This past weekend, I was discussing the nature of explanations with some relatives. I argued that to explain anything completely, one would have to explain absolutely everything, given the need for context in a complete explanation and given the inter-connectedness of all that we know. Many explanations falling short of explaining everything work, at least on a local level, because on a local/pragmatic level an explanation is merely a description that makes us feel good.
Today, I came across a quote by Carl Sagan that relates to the above:
As Christopher Hedges has written, war is exciting and carries its own meaning, regardless of the flimsy excuses that politicians bandy about.
The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are all susceptible to war’s appeal.
I’ve previously written about the power of how we frame war; how is it that human slaughter can be seen as glamorous? Oscar Wilde also touches on this issue of how we frame war:
As long as we uncritically bandy about horribly vague phrases like “Support the Troops,” we will not expose America’s needless wars for what they are.