Militarism is defined as “the tendency to regard military efficiency as the supreme ideal of the state and to subordinate all other interests to those of the military.” I cannot tell you how ancient is this mode of thinking, but we can be sure that it has been so long embedded in humanity that it has rarely been questioned, and forms the foundational, hidden social agreement of most cultures. Poverty, racism and neglect of the environment and public health are the natural outcomes of this culture. The planetary loss of human potential is absolutely heart-rending and terrible to contemplate. Despite the damage of militarism, humanity in general has ignored the ripple effects. Now that most of us are aware of the tsunami, the sixth mass extinction event, we are desperately searching for root causes in our effort to survive.
The recent American defense spending bill at $740.5 billion, greater than the next largest eleven countries’ military budgets combined, demonstrates the result of militarism combined with the world’s largest economy in the midst of an accelerating death rate from the Covid-19 virus, massive street protests of systemic racism, and a predictable exponential increase in unemployment and homelessness. The agenda of the American government seems to clearly be democide (mass deaths due to governmental acts of criminal omission and neglect), and it doesn’t matter if this agenda is conscious or not, recent or from a long systemic history, the effect on American citizens is the same as the effect an alcoholic has on their family.
Militarism is a disease
Living in a militaristic society is like living in an alcoholic family. The bank account is drained for the intoxicating power of weaponry and soldiers, the significant other (the government) doesn’t give a damn about your pain and suffering, and the addictive behavior ricochets off everyone, generation after generation.
Alcoholism and drug addiction has for centuries been considered to be a moral failing worthy of ostracism and punishment. Only since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 has it tangibly evident that addiction is indeed a disease from which it is possible to recover, to create remission, to restore the full range of abilities of a healthy person. Is militarism also a disease, a “domination disorder” from which we could recover on a global scale?
Consider this third definition of disease: “any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society.” Militarism is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice (definition of addiction), a self-destructive disease of thought and behavior in which violence progressively escalates into more violence, just as every addiction drives the obsession with ever-increasing doses of whatever will numb the pain.
Militarism can be easily seen as a dependency on control, domination and violence in order to compulsively repeat a temporary relief from frustration, grief, or pain quickly without changing the thoughts or behavior that cause these negative feelings. If allowed to progress, this disease like all other addictions is fatal, not just to individuals, but also entire societies. Violence-dependent people typically have low self-esteem, poor coping skills, poor social skills, and come from abusive, violence-dependent, and dysfunctional family systems. They appear to be bored, confused, lonely, depressed, and angry. Although they feel guilty about their loss of control over their violent behavior, thoughts, and feelings, they tend to blame others or external circumstances, and deny that they have a problem. If the shoe fits….
When we look at militarism as a disease, then:
- we can treat it, remission is possible
- the disease is separate from the individual(s)
- it is no longer a moral issue
- we have compassion for the individual(s) as a tragic failure to communicate their needs.
Herd immunity begins with individual behavior
You may have some hope that street protests will have some influence on the culture of racism, poverty, ecocide, or war. There is evidence that the culture of violence can be paused by social unrest, but it marches ever downwards.
The families of alcoholics (and political groups) become deeply divided against each other in disagreements about how to “fix” or reform the alcoholic (or the many consequences of militarism), denying the impossibility of managing or controlling what is a cultural disease with opposition to it.
We voluntarily or unconsciously engage in the domination disorder. No matter where they may be on the political spectrum, distrust and blame is the really destructive pandemic as those affected by militarism become part of the problem.
For as long as militarism has been part of human culture, social focus has turned away from healing, understanding or reconciliation. The American culture of constant fighting is now the nuclear test site for the human ability to achieve a more harmonious and mutually supportive community on a mass scale over an extremely diverse set of individual beliefs, and… we’re not there yet!
When we fight with each other, the focus of attention becomes self-righteousness bordering on narcissism, the same symptoms as exhibited by the alcoholic or militarist at the center of what is a family systems disease. The destructive communication feedback loops intensify and enable the disease, which continues to worsen.
Paradoxically, the trigger for immunity to this pandemic is to stop fighting with each other or with the militaristic-alcoholic government. Walk away from the battlefield, do not engage, and begin the mutual aid, solidarity, sharing and support clusters that transcend superficial differences (they’re all superficial). Gandhi, self-described as one of the most angry people on earth, had a term for this detachment: constructive program. The purpose of this strategy is to strengthen (with ferocity, I might add) the bonds of connection and belonging which have long been unmet.
Constructive program strikes at the very root of militarism, removing the very reason for its existence. It will not remove militarism quickly and totally, but when the time is ripe for civil disobedience the undeniable results of mutual support will be firmly established as a new cultural norm. Militarism will be stripped naked of its logic and become obsolete. Multiple tactics of nonviolent resistance will be far more effective than street protests, and then “We Shall Overcome” not the proponents of militarism, but the entire idea of it.
The greatest threat to the status quo is that we should take care of each other, bind each other’s wounds, and wipe the tears from the eyes of our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children. The greatest threat is not war, nor pestilence, nor famine, nor revolution, nor inflation or depression, nor collapse of the corporations or the government, nor overheating of the planet. All of those things just increase the struggle to solve problems. The greatest threat is that we might love each other as one family, and love our planet.
Love would sweep away and overturn all the roots and foundations of the status quo, set free the oppressed, heal the sick and wounded, quench the thirsty, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and set everyone dancing for joy. Love is now dangerous; love is suppressed; love is exiled from thought, word and deed. Open your heart to let compassion pour out onto the world, and your heart will overflow. It will not empty, it will expand exponentially.
The domination disorder at the center of the maelstrom will exhaust itself in greater and greater attempts to sow discord and division to justify its existence as the master controller. With nothing but shadows of previous opponents to strike against, democide will no longer be even remotely possible.