Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cannon fodder

Asura by Anand Neelakantan is a novel based on the Ramayana from Ravana's point of view. In it, Ravana has an illegitimate son called Athikaya who he dislikes and with whom he has a testy relationship. But Athikaya strikes up a good friendship with Ravana's favourite son, Meghnada (also called Indrajit). Athikaya had been brought up by a poor man called Bhadra who turns up off and on in Ravana's life. In the final war with Rama's army, both Meghanada and Athikaya are killed by Lakshmana through deceit.

The war dead were placed on chariots and were drawn through the street towards the palace. Ravana sat tearfully with Meghanada's head on his lap. Everybody was crying for Prince Meghanada. Bhadra thought, 'My son is dead and these people were turning this into a spectacle.' He couldn't spot his adopted son's body anywhere. He finally saw the palace gates closing and two pyres being prepared one having Meghanada and the other having the unmistakable bulk of Athikaya.

He managed to push his way into the palace and begged Ravana to give him his son's body. Ravana refused but his wife Mandodari made him relent and  finally he snapped at Bhadra, 'Take him. Had he not been my Meghanada's friend, not even a dog would have cared about his death.' Hearing this, Bhadra thought:
Yes,I know, my king, not even a dog cares for the death of young men like my son, who died for you.The round medals you give away, the petty jobs you offer to the kin of those who die for you, the paltry compensations which you throw from your brimming coffers, are nothing but bones, to entice more dogs to die for you. Let me take my little dog from you. He has served his purpose. You showed young men how glorious it was to die for such abstract causes as the motherland and racial pride. You honoured him, and fooled the public, in arranging such a big procession for the dead. Everyone is happy that our country has not forgotten the young who laid down lives for their motherland. Everyone who has been a martyr will be remembered - until the next meal.  Great show, my king. Now more young men will come to die, enticed by your bones, two minutes of glory and a stone memorial by the street corner which real dogs will piss on. My son has served your purpose, now let me take him to his mother.  
I did not say any of this. If I had had the courage, then many like me would have had the courage to echo it, and there would not have been any Ravanas and Ramas left.
I get a similar feeling when I see live telecasts of honouring military causalities or of impassioned pleas for building war memorials. This obsession with war matters (present mainly in the educated middle classes) seems to have grown in recent years. You will sometimes hear concerns being expressed about the budget deficit, how costs should be 'rationalised', better targeting of subsidies, reduction of the budgets for various departments etc.

What you can be quite sure of is that the expenditure on defense will not be reduced. On the contrary, whatever increase is there will be deemed unsatisfactory.  Imagine the defense budget being reduced - there will be howls of protest. Sacrilege! Anti-national! How can you ask the defenders of the nation to make monetary sacrifices? As Ashis Nandy says in Bonfire of Creeds, one has to be ‘skeptical of state-sponsored anxieties about national security , especially when this concept of security is invoked to demand sacrifices from social sectors least able to make them’. He writes in another essay in the same book:
The ranks of the army and the police in all countries come from the relatively poor, powerless or low status sectors of society. Almost invariably, imperfect societies arrive at a system under which the lower rungs of the army and police are some of the few channels of mobility open to the plebians. That is, the prize of a better life is dangled before the deprived socio-economic groups to encourage them to willingly socialize themselves into a violent, empty lifestyle. In the process, a machine of oppression is built; it not only has its open targets but also its dehumanized cogs. These cogs only seemingly opt for what Herbert Marcuse calls 'voluntary servitude': mostly they have no escape.
He says that in America, in the case of the Vietnam war, the highly placed were able to dodge the draft thus ensuring that the men who went to fight were the socially underprivileged, people who were already being abused by the system. Many of them developed a pathological over-concern with avenging the suffering of their colleagues by stereotyping the Vietnamese or by becoming aggressive nationalists. So the war was effectively 'a story of one set of victims setting upon another, on behalf of a reified, impersonal system of violence'. In an analysis of the Gulf war of 1991, George Lakoff writes:
When President Bush argues that going to war would "serve our vital national interests", he is using a metaphor that hides exactly whose interests would be served and whose would not. For example, poor people, especially blacks, are represented in the military in disproportionately large numbers, and in a war the lower classes and those ethnic groups will suffer proportionally more casualties and have their lives disrupted more. Thus war is less in the interest of ethnic minorities and the lower classes than the white upper classes.
Also hidden are the interests of the military itself. It is against the military's interest to have its budget cut, or to diminish its own influence in any way. War justifies the military's importance and its budgetary needs. 
Those most wedded to folk theories of a strong nation-state seem to be the most insecure and keep seeing conspiracies everywhere. The JNU incident illustrates this condition: some people shouted anti-India slogans and one was given the impression that something serious had happened that threatened the country's peace and security. These people have their counterparts in Pakistan as shown by the arrest in Pakistan of a person who had hoisted an Indian flag because he was a fan of Kohli. As Ashis Nandy said in another context in Bonfire of Creeds, it is like 'the manner in which village lunatics are pursued by stone throwing teenagers while greater lunatics are allowed to become national leaders or war heroes'.

