War is the Health of the State

War hysteria is an excellent mechanism used by the Establishment to artificially manufacture popular consent for whatever nefarious agenda the government wants to coercively impose on the population this week. By appealing to the collective aggregate using deceptive techniques of mass psychology, the hapless citizenry can literally be brainwashed into wholeheartedly believing that failure on their part to lay down and swallow the line being fed to them somehow constitutes socially unacceptable behavior. If the true motives for war fever were ever exposed, then the soft power of the State vanishes as the small man behind the curtain is revealed for all to bear witness to his illusions.

 

 

According to the author, the concepts of nation (or country), the State, and government are three different entities. They are described respectively by him as such:

 

“We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life… [c]ountry is a concept of peace, of tolerance, and living and let live.”

“The State is the country acting as a political unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a ‘power politics’ because it is the relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war…[the] State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects…[t]hat the State is a mystical conception is something that must never be forgotten.”

“It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of the definite, concrete, fallible men…[g]overnment is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it…[the] glamour and [] significance [of the State] linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities.”

 

This is interesting, for what he means to say is that there is a distinction between the people and what constitutes politics. Simultaneously, Bourne’s definition of the State is nothing more than the collective aggregate of the people when acting in a political (that is, coercive) manner; alongside this, government is simply the pragmatic application of actions by the State. What this also means is that Rothbard’s concept of the State might be contradicted by Bourne’s, for Bourne thinks of the State “democratically” (that is, composed by all of the country who are interested in initiating violence against whomever they do not like, many of whom are their own fellow countrymen who happen to disagree pretty vehemently) whereas Rothbard thinks of the State as a sort of de facto oligarchical aristocracy; in other words, Rothbard thinks of the State as hierarchical as opposed to Bourne who thinks of the State as horizontal.

Bourne spends most of his time detailing how a population (even one that lives in a Republic) can be tricked, goaded, and peer pressured into a war. Essentially, since the country (when and where they have Liberty) typically ignore the government most of the time, there is no legitimate reason for normal folk to use the coercive mechanisms of the State to get what they want, but when there is an external threat (either real or manufactured), the nation reverts back to a herd mentality that is completely intolerant of any dissent, even when such dissent is well deserved or merited. Explaining the emotional behavior of statists, Bourne says:

 

“In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.”

 

Intriguingly, Bourne’s description of the working class mirrors Emmanuel Goldstein’s, in that war could be thought of as a sport by those who have the most to gain from it, such as the corporatists.

It is asserted by Bourne that confusing the nation with the State is the primary reason the herd mentality is used by duplicitous special interests to manipulate a population into a war. For instance, Bourne claims that reverence for the flag is bad because it is a symbol for the State, not the country (contrary to popular opinion). The flag and the uniform encourage remembrance of the State’s martial past, not the cultural history of its folk.

Randolph Bourne’s War is the Health of the State is a truly thought provoking piece of political literature. War propaganda, and the resulting bloodthirsty frenzy that it encourages, should always be examined with a fine tooth comb, for given what is at stake, it would be highly irresponsible for those in power to send off our fellow humans to go fight and die for a lie. Such as be done before, even in recent history, and it is imperative to shamelessly expose those who would deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate in order to draw an entire nation into an unnecessary war, especially if the “enemy” nation has caused us no harm whatsoever.

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