Why No Anti-War Rants?

There’s a post over on Arun’s Musings where he starts:

If you look at Cosmic Variance or CVJ’s new blog, Asymptotia, you wouldn’t know that a couple of wars are on. In contrast, there is SusanG’s lament about a loss of innocence on dailykos.com.

and continues:

Which world do we live in? Is it the idyllic world biking to the farmers’ market for fresh veggies? Or is it the dangerous world, where one has to learn about a lot of things fast, and constantly, in a mostly futile effort, raise one’s voice against lunacy, where one cannot afford to be ignorant about anything?

This got me thinking a bit about what Arun was getting at. Does he really think that those two worlds (one supposedly idyllic, the other dangerous) are disconnected? They certainly are not in my mind. Quite clearly connected. See the example (only one of many) in my reply to him reproduced below.

And on the first extract: First, let me say that I’m pretty sure he was not being critical or anything… merely commenting on the contrast. Nevertheless, it got me thinking: Is it really that we must all lament and yell loudly about the situation in the Middle East all the time? Even while there are others -more informed than I- saying it better and more loudly? Even if one might not neccessarily think that one has anything original to yell? Actually, I don’t know. I’m not one for political rants just for the sake of it. I just end up sounding shrill. Although I have my moments when I don’t care, and I just go for it…… But mostly, my own thought is that I don’t think it would preserve my sanity to infiltrate every aspect of my life with the depressing situations, and so -while I am not apathetic- I don’t feel obliged to scream and shout about it in my blog posts. If I think of or spot something somewhat new, or poignant, I’ll pass it on. But sometimes silent contemplation is not a bad thing. If there was nobody talking about it honestly, or if there were scarce few sources of good information out there, that would be another thing altogether. Remember the early days of Katrina, and how slow real information took to start coming out. Blogs were great and valuable sources then. Risa over on Cosmic Variance led the blogging team there in putting up a lot of posts on the aftermath, which some of our readers found to be of value, since it only came out in the mainstream in partial form, or not at all. I don’t feel that is the case here, but I could be really wrong. People are now much more aware of the craziness of the situations in the Middle East, and I don’t imagine ever being the go-to source for information or informed comment about the situation on the ground. Me going “yeah, me too, I’m pissed off!” does not seem a valuable contribution. I can (and do) contribute in other ways, I think. But I love that some people do just yell. Howl! It is good. We need voiced raised in chorus, on any issue worth speaking about. And war and the accompanying needless slaughter is one.

So anyway, this is what I wrote to Arun, who I believe means well:

Hi Arun,

Thanks for the link. I’d like to point out a couple of things though:

(1) There are several wars and large scale injustices of various sorts going on around the planet at any time. Considerably more than a couple, in fact. It is obvious that we live in both/all of the worlds that you mention. To take part in one is not inconsistent with taking part in the other. It is all connected, and -as I hope you’re aware- it is naive to think that they are not. The fact that I go on and on about biking everywhere (not just to the market to be fresh veggies) is not accidental. The not-so-subtle-to-detect subtext of my talking about biking and mass transit a lot on CV and (to come) on Asymptotia is to highlight our dependence upon oil, and the destruction of our environment, and to highlight that there are other choices about how we can run our lives. It is a modest effort to point up how we might all think about trying to do our part to stop that oil dependence. Now, what do you think most of the destruction taking part in the Middle East is about? What is the single most important point of tension on our planet today and for a long time before and for a long time to come? The West’s dependence upon oil. So choosing to blog about riding my bike to places and maybe result in new habits being formed that might make us more mindful of our energy sources… that’s just as relevant to the wars as anything. And perhaps a more original take than just sitting around wringing my hands about it…. which leads me to the next point:

(2) It is not clear what meaning there is to be gathered from the absence of me or anyone else tearing their hair out about the wars on their blog. Several, more well informed people are doing a very good job of it already, and also on the several other wars and injustices that you did not mention. I’d rather be silent, keep my (considerable) despair about the situations to myself and in private conversations than rush to go “me too!” for the sake of it. So I take part in discussions, read my share of the news, and go and listen to and support talks by voices not heard too loudly about some of the current situation. (Actually, if you search CV you’ll see posts of mine reporting upon some interesting public talks and gatherings about Iraq.) When the right thing comes along that is worth pointing out to my readers (a fact, or a point of view), I’ll be sure to do it, but not simply for the sake of doing so. It’s too obvious, and too redundant. That’s not why I blog.