The US is not the epitome of virtue in all spheres but it showed more maturity in handling the case of a footballer when he chose to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,”  He said that he will continue his protest until there is “significant change”. Obama observed that the footballer “cares about some real, legitimate issues”

“Sometimes [protest is] messy and controversial and it gets people angry and frustrated,” Obama said. “But I’d rather have young people that are engaged with the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people that are just sitting on the sidelines and not paying attention at all.” Prof. Apoorv Anand makes a similar point in the beginning of this talk in Hindi.

PS: Not all army officers are obsessed with the idea of a strong nation-state as shown by this talk by Former Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas. (The talk is a mix of Hindi and English.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Deadly metaphors - II

The most common discourse form in the West where there is combat to settle moral accounts is the classic fairy tale. When people are replaced by states in such a fairy tale, what results is the most common scenario for a just war. Lakoff sketches the plot of such a fairy tale of the Just War whose cast of characters include a villain, a victim, and a hero. The victim and the hero may be the same person.
The scenario: A crime is committed by the villain against an innocent victim (typically an assault, theft, or kidnapping). The offense occurs due to an imbalance of power and creates a moral imbalance. The hero either gathers helpers or decides to go it alone. The hero makes sacrifices; he undergoes difficulties, typically making an arduous heroic journey, sometimes across the sea to a treacherous terrain. The villain is inherently evil, perhaps even a monster, and thus reasoning with him is out of the question. The hero is left with no choice but to engage the villain in battle. The hero defeats the villain and rescues the victim. The moral balance is restored. Victory is achieved. The hero, who always acts honorably, has proved his manhood and achieved glory. The sacrifice was worthwhile. The hero receives acclaim, along with the gratitude of the victim and the community.
The fairy tale has an asymmetry built into it. The hero is moral and courageous, while the villain is amoral and vicious. The hero is rational, but though the villain may be cunning and calculating, he cannot be reasoned with. Heroes thus cannot negotiate with villains; they must defeat them. The enemy-as-demon metaphor arises as a consequence of the fact that we understand what a just war is in terms of this fairy tale.
The metaphor of ‘state as a person’ and the fairy tale help structure the over-all metaphor of ‘war is politics pursued by other means’ which implies the metaphor ‘politics is business’ i.e. political management  is no different from business management. There is the favorite metaphor of economists and strategic relations experts of a ‘Rational actor’ who always acts in self-interest. Mathematics  of gambling with dice is used i.e probability theory, game theory, decision theory. Such metaphors are common and decision-makers often forget that they are just about simple dice games.

The Ludic fallacy - the use of the statistics of simple dice games to compute risk in complex social domains - was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan. According to Taleb, statistics is applicable only in some domains, for instance casinos in which the odds are visible and defined. Using this, many social scientists gravitate towards mathematical purity and fail to take various aspects into account like the impossibility of being in possession of the entirety of available information. They apply flawless statistical models to situations where they actually don’t apply.  This can result in the over-confidence in probability theory. Lakoff writes that viewed in this way, a war:
...requires a calculation of the "costs" and the "gains" of going to war. What, exactly, goes into that calculation and what does not? Certainly American casualties, loss of equipment, and dollars spent on the operation count as costs. But Vietnam taught us that there are social costs: trauma to families and communities, disruption of lives, psychological effects on veterans, long-term health problems, in addition to the cost of spending our money on war instead of on vital social needs at home, as well as the vast cost of continuing to develop and maintain a huge war machine.
Barely discussed is the moral cost that comes from killing and maiming as a way to settle disputes. And there is the moral cost of using a "cost" metaphor at all. When we do so, we quantify the effects of war and thus hide from ourselves the qualitative reality of pain and death. 
The rational actor uses the mathematics of gambles to minimize risks and losses and maximize gains. Dead bodies of your own soldiers are among the losses and bodies of enemy soldiers are among the gains.Here the rational actor doing cost- benefit  analysis is the State. Then there is a metonymy where the ruler stands for the state, eg. ‘We have to get Saddam out of Kuwait’. This allows a country to be seen as a single person rather as an amorphous state.

