It never stops

excerpts from It never stops

by Charlie Ehlen – 13 April 2012
Unfortunately, we seem destined to continue to have more wars, not less. That might be a sign that as a species, we humans have not evolved much in our somewhat brief, in geological time at least, short history on this planet.

And yet, it still seems to me at least, that we should have evolved much further than it appears we have. By now, I think that the human race should have come at the very least to getting closer to have outgrown our “need” for war.

What with all the supposed teachings of various religions, one would hope that we no longer went to war for petty grievances and maybe even renounced war totally. No such luck. Does this mean that the religious teachings have not “taken” hold of the human conscience?

I do have faith, faith in the capacity of our fellow human beings to be very kind and caring to others, even those we do not know personally and are not related to by either blood or marriage.

Of course I also have faith that our fellow human beings have the capacity to do great harm to other human beings and all non animal species as well.

I’m with you on questioning human evolution, Charlie. As chance would have it a couple of references to Kurt Vonnegut here and there got me interested in looking up some of his work again … Slaughterhouse 5, Mother Night, and Galapagos.

Galapagos has humans evolving into seals … to their and the world’s great benefit. I recommend it … giving away the story in no way detracts from it. It’s a variation on Vonnegut’s life-long theme, but it’s a polished pebble in this rendition, and it’s setting is more nearly our own than was the world of 1986.

As your final quote from Tom Paine points out … there’s no going back. At least not voluntarily. We’re going to have to master these Big Brains of ours and stop letting the tiny kernels within master us.

I personally think that too much attention is paid to the Big Brain and not enough to small brain within. We talk about reason and rationality all the time … but we only use our reason to make money.

Deep in our small brains is the doomsday defense-mechanism … the ability all humans have of non-recognition of others. The ability to declare ourselves “the people” and the others … something else. Something able to be dispatched, as we dispatch the chickens, pigs, calves … the others we kill and eat without a second thought everyday.

Civil religions by their very definition are … civil … on the side of the “legal” authorities … that would be the 1% in today’s jargon. If religion or any introspection is to help us with our Big Brains rule our small brains within, it’s gonna hafta be on the level of our individual selves. Always has been. Always will be.

Why do we tend to ask questions when we already know the answers?

I think we do so to keep from asking more serious questions.

Americans take a great number of medications to relieve mental pain/emotional distress.

America tends, according to various reports (sorry no links) to over medicate. The USA has the highest number of prescriptions for various “psychic” medications in the world. While these do actually help a great many people function, I wonder about the long term use of these powerful chemicals on us.

Another question that NEEDS a real answer, what is going to happen to all the children who during their school years have been on chemicals like Ritalin(tm)? When they finally graduate (fewer do now than before) from high school, they no longer get these meds. What does the withdrawal do to these children?

While I do not have any children, I am very concerned about what we are doing to our children. They ARE the future. What sort of future are we giving them? By that, I am not asking about the future occupation or economics wise

I think you’ve hit it right here, Charlie. We don’t ask serious questions becasue we don’t want to know the answers. We don’t want to know any Afghans … any of our victims … because that would in very short shrift put the lie to our story … that they were Islamofascist Whatever … and can be killed … women and children and all in the most brutal possible manner … not only with impunity but as a service to humanity … that’d be us.

I’d focus not so much on the physical, chemical drugs we all take, the ones we give our kids in school, but the spiritual drugs we use in our endless self-medication. And give our kids in school. American Exceptionalism. Our Faith in Corporatism. And so on…

Back to the wars. Useless, damn fool wars of choice. Again. And again, and again, ad infinitum. “We” preach tolerance and “good will to all” and yet …

Poor Syria, the country is in the midst of what looks to be a civil war. Yes, it is not all just Syrians fighting other Syrians. There ARE many outside forces at work there. Not just jihadis from the Iraq, Afghan, Libyan wars either. Reports have stated that there are various “special ops” types from Britain and France there along with the al-Qaeda types.

On to Iran. Trying to keep from boring the reader.

I saw another article today that said the the zionist entity is making demands on the talks between the 5+1 and Iran. The 5+1 being the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany as they attempt, I hope they DO, discuss with Iran, the nuclear program that Iran is running.

Iran has the LEGAL right to possess nuclear power for generating electricity and to make medical isotopes, in short of non-military/commercial use. ALL countries in the whole world have that RIGHT … Yes, I know about the holocaust and World War Two and all that. Iran has not attacked another country in more than 100 years. During the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980′s Iraq invaded Iran and Iran naturally fought back.

