War is Caused by Misunderstanding

War is Caused by Misunderstanding

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People should realize that war is "part of human society" no matter mythic or sensory; it is first and foremost death and "gross human cruelty"(Hedges 26, 23). Chris Hedges separates mythic reality and sensory reality, in his essay "War is A Force that Gives Us Meaning," explaining that "in mythic war we imbue events with meanings they do not have" and "in sensory reality we see events for what they are" (21). In one of this year films "Letters from Iwo Jima" directed by Clint Eastwood, the sensory reality of World War II is shown through the perspective of Japanese Soldiers that had to guard the island Iwo Jima till the American troops completely destroyed each and every one of them. Governments paint an illusion and propagandized the mythic war for their citizens in order to win a war yet any kind of war is contradictory to the society's desires which, according to Gilbert's essay "Reporting Live from Tomorrow," are reached by transmission of the false beliefs such as where "we must believe that children and money bring happiness, regardless of whether such [things] are true or not"; in this case false beliefs add up to a good outcome for the society, improving its economy and overall population (222). The propaganda of war in a country is reached by same transmission of false beliefs such as ethnic stereotypes yet every war leads to some amount of destruction to the society. However, it is important to recognize that although there are wars that are fought simply out of stupidity and cruelty of the government; some wars, as cruel as they are, are might be fought for something more. But no matter what is the reason for a conflict and no matter how much there is of misunderstanding between the two sides, people should realize that all of us are human in a war that brings death, and that we are all more alike than different although we spent so much time building the wall that separates us.
Mythic war is a lie, a false belief that contradicts any intellectual thinking. We go to war to die - that is the crude reality or the "sensory war." On one hand the mythic war "allows us to make sense of mayhem and violent death," on the other it paints an appealing illusion for the people. The belief of being better, different, and more right than the enemy country goes good along with Gilbert's theory that "we don't always see ourselves as superior, but we almost always see ourselves as unique" (229).

