To Fight or to Win?


Squire (left) and Speckles sparring through the gate, 2015

I wonder if some people just like to fight.  I don’t like it but grew up thinking it was necessary.  I don’t like competition of any kind, including competitive sports or games, but I live in a country where it’s anathema to admit it.

I’m an avoider who is more inclined to get caught up in other people’s battles.  Like the Greek god Chiron, the wounded healer, I’m the innocent bystander who gets injured by a mis-aimed arrow.  I don’t understand the purpose of martyrdom.  Did Jesus help anyone by dying on the cross?

My roosters like to fight, so I have to keep them apart.  They spar through the gate and attack the hardware cloth that keeps them from doing real damage to each other.  But I’m the one who suffers most if either of them gets hurt.  Son Speckles blinded father Squire in one eye before he knocked off his own spurs several years ago.  Now Squire has torn off his own back toenail and his toe may be broken.

Over the years, both have mellowed, and I wonder if either of them really wants to win.  If something happened to either of them, I believe the other would sorely miss the adrenalin rush they generate in each other.

I’ve worked with Vietnam veterans who complained of flashbacks and nightmares from combat duty.  After Vietnam, life in the United States seemed bland in comparison.  Some admitted to being “adrenalin junkies.”  Another man claimed to like being angry.  Is this the attraction of contact sports like football, or the intensity of war?  The emotional intensity of presumably “masculine” activities?

Our current US culture seems bent on fighting, arguing, opposing and otherwise disagreeing about everything from the climate to sexuality, but I wonder if there’s any purpose to it, except to fight.  Does anyone really expect to win, and if so, what would be resolved?

I recently read the book Fear:  Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward, about the Trump campaign and presidency so far.  The book’s title is based on a Trump quote, “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear,” from an interview with the author.  Essentially, the book says nothing new but it helps straighten out all the names and roles played by those close to the current administration.

The other night I finished reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie, an 800-page tome by David Nasaw, published in 2006.  Carnegie, who lived from 1835 to 1919, was a self-made multi-millionaire who was brutally competitive in his businesses but vowed to dispose of all his money to worthy causes before he died.  In his later years he became almost obsessed with the idea of world peace though arbitration.  However, a sizable portion of his wealth had been derived from government contracts to manufacture steel plates for battleships.  Later, his idea for a League of Peace may have inspired the League of Nations and later the United Nations.  He thought war barbaric, was outspoken in his views and used his wealth and fame to give unsolicited advice to presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and notables in the British government.  He feared the arms race between the UK and Germany as early as 1905, beginning with the British Dreadnaught and other monster battleships, but could not establish traction for his ideas regarding universal disarmament or arbitration.  It appears the outbreak of World War I broke him, and he—a vociferous showman—went silent for almost four years.

Nasaw says that Carnegie was given to hero worship, and Theodore Roosevelt was his assigned disciple of peace, despite evidence.  History shows that Roosevelt was an imperialist and war hawk, who rode to glory in the Spanish-American War; as president he seized the land that became Panama through instigating insurgents against Columbia; and he volunteered for World War I when the US entered, although he was deemed too old at the time.  Roosevelt referred to “righteous wars,” and Carnegie replied that all warring individuals and nations believe their particular cause is “righteous.”

The current US President, Donald Trump, campaigned on the several issues regarding war, suggesting the US withdraw from Afghanistan, among other things, according to the book Fear.  However, he is surrounded by hawkish military advisers who apparently have convinced him to stay the course, at least for now.  He has received praise and criticism for his contentious approach to friends and foes alike.  His provocative demeanor invites retaliation from all those “righteous” warriors throughout the world.

There are those who believe refusing to fight indicates weakness or cowardliness, but history shows that fighting fire with fire only makes bigger fires.  Does anyone win in a war?  In Lincoln’s war, Carnegie was among those, like JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, who hired substitutes to fight for them, and they got rich off the war.  Who else benefited?  The slaves were freed, but slavery was already dying out, if Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln is to be believed.  DiLorenzo claims Lincoln wanted a war. Lincoln may have won the war, but he lost his life.  Some people would rather fight than win.




