Mankind's first desire is to avoid death. Failing that, we strive with all our might to predict the future so as to be able to manipulate events in our favor. But even accurate prediction does not prevent misery and death, so we, unlike any other animal, take our pain into our own hands and rather than let random events plunge us into whatever cauldron fate has prepared for us, create our own misery.
People love addiction. Whatever can be found of all the earth's bounty that takes a person over will be cultivated, nourished, coddled and embraced even to the exclusion of necessities. Who has not walked through cold and rain at 2:00 in the morning to buy a pack of cigarettes? Who has not rooted through ashtrays for half-smoked butts? Who has not purchased alcohol instead of food? And these are not even the big time drugs.
When you have an addiction, you suddenly have a focus for your life, a reason to live. Nothing else is as important as getting the next fix. There is no shame, no repugnance, no limit to what you will do to satisfy the craving. The absence of pain is redefined as pleasure, and pleasure itself is submerged beneath the waters of craving. Time is redefined, and the addict live from day to day, from fix to fix. In defiance of all the Fates, he creates his own misery, and as none worse can be found, is perfectly satisfied.
Everyone universally agrees that addiction is bad and wicked. That addiction leads straight to Hell and death, destroys lives, turns the virgin into a harlot, the honest husbandman into a thief and wastrel. Yeah, and so what. Nothing dissuades us. The need to control our lives and to give ourselves meaning in the face of the void is too strong.
Now I understand why, for as long as we have been human or something approaching it, we have engaged in warfare. War is a drug, and indeed the most seductive and powerful of them all. War is not only a drug, it is the first drug. The one that sweeps up all around it, sparing no one. It is as though one Heroin user addicted all the rest: the abstemious saint, the modest wife, the babe unborn. War redefines society, elevates the inglorious, glorifies the destroyer, heaps honors on him whose hands are the guiltiest of his brother's blood. Killing without being yourself killed gives everyone a compelling reason to be alive, a focus for every action, Pleasure is defined as mere existence, danger is courted in an atmosphere of stultifying boredom, goods are created only to be destroyed instantly, vast ingenuity is devoted to the manufacture of stratagems aimed solely at negative ends.
Everyone hates war. Everyone is happy when a war ends and wants instantly to forget all about it. Everyone then makes plans for the next one and secretly hordes a store of weapons deliciously hoping to use them in anger. War is not fun, just as Heroin addiction is not fun. But both are compelling, satisfying, whole and complete. Nothing else is needed: neither wife nor child, neither food nor comfort. War allows us to choose our own misery and to triumph over an unfeeling and random universe. War is a cultural addiction and addiction is a self-inflicted war on the individual.
Fate has nothing worse. War is a hell of our own devising, where we wallow happily, full and complete, contented in our self-created addiction.
July 24, 2001
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