It is great that you choose to add your voice to the chorus in the way that you do. Well done… but don’t interpret silence of others as indifference. And look closely at the subtext of what is being blogged about, since you might find that there are things being said. Just quietly.


What do you think? Do you compartmentalize your information sources? Do you go to one set of favourite sources for news and discussion of wars, plague and pestilence, and go to others for your dose of the other stuff? Do you prefer them separate, or do you want to see Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel-Lebanon-Iran-Syria, fill-in-the-blank, commentary and lamentation wall-to-wall and 24/7 on all the blogs you read? I for one need to find a quiet space from time to time where I’m not just encouraged to think “we’re doomed” all the time. I could be wrong about that. But anyway, for now I try to create some of that quiet space for you here, and on CV.


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12 Responses to Why No Anti-War Rants?

  1. Say Lee says:

    Some said the next major war may be fought over water, especially river basins with multiple national jurisdictions.

    Anyway I agree that time for contemplation and reflection is necessary to keep our sanity, regardless how uncaring it may seem to those more sensitive among us who frown upon such “indulgence” amidst all the world sufferings.

  2. Arun says:

    Dear Clifford,

    I was in no way being critical. I certainly don’t see indifference, only unexpressed pain. I wrote what I did because there were two things I was wondering about.

    What is the true nature of the world? Is it possible for everyone to enjoy the kinds of things for instance, that you talk about on your blog? Is that world the norm, or is the exception; some few decades in some few corners of the earth, there is this peace and otherwise mostly the world is nasty and brutish, with people grinding other people’s faces in the dirt? Presumably all these combatants don’t see enough in the world that all the warring sides could be happy; one or the other has to be eliminated. In that world, one always has to be alert, like a wild animal. It is dangerous, Darwinian in the extreme.

    The second is what should I do? Since there is very little I can do, should I even follow these battles? Needlessly making myself sad. I can keep to my garden and books and hope that no outside nonsense will intrude on a quiet life.

    That’s all.

  3. Clifford says:


    I know you weren\’t being critical. I said so in the post.

    My point is that you can do both! You don\’t have to choose one or the other. In the battle for hearts and minds, to get people, governments, adn entire populations to do the right thing, we don\’t all get to be generals, but generals can\’t win the big battles without the support of the troops. We\’re the troops. We have to get on with our every day lives, and stay sane and happy. How can we help? Well, remember that every little thing we do matters. Our first and most basic responsibility is to stay informed, and to take part in our community (voting when we can) to make our voices count if we can. Beyond that, we can be mindful of all the little things we can do right in our homes, towns and cities that can and will contribute to the big picture. (Take your pick of those things, and what issue you wish to focus on.) *That* is the major reason I choose to cycle and use public transport to commute to work when it takes me 2-3 times as long as it would if I drove. It is the right thing to do, and it will make a difference, ultimately. Really. Word of mouth and activism by example is more powerful than you think. Cylcing and taking the bus and subway even when it is relatively inconvenient (in a city still geared toward cars being more convenient) is my little bit of twice daily activism. Activism about oil dependence. Activism about the environment, which, ultimately will totally engulf the oil issue as the most pressing matter on all our minds. It\’s only a little bit of activism, and nobody will really notice it much, or write songs about it. But that does not matter.



  4. JoAnne says:


    There is plenty of pain, even if it is not expressed. The first thing I do each day is check the news of the Middle East. I have several personal friends who live in Haifa and I continuously worry about their safety. I have offered my home to one friend and her family who are currently in the States. I don’t want her to go back. I also continuously worry about why so many innocent Leboneese civilians are being killed in air raids. (I am presently thinking both sides are at fault here.)

    I visited Israel for 6 weeks in 1986. During my stay, my physicist host who served as a tank commander in the Golan Heights war showed me the hills he had captured. The car broke down and he was scared to park it off the road to make repairs because of land mines. Later on, we had a flat tire and the Israeli army happened by and helped us fix it. While visiting Jerusalem our car was broken into and we had to call the anti-bomb squad (who showed up in flack jackets) before we could safely enter it. Too dangerous otherwise. The next day while visiting Jerusalem, an Arab shot a Jewish student – just 2 blocks from where I was at the exact time – and all hell broke loose. The city was closed down the next day, my companion and I toured alone, with all shops closed, amongst mobs of Israeli soldiers with machine guns pointed everywhere. At one point we were pressed against a wall, while a battalion of soldiers ran by.

