October 10, 2010

War is Exciting

I'm going to post a few quotes from Sebastian Junger's amazing new book, War.  The book is highly informative and brilliantly written.  War, like the condition of being homeless, is something the public should know a lot more about.  Writes Junger:
War is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them. It's insanely exciting. The machinery of war and the sound it makes and the urgency of its use and the consequences of almost everything about it are the most exciting things anyone engaged in war will ever know. Soldiers discuss that fact with each other and eventually with their chaplains and their shrinks and maybe even their spouses, but the public will never hear about it. It's just not something that many people want acknowledged. War is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it, but for a nineteen-year-old at the working end of a .50 cal during a firefight that everryone comes out of okay, war is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of. In some ways twenty minutes of combat is more life than you could scrape together in a lifetime of doing something else. Combat isn't where you might die — though that does happen — it's where you find out whether you get to keep on living. Don't underestimate the power of that revelation. Don't underestimate the things young men will wager in order to play that game one more time.

4 comments:

Kaspalita said...

Thanks Tom, for that dose of reality. There is a tendency to think that all violence must be disturbing, (which I believe *is* true, just not the whole of the truth)

I've no doubt it can be addictive, the rush of adrenaline, a very psychical high...I imagine the thrill takes you away from the reality of bad things happening. And of course you go back, because you love the thrill and because it keeps you away from any other questions....

Perhaps I'm still being too much of a liberal...

Tom Armstrong said...

Reality tends to be complicated. Violence is, perhaps, fully disturbing, jusrt as we suppose, but, at the same time, doing something meaningful, or that seems meaningful, that bonds people together such that they fully trust and depend upon each other, is transcending. And it can ruin you for any other kind of life.

Scott Xian-Liao said...

Oh, he so totally got it right, up to the point where the quote ends. All the meditation in the world doesn't create as much presence as a descending corkscrew into Baghdad in a C-130, or your first trip down the most dangerous road on earth, or getting shot at or blown up... etc etc. But it's also important to realize that for most people who go to war, it is the most intense purpose they have ever felt. When one works for a company and wears a tie to work, then trades that in for a Kevlar and an M-240, suddenly life has meaning. Then, when one finds themselves on the battlefield, life has an intense immediacy. Finally, when one returns to mundane civilian life, the re-adaptation can be alot worse than combat.

Thank you for this post. I'm going to look for this book.

With Metta

Scott

Tom Armstrong said...

Thanks, Scott. It's a wonderful book; I do hope you get it.

I've now posted a second quote from War: "Combat brings Consequences."