Sunday, December 7, 2014

War!!

Unfortunately War has become one of the subjects that have had the most profound influences on music, perhaps more than any other subject including the drugs which musicians are so highly reputed to ingest.
    Well, if war were a drug, a person would have to think that nearly the whole world has overdosed on it for what's getting close to fifteen years now. Ever since September 11 2001, the world has had enough war to satisfy our natural bloodthirst and then some. The accompanying injuries and death, as well as the hardship and the toll that it takes on the societies of those at war, not to mention the mental and physical stress endured by the families of the soldiers and 'insurgents' alike. And even the people who aren't directly involved in the fighting are also victims of this terrible scourge, through friends, families, workplaces and even the taxes that you pay and the governments that you may or may not vote for.
   
War Makes War

Many cultures believe that War is an entity unto itself, like the God Mars or Shiva the destroyer. It is a living emodiment of our spirit that can be fed and nurtured or something that we can stop feeding in the hope of giving ourselves time and effort to do something we might think is more valuable or more positive. But war is simple, easy to understand and driven by fear, while real solutions to human problems are complex and require trust and friendship and understanding and collaboration. But fear only begets fear, and war only feeds itself. The only benefit of war is to those industries that create the weapons to continue war and the ones that extract the resources to the feed the industry that creates the weapons to continue making war. It is an endless cycle that feeds itself, while draining the spirit and treasure and blood of the people and that only creates resentment and fear and more war! Simultanteously, it's infected our collective psyche. Everything is viewed through the lens of war, and the only thoughts we have are war thought. How we solve problems, what methods to use, what intelligence to gather and even the choice of what problems are most prevalent and the highest priority to solve are all war problems.
   In this way, we've nurtured and fed War until it's fat and huge and now we can't walk past this thing on the way to the grocery store because it's constantly there, bigger than our individual existence, yet constantly influencing everything we do. Somewhere, somehow, regardless of what we do in our own space and our own lives, there is this constant hum of war. Whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, Ukraine or somewhere in the middle east where tensions and troubles have flared, there is always war and whenever something happens in those situations, the big fat thing called War belches out: "I want more!" loud enough so everyone in the world can hear. And suddenly it takes up all our time and all our attention and all our news reports and all our energy until some war monger of some kind somewhere is satisfied enough that they don't feel the need to ask for more time or attention or money or resources until the next flare-up when War asks for more again. With every little problem faced by this neverending thing called war, whether ISIS or 'insurgents' of course you know this big, fat huge overfed thing will only ask for more of our energy and it's just a matter of time before it happens again. Meanwhile the war continues...

Patriotism and Pride + Militarism = Profit! (also death, injury, PTSD and worldwide breeding grounds for anger, resentment and more war)
When a people, a nation a society dedicates itself to war, then war comes first, and all other problems get shouted down. When a nation needs to defend itself, all other problems become muted, if not entirely ignored.
 The problem with this is that those profiteering from war enjoy the 'benefits' of patriotic self-sacrifice when sometimes the aim is actually private profit and only a superficial sense of security. The War industry would surely love to paint everything it does as 'patriotic', but most of what it does is pure militarism, marketing fear, while building up ever-greater weapons stocks for the sake of private capital.
   It doesn't seem to matter what political party is put into power. Every party inexorably attempts to appear 'patriotic' and this, for politicians, means money spent on militarism. This money could help veterans and casualties of current or previous wars or their families. This money could help to mitigate those affected by war by helping refugees or innocents caught in the crossfire, but the largest amounts usually finds it's way into the pockets of the war industrialists. The makers of the weapons of war greatly enjoy such patriotic sacrifice and so long as the money comes to them, surely don't care which politician or political party it comes from.
   Real wars of real defence don't last long. Constant battle makes societies terribly tired and weary. Both attackers and defenders find the hardships overwhelming, if not unendurable. When the UK was defending itself from direct attack of Nazi Germany, in only five years it cost millions in casualties, left their cities and towns destroyed and in shambles, and created a scarcity of resources that would haunt their lives and shape their culture for decades.
   But what qualifies as 'defence' has changed. Policing, intervention, government overthrow of less developed countries, and anti-terrorism  measures taken in countries so far away or so technically disadvantaged that they can't defend themselves... well, that kind of 'defense' can last decades, perhaps even a hundred years, all while enjoying the same patriotism of 'defending ourselves'. But anti-terrorism is not really the direct defense from an enemy: that would require an actual attack from a sovereign nation. So this is not real defense, and yet somehow Canada, the US are now decades into a 'war' with Afghanistan, even when Osama Bin Laden is long dead and even though the U.S. and NATO countries are supporting a government that is viewed as corrupt.
    There is no limit to the pride that we have for our soldiers, those who choose to defend our countries do not choose it because the pay is so high that it is worth their lives. They do it for love of their country, the honour of their brothers and sisters in arms and to contribute to the strength and vitality of a nation. This service and self-sacrifice should be tempered with the idea that this power and dedication is used for the security of their homeland and people, not the propping up of corrupt governments around the world. Soldiers should not be used to defend the business of war, nor the marketing arm of the militarism that constantly tells people that war is the ever-present problem that it is made out to be. More importantly, militarism and patriotism should be viewed as entirely seperate in the minds of people: One is love of country and the other is the love of money produced by a military that is more of a money-making machine than a last defence against an outside enemy. Lastly, Soldiers lives should be risked only as a last resort in a direct attack, not used to promote and protect military-regimes and business interests in a foreign country that could continue for decades.


Guns or Butter?