The metaphor system used to justify war may sound scientific and rational. What is missed is the moral dimension of war. When you remove all the fancy verbiage, you get the reality of war which would be considered serious crime in any other situation. The metaphor system promotes what psychologists call isolation: the dissociation of actions and feelings which allows actions to be pursued without being burdened by feelings. There is a dichotomy in the use of this metaphor system: it is used only to describe the enemy; when it comes to one's own side, the real horror is described. Lakof writes:
Reality exists. So does the unconscious system of metaphors that we use without awareness to comprehend reality. What metaphor does is limit what we notice, highlight what we do see, and provide part of the inferential structure that we reason with. Because of the pervasiveness of metaphor in thought, we cannot always stick to discussions of reality in purely literal terms.
There is no way to avoid metaphorical thought, especially in complex matters like foreign policy. I am therefore not objecting to the use of metaphor in itself in foreign policy discourse. My objections are, first, to the ignorance of the presence of metaphor in foreign policy deliberations, second, to the failure to look systematically at what our metaphors hide, and third, to the failure to think imaginatively about what new metaphors might be more benign.
As Ashis Nandy says in The Intimate Enemy, modern oppression "is a battle between dehumanized self and objectified enemy, the technologised bureaucrat and his  reified victim, pseudo-rulers and their fearsome other selves projected on to their ‘subjects’”.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Deadly metaphors - I

We usually think of metaphors as something imaginative poets come up with, a word play that expresses a thought by drawing surprising analogies, eg. 'Taj Mahal is a tear-drop on the cheek of time'. But it is a regular feature of our everyday lives. George Lakoff writes in Metaphors We Live By, 'If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do everyday is very much a matter of metaphor.'

Lakoff presented a paper in 1991 in the midst of the Gulf War called Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf which discusses the metaphor systems used to justify the war.  The first of these is the 'State-as-Person System'.
A state is conceptualized as a person, engaging in social relations within a world community. Its land-mass is its home. It lives in a neighborhood, and has neighbors, friends and enemies. States are seen as having inherent dispositions: they can be peaceful or aggressive, responsible or irresponsible, industrious or lazy. 
Well-being is wealth. The general well-being of a state is understood in economic terms: its economic health. A serious threat to economic health can thus be seen as a death threat. To the extent that a nation's economy depends on foreign oil, that oil supply becomes a 'lifeline' (reinforced by the image of an oil pipeline).
Strength for a state is military strength. Maturity for the person-state is industrialization. Unindustrialized nations are '`underdeveloped', with industrialization as a natural state to be reached. Third-world nations are thus immature children, to be taught how to develop properly or disciplined if they get out of line. Nations that fail to industrialize at a rate considered normal are seen as akin to retarded children and judged as "backward" nations. Rationality is the maximization of self-interest.
There is an implicit logic to the use of these metaphors: Since it is in the interest of every person to be as strong and healthy as possible, a rational state seeks to maximize wealth and military might.
Violence can further self-interest. It can be stopped in three ways: Either a balance of power, so that no one in a neighborhood is strong enough to threaten anyone else. Or the use of collective persuasion by the community to make violence counter to self-interest. Or a cop strong enough to deter violence or punish it. The cop should act morally, in the community's interest, and with the sanction of the community as a whole.
Morality is a matter of accounting, of keeping the moral books balanced. A wrongdoer incurs a debt, and he must be made to pay. The moral books can be balanced by a return to the situation prior to the wrongdoing, by giving back what has been taken, by recompense, or by punishment. Justice is the balancing of the moral books.
War in this metaphor is a fight between two people, a form of hand-to-hand combat. Thus, the US sought to "push Iraq back out of Kuwait" or "deal the enemy a heavy blow," or "deliver a knockout punch." A just war is thus a form of combat for the purpose of settling moral accounts.
This metaphor hides the class structure, ethnic composition, religious rivalry, political parties, the ecology, and the influence of the military and of corporations (especially multi-national corporations). The ‘national interest’ is defined by politicians and policy makers and portrayed commonly in terms of economic health and military strength. As Lakoff writes, ‘But what is in the "national interest" may or may not be in the interest of many ordinary citizens, groups, or institutions, who may become poorer as the GNP rises and weaker as the military gets stronger.’

