03 April 2016

Thoughts on conflict

This picture was made by my four-year-old nephew Leo.

Dear weblog,

There was a period when Country X was at war. During that era, I assume that Country X admired itself while another country disliked Country X. After much time passed, Country X lost the war; and…

Why did I start like this? I don’t know much about human history, so I’m afraid to get too specific with names and dates—that’s why I used the generic label of Country X and referred vaguely to “time passing” instead of listing concrete years like 1611. But now that I’ve interrupted myself and forgotten both my original point as well as my…

What does it mean to lose a war? If a man loses a yo-yo, he no longer possesses it. I know: this is using the word in a different way. Still, it amuses me to think of “losing war” as possessing war no longer.

And how much can we say that a yo-yo has in common with the concept of virginity? Some folks say that when virginity is lost, it can nevermore be retrieved. What if war were the same—what if Country X, after losing it, could never get war back? Would the world grow bored? To pass the long slow days of peacetime, would warmongers settle for swindling each other’s companies in the marketplace, instead of slaying each other’s countrymen on the battlefield?

Warfare entails nation versus nation. Howbeit, what if multinational corporations wish to fight? Must they forfeit their basic, God-given right to cause mayhem, just because they were born transcendent of the pieces of the game?

My understanding is this: If you cheat at a game, you become the victor. Some say, however, that cheating is illegal and thus nullifies a win. But if your opponents do not know that you have cheated, then even though the win is technically void, you are still considered the victor, for all of eternity.

Is war a game? Does war have rules? Can war be won by cheating? If such a thing were possible—the overturning of a nullified victory—what would it look like? A referee rules that Country X cheated its way to victory; therefore Country O, which was annihilated in the process, is no longer the loser but actually the champion. …And yet, what if the referee cheats? Who shall nullify a wrongful nullification? And what would that entail?

Imagine that you are a trustworthy individual, and you enter into an argument with a compulsive liar. How can you win that argument? (Does conversation have rules?) I, for one, can’t conceive of any way that a faithful witness might prevail against a lair. And I think that this is why Jesus passively submitted to die as a criminal—he might have thought: What’s the use of fighting this crooked court system?

Now imagine that you possess less integrity than Jesus of Nazareth, so you choose to fight lies with lies: you enter the Liars Club (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em) and start to converse with a choice foeman. How do you win this argument? It’s liar vs. liar: a fair fight. Speaking personally, this is where I become interested. This is the realm of poetry; now the warfare is mental. Since either side is committed to embellishing freely, the win will go to the stronger imagination. The name of the game is persuasion.

I want to interrupt myself again here, to admit that what I just said is not quite balanced—the above affair does not constitute the realm of poetry; I allowed myself to write those last few phrases, because I was swept away by their rhythm: seduced by style over substance. But I want to continue as if what I’m saying is right…

The problem is: the group that we liars are trying to persuade is the populace. And it’s not even the populace, as too much of its number is inattentive to our discussion—so I should say auditors rather than populace, since we’re only able sway those who deign to listen. And here’s the other problem: Nobody’s listening! So each arguer has none to convince but himself. As a result, the name of the game, persuasion, blooms into amusement: self-amusement. For, being devoid of an audience from the beginning, the only award left to win is one’s own favor.

(That’s too neat—I don’t like it. I’m wary of anything that has a clean finish. I prefer how those paragraphs at the start break off in mid-thought… So I lose this entry.)

P.S.

It was way too cold and way too windy today; the current season, I say, should be far more pleasant. We went for a walk at our regular place, my sweetheart and I, and the only thing good about it was that there were no other people in sight. My guess is that everyone stayed home on account of the weather. But I enjoyed the mire on the path from last evening’s rainfall. I had the foresight to wear my big ugly waterproof boots, so I was able to trudge right through the sloppiest places. The sounds that the muddy ground made as I kept stepping into it were curious to hear. Plus we met several birds along the way; some whose songs were sublime, and others whose songs were plain irritating—I judge them, yes, so that I too might be judged.

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