Fair Warning: Data-driven mini-rant follows.
I recently listened to a British social scientist, Ben Hammersley, talk about how business executives prefer open office floor plans for their workers. In those offices the people with the most power have their backs protected by a wall – they take up positions around the perimeter of the open space usually in offices with doors. Those with the least power have their backs constantly exposed. Along with that exposure comes – it’s easy to guess – elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol resulting in increased stress, less productivity, and more time lost from work because of illness. The companies those people work for fail to have their backs – literally. They don’t answer the Big Brain Question “Yes” in a way that could contribute substantially to their somatic bottom line as well as the company’s fiscal bottom line. To be kind, let’s call it ignorance.
Politicians are much like those corporate overlords. We elect them to have our best interests in mind, to have not only our backs, but especially our children’s backs. But when they vote for war, they don’t have our backs. In my view, wars are the result of the brains of politicians suffering from a reduced capacity to process energy and information optimally – they don’t have sufficient right brain connectivity to permit them to not only see the big picture, but to take actions to effectively deal with immensely complex, challenging circumstances in constructive ways to produce positive outcomes. Wars are a betrayal of our children by people with brains insufficiently organized for the jobs we elect them to do. There are few mothers in the world securely attached to their children who, given the free choice, would vote for wars waged with weapons rather than words.
Our brains often work best when we’re given hard problems to work on together with committed others. Authentic spiritual teachers in my experience often possess such good-working brains. Not a single one I’ve ever been exposed to has advised: “Killing is a wise path to travel when it’s authorized by nation-states.” I often wonder: what creative connections might the collective brains (and hearts) of the most powerful nation on earth come up with if the war option was simply taken off the table? Limited choices can often spur unexpected neuronal connections and radical creativity. The Academy-award-winning Argo story would be a recent example of wild creativity produced by being forced to operate within very narrow parameters.
The Stink of Commerce
One challenge of course, is actually taking war off the political table. There’s too much money made the world over when America goes to war. It doesn’t matter that our involvement in Iraq has now destabilized the whole Middle East region. Nor does it matter that more U.S. soldiers are dying at home by suicide than from our current overt and covert wars. And we’re not even talking about the less-than-lethal brain and body damage our soldiers and veterans have suffered.
We supposedly went to war to avenge the 2977 Americans who died in 9/11. Since the Iraq war began, according to a Lancet tally, there have been over 600,000 war-related deaths of people who had nothing directly to do with 9/11. That’s like going out and killing 200 friends and relatives of someone who you thought knew someone who murdered your brother. How crazy and criminal is that? Add to these statistics the $3.8 trillion in debt for the war the Government will secretly saddle us with (and most likely our children and their children) and the suffering begins to seem immeasurable and unfathomable. It’s difficult to connect the dots between say, tens of thousands in non-dischargeable school loan debt, and money squandered on foreign wars. It’s long been my thought/feeling, that our enemies might not be able to conquer us militarily, but they can certainly take advantage of our brains that continually function sub-optimally using moneyed and motivated reasoning. Clearly, they already have. A trillion for this war, a trillion for that war …
Why Wars End
Taking a human life results in an extreme state of neurophysiological hyperarousal. Whether it’s by sitting in a bunker and manning a drone in Afghanistan from the Las Vegas desert, firing a sniper rifle from 1000 yards away, or knifing someone through the stomach with a bayonet, with anything that is anti-life, the body keeps the score and the brain maintains a record. Contrary to the way Navy Seals make it seem – we don’t really just mount a clandestine operation to kill Osama bin Laden and then casually stop by a Taco Bell for a snack on the way home – taking a human life lives on in our neurophysiology – consciously and/or unconsciously. It’s never something done and simply forgotten, no matter how well-trained we are, how many Manhattan Projects of the Mind we create, or how powerful our sense of justice, rationalization and denial might be. The problem is Von Economo neurons are unable to distinguish between us and the people we kill. Every time someone dies at our hands, some piece of our neurophysiology dies along with them.
And the reason all wars must end is because we can only keep killing bits of our selves – displaced and projected outward – for so long before we end up ultimately destroying our actual embodied selves in one way or another. War truly is unhealthy for children and other living things – in ways few of the people who make war have any real clue about.
Since all wars must and do ultimately come to an end and post-war negotiations and reparations eventually begin, wouldn’t it be big-picture and pound-wise to simply skip the war part? Unfortunately, just like what’s required to change a scientific paradigm, the ultimate end of war will most likely only take place one political and one military funeral at a time, almost assuredly far beyond the remainder of my life and sadly, most likely beyond yours as well. 😦