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'The people have spoken,'

I saw a satirical report about the US presidential election of 2000 that had been printed in the satirical magazine The Onion given in Critical Mass:
In one of the narrowest presidential votes in US history, either George W. Bush or Al Gore was elected the 43rd president of the United States Tuesday, proclaiming the win 'a victory for the American people and the dawn of a bold new era in this great nation.'
'My fellow Americans,' a triumphant Bush or Gore told throngs of jubilant, flag-waving supporters at his campaign headquarters, 'tonight, we as a nation stand on the brink of many new challenges. And I stand here before you to say that I am ready to meet those challenges.'
'The people have spoken,' Bush or Gore continued, 'and with their vote they have sent the message, loud and clear, that we are the true party of the people.'
With these words, the crowd of Republicans or Democrats erupted.
The presidential elections may not be so close this time but what are the odds that you will not hear a similar speech in a few days time?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Animal violence

In the second book of The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi,  The Secret Of The Nagas , it is stated that animals kill for only two reasons - hunger and self-defence. This is a belief that many people seem to believe but it is not true. Here are a few instances where non-human animals (I presume that's what the novel is referring to)  kill for reasons other than hunger and self-defense.
  1. Lions kill cheetah cubs left and right. Studies from Serengeti indicate that lions may be responsible for up to 57% of cheetah cub mortality! And  they don't eat them. It is shown a number of times on the nature channels.
  2. Infanticide is a powerful tool in ensuring the survival of a species, researchers are increasingly finding. For many animal infants, the greatest threat to their survival is from their own kind. It has been recorded in a number of species including mammals such as rodents and primates, and fish, insects and amphibians. Among lions, male interlopers attempt to overthrow the fathers of the cubs in a pride. If they succeed, by hurting, chasing off or even killing the dominant male, and taking over the leadership of their group, then infants are suddenly placed at great risk. The mothers will come into heat only if the cubs are dead and if the males wait, they may be overthrown by other males which will mean that their genes will not be passed on.
  3. About 20 percent of younger blue-footed booby siblings die because of their elders’ attentions. The nearby brown boobies kill their younger siblings every time. Being born a second child in a brown booby household is nearly a death sentence (unless the elder dies of a disease or something). Probably the only reason the parents have two chicks is to have an insurance in case the elder one doesn't survive.
  4. Some species of birds thrive not by carefully rearing their own young, but by pawning that task off on adults of other species. The European Cuckoo is the bird in which this habit has been most thoroughly studied. Female European Cuckoos lay their eggs only in the nests of other species of birds. A cuckoo egg usually closely mimics the eggs of the host (one of whose eggs is often removed by the cuckoo). The host incubates and hatches the cuckoo egg. Shortly after hatching, the young European Cuckoo instinctively shoves over the edge of the nest any solid object that it contacts. With the disappearance of their eggs and rightful young, the foster parents are free to devote all of their care to the young cuckoo. The cuckoo chick often grows much larger than the host adults long before it can care for itself but the host doesn't seem to notice it. Here is a video of what is called brood parasitism.
  5. I saw a program (narrated by David Attenborough) in which a group of killer whales chase a gray whale and its calf across a vast expanse of ocean. The long chase made the calf tired and the killer whales managed to isolate it from the mother. They then tore the calf to shreds and swam away without eating anything. The killing had been for fun.
Note: When language suggesting intentionality is used like 'the animals try to ensure the survival of the species by...', it shouldn't be take to mean that the animals know what they are doing. What actually happens is that because of the variation of individuals in a population, some individuals will have certain characters (morphological, anatomical, physiological or behavioral) that will give them an advantage over individuals that don't have them.Thus more of these individuals will survive and reproduce on average and leave copies of their genes to future generations. By this process, that particular character becomes more common in that species over many generations. Instead of saying all this every time, biologists use the language of intentionality as a short cut.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


In the first book of The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, The immortals of Meluha, a reason was given for the greatness of Meluha. Apparently, the greatest legacy of Lord Ram to the Meluhans was a system he created to make sure only merit determines a person's position and it has made Meluha the greatest nation in history. All children that are born in Meluha are compulsorily adopted by the empire. To ensure that this is done methodically, all pregnant women have to go to a great hospital city for delivery unaccompanied by anyone. Once the child is born, it is left behind and the mother travels back. The children are given common education and a comprehensive examination at 15 determines their trade. The children never learn the identity of their parents. Shiva says, 'The efficiency and fairness of this system is astounding.'

