What People Believe
By Charley Reese
Clearing House" -- --
How do you persuade a man who has a wife and children and who
works hard but can barely make ends meet to take a pay cut and
go do something that has a high probability of getting him
killed or seriously injured?
Clearly, it is not in a man's self-interest to go to a foreign
country and fight in a war, the outcome of which won't affect
him or his family. So how do you persuade him to do it?
The answer lies in the nature of the human being. We are
mind-directed creatures. We act on the basis of our beliefs.
Therefore, if you can control what people believe, you can
control what they do. That's the whole purpose of advertising,
for example — to instill in people's minds the belief that a
product or service will be beneficial to them.
Persuading people to go to war is much more complicated and
involves identity, which is constructed of beliefs. When we are
born, we don't know who we are or where we are. We only know
we've just been pushed out of the warm womb into the drafty
world of giants who can pick us up by our feet and whack our
backsides. We protest the only way we can - by yelling.
The first beliefs that will come to constitute our identity come
from parents or caregivers. Any psychiatrist can tell you how
important these beliefs are and how difficult they are to shed.
Then we begin to add more from our peers, from the culture and
from education. So, we learn we are Americans, and just what are
Americans? Well, we are told about that largely through history,
through stories told by our own family and stories we read or
see in the movies.
And once we identify ourselves as Americans, then we will act as
we believe Americans, as we have defined them, ought to act. It
was not in my self-interest to go into the Army. I had a good
job. I had already decided against the military as a career.
But, as an American, I believed it was my duty, so I went, and
if the Army had said to go to Vietnam, I would have gone without
question. My identity as an American was based on my beliefs,
and part of those beliefs was that every American had a duty to
take his turn on watch.
Millions of men have gone to war because, as Americans or
British or French or Germans or Russians or Japanese, they
believed it was their duty. The danger lies in the fact that
unscrupulous men, through misrepresentation and propaganda, can
motivate people to go to war even though it is not in their
country's interest, much less their own. Unless there is an
invader threatening one's home and hearth, it is never in the
interest of an individual to go war — unless he decides to be a
It is an evil paradox that men with the lowest motives can
launch wars by appealing to the highest ideals of better men.
The millions killed in all the wars were nobodies as far as the
leaders who sent them into war were concerned. They were cannon
fodder. They all shared in common the fact that their political
leaders were willing to sacrifice them for greed or ego. For all
practical purposes, all of the dead in wars are unknown soldiers
in the war leaders' eyes. The dead are known only to the people
who loved them.
The trick is to remember to make the distinction between America
in the abstract and America in reality. The America in the
abstract is made up of all our experiences, memories, stories,
legends and myths. The America in reality consists of what
exists right at this moment.
And what exists right at this moment is a corrupt federal
government with a foolish man in the White House. What exists at
this moment is a military-industrial complex with a vested
interest in war and conflict. What exists at this moment are
unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What exists at this
moment is a government solicitous of corporate welfare, but one
that doesn't give a hoot about the individual American.
Rudyard Kipling said it so well when in a poem he wrote: "If any
question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied." Be
alert when you hear politicians talk about abstractions like
patriotism, national security and international stability. They
are trying to control you by controlling your mind.
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