War | The weekly country


Our precarious mental balance, already badly damaged by the pandemic, is now being tormented by the pounding of the drums of war. What terror produces Putin; how little confidence Western politicians instill. Is it possible that all this ends in a real war, in that hell that, fortunately, most of us Europeans have only seen in movies? But that’s how all warlike confrontations must have started: between general disbelief and the pounding of the chest of the most testosterone leaders. I hope that when this article is published, 15 days after I write it, the situation will have improved. You never know; from sanity to suicidal insanity only takes an instant of bravado.

It is impossible not to remember the previous moment of world vertigo, the famous missile crisis between the United States and the USSR from October 14 to 28, 1962. You already know that an American spy plane discovered that the Soviets had installed nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba that could destroy Washington in just seven minutes. There began an escalation of violence that put the planet on the brink of an atomic catastrophe. The thing ended well by the hair: Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to dismantle missiles on both sides. Certainly essential was the intervention of a Soviet intelligence officer, Oleg Penkovski, who, horrified to learn of Khrushchev’s nuclear plans, began leaking the data to the West. Oleg was discovered and, according to some sources, executed in an exemplary manner by tying him to a wooden plank and slowly lowering him, feet first, into a crematorium oven. the recent movie the english spy he talks about Penkovski, but does not tell of his atrocious end; I do it here as a tribute to a man who died for his principles.

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I think that, if the missile crisis was overcome, it was because then the carnage of the Second World War and the supreme horror of the two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were very recent. But now it has been too long since we practice the sport of killing each other directly (only through third countries). Without the close memory of the horror that is war, will we be able to overcome that crazy war drive that seems to poison the human brain? It is curious, because in the animal kingdom it is rare that confrontations (to mate, to control a territory) are to the death. The wounds are very expensive for the species and in general the battles are resolved in a rather ritualized way: you just have to show that you are stronger. No need to seriously harm or exterminate.

But not humans. We humans aspire to annihilate the opposite: their life and also that of their children, and even their memory, like those Romans who demolished enemy cities and spread salt so that nothing would grow. What fire of hatred burns our brains? How is it possible that warfare has always had such an attraction for men? Wars that have lasted 30 years, or 100, generation after generation. Barbarian daily entertainments, like that endless fight recounted by the historian Georges Duby between the Count of GuĂ®nes and the Lord of Ardres, two neighbors from the 12th century who went out with their hosts to kill each other every day in a nearby field except when it rained (it was the water truce). I used the word before mens and I have done it on purpose, because I believe that this fighting frenzy mainly affects males. Of course there are women who are very warmongering (let’s remember Thatcher), but it seems to me that, in general, we are much less inclined to get involved in the pounding. It’s definitely a testosterone thing; The Greek Aristophanes already reflected it two millennia ago in his comedy lysistrata, with that brilliant sex strike that women imposed on their bloodied and donkey husbands so that they would stop fighting once and for all. I think that the history of civilization could be summed up largely as the effort of human beings to overcome their blind impulses of violence, to free themselves from the endemic pandemic of war. And it occurs to me that if the vast majority of world leaders were women, maybe we could do it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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