    And it has continued thus for the past 20 years. How can people live like this day to day??? But honestly what can we do to help in a serious way? If all of us went there on a peace mission we’d be in the way. Voting doesn’t help (I am continously outvoted in this democracy). Demonstrations against an unjust Iraq war seem to have no effect. So, what do we do? (Sorry – there is extreme frustration setting in here…)

  5. Amara says:

    First, I think that it’s important to gather good information about what is going on all over the world; to step outside of our local bubbles. The technology with camera, computer, Internet in the last years overturned what was previously impossible for reporting news, and airline flights have become much cheaper too. My news information gathering scheme, to optimize accuracy, in order of weight:

    1) go to the place directly (and observe and converse)
    2) talk to people from there
    3) read papers from that place (translated if needed)
    4) The Economist (great news source)
    5) Other web news sources

    (the first is obviously problematic, but also the most valuable if you can)

    I’m an information hound, synthesizing constantly, and unable to ‘compartmentalize’ if something large is occurring, because my basic psychological structure doesn’t let me. My empathy reservoir is large. I must process it, and I have a kind of ‘toolkit’ for that, so that I can put it aside and be productive again. Everyone has their own ways of processing large-scale tragic events, some more visible than others. It certainly helps to talk about it, so I’m glad that Arun wrote what he did and that Clifford and JoAnne each kindly responded too. Thank you all.

  6. Elliot says:

    I just ran across this quote from the Godfather…

    Strangely appropriate for the situation in the mideast.

    On the Cuban revolution…

    Michael: “I saw an interesting thing happen today. A rebel was being arrested by the military police, and rather than be taken alive, he exploded a grenade he had hidden in his jacket. He killed himself, and he took a captain of the command with him.”

    Random observer: “Those rebels, you know they’re crazy.”

    Michael: “Maybe so. But it occurred to me – the soldiers are paid to fight. The rebels aren’t.”

    Hyman Roth: “What does that tell you?”

    Michael: “They could win.”

  7. Interesting post.

    There are issues I feel that I, on some level, *have* to blog about, even when all I can say is “yeah, me too, I’m pissed off!” Maybe I wonder what would happen if everyone who felt they had nothing new to say, said something anyway, purely for the sake of speaking out against things that are wrong because they are wrong (rather than because its interesting blogging material). Would politics look different?

    But it’s not humanly possible to do so. You can’t care about everything that’s wrong all of the time. There are conflicts that I’m somehow nearer to, so I blog more about those, and the rest get…well, left aside. I wish I could focus more attention on those neglected conflicts, but I can’t. I think you’re right Clifford, about needing to pick a little bit of activism, for the sake of maintaining some sanity.


  8. Say Lee says:

    Or we can send in donations to support any humanitarian mission. Or utter prayers in the comfort of home.

    Admittedly we are all so caught up in our own little world that any compassion or indignation that we may feel is so fleeting, the proverbial out of sight, out of mind. To use a cliche, think globally, but act locally, is perhaps the best way one can exert a semblance of righteousness under the circumstances.

  9. Say Lee:

    What you say is true, but I think it’s more than that. However much I may care about Darfur, I still need to go to work, pay the bills, etc. Which puts a limit on what I can do. And as trivial/selfish as it may seem to put it this way, I still need to look after *me* otherwise I can’t possibly participate in any meaningful activism of any sort. Doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I wish I could do more, but I can’t participate lobbying against every singly instance of injustice.

    So I do the bits that I can, and hope that other people will do other bits, and maybe between lots of people, we can cover lots of ground. I’m glad that there are people who blog about Katrina and biking to work, because those are things that I don’t get round to; instead, I get round to other things that they don’t. A symbiosis, of sorts? 😉


  10. Say Lee says:

    Or divison of labor? Anyway it’s clear that collective might and alignment of values, a nebulous concept to some no doubt, are necessary to stem the tide of human strife as eloquently expounded by Tony Blair:


  11. Count Iblis says:

    It could be that typical observers in the universe find themselves living in societies where warfare/conflicts etc. have significantly slowed down their progress.

    I explain this in detail here. I assume that when the technology arises to make intelligent machines, these machines will take over. This means that a civilization with slower technological development give rise to more observers, making it more likely to find yourself living there.

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