War can take many forms, of which bloody combat is only the most obvious and brutal. Today in my inbox, I got a link to an update on one of the wars that has been engulfing the Tampa radio scene for over a decade, which I still care about because I grew up there. After three hours of deliberation a jury found that Bubba “The Love Sponge” Clem had not defamed another Tampa DJ, Todd “MJ” Schnitt and his wife Michelle . Both of these two DJs have been fueding and fighting with each other since I was a teenager (that was a while ago) and these guys, who both have to be in their 40’s at least, I would think, ought to have grown up by now. Seriously, people, stop embarrassing our city for your pointless fussing and fighting. The sight of two unpleasant local “shock jocks” taking their tired schtick to court is an embarrassing one. It was so embarrassing that the feud became the subject of discussion for industry-wide radio professionals across the United States, some of whom seemed surprised that were were still “shock jocks” at all on the radio, in Central Florida no less.
Thomas Mann, a melancholy European novelist best known for such gloomy novels as The Magic Mountain and Death In Venice that dealt with the decline of European civilization because of its own folly and stupidity, made the quote that serves as the title of this blog entry. People of primitive and immature cultures tend to imbue conflict with a sense of honor and glory. The way, in such cultures, to prove one is a man is to be particularly combative, to have a prickly sense of honor which demands that those who question or attack such honor must be challenged (as was the case for the shock jocks of Tampa above) and dealt with harshly, so that one’s honor and manhood are recognized by the whole community. While the people who strut and prance around and act macho and seek after power and wealth and glory to show off their manhood may satisfy their own insecurities, those who are wise will recognize that such posing (whether it is done by men or women seeking to show how tough they are) is a sign of weakness instead of strength, and because it is based on insecurity, that sort of posing leads to a lot of conflict.
While we may fervently desire an honorable peace, let us admit readily that there are problems of peace. Among those problems of peace are that other people and their ways are often simply incomprehensible for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people have different personalities, and their own natural proclivities are deemed to be strange and alien, or offensive. In many ways, the various personalities we have are each small parts and tasks within a larger balance that we do not often appreciate or understand. Other conflicts are due to different worldviews, and the fact that alien worldviews tend to vigorously defend turf, are hostile to rivals, and often view those on other sides of boundaries without love and respect. However, even where there may be at times necessary conflicts simply because others are not willing to behave with honor and virtue, we ought not to celebrate war. Rather, we ought to mourn that it was necessary.
As I view legitimate warfare and conflict to be a form of discipline against those who cannot behave decently and in order, or with proper respect for me, and for those who engage in tyrannical and oppressive behavior, I tend to treat it with the same mood, one of sadness that it was found necessary rather than enjoyment in it. War carries with it a sense of failure that it was found necessary, and those who celebrate it as a positive good are as naive and deluded as those who cannot see any legitimate reasons for conflict or war at all, even as they (hypocritically) engage in culture wars themselves for their own purposes. Those who deliberately seek and enjoy warfare are, far from being courageous, actually cowardly for seeking to resolve difficulties by force rather than developing the difficult skills of restraint and negotiation. It takes moral courage not to fight others when provoked, and I must admit that I am not always very morally courageous in resisting the urge to lash out at others. But even attempted virtue has its rewards, at least, in recognizing a higher standard to behave to than one’s fellows, with gradual improvement towards that goal. So it is with peace, for even if my surroundings and upbringing were not conducive to growing up as a peacemaker, one can grow up and develop and seek better practice and better examples to follow so that the problems of peace can be dealt with successfully.