An Intangible War?

At the beginning of the quarter, my professor challenged me to ask humanistic research questions to inspire my writing. I began the year wanting to focus my blog on wars dealing with social injustice, however over the course of the quarter I have found that my real interest lies in the intangible aspects of war.

How do we define war? One definition leads us to perceive war as a physical conflict such as hand-to-hand combat, trench warfare, or bombings. However, a second definition is much broader, allowing war to be applied to many other instances. War can take on many other forms besides physical conflict. There can be a war for civil liberties and social justice, or a war within one’s conscious mind. The applications to war are seemingly endless, and rightfully so, due to its highly symbolic nature.

I began my blog with a post about why we go to war when we are destined to die. In Homer’s Iliad, Hector is at war literally as a soldier, but he is also at war figuratively. Torn between community and family or the heroic code, there is a war brewing inside of him. How does Hector’s social conditioning influence his indecisiveness over whether or not to go to war? How does social conditioning influence anyone’s decision to go to war? While Hector wants a community and family, he can never have them because he is an epic hero and must follow the heroic code. As a Hero, he is obligated to fight for the survival of his community and its values, so he gives up his place in his community entirely, and sacrifices his family in the process. My next post dealt with the unjust Japanese internment, and similarly, my fourth post dealt with the unjust stereotyping of communists, people of Middle Eastern descent, and the Muslim community. While a small minority of people in each of these groups may have been dangerous, there was, and is, still no reason to unfairly apply those stereotypes to all people. This form of stereotyping leads to prejudice and discrimination, problems that have plagued us throughout history. My hope is that people will eventually realize the horrible ways we are capable treating our fellow people, fight for a change, and declare a metaphoric war on social injustice.


An image of a protest during the Civil Rights Movement. (From Wikipedia)

As I continue blogging throughout this course, I hope to expand on the definition of war and address what qualifies as war since it encompasses so many different forms of conflict. War has shaped much of our history, whether it is literal war or wars of social injustice or an individual’s indecision. However, as time passes, we tend to forget the past or depict it in a different light, and this temporal difference affects how we view wars in the past, and maybe even how we act in the future. For example, while the outcome of the Civil War is now viewed in a positive light because it is associated with ending slavery, right after the war, many people were still skeptical, if not outright opposed, to the idea of slavery’s end. Considering our value system, I find it surprising that we haven’t had another movement like the abolishment of slavery or the Civil Right’s Movement, despite the great amount of prejudice that still exists.


Will we unite? (From NOVA)

How have the conditions changed to prevent us from rising up? In the civil rights movement, there was a reasonably large and specific group of people, the African Americans, who were facing discrimination, and because of their similarities, they were able to unite. Today, however, there seems to be more light being shed on injustice toward intersectional groups of marginalized people. Because these people all come from different backgrounds, it is more difficult to unite them under one specific issue.

Works Cited

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Izenberg, Oren. “The Poetics of the Iliad.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building, Irvine, CA. 8 October 2015. Lecture.


Acting on Reflections

The documentary, “Theater of War,” directed by John Walters, takes on the form of the highly disputed sub genre of essay film, which brings together many individual and overarching viewpoints to encourage the audience to form their own opinion about what they are watching. With this genre of film, it is likely that the piece will provoke different thoughts and associations for each individual, based on their past experiences or social conditioning. For me personally, the montages in the film that bring together many different scenes of protest as well as many different scenes of war were the most thought provoking. While watching it, I was amazed at how we allow history to continue to repeat itself generation after generation. It is easy for us to look back and judge the mistakes others have made, but it is much harder to look forward and prevent those mistakes from happening again.

In the essay film, Meryl Streep, who plays Mother Courage, explains why she wanted to act in the play Mother Courage and her Children. It wasn’t because of Kattrin’s bravery and kindness when she bangs on the roof to warn the people of the city of the incoming attack. It was because of the moment when Courage sings the lullaby over Kattrin’s body, a scene that Streep says seems to repeat itself over and over with each war that comes. Her interpretation of the scene almost implies the inevitability of war and the untimely death of a mother’s children. However, Brecht would have wanted Streep and the audience to understand that war and the conditions of the play are not inevitable if collective action is taken.

Brecht, a self proclaimed Marxist, was in the US at the time of the Second Red Scare and was asked to testify along with the Hollywood 10. During that time, the US citizens were scared of communism due to fear of Soviet relations and their influence. In this case, bad relations with the U.S.S.R. conditioned people to fear communism and communists, leading to the unlawful persecution and arrest of many people due to their political beliefs. More closely related to my generation is the 9/11 terrorist attack. After seeing this tragic event and watching two wars being fought in the Middle East over terrorism, my generation has been conditioned to fear people of Middle Eastern ethnicities, leading to the persecution of and prejudice towards those people. History repeated itself, just under different circumstances.

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Two different propaganda images, one from the time of the Red Scare and one from the current War on Terror. Will we continue to let history repeat itself? (From Patriot Act C and the Sleuth Journal)

Looking back, we see all the ways we acted on impulse and out of fear during the time of the Red Scare, and one would expect we would try to improve on our mistakes from the past. However, we continue to act out of fear and use racial profiling unjustly, often associating someone of Middle Eastern descent with terrorism. The problem is not that we are incapable of reflecting on our past mistakes; it is that we have yet to learn from them. As Brecht communicated through his play Mother Courage, we require collective action to make a change, and in this case it will take a wholly educated populous to understand the consequences of our rash actions to stop this endless cycle.

(Update Nov. 17 2015)


This is just one example of unjust stereotyping of the Islamic community. (From TheMuslimIssue)

Considering the content of this post, I think it is important for me to address the events of the past week as they pertain to the ideas presented. This past week was tragic, with both Paris and Beirut subjected to terrorist attacks. Paris experienced suicide bombing and execution style killing, while, similarly, Beirut experienced a suicide bombing attack. Over the weekend, my news feed on Facebook was bombarded by a seemingly endless string of posts about the two events, many showing remorse and sympathy for the two, however the occasional post was about fear or hatred of the Muslim community. While we have the right to fear the extremists that committed these cruel and horrible acts, expanding this fear to the entire Muslim population is unfair and unjust. Ironically, through unjust stereotyping of the Muslim community, we are only encouraging support of terrorist groups like Isis. The cycle feeds itself. I worry that this recent attack will bring rise to an anti-Muslim sentiment greater than before, and lead us to act rashly and persecute innocent people as happened in the time of the Red Scare and in Japanese Internment.

Also, for more information on the sub genre of the essay film, this video provides a good basic explanation.

Works Cited

Smith, John. “The Thirty Years’ War: The Movie. Transitions/Comparisons.” University of California, Irvine. Humanities Instructional Building 100, Irvine, CA. 3 November 2015. Lecture.

Theater of War. dir. John Walters. perf. Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Tony Kushner. Lorber Films, 2008. Film.