Now the US and the zionist entity want to punish Iran for doing what they have a legal right to do. Can you say double standards? Of course you can, but, will you? Yep, there is the question to ask yourself. So far our(?) congress looks to be all set for yet another damn fool, useless war of choice by making threats to Iran to stop what they have every legal right to do.

I just came upon three good articles addressing these points: Faux internationalism and really existing imperialism, US-Israeli deal to demand Qom closure threatens nuclear talks, and Leave Us Out of Another Middle East War.

The first came via the Monthly Review, which often has incisive analytical articles. The second is by Gareth Porter, and the third by ex-Senator James G. Abourezk of South Dakota.

I think they are all worth reading. I was especially struck by the first.

“Ignorance is of a peculiar nature: and once dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it. It is not originally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge; and though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant.”

That does seem true and hopeful. But still it is possible for people to hide what they know from themselves, to allow their Big Brains to discard as “externalities” the most horrid consequences of their get-rich-quick schemes. And no one can break through the defenses of a pathological personality … it has to be an inside job.

About jfl

A 66 year-old American male living in Chiangrai, Thailand
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4 Responses to It never stops

  1. charlie says:

    One reason we don’t see the Afghans (for example) as being like us, if we see them as fellow human beings, it is much harder to kill them. Seeing the “other” as ourselves makes killing them, bombing them very difficult. My own personal opinion, part of the PTSD is that after one leaves a war zone and has the time to reflect even just a tiny bit, we see that the “enemy” were also human beings. This means the troops who have been killing the “enemy” now sees the “enemy” as fellow humans that he/she has killed. Killing another human being is a terrible thing. Imagine that you had been in a war and killed some enemy troops. You do that based on training and following orders. You had to kill them or they would kill you. OK, but, here is the problem after you leave the war. You start to realize that you have killed some of your fellow human beings. No cop-out of “following orders” or “my training just kicked in, it was reflexive” will allow you to fool yourself. You have to face the cold truth that you have killed other human being(s) and there is nothing you can do to change that.
    As I said, it is an awesome and terrible thing to kill a human being. Living with the fact that you have done so, well, PTSD becomes part of your life. We all deal with similar situations/problems differently. Some find they can get on with life, others have great difficulty doing so.
    I know my “diagnosis” here is not actual “spot-on” as it were. It is just my own personal observation and not intended to describe what PTSD is/does. I do think my look at killing may be part of the cause of PTSD. As to how one deals with that, well, I am no expert and am trying my best to live with certain facts. Some days are OK, some not so much, and others are quite bad. Also, just when you may think you are OK, along comes a trigger to set you back again. It can be as simple as reading a news report or web site article. War, it is a “gift” that keeps on giving.
    Sorry to rant on so long. Also, thank you for your time looking at my rant. Both reading it at my corner and for the way you posted it here along with your great comments. Thank you John.

  2. jfl says:

    And thanks for your continuing rant, Charlie. I’ve come to realize that you speak from the heart, as I try to do, and so I regard you as a good example.

    As I’ve mentioned before I didn’t go the Vietnam, but if I had I fear I would have done whatever everyone else in my unit did. Like Billy and Terry at Pinkville, below. War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

    Political Awakenings: An Unpublished Howard Zinn Interview

    I enlisted in the Air Force. I volunteered. I was an enthusiastic bombardier. To me it was very simple: it was a war against fascism. They were the bad guys; we were the good guys. One of the things I learned from that experience was that when you start off with them being the bad guys and you being the good guys, once you’ve made that one decision, you don’t have to think anymore, if you’re in the military. From that point on, anything goes. From that point on, you’re capable of anything, even atrocities. Because you’ve made a decision a long time ago that you’re on the right side. You don’t keep questioning, questioning, questioning. You’re not Yossarian, who questions.

    And so, I was an enthusiastic bombardier, as I say. The war was over, presumably – a few weeks from the end. Everybody knew the war was about to end in Europe. We didn’t think we were flying missions anymore. No reason to fly. We were all through France, into Germany. The Russians and Americans had met on the Elbe. It was just a matter of a few weeks. And then we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning and told we were going on a mission. The so-called intelligence people, who brief us before we go into a plane, tell us we are going to bomb this tiny town on the Atlantic coast of France called Royan, near Bordeaux, and we are doing it because there are several thousand German soldiers there. They are not doing anything. They are not bothering anyone. They are waiting for the war to end. They’ve just been bypassed. And we are going to bomb them.

