Heart of the Future Between Russia & United States
by Robert C. Koehler
Last week's announcement from
Even so, the heart of the future beats here.
To cobble such an accord together, the Eagle and the Bear have to dance an awkward, uncomfortable dance. They have to go against their natures, vacate, you might say, their souls and begin letting go, for the sake of a vague higher good, what they cherish most deeply: their claws, their fangs, their ferocity.
This is nuclear ferocity, of course, and it's absurd, but I think I'm beginning to understand at last a lifetime of intense disappointment in the realm of disarmament, nuclear and otherwise.
A nation, in concept and reality, is something more than a mega-bureaucracy of taxes, services and armed self-defense. It is, rather, everything the most ardent patriots say it is: ordinary people fused into a sacred whole through struggle and sacrifice, an ideal woven out of blood and glory, larger than the sum of its parts, crowned by a flag, symbolized in spirit by a predatory animal. And therein lies the problem.
"From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war," writes
"Citizens who brawl on the streets are punished," writes Ehrenreich. "Nations that go to war are feared and often respected. . . . At a more archaic level of the imagination, the nation-as-organism becomes something more, or less, than human. Here is a 'creature' that, according to Hegel, requires blood in order to sustain its life -- the blood of actual human beings. We recognize, in this view of a nation, another version of humanity's primordial enemy and original deity: the predator beast."
We naked apes, in the millennia since consciousness evolved into thought, have forged in our fear and defenselessness great clumsy creatures called nations, which have a momentum seemingly beyond human ability to control, and which are both modeled after and behave like the predators who terrorized us for most of our time here on this planet, according to Ehrenreich. And whether or not these creations have lives of their own, we speak of them as though they do.
Consider, for example, these fragments of typical reportage, from an AP account of the post-summit set-to this week between the Eagle and the Bear, when the warship USS Stout anchored belligerently off the coast of
". . . both countries expressed hope for repairing relations that in recent years have sunk to a post-Cold War low."
Such language purports to make human behavior comprehensible, even logical, by abstracting organized murder on a global scale, and the flaunting and strutting that accompanies it, into the actions of sacred entities -- superhuman, predatory -- to which we puny individuals owe total allegiance. We even call this reality, or at least realpolitik, but it's madness. To put it more charitably, it's an abstraction that has outlived its usefulness.
Instead, he explained, the nations' ongoing nuclear buildup has "drifted into a kind of policy-free zone, just to a kind of a stupid momentum."
If we envision a nuclear-free world, the agreement reached by Russian President
It's up to us to demand that it be, rather, a new beginning, a cessation of the momentum of sheer belligerence, and that more far-reaching agreements follow. This becomes possible as we pledge, in ever-mounting numbers, our highest allegiance to peace and the future, and stop giving that allegiance to beasts of prey.
(c) 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.