Friday, October 29, 2010

The War from Within

   "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind."
   Those words, spoken by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, have a straight-forward appeal that strikes a cord with all of us. But how exactly does one put an end to war?
   Planets collide. Volcanoes erupt. Stars burn out and explode. The entire panorama of existence and the organisms that grace our planet--plant, animal, human or microscopic--fight in a war for survival, humans against nature and nature against itself. Do they not? It is not always vicious or brutal. Neither is it always obvious or consistent. Is it war if an aggressor chooses to destroy its foe slowly and subtly, by deception or trickery, rather than where all eyes can see? I think so.
   We war against cancer, against manipulation from those who would abuse and exploit us, against diseases like Alzheimer’s and ultimately against death itself.
   Kennedy was, of course, talking about nation against nation at a time when nuclear weapons were proliferating like none other, and when capitalist fears of a communist takes over had stoked many a mind to the pinnacle of paranoia.
   Jerome D. Frank’s major work, Sanity and Survival: Psychological Aspects of War and Peace, (New York, Vintage Books/Random House, 1967) begins with this introductory paragraph:
   “After about half a million years of ceaseless effort man has finally created the ultimate weapon. The amount of destructive power at every nation’s disposal is now limited only by the amount of resources it is willing to invest in nuclear warheads and delivery systems. At least two countries have stockpiled enough fissionable material to wipe out mankind, and as nuclear weapons become steadily cheaper to produce, more nations can achieve this capacity.”
   That reality, unfortunately, still exists. So do the bunkers, the hideouts, and the fears, justified or not.
   But talk about it we loathe, because the answers are difficult and illusive. Because the obvious is too much to accept and because we are all but parts within a whole, at war from within and at war from without.
   Pandora’s box has been opened.

Carl Sagan on God, Faith and Religion