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Mythic reality strengthens patriotism and nationalism, giving the government the benefit to have more troops to fight with in the war, sending their own citizens to death. Not to say that patriotism or nationalism is evil; it is good in certain amounts. However, mythic war also can encourage stereotypical viewing and dehumanization of the enemy; the false beliefs that put the two sides even further away from each other. In some cases, during mythic war, the government hides the true information from the citizens, allegedly fearing that the people stop wanting to support the war. Yet the governments are not usually a bunch of morons, they know that any war brings death and destruction; their way to fight war is to unite people using the mythic reality because if there were no patriotism the country would lose the support and it will be defeated for good, but the mythic war will end eventually and the country will have a chance of survival. The only way to go is to "accept, if not condone, the maiming and killing of others as the regrettable cost of war" pray for the end of a war that maybe somehow could've been avoided in the first place. (Hedges 35)
Although according to Hedges the mythic war is a complete illusion, if people didn't have myths of their country to patronize they would know only the sensory war and the truth, which can be really ugly, behind governments' actions thus causing rebellions, protest, and eventually chaos within a society. In the film "Letters from Iwo Jima" directed by Clint Eastwood. It is a very sensitive and human film that shows how in the most considerably "patriotic" war soldiers gave up and came over the other side to save their lives, hoping to see their families after the war. It is an instinct that humans share with all of the animals on this planet - fear. When we are frightened, we want to run. It doesn't matter if the war is propagandized in a one country as mythic or as sensory, in the middle of the actual battle and death people "may not be who [they] thought [they] would be" (Hedges 39). Patriotic soldiers of WWII in training imagined how they were going to be brave, smart, and undefeatable in the battle yet when they were shipped to war they faced "one of the most difficult realizations of war [that] is how deeply we betray ourselves, how far [they were] from the image of gallantry and courage [they] desired [and] how instinctual and primordial fear is" (Hedges 39). If a war is looked from a perspective of a battlefield it is nothing else but sensory; in this sense, every war that's fought by the blood of the people has a sensory reality to it.
It is important to recognize that although there are wars that are fought simply out of stupidity and cruelty of the government; some wars, as cruel as they are, are might be fought for something more. This kind of war might be called mythic, but this myth might be re-enforced by the real events happening. Ethnic minorities cannot pass the fact of their oppression unnoticed. Some governments control and emphasize one group of majority in the country, giving fewer privileges and rights to the minorities. Rebelling for their rights is one of the ways for the minorities to bring back their rights if they are not heard by the politicians. Ignorance causes war. Of course, trying to end conflict in a peace is always the best way; however, "by finding our identity and meaning in separateness, the myth serves another important function: it makes communication with our opponents impossible" which allows even more room for misunderstanding between the two sides (Hedges 24). Thus, not wanting their next generations to live in oppression like they did, the minorities do not really have any other choice rather than rebel and bring the government's attention to them. In this case, the war is seen as the only way for the people to prolong the survival of their children. This type of war cannot exactly be labeled as "mythic" because the people, who faced the oppression, know what are their risks of starting a rebellion or a strike, they know they can die but their rebellions and death might force government to give them more rights in the future, making their children's path in life easier than it was for them. People who start a rebellion also face all of the sensory reality: death and possible defeat; and in most cases the government's instinct is to strike back and repress the minorities even more. So mixing of "mythic" and "sensory" war is often possible in a war within a country or civil war.
When a conflict between two sides is flared up, of course, the most intelligent thing to do would be to resolve it diplomatically. However, many times temper and circumstances take over and peaceful talking seems impossible to people. Governments decide to go to war. Propaganda and mythic war is enforced in the countries. Stereotypes and false beliefs are built; everything is made to enforce nationalistic and patriotic tendencies. Governments' goal is to unite their own people to win the war, which seems a smart thing to do. However, the politicians are not the ones who are sent to the war, they are not the ones standing in the front lines in the battle, praying for survival and fearing death. Sometimes land and money top government's list of the important things rather than people's lives. In "Letters from Iwo Jima" the Japanese soldiers were literally left trapped on the Island, outnumbered by the American troops; it was a suicide mission and if you survived - you were considered a coward. Captains of the Japanese sent commands to everyone to kill themselves, maybe so they wouldn't have to die in pain under the bullets, bombs, and other ammunitions of the "enemy". An opportunity to give in yourself to the Americans and become a prisoner sounded more and more inviting to the soldiers than pointlessly fighting and knowing that you are going to die eventually. However, in the middle of the racial stereotypes of WWII, humanizing the enemy was not the choice almost anyone would have made. Prisoners were killed because they were thought of the spies of the enemy or just because they were Japanese or German or of any other race/nationality that countries stereotyped against. Even today, more than half century later, people are still are not too fond of humanizing their "evil WWII enemy" judging by the people interested in watching "Letters from Iwo Jima".
The distinctive features of the two opposites good and evil are familiar to us since childhood. However, in a war and in the real world in general, there is neither pure good nor pure evil. All people are human beings, and enforcing stereotypes directed on separating us is making more harm and misunderstanding. Some of the wars are stupidly fought for nothing when they could've been avoided; others are deeply rooted in the psyche of the people and fought silently for centuries between two ethnic groups. War, either considered more mythic or more sensory is painful and is something contagious in the society's world no matter how contradictory. Although so many ethnic and religious group focus on their difference, in reality we are more same. If we could just try to understand that each of us has different beliefs/perspectives maybe many of the conflicts and deaths could've been avoided.

MLA Citation
Gilbert, Daniel. "Reporting Live From Tomorrow." Stumbling on Happiness. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 212-233

Hedges, Chris. "The Myth of War." War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. New York: Anchor Books, 2003. 20-42

Letter from Iwo Jima. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Prod. Steven Spielberg and Paul Haggis. Warner Brothers, 2006.
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