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.


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