and power hungry groups and individuals - the part which was not stolen.
Was the war, the conflicts and supporting the causes in vain? For sure not - it taught me what I know today, without which I would still be involved in those wrong wars, conflicts and causes - and feeding our egos.
Let us rather strive for reaching the reachable star, called service and dedication to each other, than reaching for the unreachable star of pleasing ourselves and others.

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