13 thoughts on “To Fight or to Win?

  1. Sha'Tara

    An interesting post on what makes a fighter, a war-monger and a peace-maker. Sometimes the lines cross, it would seem. Carnegie was obviously a deranged individual, a schizoid psychopath same as Lincoln, if the true story of that character was ever known, but ‘heroes’ are usually carefully managed by historians. Wouldn’t do to upset a belief system and all nations desperately need their heroes in order to promote the propaganda.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      The type of person believed to be a hero is telling. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King are considered heroes by some. Unfortunately, the changes made by some “heroes” like FDR, outlast the men and grow to monstrous proportions. The big government paradigm, for instance, or that trite saying that “war stimulates the economy.” How many people are able to counter that? I could say that peace stimulates the economy, too, as in the Renaissance.

  2. Rosaliene Bacchus

    A thought-provoking post, Katharine. Our fighting gene–if I can call it that–is essential for preserving our life when threatened. For far too many among us, it has become a way of self-expression and achieving dominance.

  3. navasolanature

    Very interesting Katharine, and I often have some inclination to becoming a Quaker like my husband. The most relevant part of their peace testimony is the focus on conflict resolution. And in our personal lives managing this in relationships particular with angry males is always the challenge. Hopefully 2019 will be good for you.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      They say women are the emotional ones, but irrational male anger causes all our wars, does it not? I was reading recently about the Quaker settlement of Pennsylvania, which developed friendly relationships with the Natives, so was spared for a time from the raids other colonies had. I don’t have more details, but the idea impressed me and makes me wonder how our history might have been different if all the settlers had had such a respectful approach.

      1. navasolanature

        Interesting one on Quakers in Pennsylvania and have a novel I want to finish on Quaker history. I read part one which began in Wales and found many Quakers left Wales for Pennsylvania as the persecution was most harsh there. However, it took a while for Quakers in Pennsylvania to end slavery. We discussed today though how the Quaker chocolate businesses in the U.K. created a lot of good housing, working conditions, sick pay for their employees. Nowadays it seems Amazon and others get away with low wages and our benefit system picks up the pieces.

      2. katharineotto Post author

        Too bad there’s nobody who’s synthesizing the best ideas from all kinds of approaches to create some balanced composite. If it can be done in the chocolate business, it can be done.

      3. Sha'Tara

        “Save the earth, it’s the only planet with chocolate!” There, let’s synthesize that, maybe it will be a cause people can rally under, or at least anyone under twenty and over sixty-five!

      4. katharineotto Post author

        Cute, Sha’Tara. But how do we know it’s the only planet with chocolate? We might add, “It’s the only planet with chocolate that’s within walking distance.”

      5. Sha'Tara

        Does it have to be true? It only has to be like everything else, something people want to believe in, and fight for. Did you mean that the chocolate is within walking distance, or the planet with chocolate? There could be chocolate on Neptune but it wouldn’t be within walking distance… right!

      6. katharineotto Post author

        The planet with chocolate, and walking is eco-friendly, not like the fuel required for spaceships.

        No, it doesn’t have to be true, but I fall back on my belief that there are better ways to achieve what you want than fighting.

      7. Sha'Tara

        There may be (are!) better ways to achieve what we want than by fighting, but if given no other choice, it will come to fighting once more. Let’s just remember that the word ‘fighting’ does not have to automatically mean violence against someone or something else. It can encompass serious self sacrifice; a willingness to die that another may live. That requires much discernment, not to mention real courage. The future, as I see it, is going to force us to go through rapid and terrible changes and most changes are not peaceful. I’m not talking about some meaningless 2020 American presidential election, I’m looking at a panorama encompassing hundreds of years, not all of them strictly concerning Earthians either. The world as we know it and have force-shaped, has grown beyond our willingness to engage and accept. It is now our nemesis because we have given the reins of power over it to our deadliest enemy: the globalist cabal of billionaires and banksters. We’ve handed them the rights to abuse and destroy at will, removing all the checks and balances we had garnered through our bloody revolutions. What shall we do about that? Wait for the end watching movies in a cinema?

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