“War comes at the end of the twentieth century as absolute failure of imagination, scientific and political. That a war can be represented as helping a people to ‘feel good’ about themselves, their country, is a measure of that failure.” – Adrienne Rich (born May 16, 1929)
[(January 1991, What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993) , as listed in The Little Book of Peace, edited by Patricia J. Chui (2001), pg 91].
Adrienne Rich is a prominent poet, essayist, feminist, and activist. [Sources for biographical information: Wikipedia].
Adrienne Rich wrote the above passage in 1991, after the first “Gulf War.” In 2010 the United States is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Drone attacks in Pakistan are frequent. Will there be conflict with Iran and / or North Korea also?
Now, in a still new century, and some 19 years after Rich made her statement, is it still fair to state that “war is an absolute failure of imagination”?
War i$ be$t for Bu$ine$$. $oul$ $old at Bargain deba$ement price$$.
Recently, I read part of a speech made by a retired senior Marine Corps officer back in the 1930’s (1931?) about how – in his service in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, China, and elsewhere during the first two decades of the last century – he had been making those countries essentially safe for American business interests.
Astonishing to read such an indictment by a senior officer of the military.
What we see with chimpanzee warfare (yes, they actually do something that is argued by some to be war like) is that it is about territory which is representative of resources. Humans just happen to dress up war because we have many ways to frame the context of war. But call it business or resource acquisition (or protection)–it is still the same old dance.
I don’t think that animals are the perfect model for humans–we differ from them, they differ from us. But I do think that often we can’t see past the ways we dress up our activities so it becomes easier to see how our actions would look to folks who don’t have our brains.
In other words, imagination seems to dress up war to be something that it is not. So round about I guess that does lead back to it being a failure/flaw of the imagination to move with the gut and then dress it up.
Hi C. R. Lanei, thank you very much for your comments.
I especially appreciate your scientific orientation and your deep interest in primates.
One thing which came to mind while I read your comment is “humans are animals.” Most people don’t understand this, or refuse to acknowledge this.
I believe that war does represent an “absolute failure of imagination” as Adrienne Rich described it – especially now. Humans are conscious, self aware, have opposable thumbs, and have great responsibility in shaping human and global evolution into the future.
While we humans have more of a global consciousness than ever before, the wars and saber rattling continue.
In my opinion, humans and human societies have great responsibility also for acting as caretakers of our planet. War making does not figure into caretaking for our planet.