John Carey said, 'The aim of all utopias, to a greater or lesser extent, is to eliminate real people' and this 'astounding' system is another one in which humans don't figure.I will just look at one element of this 'greatest legacy of Lord Ram' - adoption of children by the empire. Is it a good idea to separate children from their parents? I read about a pediatric disease called hospitalism in Monkeyluv by Robert Sapolsky. It is now mostly a disease of the past but illustrates the problem involved in separating children from their parents.

In some parts of the US in the early part of the 20th century, a typical child hospitalized for more than 2 weeks would start to show signs of hospitalism which involved a listless wasting away despite adequate food intake. There was a weakening of muscles and loss of reflexes, and greatly increased risk of gastro-intestinal and lung infections. With the onset of hospitalism, mortality rates had gone up almost tenfold.

The guess was that with kids crammed in pediatric wards, something infectious would be contracted. But this explanation was at odds with a strange pattern in the statistics: kids seemed to be less likely to succumb to hospitalism in the poorer hospitals, the ones that couldn't afford the state-of-the-art mechanical isolation wards for the supposedly infected kids.

By 1942, enough research had been done on developmental psychology for the correct explanation to emerge. A New York University physician deemed it to have been caused by 'emotional deprivation'. It was caused by two ideas prevalent at the time - the belief that sterile, aseptic conditions have to be maintained at all costs and the belief among pediatricians that touching, holding and nurturing infants was sentimental maternal nonsense.

Parental guides at the time used to warn parents of the adverse effects of using a cradle, picking up a child that cried or handling the baby too often. If parents were being advised like this, one can imagine how a nurse or attendant will interact with a child in a ward full of them. By today's standards, this sort of child rearing would be considered cold and austere.

Sapolsky mentions some animal studies that have been done in this regard. When an infant rat is licked and groomed by its mother, the pup secretes growth hormones, which triggers cell division - mother's touch is essential for growth. Experiments have shown that when a mother rat does a lot of licking and grooming, many changes happen in the developing brain of the pup which have lifelong effects - fewer stress hormones secreted as an adult, better learning under duress, etc. He writes:
Similar themes have emerged from primate studies, beginning with the classic work of Harry Harlow, who showed that infant monkeys understood development better than did the average pediatrician battling hospitalism - given a choice, the monkeys preferred maternal touch to maternal nutrition. And it was not sheer tactile stimulation that was essential. Harlow dared to inject into the modern scientific literature the word love when discussing normal primate development and what was essential. And in humans, a disorder of dramatically, even fatally disrupted development due to emotional deprivation can be found in every endocrine textbook on growth. It is called psychosocial dwarfism.
During the first couple of years of life, that part of a baby's brain develops which allows it to maintain human relationships and regulate its emotions. These circuits are constantly reinforced by regular interaction with the mother. Children need to have these interactions many hundreds of times in their growing years for these areas to develop properly. In The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge writes:
During World War II, Rene Spitz studied infants reared by their own mothers in prison, comparing them with those reared in a foundling house, where one nurse was responsible for  seven infants. The foundling infants stopped developing intellectually, were unable to control their emotions, and instead rocked back and forth, or made strange hand movements. They also entered 'turned-off' states and were indifferent to the world, unresponsive to people who tried to hold and comfort them. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The romanticization of war - II

The Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar links the presumed lack of respect for the Indian Army to it not having fought a war for 40-50 years. As evidence, he cited the relatively less attention 'an IAS or any other authority' accords to a letter from a military commanding officer than before. It is not the soldier on the ground (who is close to the horrors of war) but the backroom strategist (for whom war is a video game) who itches for war. Evidently,  an IIT degree is not an inoculation against this disease.

