Monday, June 18, 2012

Concept of War under Scrutiny

In this brief FDA Q&A, Dr. Arthur Clark, Professor of Medicine and founding member of the University of Calgary Institute for Peace Studies answers three fundamental questions about war. These questions are in response to Dr. Clark's speech on the Iran/Israel nuclear problem which is linked below. Dr. Clark challenges the validity of war at its root. Yet, the issue arises as to whether or not humanity as a collective can agree to move beyond war. Dr. Clark would likely respond that it is a matter individual and collective perspective and will.

FDA:

How can war be a cancer since war has been around for over two thousands, and yet war has not wiped out humanity?

Dr. Clark:

Cancer has presumably been around for longer than warfare and also has not wiped out humanity. It just makes a lot of people miserable and blots out a lot of possibilities, without actually extinguishing the species. A metaphor or analogy is used to emphasize certain similarities between two things, not to assert their identity. “Language is a virus” not because you find actual nucleic acids in a word or a paragraph, but because language spreads through a population and so does a virus. Cancer causes untold sorrow and often death to its victims and so does warfare. Cancer extinguishes dreams that the victims had had, and so does warfare. A difference might be that there is no publicly funded system that promotes cancer. The tobacco industry, for example, does not survive on funding provided by the national government.

FDA:

How do you respond to the reality that in nature, animals exist in a battle of life and death; this struggle could be equated to a form of war, and therefore war is a natural occurrence?

Dr. Clark:

Murder, rape, genocide, and other forms of violence can also be called “natural occurrences,” but that does not address the question of whether we prefer to bring them under control. Whether an occurrence is “natural” or “unnatural” says little and sometimes nothing about whether it is wise or desirable or useful or good. Humans are a unique species with a unique range of options and a large part of what they do is “unnatural” in some sense of that word. Warfare as practiced by humans is one example. When I try to think of species that have come up with the means of driving themselves and many other species to extinction through all-out war, I come up with only one. In producing the non-biodegradable stuff that accelerates environmental deterioration, humans take that unnatural prize as well. But humans also have a uniquely large capacity for cooperation, self-awareness, curiosity, gratitude, generosity, imagination, and reverence. That too is within our menu of natural options. Even if we choose to think of war as a “natural occurrence,” why pick that one over other natural options that are savagely undermined by warfare.

FDA:

How do you respond to the notion that war strengthens the human species by keeping the human population in control and weeding out weakness in the species?

Dr. Clark:

Mike Tyson was stronger than Albert Einstein ever was. Put in a ring with Mike Tyson and ignoring the space/time issues that make that impossible, and assuming each of the contenders is at his or her physical peak, any of the following contenders would be destroyed: Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Hawking, William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and just about anybody else who has contributed anything of lasting value to the human experience. Quite aside from the death toll it causes directly, war weakens the human species by causing paraplegia, amputation, blindness, post-traumatic seizures and psychological incapacitation, domestic violence, and suicide among survivors. That's just the beginning of a list of the ways that war weakens the human species. War causes a massive hemorrhage of human resources into the means of maintaining the capacity for making war, and thus makes impossible the exploration of the outer limits of human potential. It weeds out countless luminous human options. It destroys opportunities for love and for creative growth. It extinguishes and ravages lives for which no perpetrator of war is competent to know the value. As for keeping the population under control, the term “baby boomers” suggests boom and bust cycles in population growth associated with warfare. The phrase “keeping the population in control” may be treacherously misleading. The map is not the territory.

More By Dr. Clark: FDA Podcast on Iran/Israel Nuclear Problem

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