Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We Love War

 I came across this wonderful assessment of the American character a few minutes ago when I was working on the other piece. I could not have said this better myself. A great big "AMEN" from me. The writer is Robert Higgs, a prolific scholar. Unfortunately, the link to the original piece is broken, but he's quoted in this piece, and you can find whole bunch of his writings at the previously referenced site.
 
Presidents decide to go to war in the context of a favorably disposed mass culture. Painful as it is for members of the Peace Party to admit, many Americans take pleasure in "kicking ass," and they do not much care whose ass is being kicked or why. So long as Americans are dishing out death and destruction to a plausible foreign enemy, the red-white-and-blue jingos are happy. If you think I’m engaging in hyperbole, you need to get out more. Visit a barbershop, stand in line at the post office, or have a drink at your neighborhood tavern and listen to the conversations going on around you. The sheer bellicosity of many ordinary people's views is as undeniable as it is shocking. Something in their diet seems to be causing a remarkable volume of murderous, barely suppressed rage.

No one should be surprised by the cultural proclivity for violence, of course, because Americans have always been a violent people in a violent land. Once the Europeans had committed themselves to reside on this continent, they undertook to slaughter the Indians and steal their land, and to bullwhip African slaves into submission and live off their labor—endeavors they pursued with considerable success over the next two and a half centuries. Absent other convenient victims, they have battered and killed one another on the slightest pretext, or for the simple pleasure of doing so, with guns, knives, and bare hands. If you take them to be a “peace-loving people,” you haven’t been paying attention. Such violent people are easily led to war.

Public ignorance compounds the inclinations fostered by the mass culture. Study after study and poll after poll have confirmed that most Americans know next to nothing about public affairs. Of course, the intricacies of foreign policy are as alien to them as the dark side of the moon, but their ignorance runs much deeper. They can’t explain the simplest elements of the political system; they don’t know what the Constitution says or means; and they can’t identify their political representatives or what those persons ostensibly stand for. They know scarcely anything about history, and what they think they know is usually incorrect. People so densely ignorant that they have no inkling of how their forebears were bamboozled and sacrificed on the altar of Mars the last time around are easily bamboozled and readily sacrificed the next time around.
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