Tuesday, June 5, 2012

War and the Abstraction of Human Beings

Ha Jin's heroic novel War Trash has the following insight:
    To be able to function in a war, an officer is expected to view his men as abstract figures so that he could utilize and sacrifice them without any hesitation or qualms. The same abstraction was supposed to take place among the rank and file too—to us every American servicemen must be a devil, whereas to them, everyone of us must be a Red. Without such obliteration of human particularities, how could one fight mercilessly? When a general evaluates the outcome of a battle, he thinks in numbers—how many casualties the enemy has suffered in comparison with the losses of his own army. The larger a victory is, the more people have been turned into numerals. This is the crime of war: it reduces real human beings to abstract numbers.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Pints in NYC said...

I blame Descartes.

Zeno was right!

Here are two relevant and fun books about math:

1) Alfred Crosby's "The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600"

http://www.amazon.com/The-Measure-Reality-Quantification-1250-1600/dp/0521639905


2) Edwin Abbot's "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions"

http://www.amazon.com/Flatland-Romance-Dimensions-Thrift-Editions/dp/048627263X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338953534&sr=1-1

June 5, 2012 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

Excellent connections. Thanks.

June 6, 2012 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 16, 2012 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

The problem isn't the reduction to the quantitative. But the misunderstanding of existence where the quantitative is assumed to be concrete tactile existence perceived through our senses. When to the contrary the quantitative is more along the line of the allegorical. It exists as sign.

June 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM  

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