What War Does to Men

I love John Taylor Gatto, and I am re-reading his The Underground History of American Education (downloaded via iSilo from his website to my handheld). It has become as important a piece of writing for me as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, the four synoptic Gospels, the Book of Ecclesiastes, or anything by Albert Jay Nock. This quote is from his history of schooling in the United States, and explains the true danger of war, what war does to individual human beings, and the expectations that organizing society during war does for elites:

Prior to 1860 Americans didnít demand a high level of national solidarity — a loose sort of catch-as-catch-can unity satisfied the nation in spite of the existence even then of patriotic special interest groups like Know-Nothings. Neither by geography, culture, common experience, or preference was the United States naturally a single country although it did possess a common language. But conformity had been ordered by corporate and banking interests from the Northeast, so one country it would become.

Stupendous profits accrued to these interests from the Civil War, and its great lesson of national regimentation into squads, platoons, brigades, companies, regiments, and army corps was not lost on the winners. Warfare by its nature forces men to wear “value-ranks” openly for all to see, forces everyone to subordinate themselves to higher ranks, and higher ranks to subordinate themselves to invisible orders. War conditions men to rule and to be ruled. Modern war creates a society far different in type and scale from the ragged and bizarre individuality which emerged out of the American Revolution. With everyone dressing alike, eating alike, and doing everything else alike, maximum profit can be derived from the use of mass-production machinery in an ideal environment where the goods of production are swiftly wasted, and military “consumers” are literally forbidden the right to refuse to consume! A soldier must wear his uniform, eat his food, fire his rifle. To guaranteed customers through psychological drills is the very essence of the corporate world about to come into being.

Consider that the welfare state is, in the American context, the product of “progressive” reformers (Republic, Democrat, it hardly matters) saying to themselves — “Look at it what we did in war. Imagine what marvelous things we could do in peace!”

As the folks at strike-the-root.com say, “other people are not your property.” Not to manage, not to organize, not to treat as resources or commodities.