Hedges: The Evil We Do Is the Evil We Get – scheerpost.com

The intoxication of violence, the anodyne of war, is a poison. It condemns critical thought as treason. Its call to patriotism is little more than collective self-worship. It imparts a god-like power and license to destroy, not only things, but other human beings. But war is, ultimately, about betrayal, as the defeat in Afghanistan elucidates. Betrayal of the young by the old. Betrayal of idealists by cynics. Betrayal of soldiers and marines by war profiteers and politicians. 

War, like all idols, begins by demanding the sacrifice of others but ends with the demand for self-sacrifice. The Greeks, like Sigmund Freud, grasped that war is the purist expression of the death instinct, the desire to exterminate all systems of life, including, ultimately, our own. Ares, the Greek god of war, was frequently drunk, quarrelsome, impetuous, and a lover of violence for its own sake. He was hated by nearly all the other gods, except the god of the underworld, Hades, to whom he delivered a steady stream of new souls. Ares’s sister, Eris, the goddess of chaos and strife, spread rumor and jealousy to fan the flames of war.

This moral fragmentation, where we define ourselves by tangential and often fictitious acts of goodness, is a psychological escape hatch. It allows us to avoid looking at who we are and what we have done. This willful blindness is what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls “doubling,” the “division of the self into two functioning wholes, so that the part-self acts as an entire self.” This doubling, Lifton noted, is often done “outside of awareness.” And it is an essential ingredient to carrying out evil. If we refuse to see ourselves as we are, if we cannot shatter the lie perpetuated by our moral fragmentation, there is no hope of redemption. The gravest danger we face is the danger of alienation, not only from the world around us, but from ourselves.

Hedges: The Evil We Do Is the Evil We Get – scheerpost.com