    What’s interesting to me later, in thinking about it, is that it didn’t occur to me to stand up in the briefing room and say, “What are we doing? Why are we doing this? The war is almost over, there is no need.” It didn’t occur to me. To this day, I understand how atrocities are committed. How the military mind works. You are taught to just mechanically go through the procedures that you have been taught, you see. So, we went over Royan, and they told us in the briefing that we were going to drop a different kind of bomb this time. Instead of the usual demolition bombs, we are going to drop thirty hundred-pound canisters of what they called jellied gasoline, which was napalm. It was the first use of napalm in the European war. We went over. We destroyed the German troops and also destroyed the French town of Royan. “Friendly fire.” That’s what bombing does.

    To this day, when I hear the leaders of the country say, “Well, this is precision bombing and we are being very careful, and we are only bombing military” – that’s nonsense. No matter how sophisticated the bombing technology, there is no way you can avoid killing nonmilitary people when you drop bombs. It wasn’t until after the war that I looked back on that. In fact, it wasn’t until after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that I looked back on that. Because after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which at first I had welcomed like everybody at that time did – “Oh yes, the war is going to be over” – then I read John Hershey’s book Hiroshima, and for the first time the human consequences of dropping the bomb were brought home to me in a way I hadn’t thought of. When you are dropping bombs from 30,000 feet you don’t hear screams. You don’t see blood.

    I suddenly saw what the bomb in Hiroshima did. I began to rethink the whole question of a “good war.” I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a good war. They may start off with good intentions, at least on the part of the people who fight in them. Generally not on the part of the people who make the decision; I doubt they have good intentions. But there may be good intentions on the part of the GIs who believe, yes, we are doing this for a good cause. But those good intentions are quickly corrupted. The good guys become the bad guys. So I became convinced that war is not a solution, fundamentally, for any serious problem. It may seem like a solution, like a quick fix, a drug. You get rid of this dictator, that dictator, as we did Hitler, Mussolini. But you don’t solve fundamental problems. In the meantime, you’ve killed tens of millions of people.

    Slaughterhouse Five (pdf)

    The advocates of nuclear disarmament seem to believe that, if they could achieve their aim, war would become tolerable and decent. They would do well to read this book and ponder the fate of Dresden, where 135,000 people died as the result of an attack with conventional weapons. On the night of March 9th, 1945, an air attack on Tokyo by American heavy bombers, using incendiary and high explosive bombs, caused the death of 83,793 people. The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 71,379 people.


    Around noon two soldiers’ squads stopped to eat. “Billy and I started to eat our chow”, Terry said, “but close to us was a bunch of Vienamese in a heap, and some of them were moaning. Kally (2nd Lt. Kally) had been through before us and all of them had been shot, but many weren’t dead. It was obvious that they weren’t going to get any medical attention so Billy and I got up and went over to where they were. I guess we sort of finished them off.” Terry went on to say that they then returned to where their packs were and ate lunch.

    From My Lai to Kandahar

    The massacre of 16 Afghan men, women and children in Kandahar has, inevitably, recalled the My Lai incident in Vietnam…

    So who wore the Free Calley stickers that proliferated in 1971? Where did this support come from?

    In a history of the 70s, the conservative commentator David Frum notes:

    Congressional liberals like Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut joined with conservatives like Georgia’s Herman Talmadge to condemn the verdict … The governor of Indiana ordered all state flags to be flown at half staff for Calley. The governor of Utah criticised the verdict as ‘inappropriate’ and the sentence as ‘excessive’. Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia proclaimed ‘American Fighting Man’s Day’, and urged Georgia motorists to drive all week with headlights on. The Arkansas legislature approved a resolution asking for clemency. The lower house of the Kansas legislature demanded Calley’s release from prison. So did the Texas Senate and the state legislatures of New Jersey and South Carolina. … Alabama Governor George Wallace visited Calley in the Fort Benning stockade and called on President Nixon to pardon him. Wallace then spoke at a rally in Calley’s defence at Columbus, Georgia, alongside Governor John Bell Williams of Mississippi.

    One poll showed that 78 per cent of Americans opposed the verdict, while a majority wanted Calley exonerated entirely. President Nixon, acutely keen to fan any backlash against the New Left, personally ordered Calley released pending appeal.


    And his feeling that life was a meaningless nightmare, with nobody watching or caring what was going on, was actually quite familiar to me.

    That was how I felt after I shot a grandmother in Vietnam. She was as toothless and bent over as Mary Hepburn would be at the end of her life. I shot her because she had just killed my best friend and my worst enemy in my platoon with a single hand-grenade.

    This episode made me sorry to be alive, made me envy stones. I would rather have been a stone at the service of the Natural Order.

    The quote from Galapagos is true fiction, the one from Slaughterhouse Five is just true. The reminiscence of the support for Calley, and the present support for Robert Bales, the designated fall guy for Kandahar is instructive.