    There is an economic and social cost to making war, and this used to be expressed in basic Economics class as the concept of Guns and Butter or Guns vs Butter.  The idea being that any country has a limited amount of resources, whether money, labour or physical materials and with those resources can direct them towards producing Guns and/or Butter. Sometimes, the Guns part is extrapolated to include all the sorts of industrial or manufactured products, while butter is extrapolated to include all the agricultural products, obviously not just butter.
    However, the Guns or Butter analogy can also be extended to War-time vs Peace-Time economic development, and therefore the 'Guns' part would include anything relating to war or defense spending, including 'Security/Policing' and 'Tank Training' while the 'Butter' would include everything from 'Medicine', 'Environmental Studies' and 'Music Education'.
    So the longer that a nation or society spends at war, the more time, labour and resources would go into making 'Guns', which would therefore mean that less people are trained as doctors, or get music lessons, perhaps there might even be less textbooks and less education in general. (After all, nobody needs you to learn how to play the harmonica when you're hired to fly a drone over some hills and shoot down a suspected terrorist or the innocent bystanders nearby.) And therefore, most societies that have given so much of their economy over to the 'Guns' side of the economic spectrum actually find themselves behind in the other categories, whether math, science, the arts, or even personal/home skills like cooking, sewing, 'solving a problem without having to resort to fistfights' and other such talents that many at one time or another took for granted would be learned, at least at a basic level, over the course of one's lifetime. For example: the current Canadian government (morons!), after more than ten years at war with terror almost doubled the funding for a single spy agency, (one suspected of spying on Canadian citizens) and increased spending on military technology and weapons while ALL THE REST of government services, from education to health care and beyond are all receiving cuts to funding.
     This blog has lamented many times that less and less people can actually read or write music and the number seems to be, in terms of percentage of population, going down to eventually become zero. So unless your local police force has a band, then chances are the 'Guns' economy is not likely going to produce the best or even most catchy or meaningful music that currently gets sold on itunes or other music-retailer. This sort of cheapening of art (and every other faculty of human effort) is not representative of what's actually happening in our lives or our society and only mildly representative of some sort of lyrical meaning. Mostly art is cheap, derivative and a distraction from the real problems of society, and the reason why is because we've been taught nothing else. Certainly nothing better.
     Militarism leads to a dumbing-down of society in the most obvious way: If only one skill is taught, learned, used, then only one type of product is produced, while all others fall into entropy, decay and disuse, and eventually become lost arts. Advancements in human skills will fall to the wayside: Like glass-blowing and pottery making, these skills are left to past masters or future machines; no longer a human skill requiring brains and talent, but simply a matter of following instructions and flipping a few switches. Creating an economy, and a world, geared for war is to ignore all our other mental, physical and spiritual faculties in the blatant hope for a fleeting sense of security. It's time to end war if only to direct our lives and economies to include other purposes.
    There is also the possibility of getting far too good at the one thing that war is good for, and that's killing people. What may be perhaps the worst part of modern warfare is the cleanliness and ease of it all. To actually kill another person used to be a dirty and difficult business, but with high-power and high-accuracy firearms along with the use of sophisticated drones, many people can be killed with all the ease of playing a video game. Indeed, most modern soldiers credited with the highest number of kills are not highly-trained marines, snipers, paratroopers or even special forces, but 'pilots' of the nefarious drones placed in various places around the world. These new type of soldiers encounter the enemy on a video screen and are never in danger of being shot down; they are only 'pilots' in the video-game-player sense of the word and would likely never be trusted to fly your children to Florida for a vacation, and yet their skills are highly honed and promoted through practice and training and repetition and dedication.
   If we put that all that effort and training and engineering-skill and technology into medicine, we might have a cure for Cancer or AIDS. If such time and effort were put into programs to track down tax cheats and fraudsters on wall street and various other financial centres,the banksters would be in jail and the budget deficit might be far lower. And if we had such extensive programs to train future piano players and guitarists, the next Jimi Hendrix and Elton John would've come along five or ten years ago.

And Finally War is Over:
    So why bring all this up at Christmas Time? Why all this talk of war in the time of good cheer and good will and feelings of warmth and family and goodness and caring for our fellow man and charity for the poor and the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus? All this War and fighting and fighting and war in music, Why bring this up now?
   Again, like many of Very Us Mumblings blog posts, there is no coincidence that we chose to publish on Dec 8, 2014. This is the 34th anniversary of the death of musician John Lennon, who, along with his wife Yoko Ono, during christmastime in the early seventies launched an ad campaign for peace. At that time, they were protesting the war in Vietnam, but their message still applies today. To join this campaign all you had to do was print off a very inexpensive poster and put it in your window. The poster said simply: "War is Over if you want it: Merry Christmas from John and Yoko" This campaign was accompanied with a christmas song that most people think is called 'So this is Christmas' because those are the first lyrics you hear in the song. But the actual song title is 'War is Over' and if you listen carefully, you can hear the children's voices, the carollers in the background, singing the words: 'War is Over if you want it. War is over now'. The song was released in 1971 and attributed to John & Yoko, The Plastic Ono band, and The Harlem Community Choir.
    So, since this is a time for Peace on Earth, and celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus, let's use this time to re-assess our future, for the coming New Year and beyond. And let's envision a world, a future without War and work towards achieving that end. The time to start is now! There are children, now almost fourteen years old that have never known a day of Peace-time, while their parents and their fleeting hope for 'Peace' in the nineties after the Berlin Wall fell have all become cynical and pessimistic. For fourteen years, we have accepted war as if it is inevitable, unending, but as John Lennon said, we can have Peace, if we want it. Why can't we have fourteen years of peace? Why not more?


Thanks to all our loyal readers for sharing our blog entries like this one around the internet. This blog has grown incrementally but steadily in popularity thanks to your support.
P.S. One year has come and gone from this blog entry and War is around for Xmas once again! Check out: War, Again! And we are all taking a break from blogging and will be posting new stuff in 2016!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Very Us Mumblings!