A False Sense of Security
Firstly, a bit of a disclaimer. Part of the reason I have been so infrequent with my blogging in recent months is because I am very aware how much of a simpleton I am. The writings on this blog come from someone with no formal religious, political, or sociological training, and while perhaps one day I shall be qualified to converse in these areas, for now it is often my concern that the articles herein come across as the rants of a terminally naive and misguided idealist. Because of this, I have been taking a step back from these writings not because my opinions have changed or even lessened in fervour, but because I am still trying to listen and learn, then articulate my thoughts before viewing myself as fit to act as their conveyance vessel.
Now that this is out of the way, read yet another naive, misguided, and idealistic article at your own peril. The comments section is here for a reason, people 😉
Okay. Nonviolence has been a big topic of discussion on this blog since I founded it, having hopefully pointed out various ways in which violence and militarism are un-Biblical and unideal. There is, of course, still much to be discussed on both the philosophical and the practical nature of how Christians are to be set apart from these idols, but something that I have not addressed before now is the possible perspective of someone who is actually in the military.
Part of my journey of recognising the peace of the Gospel has hinged on some truly difficult matters, involving how the issue of militaristic violence impacts on those we love and hold dear. Not having been victims of military, but having been members of it. Indeed, on a personal note, there have been times when, even though I claim to be a man of nonviolence, I have shown a shameful violence of judgement and condemnation, in which I am now thankfully ceasing, toward Christians who have been in military service. Admittedly, I am not personally acquainted with any such individuals, but my error was more toward generalising the situation and thinking of it in black and white terms, knowing full well that life and its many nuances are rarely black and white.
A particular and prominent difficulty in these considerations, is the great tragedy of when adolescent young men, freshly out of high school or sixth form or what have you, find themselves with neither the means or the support to find themselves a university education. It seems like an unthinkable thing in this day and age, when we live in such Western prosperity, that someone can actually end up forced from studying a degree. In the past, of course, this was reserved mostly for the elite and privileged, but there is now an abundance of young students from a variety of backgrounds who, whether by family support or by loans, are able to fund themselves through one of life’s most basic amenities.
Nonetheless, even within portions of our civilisation, the gap between rich and poor can still be devastating enough for some to suffer the blows. Particularly in the United States, as is my understanding, the poorer sectors of society can often find themselves without sufficient means to climb the academic ladder. And even for those who do have the means, there still remains the controversy of debt, with successful graduates suffering the plague of anywhere between £10,000 to $25,000 owed to banks and student loans companies. Even for those of us whose families were generous enough to support us, the state of affairs is hardly ideal, and would be much less so for someone from the working classes (Bearing in mind at this point, that a popular form of criticism from the upper classes to the poorer sectors of society is that they do little to try and change their situation).
What, then, might be a logical route for someone facing these dilemmas? How can one find a good career with promising prospects in a dog-eat-dog world of economic competition without a degree and only a standard school education?
Indeed. It’s all very well for someone like myself to criticise imperialist violence, but what happens when someone sees no other option for themselves? Admittedly, I never had to deal with such problems. I am a member of the middle class, and I have a loving family who were generous enough to support me for the majority of the way through my education, something for which I must show them eternal gratitude. I don’t think this is a bad thing, either, for it is natural for any family to want the best for their own and for which is within their own means. What it does mean, I think, is that I am particularly accountable for these privileges I’ve had, which many others do not. Some might see that this gives me no right to speak of such things as I do on this blog, having not had to experience the difficulties first hand.
In actuality, I think it gives me a unique position.
Firstly, military operates as one of the many tools of influence for the State, acting under a command structure whereby orders are handed down the chain from the politicians at the top all the way down to the field soldiers at the bottom.
Secondly, a young man entering the military will be given boarding, basic amenities, and training, all paid for and all with the prospects of promotion and honour in both the public and among their colleagues.
It seems to me, that the first point is quite symptomatic of the Capitalist system in which the elite ruling classes hold power with which to oppress the workers under them. The politicians with the most influence deliberate their matters of national security from behind desks and papers, while the individuals under their supreme command are co-opted into risking their lives for these agendas, all with the promise that they do so for the love of their country.
On the second point, then, why is it that a person can enter the armed forces and receive funded training with prospects of promotion and competitive pay, and yet no such option exists for those who wish to participate in higher education? I used to believe it was naive to wish for a free education system, yet now I’m not so firm. With the way things are, no wonder many feel that military service is their only feasible option. And why shouldn’t they be given all that they need to be trained up for service? They are, after all, servants to the State, for its protection and validation.
The moral here is that there must come a separation between people and values somewhere. My values are that nonviolence is a vital expression of the Christian faith, and I remain firm in the fact that a Christian has no place being involved in military service. The flipside here, is that it is no one’s place to judge or condemn such individuals, at least not without fully understanding and appreciating each person’s situation. No two people are going to have the same story, and it’s out job to appreciate that.
Of course, this is just another rant. Nothing in this post will solve the problem of young men and women seeing military service as their most viable option. This is where you come in. I need your help, speaking as someone of the middle class and therefore someone who wishes to take accountability and responsibility for the political and economic power our Western civilisation hordes, to rebuild the Church into a beacon of practical as well as spiritual hope. We have lost many ways in which we can serve each other as a community, and part of that is being a source of vital support for those who feel entrapped by the systems of the world. So what questions do we need to be asking ourselves to solve this problem? What action should we be taking? How can we free innocent and well-meaning individuals from buying into the supreme lies of capitalism and state authority?
Sisters and brothers, I need your help.