Parrikar doesn't seem to realize (or perhaps realizes but doesn't agonize over it since he won't suffer) that War is no picnic – it kills and maims soldiers, deprives families of those they love, magnifying their tragedy in case the dead was also their bread-winner. It strains the nation's resources and throws the normal life of the nation into chaos. Once I was told that there was a report in some magazine that India had the resources to destroy the whole of Pakistan while Pakistan had the resources to destroy 'only' half of India so in the event of a full fledged conflict India's victory was assured. It doesn't seem to occur to war-mongers that it would be a Pyrrhic victory.

War-mongers don't think about the fact that the consequences of war don’t end at the trumpeting of victory or ceasefire, but continue to unfold many years thereafter. In The Palace of Illusions, which is the story of the Mahabharata from Draupadi's point of view, a dying Duryodana tells Yudhishtira, 'I am going to heaven to enjoy all its pleasures with my friends. You'll rule a kingdom peopled with widows and orphans and wake each morning to the grief of loss. Who's the real winner, then, and who the loser?'

In Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, Sergius is the epitome of what every romantic hero should be: He is dashing, handsome, idealistic, wealthy, aristocratic, brave, and the acclaimed hero of a recent crushing victory in a cavalry raid which he led. He is possessed of only the loftiest and most noble ideals concerning war, romance, and chivalry, and he represents the quintessence of what a noble Bulgarian aristocrat should be.

Captain Bluntschli is a realist who sees through the absurd romanticism of war. Unlike the aristocratic volunteers who are untrained, amateurish idealists, Captain Bluntschli is a professional soldier, trained in waging a war in a highly efficient, businesslike manner. At one point, he tells Sergius. 'I'm a professional soldier. I fight when I have to, and am very glad to get out of it when I haven't to. You're only an amateur: you think fighting's an amusement.'

Justice by Michael Sandel gives an idea of the class composition of the American army. Young people from middle-income neighbourhoods are disproportionately represented in the army. The least represented are the most affluent 20% and the poorest 10% (who may lack the necessary education). Politicians also have a poor representation. I am reasonably sure that a similar class composition exists in the the Indian army also. If the decision makers had more of their relatives in the army they would be less eager for war. Those who most urge others to make sacrifices have to sacrifice the least in case of war. Sandel writes about the historian David M Kennedy's views:
He argues that "the US armed forces today have many of the attributes of a mercenary army," by which he means a paid  professional army that is separated to a significant degree from the society on whose behalf it fights.He doesn't mean to disparage the motives of those who enlist. His worry is that hiring a relatively small number of our fellow citizens to fight our wars lets the rest of us off the hook. It severs the link between the majority of democratic citizens and the soldiers who fight in their name.
Kennedy observes that, 'proportionate to the population, today's active-duty military establishment is about 4 percent of the size of the force that won World War II." This makes it relatively easy for policy-makers to commit the country to war without having to secure the broad and deep consent of the society as a whole. "History's most powerful military force can now be sent into battle in the name of a society that scarcely breaks a sweat when it does so." The volunteer army absolves most Americans of the responsibility to fight and die for their country. While some see this as an advantage, this exemption from shared sacrifice comes at the price of eroding political accountability:
A hugely preponderant majority of Americans with no risk whatsoever of exposure to military service have, in effect, hired some of the least advantaged of their fellow countrymen to do some of their most dangerous business while the majority goes on with their own affairs unbloodied and undistracted.
Quite often, the spin is given that the nation functions because there are soldiers on the border which is unfair on other members of the society. The nation functions as much because of farmers, labourers, doctors, engineers, etc., as soldiers.  No one section is more important than the other. If push comes to shove and I have to choose one section, I guess it has to be farmers: one has to eat before doing other things. (Retd.) Colonel L Misra says, 'Even army cannot march on an empty stomach.'

In different parts of the world, the war memorials and the elaborate rituals attending the war dead/military casualities (which are often telecast live) or the breathless display of destructive toys during military parades are reminiscent of how religions inspire awe among the masses through elaborate rituals and magnificent places of worship. In the respect of the worship of modern methods of destruction, North Korea and the countries not on the 'axis of evil' differ only in degrees. Susan Sontag writes in her essay Aids and its Metaphors:
Abuse of the military metaphor may be inevitable in a capitalist society, a society that increasingly restricts the scope and credibility of appeals to ethical principle, in which it is thought foolish not to subject one's actions to the calculus of self-interest and profitability. War-making is one of the few activities that people are not supposed to view 'realistically'; that is, with an eye to expense and practical outcome.In all-out war, expenditure is all-out, unprudent - war being defined as an emergency in which no sacrifice is excessive.