Nice song, eh?
Brings back good memories, stuff about my youth and being disenfranchised against the system and just wanting to destroy everything about a world I hated. There’s a fragment of this song that I think is not given enough attention, and has been part of political discourse for a very long time. Boris Vian, in a very touching poem and song, wrote about his experience in the first World War and how he refused to fight in the new one. It was called “Le Déserteur” (the Deserter). Toward the end, the poem goes a little bit like this:
S’il faut donner son sang
Allez donner le vôtre
Vous êtes bon apôtre
Monsieur le Président
“If blood must be spilled, go and spill yours, you are a good apostle, Mr. President.”
This is more or less a translation of the above. At the time, it was quite revealing of the mindset of some people in France. Throughout the song, Boris Vian describes the horrors he went through and his time as a prisoner of war. It’s sung in a rather melancholy tone, one of resignation. One which makes sense, because the song ends shortly after that last paragraph on:
Si vous me poursuivez
Prévenez vos gendarmes
Que je n’aurai pas d’armes
Et qu’ils pourront tirer
“Should you pursue me – advise your officers – that I will be unarmed – and that they can shoot me.”
The song in itself inspires civil disobedience but also a kind of resigned pacifism and pessimism. He knows fully well that people like himself can get imprisoned for pacifism and that desertion can lead to getting executed. Yet, for all the risks that his decision entails, the man portrayed in the song has decided he’d rather die than go back to the front and kill other “poor folks”. Since then, the song has been taken up by various artists, some more renowned than others, but the original I think is still superior to anything else, simply because of the minimalistic musical arrangement.
Sure, it’s bloody, but at least only one man died instead of hundreds. I would much rather there never be war, but humanity being what it is, it seems nigh impossible that war will cease to occur in the foreseeable future (barring a complete extinction of the human race). That being said, let’s move on to actually answering the question.
Presidents don’t fight wars, they make them
In order for a state to go in war against another, the decision has to come from the top. Citizens cannot themselves declare war upon another state and say that their warcry represents their country. In order for that to be, they have to be backed by an order from the highest authority in the nation. In America, it’s the President; in Canada, it’d be Parliament along with the Prime Minister. Once that is done, does Congress or Parliament go to war themselves? Of course not, that’s for the lower classes to do. They have a state to manage.
It’s in war that politics becomes truly honest, because politicians are safe from the war they are having the citizens wage. This makes sense, after all, because if the governors and mayors and ministers and representatives all went to war, who’d be left to enact anti-desertion laws? That’s notwithstanding the fact that even if the people are not in the mood for good old state fisticuffs, there’s nothing that some properly constructed propaganda can’t fix. Propaganda has become the new means of political coercion in the so-called democracies we live in.
Once you have a known protagonist and a known antagonist, all you have to do is pit one against the other and proclaim the protagonist as being righteous in HIS violence against the antagonist’s wife and children. Wars serve the appropriate role of perpetuating friction and tension between nation-states, so that very slight changes in political playgrounds open old wounds that are steeped in extreme violence. While we are chanting the praises of the Allied victory, we would do well not to forget the atrocities that Allied forces also committed against conquered nations. These were fueled by an intense hatred that originated not only in the existence of the Axis, but in the way members of the nations that allied themselves with Nazi Germany were described.
The Japanese stereo-type of the squinty-eyed professor with glasses on and buck-toothed grin originated from the American propaganda of the time:
Such a violent, over-the-top caricature of ethnicity was the name of the game even for the Japanese and the Germans. When states engage in such univocal messages of who the enemy is, there is an irrevocable image in the members of nation-states as to who the enemy is, was and will be. At that point, the President can be assured that the people have gained a thirst for war that will be easy to summon, when a new enemy arises and that he only needs to spread some carefully crafted propaganda for the populace to join in.
Thankfully, in the era of social media, such propaganda would be offset by the presence of critical thinkers on the web who would point holes in the imagery, much like I myself had to correct progressives on the usage of “neoliberalism” when used to depict DNC voters. There is one thing that I can see that propaganda can be worthy for, and that is to ridicule an enemy which otherwise has an overly arrogant attitude about themselves. Caricatures exist for that reason: To make fun of that which is seemingly forbidden. Now, the difference here is that caricatures based on faults a person has is good, but a caricature that vilifies an entire ethnicity is no longer just caricature, it is propaganda aimed to galvanize citizens for war.
There’s nothing morally wrong about killing someone whom you think to be nothing more than a buck-toothed hobgoblin with poor hygiene and depravation of all virtue. It ends up feeling almost like putting a bastard animal out of its misery with a merciful shot to the head. At that point, the President has successfully created the recipe for total war, and the people did not even need to vote for it.
Not all propaganda is created equal
Hold on there, my little centrist, I see you. If antifa make gross characterizations of fascists, does that not make them the same as fascists?
Were I comparing two undisclosed parties, you would be correct in your assumption that one party’s actions does not justify the other’s. Astutely deduced, in fact. My problem with such a fallacious interpretation of the ethics of hatred is that some hatred, although unjustified, is understandable. For example, I can understand that some people would hate fascists, whose only existence is to “clean” the world of all non-white supremacists, to create a utopia where only the best and the prettiest exist and copulate. I can’t understand how someone opposed to that would be painted as similar or equal to the same fascists.
I would concur that I don’t agree with ethnic cleansing or the cleansing of Nazi ideologues themselves, but I do believe that fascism has a root cause and that root has to be undone, dissected, burnt to a crisp and thrown in the abyss from whence it came. Antifa would rather get rid of every fascist alive, and that is their choice. I am but one man, and what I am good at is attacking bad ideas. Physically assaulting a person is not my forte and I would probably not be very good at it, even if I have the shape for it. Ask me whether I’d like to be rid of fascists or antifa and I’ll respond to you:
Get rid of the former and you’ll see no more of the latter.
The reason why Presidents don’t fight the war, aside from the very obvious institutional conditions forbidding them to do so, is that those who profit from war require a constant influx of belligerents, regardless what country they are from. Weaponry is not fabricated by the State, it is bought by it. Those who make the weapons are those who profit from war as well as the ideologues backing them. War is a lucrative businesses, and military contractors are all too eager to get juicy business deals with the major governments and institutions of this world.
If Presidents went to war themselves, then the connections and the networks that they had to finance the wars would collapse and someone else would have to take over. Don’t ask yourself why America believes itself to be the Big Brother of all the other states, protecting the weak from injustice. It is because the beast has to be fed, and it requires human blood as a sacrifice.
Now, as a parting gift…