Saturday, December 27, 2008

Let Me Kill for You

Last Sunday I wrote a post entitled, "Will You Kill For Me?'. It was an attempt to draw some comparisons between Charles Manson and "The Family" versus governments or organizations and the people they recruit to kill for them via war. As could be expected in a society that lionizes soldiers off to battle, many of the comments left simplified the entire construction and made it seem as if I was stating that I was denigrating U.S. troops by saying they were the same as the members of the Manson family who savagely murdered several victims in the late 60s.

As one person stated in a comment to a different post, context is of supreme importance in almost any conversation. I couldn't agree more! And that is precisely what is missing in these attempts to encapsulate my assertion in an emotionally-laden and simplistic manner. While there is certainly a grain of truth that I am indeed making a straight on comparison, the why of this comparison is the salient point.

A lot of people like to look at the members of the Manson family who wantonly slayed innocent victims as faceless monsters. In their mind's eye, these individuals are simply damaged goods who don't deserve any speck of understanding. I completely disagree.

It is of vast importance to figure out the how and why ordinary young people could be turned into remorseless murderers. Most of these kids came from broken and dysfunctional homes. A few of them came from typical middle and upper class homes. Yet, despite the differences in their upbringing, I think it's safe to say that all of them, with the possible exception of Charles "Tex" Watson, suffered from low self-esteem and self-worth.

Charlie seemed to have a radar for these types of people. He would bring them one-by-one into the fold and tell them that they were good people and their problems were behind them. In time, he segregated his followers from the rest of the world which meant he alone controlled the news and information they received. Day by day he preached to them his malignant worldview and, in time, his worldview became their worldview.

In essence, he brainwashed them. They ceased to form individual opinions; everything originated from the diseased mind of Charles Manson. Consequently, by understanding these dynamics, it is easy to see how they gradually became cold-blooded killers.

When we turn our attention to the topic of war, we find many of these very same dynamics in play. The people who make up our armed forces and those who wage the fight from the other side are, for the most part, ordinary and decent people who, if not trained as a soldier, would never dream of physically harming another human being. Killing others is simply not in their make-up.

Put a uniform on them and bark orders at them and, all of a sudden, these ordinary folks become trained killers. So, what causes this dramatic transformation?

Again, the answer is brainwashing. We have each been programmed to accept the notion that killing the "enemy" will serve a higher purpose. We are told that such killing is justified because it serves vital national interests or that our God will be pleased or we are protecting our way of life or a combination of all three.

In the United States, the military has been venerated from the very beginning. Our leaders -- both civil and religious -- laud their exploits. The acts of a soldier have been lionized in books, songs and films. We have designated certain holidays to celebrate their actions. Heck, we're even treated daily to TV, radio and magazine advertisements about the "honor" of being a soldier. In essence, the message of the glory of soldiering is hammered into the heads of every American from our first day on earth until our last.

It should be noted that this very same pattern is just as true for those we go to war with. The Muslims fighting us in Afghanistan and Iraq use these same techniques to recruit citizens to fight a war they know, from the very start, they can't win. Yet, despite this fact, more and more people keep signing up!

When everything in your society glories war, it becomes very difficult not to succumb to seeing such ideas and concepts as a given -- the way it is now, always has been and will be forever more. For many, it becomes next too impossible to form a different opinion on the matter.

It is in THIS vein that I draw a comparison between Charles Manson's "family" and the war machine of nations. The onus is NOT on the people recruited and trained to carry out the system-sanctioned killing (the killings of innocents indeed were "sanctioned" in Charlie's screwed up world), but on the leaders who perform the brainwashing itself.

In all such cases, good, decent people -- some with low self-esteem and some with not -- are manipulated in such a way that they come to see their role in killing as divinely-sanctioned and justified. And so the leader or leaders place a gun in their hands, identify the target and send them off to kill.

1 comment:

  1. Good Analysis, Trey.

    I think some of the onus is on us, to keep working hard to create a truth-based reality.

    Of course, those at FOX News can blather on and on with often times hate-filled rhetoric about their version of the truth. But it is important to remember that they are not telling the truth. And it is important to repeat that, and challenge their lies at every opportunity.

    We know that our government of the USA is committing crimes as egregious as those committed by many a serial murderer.

    A foreign policy of dominance is justified by what, exactly? Is it by a low self-esteem, as you are hinting at here? It may be driven by feelings of inadequacy, or fears, for example the fear of scarcity.

    War and killing, taking without asking - and against the will of those being taken from, are not the solution toward building a peaceful world.

    It's time that we stand up and begin the very difficult work of transforming society and culture to a mode of serving the interests of life and health, true prosperity.


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