The Reith Lectures
Most of these annual BBC lectures seem to be self aggrandizement or waffle - with two notable exceptions:-
1) An American philosopher John Searle created controversy with `Minds, Brains and Science'.
He introduced the `chinese room' or `man in a box' concept to demonstrate that a programmed response, however fast & accurate, is not `intelligent thought'. So he concluded that 'AI' - artificial intelligence - was unlikely.
[Later] - Seen some later objections to that - but most are saying (essentially) that a book can `think'!
2) More recently, Jean Aitchison also caused a stir, in `The Language Web'.
She implicitly admitted that 'live' languages are created and driven (evolved), not by the snooty elite who pretend to be in charge of language but from the bottom up: by ordinary people on the ground-level. By you and me, in other words.
In 1998 there was a lecture on `War' - in a "distinguished military setting": the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (a British officer-training college).
(Thought, from our own military experience W-01 - that objective sense was not likely to be talked on that subject, especially not in that setting.)
But we were rewarded!
"The 1998 Reith Lectures were given by the distinguished military historian John Keegan. *
His overall theme for the 5 programmes was "War and our World"
UNQUOTE - [archive page]
We expected only a scholarly whitewash - a very fine one mind you - blaming the usual suspects.
That is, a recapitulation of traditional excuses for war:-
a ) false hypothesis of 'endemic' human aggression - backed by expected falsification of violence statistics W-02
b) false hypothesis that those in power act in the 'national interest' W03 and are therefore our only defence against that spurious aggression.
And then it happened !
It was Question Time and we expected only sycophantic stuff from college staff or the officer cadets before the final pompous wind-up from a suitably pompous BBC type.
But a cadet stood up who could actually think!
He'd obviously analyzed the lecture and noted the gap at its core:-
a) no basis for aggression hypothesis; W-02
b) no link between actions of rulers and the welfare of ordinary people. W-03
And he had the nerve to express this as a Question.
Out of respect we give his words in full, as reported later by the BBC (unwillingly, we suspect) :-
Officer Cadet Cronin pointed out that the politician who declares a war is very unlikely to kill somebody. Here are his words "The politicians who declare war don't kill directly - how can aggression be the cause of war?"
"The very few soldiers who might kill somebody face to face, the infantry, are more likely to be killed than to kill and certainly don't get to declare war.
Does this not disprove the idea that wars are started because men are aggressive and like to kill?"
Pow! And that was the first known (to us) public questioning and rebuttal of the hype and waffle generated by self-interested apologists for war's real cause : greedy, cowardly or pervy elites abusing their wealth and power.
To the skeptic or realist reader:-
admittedly, males especially need to challenge themselves by facing physical danger and fear - preferably alone.
Chance allowed us to test our own weaknesses and cowardices in parts of the world where law, order, security, safety etc were noticeably absent W-04 & W-01
And we enjoyed those challenges (afterwards) - but without feeling urges to kill, or even hurt anyone - ed
Seems to me that males should be able to challenge themselves, face physical danger and fear (preferably alone), but without the slaughter of innocents for greed and power motives that is today called `War'.
"So what was the answer?" you ask.
Well, the distinguished historian W-05 replied with a lot of words. Some were grand-sounding. But we couldn't find an answer to that Question.
Try it yourself - here is the BBC report :-
John Keegan considered this was "a very very difficult question". He agreed that few of those who take the decision to go to war actually expose themselves to the risk, and felt that this is one of the paradoxes of modern leadership. "In the ancient world, those who took the people to war had to go with them and in a sense that sort of leadership was far more authentic than the sort of leadership we get today."
He also considered that those who actually stand on the front line have little or no effect on either the inception or the outcome of fighting. "Nevertheless that is what is called the grandeur and servitude of military life and it is what makes the life of the professional warrior in many ways such an honourable and admirable one. As long as he does not obey an unlawful order that would cause him to commit a war crime, he must be admired for doing his duty whatever he feels about the rights or wrongs of the military situation in which he finds himself."
"It is a very very hard doctrine, but is the basis on which the military life is lived and it is certainly the basis on which an Academy like Sandhurst trains and instructs its officers, and there you are, I think there is no more to be done about it than that."
Now - call us cynical if you will, but when we hear words like "grandeur" used about anything other than nature - we suspect someone is generating warm air. W-05 And if we hear "honourable and admirable" - we check our wallet!
How about it - did you find an answer to the question in all that stuff?
Did he prove his claim that - "Human Aggression is the cause of War"?
No ! - thought as much.
The reply seemed to be - under the waffle - "Shut up and sit down or be branded as a `subversive'"
Maybe try reading it again a few times. Think you'll find it's a non-logical defense of war for its own sake - nothing else.
In our humble opinion Cadet Cronin showed initiative and courage, distinguishing himself in action. He deserves a place in History.
Our respects and thanks go to Officer Cadet Cronin - once of Marne Company, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
Unfortunately his military prospects are now presumably bleak.
And ever since historian writ,
And ever since a bard could sing,
Doth each exalt with all his wit
the noble art of murdering!
William Makepeace Thackeray 1811 - 1863
He's just saying that bards and historians have to please their rulers, by glorifying greed and violence - RD