I remember growing up and playing various video games as a young child. Many of these video games were extremely violent games, games in which my friends and I could learn how to control a gun and kill enemies. In addition to those games, I remember seeing commercials for movies in the theater that were violent movies filled with scenes of fighting and defending oneself against the enemy. Regrettably, I suppose I was brought up to view war as a mediocrity in society. This is what Clarence Karier seems to talk about in his lecture on the educational legacy of war, about the lessons war has taught us.
Karier begins his lecture by explaining how society has a false belief in the myth about America being a peaceful nation. He continues to list the various wars that our country has been a witness to throughout the 19th century, as well as throughout the 20th century. Essentially, Karier is trying to convey to the audience how America has indeed been in the state of constant war, and is not truly a peace-loving nation. For if America were truly a peace-loving nation as we claim to be, we would not see our state and national governments in great debt because of military expenditures. We also would not have to live with the fact that America has gone from greatest creditor nation to greatest debtor nation in the world, and all within our lifetime too.
As Karier continues on through his lecture, he states that the second myth is the belief that war is temporary. He explains how once we experience war, we can never really ever return home, for those traumatic times of war are forever in the memories of the soldier and the community as well. Karier himself defines war as a heightened undemocratic experience in living from which much is learned. (Karier, 4) The lessons of war are taught to the living, they are found in our behavior long after the guns have ceased firing and these lessons are destructive to a democratic society.
The fundamental notion of war is that the end justifies the means. However, in war, we routinely violate civil rights and basic human rights to life. Therefore, these undemocratic methods of war result in undemocratic ends. War cannot therefore secure democracy. However, the American people seem to think that it can, for they have been somewhat tricked into believing so. We have been taught that we are a peace loving nation and that we only engage in war to defend ourselves.
Karier takes his lecture into explaining how things such as open propaganda have been effective in gaining the consent of the people to enter war. However, what the majority of the American society does not realize is that the government has control over media and has the power to say what can and can not be released for public knowledge. They can use this tool as a manipulating device to get the approval of the people to declare war on another nation. They try and get the public to dream of the American destiny to rule the world and have raised American society on things such as western frontier movies where cowboys fight to gain the frontier that is theirs. They have raised society on other movies as well, which educate the public to accept the lawfulness of the
National Security State. Not only have movies done this, but video games as well, teaching our youth about war and preparing them to be future soldiers.
Karier continues in his lecture to explain how agencies, such as the CIA have been a manipulating tool in society, keeping various things top secret from the public. They have the power to manipulate the media, such as television and newspapers. They can use higher education as a means of going about their operations, mainly experiments, including ones about controlling minds. The thing that is unusual about all of that is how the American people have come to accept this secrecy of the government and the principle that the end justifies the means. What most people do not realize is that our National Security State has been extremely destructive to our democratic values, traditions and institutions.
Karier comes to the conclusion that the most significant legacy of war is perhaps the education of the American people, which has taught our American society to accept the goal of world empire and believe that the National Security State is absolutely essential for American security. However, it is a fact that because of secrecy and the government hiding certain information from the public, that the American dream for democracy has been forsaken. As Giambattista Vico said . . . the world of civil society has certainly been made by men, and that its principles are therefore to be found within the modification of our own human minds. (Karier, 28-29) That explains perfectly how the government, or the men according to Vico, has truly made society what it is, they have made their own history by controlling what the people know and dont know.
The conflict theory sees the social world in continual struggle. A conflict theorist would simply see war as a constant struggle between competing groups. Conflict theorists also believe that people are truly shaped by power, coercion, and authority. Therefore, they would strongly support the theory that the government has made society by controlling what is known by the American people. The government has used its power to manipulate the media and has kept things from the public about war and other military issues. The CIA has had 400 (and now possibly more) American journalists working for them. This proves how they have great power over the public, for they can control what will be printed in newspapers and magazines. It is obvious how they shape public opinion because of actions like CIA Director William Casey buying controlling interest in Capital Cities Communications Inc., which held a controlling interest in ABC, which linked the CIA Director with ABC.
Through actions like that, the CIA can control what information is broadcast to the public. Through controlling the media, the most misleading information that the government has given the American public is probably the belief that America is a peaceful nation. They have complete control of what we know about war situations; they can create panic and hatred towards another country if they wish to, or they can simply hide information and leave the country in complete ignorance. During the Gulf War, they allowed the release of stories about Iraqi soldiers tearing Kuwait babies from their incubators. This caused uproar with the public and caused many to become angered, creating a sense of nationalism in unified hatred and yearning for war.
The CIA has used colleges and universities for clandestine operations and have conducted various experiments on unknowing U.S. students. For example, at the University of Rochester, drugs such as LSD were experimented with, making it easy to conclude that the spread of LSD on campuses in the 1950s and 1960s was directly the result of those CIA experiments. That brings up the topic of whether the end truly justifies the means. The CIA conducted several experiments to determine how to go about brainwashing people, similar to what communists had done. They left many people with permanent brain damage and serious personality disorders. Does that end truly justify the means? Many people would agree that it certainly does not.
It is hard not to question the issue of the CIAs involvement with drug trafficking as well. Ever since China fell and support was flown by Air America to Burma, the U.S. has been involved in the drug business. Flying drugs from secret air bases helped the CIA to pay for their secret wars, such as the ones in Laos back in the 1960s. Throughout Americas war in Central America, our country became involved not only in arms deals but drug trafficking too. The wide spread and use of drugs in society soon became a huge issue for America and under the Reagan Administration the slogan Just say no to drugs! was introduced. Again, in this case, does the end justify the means? Does a huge drug problem, still present in America today, justify drug trafficking to pay for war expenses? Many again would agree it certainly does not. The social world is in fact in continual struggle; that is how a conflict theorist would look at it. The social behavior, or the government use of drug trafficking, can best be understood in terms of conflict; they
use the drug money to pay for war expenditures, wars which are fought with competing groups, or otherwise simply stated, other countries that are in competition with America.
