First, a brief recap.
In previous entries (see the archives) I talked about Sigmund Freud’s theory that all humans have a death instinct, which he called Thanatos (the Greek word for death.) He also thought that we possess an opposing life force, which he called Eros that often took the form of sexual impulses. I took his ideas and developed a theory about the psychology of global warming where I speculated that humanities’ destruction of the environment was this death instinct manifesting in a species-wide suicide attempt.
Now I take it one step further and look at how both Eros and Thanatos combine in war to illustrate how the two work together in a tremendous force of human ruin. All it takes is a simple Wikipedia search to reveal that historically, the male penis has been the greatest weapon of mass destruction known to humanity. It has been used throughout the ages as both an instrument of torture and the ultimate male weapon of war.
World War two has the dubious distinction of being labeled the greatest mass rape in the history of the world. Estimates of the number of rapes reach into the millions with men, women and children from ages eight to 80 being raped. Many of the rapes were repeated over and over, sometimes as many as 70 or 80 times. The number of women thought to have died as a result climbed into the hundreds of thousands. In terms of the American military, the only ones likely to ever be punished were black soldiers.
The international aid organization Save the Children recently issued a report stating that the majority of rape victims in current war torn Africa are children under the age of 18. These include both boys and girls who are not only repeatedly raped, but sexually tortured.
The Journal of the American Association Medicine states that rapes “commonly include not only enemy civilians and troops, but also allied and national civilians and even comrades in arms.” Gender is irrelevant in these acts of violence with men in some parts of the world reporting that 70 percent of male political prisoners and 80 percent of men in concentration camps being raped or sexually battered.
Some reports indicate that Japanese officials tried to reduce the number of random rapes by introducing a system of “comfort women,” essentially women forced into sexual slavery to serve men associated with the military. These women were either abducted or recruited under false pretenses into a brothel system where they may have been raped by a hundred or more men a day. A full three quarters of these women died, either from direct trauma or disease.
Some argued the system of comfort women did not reduce the number of rapes, but rather increased it. Others said they were offered to lessen the chances of revolt by unhappy servicemen who did not want to continue to fight in the military. Regardless, the truth of what happened was kept secret for many years after the war as the political leadership fought to keep their shame from the public and avoid responsibility.
The question of why this happens and how it relates to a theory of Thanatos and climate change may not be immediately obvious. But the link is clear nonetheless. It is about a total perversion of healthy Eros into a culture of Thanatos and death values.
What we see is the masculinization of death, cruelty and sexual sadism and the feminizing of victimization. Historian Susan Browmiller called it the expression of male contempt for women in the ultimate male only club of the military. It is thought that male soldiers used rape both as a weapon as well as a tool to prove their own masculinity in the context of a supremely aggressive and violent atmosphere where the strong survive and the weak quickly perish.
Not only is sexual violence seen as a means of proving one’s self, but it is used as a reward for men attempting to conquer a weaker enemy. “To the victor goes the spoils,” is the saying, with the weak being the sexual spoils of those with the power of brute force.
Rape is also conceived as a tool to lesson the morale of the enemy and to increase the morale of one’s own military serviceman. In one recent war in Africa, the conquering general issued an order to rape every man, woman and child encountered along the way as a means of crushing the rebellious spirit of the defeated peoples.
The resulting injuries to the victim are not only physical, psychological and emotional, but also spiritual, political and cultural. In some countries, a rape victim is thought to bring shame upon a family and is either cast out or killed. This lessons family and cultural bonds adding to the psychic defeat of a culture and people.
Rape has been used in various ways as long as warfare itself has existed. Historian Harold Washington says in ancient time war itself was imagined as rape and that cities attacked are its victims. He further argued that it happened in the context of stereotypes of men and women and what is considered masculine and feminine.
The traditional prohibitions against homosexuality and pedophilia are cast aside in the context of war and seen not as an act of sexual pleasure, but rather an act of aggression and an expression of power. It is not done for fun, but rather as a means of punishing the weak.
It is also a classic expression of Thanatos because it seeks to destroy all life-affirming values by crushing the spirit of the victims and initiating a cycle of self-destruction in the violated. It is literally sowing the seeds of Thanatos in the next generation by destroying the will to live in the most vulnerable of all the conquered peoples, the children.
Soldiers and the military institutions they belong to are committing, at least in practice if not theory, to the death values of Thanatos and the distortion and perversion of the life-affirming nature of Eros. It is a culture of death, murder, torture, sexual sadism, destruction and cruelty. It results in the unrestrained expression of Thanatos and a full rerouting or Eros into its negative counterpart, sexual cruelty and perversion.
The Iraq war is an excellent example of how this all relates to my theory of species-wide suicide. The Iraq war was ostensibly about preventing Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Those who tried to argue differently were widely mocked at the time. By now, in light of everything that is known about the situation, leaders who were part of the invasion discussions in the White House admit that securing a stable source of cheap oil for America was definitely part of the rationale for the war.
It is interesting that a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, lead to untold billions in destruction, numerous torture scandals and war rape stories, was the result of a desire to control the very means by which humanity plans to extinguish itself- fossil fuels. The Allied forces killed everything and everyone that stood in the way of them possessing the means necessary for them to kill themselves, which is a classic murder-suicide in the Thanatos sense.