Letter from Richard Koenigsberg to Michael Roberts, 21 May 2015
Again, your description is great—like to see more of this kind of “literary” prose. I think you have an idea of what I’m doing, but let me put it forward again (this is where it all began): I’m trying to point out that the West is DEEPLY IMPLICATED in “suicide missions” (SM as you call it, or is it S&M?) In the scene you just saw—and in nearly every battle in the First World War (and also in the Civil War), generals sent soldiers into battle with a high probability that they would be slaughtered. THE SCALE OF THIS DWARFS WHAT ANY TERRORIST ORGANIZATION HAS DONE.
Yet, for some strange reason, people in the West have difficulty seeing this: it’s right in front of our faces, yet we can’t see it. We take it for granted. It’s part of our culture. We take war for granted.
What the Tamil Tigers did was very radical you must admit. Young women blowing themselves up/taking cyanide capsules (just like Heinrich Himmler and the Goebbels family, by the way). How much more radical was the way the First World War was fought. Yet we do not perceive warfare as radical, because it has been happening for such a long time. Based on how I try to look at what actually occurred during the First World War, I want people to begin to perceive warfare as a very radical form of behavior (however “normal” it may seem to be).
This relates to your statement below about my “consistent criticism” of the Generals in the First World War (you also used the term “critique” of warfare in your view of Nations). Well, I have my own opinions about warfare, but I don’t consider myself a “social critic”. People have been criticizing and critiquing war for hundreds of years, and it’s gotten us nowhere.
What I am trying to convey is: THIS IS WHAT WAR IS: to get people to actually LOOK AT IT.
You provide a “warning” below, which is interesting. Academics have been reading and studying warfare for years, yet they really don’t know what it is because they don’t look at what happens to the bodies of the soldiers. But this is what war is (the blunter descriptions of war is part of the embodiment revolution, and also a cultural trend).
In the final analysis, there is something deeply pathological about this form of behavior.
PS: I’m quite conversant with South Asian culture, by the way. When I was out on my own—on the streets of New York City—I ran into people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, went to a lot of Indian movies, and even learned some Urdu.