Contrary to the conflict theory, is the ever-present functionalist theory, a theory believing that each part of society contributes to its survival. The functionalist theory emphasizes the way that parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability. If an aspect in society does not contribute to its stability or survival, than it does not serve a useful function or promote value consensus among members of a society and therefore will not be passed down from one generation to the next. It is easy to see how war has been passed down from generation to generation and contributes to the survival of society through offering security. Therefore functionalists would say that war serves a function in society. They would most likely say that war serves the function of preserving the National Security State; it serves as a means of protection against the enemy. They might even say that war serves as a means of creating nationalism and patriotism within America.
Functionalists also believe that people are socialized to perform societal functions. Take for example movies and video games that Americans have been subjected to view and play. Ever since the American belief of Manifest Destiny in the 19th century, America has been brought up with imperialistic teachings. We fight for whatever we think is ours, and indeed are one of the more violent nations in the world. Just take a look around and you will see how our youth has been raised with seeing
violence on the streets, as well as on television. They have been allowed to play with toy weapons and play video games in which they learn to use weapons and kill their enemy.
In Kariers lecture he talks about how one military leader even talked about how the Pentagon had been waiting for a generation of soldiers who had been brought up on video games so that they would be more comfortable and efficient with using modern weapons in war. That is sad, but so very true. Today it is quite easy to see how so many children are being socialized to be ready for their futures as American soldiers. These games and images children see in the movies and on television shows and video games have truly been sources of such socialization. Once again, we see the return to that infamous question; does the end truly justify the means? Should we really be subjecting children to such violent images just so that they can be better prepared to be soldiers to defend our country? Many people would say yes to that question, however, I find that it is not necessary to take such measures.
Why should innocent children be taught to be comfortable with violence? On the contrary, they should more importantly be taught how to be peaceful, not taught to be comfortable with taking action against the enemy and then be told lies about America being a peace-loving nation. Perhaps that is the root of one of our nations largest problems. Instead of raising our children to make peace, we prepare them for war. We claim to be one thing, peaceful, yet fail to actually be it; then teach our children to claim that same thing, yet again fail to teach them how to be it. Does that not seem odd?
Through Kariers lecture we find that the most significant legacy of war had been the education of the American people. That education has taught us to accept the goal of World Empire and believe National Security State is absolutely essential for American security. However, shouldnt we change our educational approach? Instead, shouldnt we begin to teach America how to truly be peaceful people and not just say that we are? This way, if we really learn to be peaceful people, we will not have to worry so much about our National Security State.
I find it so disheartening that these days, instead of seeing children dress up as the traditional ghost or witch for Halloween, we see them dressing up as ninjas and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Functionalists would most likely notice how today violent and aggressive behavior of children has often been correctly attributed to television viewing. Television is not the only source from which such behavior can be learned, but is one of the most prevalent sources available to children of all ages in the United States. It socializes children in a way, preparing them for their futures as soldiers against enemies. But how does television viewing cause children to learn these militaristic habits of being more violent, aggressive or anti-social?
Studies have shown that television violence affects children by desensitizing children to the horror of violence, teaching them to accept violence as a solution to problems, teaching them to imitate the violence they see on the television and leading them to identify with characters seen on television. The amount of violence in television programming is obviously directly related to the amount of violence witnessed by
children. In 1985 alone, 85% of all television programming contained violence, with 92.1% of cartoons aired containing violence. These cartoons generally contain one violent act every three minutes! (Liebert and Sprafkin, 117) While cartoons are often seen as innocent and safe for children to watch, with such rampant violence in them, are they truly safe and innocent?
Any person watching a single violent television program can become more aggressive; in children, this phenomenon is also applicable. In reality, children are more affected by television than the average adult. Children who watch violent television programming, especially programming in which the violence or aggression is realistic, frequent and/or unpunished tend to become more violent and aggressive, immediately after the program and/or much later, sometimes even years later.
One of the most disturbing areas of television and children involve the types of programs children seem to be watching. For example, one of the most popular television shows of the 1990’s, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, is almost entirely occupied with using violence to solve the various problems the characters must face. Additionally, these characters are praised rather than punished for using violence to solve their problem(s). Consequently, the viewers learn that violence is an acceptable solution, while also not learning any other problem solving techniques. In fact, according to recent research, “children’s programs are the least likely of all genres (of television shows) to show the long-term negative consequences of violence. (5%)” (http://www.cep.org/tvviolence.html) Clearly, children watching television all over America are learning to embrace violence,
often the wrong solution to any problem. Hence, what else can we expect from them when they bring the violence and aggressiveness into the community, such as into their own schools?
Concerning all the events, which have occurred within the past month, it is imperative that we begin with our nations children and teach them how to be peaceful, for they are our hope for the future. If we continue to allow them to view and participate in violent things, they will never come to know the meaning of peace. Instead, they will begin to become accustomed to seeing acts of violence as normalitys in our society; start to view events such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist acts as just another everyday act of violence. What an even greater tragedy that would be if we allowed that to happen, and so it is clear that we must change our view on the educational legacy of war. It is an essential action we must take in order to change and be able to honestly say that we are a peaceful nation.
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