    At the time of Mai Lai I was a free-wheelin’ hippie, bouncing back-and-forth, coast-to-coast. I was afraid to go South. We all knew that it was Neanderthals who lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. Of course many if not most of the folks who serve in the US Armed Forces come from the South. For traditional reasons… and now because it’s a job. And of course they all knew of Calley and know of Bales… and know as well that there, but for fortune, go I.

    And now I realize, although I ‘knew’ it back then of course, that there but for fortune go I as well. I think that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between people… but that in throwing in my own two cents I can make all the difference in my world.

    I don’t know many contemporary writers, one who caught my attention recently is Daniel Woodrell. He wrote Black step.

    Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important and of course are taught in schools because they are important. But more important than the R’s are some fundamental concepts, the D’s : don’t defer to ‘important’ people; don’t go with the flow, if everyone ‘knows’ its right – it’s probably wrong; don’t follow orders; determine your own course of action, especially in troubled times…

    Individualism is supposedly one of the hallmarks of Americans. I submit that following the D’s, teaching the D’s in school, would be regarded as treason in the home of the free and the brave… and in any other nation state on planet earth as well.

    It’s us people against our own institutions. We’re programmed that way. And it will remain us people against our institutions forever, probably.

    So aren’t we better off explicitly educating ourselves and our children to that fundamental, ground-zero, fact?

  3. charlie says:


    “Black Step”…..WOW.
    I thank you for posting this. Amazing way with words. So much to think of…….
    I had read some of Mr. Zinn’s background before. No doubt war is quite “clean” from 30,000 feet up. On the ground, it isn’t very clean at all. Some war historian said that wars are fought in garbage dumps. He was right. All sorts of trash on the ground, dead and dying people, empty “C-rat” cans, cartridge casings, all sorts of junk. Wars don’t ever “do” what they start out to do, maybe get rid of some dictator, but just set another in the same place after.
    So much I’d like to add, or I think I’d like to add. Yet, I can’t find how to do so.
    Thank you for the compliment about me writing from the heart. I never set out to be a writer. Not creative enough.The blog just happened. I suppose what I post is from the hart, I sure have no talents as a writer. I feel emotions in what you write also. That goes for much of what you post by others. “Slaughterhouse Five” is one book I have re-read many times, along with “Catch-22″.

  4. jfl says:

    They sent many more people, and many more ‘classes’ of people to Vietnam, to fight in the garbage dump they made of that country. Nobody forgot about that war while it was still going on. Everyone had someone in it. I’m sure that no one who was actually in it will ever forget it.

    Everyone involved with the garbage dump of war hates it. The class of war profiteers decided they’d made a mistake. So they eliminated the draft, cranked up the destructive power of the weapons they delivered, and hired ‘professionals’ to fight their future wars. That future was now… but they’re still ‘perfecting’ their scheme.

    Now they’re trying to put everyone not just 10 kilometers above the battle, but trying to keep them hundreds, better, thousands of kilometers from the garbage dump – in the USof A working 9 to 5, killing the clock along with the ‘cartoon people’ on their videogame consoles.

    In the garbage dump there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is a vicious, brutal war underway all around them. Wars eventually exhaust everyone they touch and have to be brought to an end.

    That really hurts the bottom line.

    If we could just have wars that were not wars, but, say… sports contests! I read an account of some PR man for the USA, rebranded now as Murder Inc., referring to the Navy Seals as the Olympic Athletes of Killing. Of course the Seals and their brothers are a special breed… they think they like killing. Maybe some of them do.

    But the average GI will now ‘fight’ from his/her Barca Lounger. Murder by joystick and then home for supper and ‘quality time’ with the family…

    War fulltime, all the time. Feed the bottom line 24/7/365!

    That’s what they seem to have envisioned.

    I found a couple of things by Daniel Woodrell. I guess you’ve seen Black Step. It’s from a collection of stories called The Outlaw Album, which I found in epub format. I didn’t know what epub format was, so I googled around and found

    which has an add-on to firefox, the browser I use. It turns firefox into an epub reader. I’m sure there are other programs which do the same thing.

    I liked the stories.

    I also found a novel, Winter’s Bone. I don’t remember the format I found it in, but I made a series of html files from it and you can reach those from the page above, too. I just made a pdf as well, if you prefer. You probably do, for a novel.

    And I found a movie made from the novel. ‘The book is always better than the movie’… but the movie was good, too.

    When I said you wrote from the heart, Charlie, I didn’t mean that you seemed ‘emotional’, I meant that you seemed to be concerned with writing the truth. I really don’t know ‘good’ writers from ‘bad’ writers. I just know what I respond to, and a concern for the truth always seems to an essential part of that.

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