War

Add to the list of killers far more prolific than terrorists or criminals: wagers of war.

What if candidates for office could foment the same enthusiasm against war as they do against the measurably less harmful events of terror and crime? The unfeasibility of doing so tells us what matters is not the destructiveness of terror or crime, but their usefulness: they are evil embodied in some Other and thus serve as scapegoats to unite people behind an opportunistic leader. Opposing the evil of war, by contrast, would require something far more daunting than targeting Muslim or black people: confronting ourselves.

Ending war would require that we confront the system in which we all live and invest our sense of meaning in world history: the system of nation-states competing for power. It would require cooperation that is not merely international like the League of Nations or the United Nations, but supranational: it would require giving up, or at least demoting, the idea of the sovereign nation-state whose primary purpose is to serve a distinct group of people living within its borders. The ideas of sovereignty, nationhood, citizenship, and borders would need to be demoted, too. This change in perspective would apply to disincentivize civil wars, too, for there would not be a nation worth fighting for control of. We would understand the world not as a competition between us and them over limited resources but a collaboration amongst us all for shared well-being.

Of course, to end terrorism or crime would similarly require collapsing the false divisions of us and them, of individual and system. Cracking down on immigrants and criminal suspects are not genuine strategies to end terrorism or crime but to perpetuate them. Similarly, fighting wars perpetuates war, even “good wars” like World War II which led directly to the Cold War and Korea, Vietnam, and myriad wars in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

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